Sharan M. takes a nostalgic look at the video games that ruled the market and hearts in the 1990s. Mario, anyone?

At a time when we are playing the latest 720p RPG on a console capable of streaming music and videos to your high definition TV, it is easy to forget that a little over 10 years ago, we were blowing into faulty cartridges in an effort to get them to work. But give today’s youth a chance and they would choose to go back to the decade of true technological innovation and mind-blowing creativity — the 1990s — without batting an eyelid.

Video games in the early 1990s were pushing the boundaries of those days. Eight-bit steadily evolved into 16-bit and near the start of the new millennium, 3D gaming had arrived. The games produced were true classics; titles are still fondly remembered and invoke a “wish they’d do a remake” expression whenever they are mentioned. While India only got to experience the West’s 1980s in the 1990s, we certainly caught on as the decade progressed. Coming up with a short list on the most popular video games of the 1990s is a hard job simply because there are so many classics just crying out to be included.


One game that ruled the roost when Nintendo Entertainment System-clones were popular was Contra. A run-and-gun type of game, Contra was known for its cheesy storyline, addictive game play and, most famously, its punishing difficulty. In fact, some kids took this game up just for the challenge of beating it without the use of the legendary Konami Code.

Another classic that had kids pretending to be ace hunters was Duck Hunt, a game that made use of the NES’s Zapper to shoot ducks that would then be collected by a trusty hunting dog. Any one who has played this would remember the annoying canine that would pop up and snicker whenever we missed.

By the mid-1990s, TVs had given way to PCs and the game that left its mark on almost every system was the iconic Doom. Widely credited as being the title that popularised the FPS genre, Doom had kids shooting monsters, with a wide assortment of weapons, as the infamous ‘Doom Guy’. It is also infamous for freaking out many a parent with its intense graphic violence.

While not pumping bullets into evil demons, kids had the option of illegally racing down highways in Road Rash. A game that was wild, wacky and totally over the top, Road Rash left a lasting impression by letting you beat up fellow racers and run over innocent grannies crossing the street.

While there were other titles that might have been as iconic, if not more, as these, there was one whose very name evokes happy memories of this fantastic decade. A game that had kids control a little moustachioed plumber who jumped on almost anything that moved, in the quest to save a Princess who would inexplicably be in another castle: Super Mario Bros. It was a landmark in the history of video games and single-handedly transformed Nintendo into the behemoth it is today. It was so popular that almost every single person who was born in the 1990s would have played this at least once in his/her lifetime. Is it any surprise that the Mario franchise is the highest selling one of all time? If there is one character that defines a generation, it is this Italian.

While the games of this generation might be pushing the limits on polygon count and realism, very few come even close to the cultural impact that these titles had. The kids of these days might swear on a Call of Duty or an Uncharted, but these and most titles of today can only hope to do something the games of the 1990s did; stand the test of time.

The kids of today might be all knowing about Angry Birds and Wii Sports, but what they are experiencing is by far the most watered-down version of video games. The games of today come with cut scenes that practically play the game for you. Only a true hardcore gamer of the 1990s can experience the thrill of having beaten a video game where they have to do everything for themselves and find out by trial and error.

VIGNESH VIJAYAKUMAR PG diploma, National Institute of Creative Communication


Best game of the 1990s was easily Mario. I’ve seen people fight with their siblings and friends over who got to play as Mario or Luigi. I also liked playing Circus Charlie and Adventure Island, both classics in their own right.


Good ol’ games

Prince of Persia


Donkey Kong



F-1 Race


Age of Empires


At WorkSeptember 24, 2010