The Best Gifts You Got as a Kid Gamer in the '90s
When we think back to the 90s, some remember the Gulf War, the fall of the Soviet Union, cloned sheep, the Oklahoma City and Olympic Park bombings, the OJ Simpson ordeal, and Clinton. I remember trying not to get a blister on my hand while playing Mario Party.
So when it comes to thinking about the past, there's nothing like gaming nostalgia to get me excited. These console and game launches were paving the road to what we now play today. And when the holidays rolled around, these were the gifts we were hoping to find under our trees.
Game Boy Color
We 90s kids loved playing video games, and nothing made doing that quite as easy as a handheld. The Nintendo Game Boy Color (GBC) released in November 1998 and featured a color screen unlike its 1989 predecessor. Nintendo dominated the market with record sales across Japan, North America, and Europe.
This 8-bit baby was backwards compatible and cost $69.99 with launch titles like:
- Pocket Bomberman
- Wario Land II
- Tetris DX
The Game Boy Color was available in:
You were one of the coolest kids on the block to own one. And one of the luckiest on those long car trips to Six Flags: Great Adventure in New Jersey.
Kids today have no idea how lucky they are to have the built-in lighting, speakers, and phenomenal graphics that they do.
I know you remember all the gadgets we had to get and the backpack to carry it all in.
Sony Computer Entertainment entered the market with their first console in 1994 in Japan and 1995 in North America. It cost $299.99, and competed against Nintendo and Sega. The idea was originally a joint venture between Nintendo and Sony.
It launched with titles like:
- Air Combat
- Battle Arena Toshinden
- Ridge Racer
The PlayStation became known for its DualShock controller (1997/98), 3D graphics, and the fact that it used a CD-ROM instead of a cartridge. Everyone wanted this console thanks to the graphics. The DualShock controller also introduced the vibration we now know today. Sony was changing the world of gaming forever with this system.
The Super NES or SNES was a 16-bit console that launched in North America in 1991 for $199.99. This was Nintendo's second console release during its "console war against Sega." Where Nintendo created the first arcade-to-console conversion with Capcom's Street Fighter II.
Launch titles available were:
- Super Mario World
- Sim City
- Gradius III
Biggest Selling Games on SNES:
- Super Mario World
- Donkey Kong Country
- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
- Super Mario Kart
The N64 was the successor to the SNES in 1996, also costing $199.99. The number stood for the 64-bit CPU. It was fast, had 3D graphics and great gameplay; but was criticized for its lack of games.
It launched with these titles:
- Super Mario 64
- Pilotwings 64
- Saikyō Habu Shōgi (Japan only)
Most acclaimed games:
- Super Mario 64
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- GoldenEye 007
- Conker's Bad Fur Day
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
- Super Smash Bros
- Perfect Dark
This console handled 3D graphics much cleaner, but its games were what nailed it for many of us.
The Sega Dreamcast launched in 1999 for $199.99. It was much more successful than its predecessor, the Sega Saturn. This CD-ROM console displayed both 2D and 3D graphics. It also had 19 titles available for the North America launch.
These launch titles were:
- Soul Calibur
- NFL 2K
- Sonic Adventure
- Airforce Delta
- Blue Stinger
- CART Flag to Flag
- The House of the Dead 2
- Hydro Thunder
- Monaco Grand Prix
- Mortal Kombat Gold
- NFL Blitz 2000
- Pen Pen Trilcelon
- Power Stone
- Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
- TNN Motorsports HardCore Heat
- Tokyo Xtreme Racer
Playing Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast was a lot of fun. It was also the first all-3D platform for a Sonic the Hedgehog game. That was huge!
Pokémon Red and Blue Versions
Pokémon Red and Blue are both RPGs, available for the Nintendo Game Boy. They were a third-person, overhead perspective, and had three basic screens:
- Overworld: player navigates the main character
- Side-view battle screen
- Menu interface: player configures their Pokémon, items, or settings
In these games you battled for Pokémon. It took place in Kanto, featured 151 various species of Pokémon in different habitats, towns, and cities. It had single-player and multiplayer capabilities.
Players could also trade Pokémon with the use of a Game Link Cable between two Game Boys. Players loved this feature. Even for the 90s, it's very clear how popular Pokémon has remained even today.
Everyone knows the name Doom. It's so popular that MythBusters did a Video Game Special and had an episode around the gaming myth. ID Software's 1993 FPS was a great survival-horror game and still is. From PC to console, Doom has been a hit for gamers.
Other titles in the series:
- The Ultimate Doom (1995)
- Doom II: Hell on Earth (1994)
- Master Levels for Doom II (1995)
- Doom 3 (2004)
- Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (2005)
- Doom 3 BFG Edition (2012)
- Doom (2016)
- Final Doom (1996)
- Doom 64 (1997)
- Doom RPG (2005)
- Doom Resurrection (2009)
- Doom II RPG (2009)
- DoomRL (2013)
In Doom, you fought the demons and the undead of hell as a space marine. The BFG (aka Big F*****g Gun) was a highly discussed weapon in the game. It even received a proper nod in the 2005 film starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.
I cannot properly explain why we love this game. Shooting your way through the hordes and finding your way throughout the mazes in the dark was sheer heaven.
Donkey Kong Country
This is the second game that made the SNES a huge hit in the 16-bit generation. Rare brought us to Donkey Kong Island in 1994. Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong, his nephew, had to recover their stolen bananas from King K. Rool and the Kremlings.
It was a fun platformer and side-scroller. Each level had different tasks to overcome and was themed. Players could switch between characters, and you had six lives.
Mortal Kombat II
This arcade hit by Midway Games was the ultimate competitive fighting game. From PC to console, Mortal Kombat's popularity has risen to see itself now on the current gen. There is nothing like performing a "Fatality" against your buddies. The shriek of defeat and delight were moments to cherish.
Mortal Kombat II introduced Kung Lao, Mileena, and Baraka to the series. It featured its existing characters battling it out against the forces of Shao Kahn. It also improved on some gameplay features:
- Crouching Punch
- Roundhouse Kick
- Turnaround Kick
- Improved Combos
- New Special Moves
- Multiple Fatalities
- Stage-specific Fatalities
- Non-lethal Finishing Moves
Mortal Kombat II was definitely a fun competitive fighting game for players of the original MK.
Please tell me you remember Battletoads. This 1991 beat 'em up game by Rare featured characters like Rash, Zitz, and Pimple. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The Dark Queen was the Gothic equivalent to "Jessica Rabbit." Your mission was to rescue Pimple and Princess Angelica from the Dark Queen.
The series was a mock of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in that these were fighting toads. The series was known for its difficult levels like Turbo Tunnel that were cause for broken controllers. The objective of this level was to navigate your toad on a speeder while trying to jump from ramp-to-ramp and avoid hitting the walls. You had to memorize the ramps, walls, jumps, and turns to avoid disaster.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back was a great platform game by Naughty Dog for PlayStation in 1997. This orange guy was fun to play just like Sonic.
Crash was abducted by Doctor Neo Cortex and you had to collect 25 crystals. Each "Warp Room" led to different levels where you navigated Crash through the various obstacles in order to collect the crystals. In between getting to the next Warp Room, you had to defeat a boss before you gained access. Bonus paths led to secret levels. The jump and landing were heavily influenced by the Mario games.
It was a hilarious cartoon game that lacked cutscenes, had great music, and beautiful graphics. Most importantly, Crash Bandicoot 2 was pure fun and led to many other games in the series.
What was your must-have gaming gift in the 90s?
Please share with us in the comments and thanks for reading. For more nostalgic reading, glance over this article on cult games.