Game Scoop’s Game of the Year ’90s Edition

As some of you may know, IGN was founded in 1996 and we began giving out our Game of the Year awards in 2001, leaving years of best games uncrowned. We decided to address this as part of 90s Week, and this week’s Game Scoop decided to go year by year throughout the decade to crown a Game of the Year for each year, starting with 1990.

Since IGN didn’t exist in the early 1990s, we had to be a little loose with the science behind our judgment. Some games were awarded based on their historical significance, while others were simply our favorite games to release that year. Some games, as you will see later, qualified through both. And while Game Scoop doesn’t claim to speak for the entire IGN team, here are our picks for the GOTY 90s edition.

1990 – TIE – Final Fantasy and Secret of Monkey Island

The year saw the debut of one of the most beloved and important RPG franchises of all time, but also one of the crowning glory of the point-and-click narrative genre. As such, we awarded our Game of the Year in 1990 to the first Final Fantasy and LucasArts’ Secret of Monkey Island.

1991 – Super Mario World

Did he ever doubt that 1991’s Game of the Year would go down to one of the best Mario games of all time, one of the best SNES games of all time, And maybe even one of the best games of all time? Super Mario World was THE home console game from 1991 and still a joy to play decades later. That said, we had a hard time choosing it over other iconic games like Sonic the Hedghehog and especially Street Fighter 2, which would change the fighting game genre forever.

1992 – The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past

A watershed moment for 2D Zelda games, Link to the Past beat out games like Mortal Kombat and Wolfenstein 3D for the timeless qualities that define all the best Zelda games. You’ll find that our early 90s picks are dominated by Nintendo thanks to their classic games like Link to the Past.

1993 – DEATH

Not only did DOOM revolutionize the shooter genre, it defined a generation and changed popular perception of video games in general. While panic among parents seems odd by today’s standards, DOOM has codified and distilled Generation X into its most primal and satisfying identity with this iconic shooter.

1994 – Super Metroid

If you hear me praising a Nintendo game from the 90s for its timelessness, it’s because the era has seen many games live on today through their lasting influence and sheer fun. Super Metroid is a visually stunning game that still holds up today with its sophisticated gameplay and deep exploration. It remains a speedrunner favorite as one of the main events in the annual Games Done Quick and is replayed annually by Game Scoop panelist Justin Davis. Super Metroid is not only the best game of 1994, but perhaps the most enduring of the 90s.

1995 – Warcraft 2

Remember when game studios followed up a game with an even better sequel a year later? Blizzard released Warcraft 2 a year after the original Warcraft, cementing the series’ status as a fundamental pillar for one of the most beloved gaming companies of all time. Warcraft 2 improved everything from its predecessor and set the stage for an even better Warcraft game in the early 2000s, before the series changed the game forever with the MMORPG, World of Warcraft.

1996 – TIE – Super Mario 64 and Quake

Super Mario 64 and Quake both revolutionized 3D gaming, bringing support from its 2D form into the polygon era. Super Mario 64 was unlike anything before it and showed how 3D could transform what was once a 2D genre. But if the influence of Mario is undisputed, it is the Quake revolution that we still feel today thanks to the real-time 3D rendering of the game on one of the most popular genres of the medium: the shooter game. The first person.

1997 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Finalist: Diablo

Our Game Scoop panel chose Symphony of the Night for one very simple reason: it’s still an amazing game. While 1997 saw the release of some very good games, including Final Fantasy 7, with the passing of time and many new games in the series, only one stands the test of time in terms of quality and enjoyment, and it’s not Square Enix’s 3D masterpiece but Konami’s gothic side-scrolling adventure.

1998 – TIE – Half-Life and Metal Gear Solid

It’s hard to overstate how important Half-Life’s blend of epic sci-fi stories and cutting-edge physics were to the games, but also how mind-blowing it all was when it was first released in 1998. However, go back to playing Metal Gear Solid (or playing it for the first time) and you’ll be amazed at how modern Hideo Kojima’s 2023 3D opus is. but the themes he discussions, such as nuclear proliferation and genetic enhancements, are still relevant more than two decades later.

1999 – Soul Calibur

Finishing the 90s may come as a surprise to some, but remains a personal favorite of Omega Cops. Bandai Namco’s Soulcalibur was not only a great fighting game, but a breath of fresh air from relatively serious fighting game offerings like Street Fighter and Tekken. Pulling out a ring remains hugely satisfying when playing against friends, and there’s still no character selection as wild and varied as Soulcalibur’s.

These are Game Scoop’s picks for game of the year for every year of the 90s! Let us know in the comments what you think of our picks, or let us know which one you would choose instead.

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