What fantastic video games were floating about in 1994
Oh me, oh my, would you look at the time? It’s great games o’clock! And you know what that means? Why, it means that it’s time for us to tell you all about the absolute best games from another twelve-month period in history, and this time, we’re turning our attention to the year 1994, and what a year it was.
1994 was the year that Friends debuted on our TV screens, Forrest Gump had folks the world over screaming “Run, Forrest, run!” at any passing jogger they saw, and it was the year that saw the launch of Amazon, a site that went on to forever change the way we buy… well, anything, really.
Of course, you don’t care about any of that. You want to know what fantastic video games were floating about in 1994, so let’s get to looking at some, shall we?
Before we begin, we must first establish the rules. A game can qualify for one of these Best of lists if it was released in at least on territory in the specified year, and received a minimum of seven professional reviews. We don’t include ports, re-releases, or collections as you’ll find those games in the list pertaining to their original release year.
I’m Ben from TripleJump, and here are the 10 Best Games of 1994.
10. System Shock (PC) – 88.33% GameRankings
We’re kicking off today’s list with an absolutely cracking title, so you just know that 1994 was a good year for gaming.
System Shockis a game of the first-person action-adventure variety, and takes place aboard a space station in the year 2072. The protagonist, a nameless hacker, is brought to the station after attempting to access the systems of the corporation that owns it. Once there, one of the executives offers to drop all charges and give the hacker a sweet neural implant if he’ll break into SHODAN, the station’s AI, and steal a biological weapon. This goes about as well as you’d imagine, and although the protagonist gets their neural implant, they are then forced to deal with the consequences of removing SHODAN’s ethical constraints.
System Shock earned masses of praise from critics, who were particularly impressed by the level of immersion that the developers had been able to achieve. They also called out the graphics, physics system, and 3D environments as highlights, and praised SHODAN for being one of the most effective antagonists in all of gaming.
The good news is that System Shock is still playable to this day thanks to the Enhanced Edition, or, if you’d rather get stuck into a modernised version, the remake is due to release in early 2023.
9. NBA Jam (SNES) – 88.5% GameRankings
Oh yeah, here we go, sports time! I’ve covered a basketball game on one of these Best of lists before… or, at least, I think I have. After a while all the years start to go a bit fuzzy, though I suppose that’s what happens when you’re over thirty. Anyway, something, something, something, I’m going to give this everything I’ve got!
NBA Jamwas originally released in arcades in 1993 and found its way into players’ homes in 1994. However, rather than giving players a digital approximation of real basketball, the game featured an exaggerated version of the sport. The players themselves could jump to superhuman heights and make baskets that defied the laws of physics, there were no fouls, and if the player scored three times in a row, they’d gain unlimited turbo.
NBA Jam was wildly popular with players, and quickly became a best-seller in the United States upon its release. Critics were also mightily impressed with the title, lauding its graphics, sound, multi-player, the fact that it was easy to pick up and play, and that it was fun even for those who weren’t really into sports.
You could say that game was something of a slam dunk.That’s… that’s a basketball thing, right?
8. Mega Man X (SNES) -88.5% GameRankings
By 1994, there were already around a dozen games bearing the good name of Mega Man, and so it’s unsurprising that developer and publisher, Capcom, decided it was time to shake things up a bit with a spin-off series. Thus, Mega Man Xwas born.
The game got its first release in Japan in December of 1993, but it didn’t make its way to the rest of the world until a few months later. Unlike its predecessors, which focussed on the world’s most famous little, blue robot, Mega Man X follows the titular X, an android and member of the military force called the Maverick Hunters, who, along with his sidekick, Zero, must thwart the plans of Sigma, a Maverick leader wishing to bring about human extinction.
Mega Man X was something of a revival for the Mega Man franchise, which some felt had become somewhat stale. Critics praised Mega Man X for its visuals, classic gameplay, audio, and the veritable smorgasbord of hidden items and power-ups. Some did criticise its low difficulty and short runtime, but when the game got so many other things right, it was impossible to hate on it for these minor infractions.
7. Shining Force II (GEN) – 88.55% GameRankings
We’re heading into Sequel Town now, as we turn our attention to Shining Force II, a tactical role-playing game developed by Sonic! Software Planning, a company that, somewhat ironically, has mostly developed Mario titles.
Although Shining Force II was originally released in Japan in 1993, it didn’t make it to North America or Europe until the following year. The game was a follow-up to 1992’s Shining Force, though its story wasn’t directly linked to it, meaning that players could pick up the second title in the series without having played the first, and not have to worry that they’d be missing out on important context.
Shining Force II saw players taking control of Shining Force leader, Bowie, and they were free to explore the world at their leisure, speaking to NPCs, looking for treasures, and engaging in turn-based battles.
The game was very well received by critics, with reviews calling out the cheerful and upbeat soundtrack, user-friendly controls, and vast world as particular high points. More recently, Shining Force II has been ranked amongst the Greatest Video Games of All Time by the likes of IGN, and so considering that you can pick up a copy of the PC version for less than one English pound, it’s definitely worth seeking out, even today.
6. Donkey Kong Country (SNES) – 88.94% GameRankings
Not to spoil things too much, but I feel like I should inform you guys that there’s no Mario on this list, which is something of a rarity for one of these Best of videos. Anyone who showed up hoping to catch a glimpse of the little, moustachioed, Italian plumber will, instead, have to make do with the franchise that kick-started his career.
Developed by Rare for the SNES, Donkey Kong Countrystars the eponymous gorilla and his nephew, Diddy Kong, and follows the duo as they set out on an adventure to recover their banana hoard from crocodile, King K. Rool and his army of Kremlings.
The game was set across a whopping forty levels, and tasked players with platforming, riding mine carts and various different animals, collecting items, defeating enemies, and uncovering secret bonus stages. There really was a tonne of stuff for players to do.
Critics were blown away by Donkey Kong Country, with many asserting that it had changed the landscape of video gaming forever. The visuals received the bulk of the praise, as both critics and players were astounded by what Rare had been able to achieve. The game didn’t just look nice though, it was also funny, imaginative, and filled to the brim with engaging puzzles and secrets to uncover. There’s little wonder it went on to sell millions of copies and earn a bunch (no pun intended) of Game of the Year awards.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN) – 89% GameRankings
Oh, Sonic. Seeing you on lists like these just makes us sad because it reminds us of how long it’s been since you were truly great. Oh well, at least we still have the nostalgia, just as long as no one brings up Sonic 06.
For his fourth outing (thank you, Sonic CD, for ruining the numbering there) our blue, spiky friend, is once again on a quest to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds and put a stop to the evil Doctor Robotnik’s nefarious schemes. This time, the dastardly Doc is attempting to relaunch his space station, the Death Egg, after it crash lands on the floating Angel Island.
Like those that came before it, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 enjoyed critical acclaim, and wound up becoming one of the best-selling games for the Sega Genesis. Many agreed that the third numbered Sonic title was the best game in the series so far, and although it didn’t exactly push the envelope, it was a fun, engaging experience from start to finish, packing in plenty of exciting stages, secret areas, and new power-ups.
Put simply: If you liked Sonic the Hedgehogs 1and 2, you were going to have a smashing old time with Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
4. Lunar: Eternal Blue (SCD) – 90.64% GameRankings
Now, full transparency here, our writer had never heard of the Lunar series prior to cobbling together this script, but, in her defence, she was only three at the time that Lunar: Eternal Blue was released. Still, we will be moving her to a smaller cage as punishment and increasing the beatings to ensure that she does better in future.
[off-mic] You’ve brought this upon yourself!
The second instalment in the Lunar series, Lunar: Eternal Blue, was first released in Japan in December 1994, and wouldn’t make its way to North America for another nine months. Eternal Blue is set a whole millennium after the events of Lunar: The Silver Star, and tells the story of the imaginatively-named Hiro, an adventurer who meets Lucia, a visitor from the distant Blue Star. Together they must do everything in their power to stop the evil, all-powerful being, Zophar, from destroying the world.
Some wrote Lunar: Eternal Blue off as just another RPG, but they were foolish to do so, as the game’s story, characters, and stunning cinematics more than made it worth the price of admission, which was actually pretty high, setting Japanese consumers back ¥9,900, which was the equivalent of about US$100.
Lunar: Eternal Blue? More like Lunar: Eternal Credit Card Repayments. Gottem.
3. X-COM: UFO Defense (PC) – 93.6% GameRankings
We’d usually be incredibly upset at an attack on the English language, such as the one on display in the title of Mythos Games’ 1994 sci-fi strategy game, X-COM: UFO Defense, but since the game was so good, we’re willing to give it a pass. Just this one time though, X-COM: UFO Defense.
This space-themed title put players in command of X-COM, an international paramilitary organisation charged with defending Earth from hostile aliens, and throughout the game, they must issue orders to troops in a series of turn-based, tactical missions. Additionally, players were tasked with managing the research and development of new technologies, building bases, looking after the finances, and keeping an eye out for any pesky UFOs with nefarious intentions.
X-COM: UFO Defensewas received incredibly well by critics, who applauded its varied combat system and addictive, sophisticated gameplay, and compared it favourably to the likes of Civilization and Populous, which is high praise indeed.
The game went on to spawn an entire series of sci-fi titles, and was remade in 2012, though most fans of the series agree that of all the titles bearing the X-COM name, the original is still the best.
2. DOOM II (PC) – 95% GameRankings
In December 1993, developer and publisher, id Software, released a game that is often cited as one of the greatest and most significant of all time. By 1995, DOOMwas alleged to be installed on more computers than Microsoft’s latest operating system, and it not only pioneered a whole bunch of technologies, but it also helped to define the FPS genre and inspired numerous similar games, including its own sequel, DOOM II(or DOOM II: Hell on Earth if you wanna get all subtitle about this).
Indeed, just ten months after the release of the OG DOOM, fans of shooting the heck out of demons were treated to another opportunity to step into Doomguy’s shoes, grab some big flippin’ guns, and get to blasting, only this time, the demons were invading Earth rather than Mars.
Critics were blown away by DOOM II, and praised the developers for retaining everything that made the first game great whilst also refining it. Gameplay-wise, DOOM II didn’t bring much new to the table, but basically, if you’d enjoyed the OG shooter and were just in the market for a bit of mindless action and carnage, then there was really no better game to stick on your Christmas list that year.
1. Super Metroid (SNES) – 96.55% GameRankings
Grab your space suits and your weird, freeze-dried food, because it’s time to take to the stars as we catch up with our good pal, Samus Aran, and those pesky, pesky Metroids.
For her third outing, Samus Aran once again finds herself facing off against the Space Pirates. Following the events of Metroid II: Return of Samus, the first lady of gaming delivers the last Metroid to scientists in the Ceres space colony, who analyse it and find that its energy-producing abilities could be harnessed. Before they get the chance though, they’re all slaughtered by Ridley, leader of the Space Pirates, who steals the Metroid. Not cool, dude.
Considering its near-perfect average review score, it would seem that Super Metroid could do no wrong. Critics praised its graphics, sound, and gameplay, and described the overall experience as “intensely playable”.
Sadly, Super Metroid was the last Metroid title that players would get to experience before the turn of the millennium. It’s a good job that Metroid Primeended up being so good, otherwise that eight-year wait would have been unforgivable.
Anyway, congratulations, Super Metroid, on being the best game of 1994. May your excellence be an inspiration to us all!