The 90s had some stellar consoles, all in a time when home consoles changed the way we played and games influenced TV shows, collectibles, and many of the other 90s toys that shaped a generation.
From the Sega Mega Drive to the almighty PS1, many of gamings most-loved characters and series came from this decade. The N64 changed my life forever, and the Game Boy… well, you know how much we love that thing here at Retro Dodo.
We owe so much to this third decade of video gaming history. The move into 3D graphics from the sprites of yesteryear made many of the games in this list possible and paved the way for some of the best adventures ever brought to home consoles.
The 90s also produced some of our most-loved genres such as FPS, strategy games, and MMO games like Number 18 below. You can bet titles like Fortnite and PUBG wouldn’t be here without the pioneering work carried out by our popper-pants wearing, Oasis-loving devlopers.
Table of Contents
1. Ocarina Of Time
Anyone who reads my articles will no doubt have realised Ocarina of Time would come out on top as the best 90s game of all time. This story is the greatest plotline of all time (how many times can I write the word ‘time’!), and this game is a true work of art.
Out of all the Zelda games, Ocarina of Time still has the definitive version of Hyrule, possibly with the exception of the immense open world in Breath of the Wild, of course.
Whenever I see builders, I think of the skipping carpenters in Kakariko Village. The same goes for Dampe the Gravekeeper every time I walk past a church, though I still haven’t got hold of a Hookshot yet.
It’s fair to say that Ocarina of Time had a huge impact on my life. I remember reading every Nintendo Magazine article about it, checking out the characters and reading tips on how to take down enemies even before I got hold of the game!
Who remembers the first time they slotted the spiritual stones into the pedestal in the Temple Of Time and transformed into Adult Link? Slaying enemies with the Master Sword and riding Epona made this game even sweeter, and the various battles with Ganondorf made me the gamer I am today.
Ocarina of Time is often considered the best game of all time by critics and Nintendo lovers alike across the globe. It’s influence can be seen far and wide in games such as Ōkami and, more recently, Windbound and Immortals Fenyx Rising.
I could talk about Ocarina of Time all day if you gave me chance, but we’ve got to end this article somewhere. All I’ll say is this; if you joined the Legend of Zelda canon at Breath of the Wild, then grab a copy of Ocarina of Time for the N64 or DS and experience the first and best 3D game in the series.
It’ll blow your mind!
2. Final Fantasy VII
If I had saved a pound for every hour I played Final Fantasy VII, I could probably buy enough shares in Sony to own a majority. This was the first Final Fantasy game to receive a PAL release, even though it’s the seventh in the series.
It’s Fire Emblem all over again!
What is Final Fantasy VII, I hear you ask? Well, players control an eco-terrorist called Cloud Strife. Think Extinction Rebellion with massive swords and a mission to stop corporations destroying the world.
The mixture of a 2D world with 3D characters looks a little dated now, but the 2.5D feel works incredibly well. Married with the science-fiction ‘Fifth Element’ feel with strong apocalyptic vibes, you’ve got one hell of a game on your hands.
Players control Cloud through a gigantic world map, the area where most of the game’s exploration occurs. There’s also the battle screen which is the setting for altercations with enemies, of which there are a lot!
RPG and FF fans know that the characters and their moves are what makes Final Fantasy VII as addictive as sweet waffles with chocolate spread and whipped cream… mmmm, I’m so hungry now!
This game should seriously come with a warning on it; I was hooked as soon as I switched it on. I remember lying to my friends for the entire Easter holidays as I didn’t want to leave the T.V and go outside to have real fun. Sounds sad now I write it down, but this game got me good and proper!
3. Goldeneye 007
Goldeneye 007 takes the bronze medal in this list of the best 90s games of all time.
What… a… GAME! This game still has one of the greatest multiplayer modes of all time, with the best weapons and customisable settings that made Deathmatches such a popular feature on shooting games today.
If someone says ‘Lasers, Bunker, Bond, and Trevellyan’ to you while handing over an N64 controller, then expect the greatest battle of your entire life!
Every N64 owner in the land knows the frantic panic of searching for the Golden Gun, This usually resulted in that agonising ‘der der na naaaaa’ sound ringing out of the TV followed by red blood trickling down the screen.
The main story-mode follows the film plot fairly closely. Wield rocket launchers or the fantastic RCP-90, or just slap opponents to death with your judo-chop action!
Having each save file as a secret-agent passport is a super cool touch too. In fact, everything about this game oozes that James Bond level of suave sophistication.
It won’t help you become a super spy, but it does provide hours of fun.
4. Pokemon Red/Blue
Two of the best 90s games that don’t need any introduction are Pokemon Red/Blue. I remember getting my copy of Pokemon Red with Charizard on the box like it was yesterday. My mum took me to buy it, and I got a Yellow Game Boy DMG to go with it.
I think I accounted for most of the United Kingdom’s AA battery sales back in 1996. I would spend hours trying to catch them all (Pokemon that is, not batteries), sneaking off upstairs to my room to carry on riding around the Kanto region on my bicycle.
Who remembers the Safari Zone too? Trying to catch a Kangaskahn or a Scyther with those Safari balls was a nightmare!
Pokemon Red/Blue are two of the best GameBoy Games ever made, hands down. Everything about these titles from the Caterpie man cheat to the storyline itself was pure perfection.
My next-door neighbour had Pokemon Blue, so we could swap Pokemon to complete our sets, which was pretty handy. The global success of Red/Blue went on to provide many more adventures on pretty much every Nintendo console.
The only thing left to do is to figure out who is the best, Blastoise or Charizard?
5. Half Life
Next up on our list of the best 90s games is Half-Life. This first-person shooter made waves when it launched back in 1998. Every PC owner had this game, and it was unlike anything that had come before it.
Players control Gordon Freeman, a scientist who must escape a research facility after swarms of hellish aliens decide to pop by for a visit. Gamers have complete control over Gordon’s movements, and most of the story is seen through his eyes. It’s an immersive story and one that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Half-Life won so many ‘Game of the Year’ awards that it would take an age to write them all down. The graphics, the scripted storyline sequences, the gameplay; they all made this title one of the most influential first-person shooters of all time.
Still, it doesn’t feel like a normal shooting game. There are puzzles to solve along the way, and the combo of alien and human enemies to beat back keeps things fresh and players on their toes.
Not bad for developer Valve’s first project, right?
6. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is undoubtedly one of the best 90s games on the planet. I used to spend all night playing this thing, sometimes leaving the console on while I slept so I didn’t lose my progress.
To be honest, I’m surprised my cartridge still works after all the playtime it got and the constant blowing to remove the dust when I finally removed it to play on James Pond or Streets of Rage instead.
SEGA definitely made the right choice when creating their console mascot. Even though the company doesn’t produce consoles today (ignore this if you’re still buying Master System’s in Brazil), Sonic lives on with the likes of Link, Spyro, and Abe.
From the very first minute of the Green-Hill Zone all the way to the terryifying Death Egg, Sonic and Tails must thwart Dr Robotnik’s evil plans and reclaim the Chaos Emeralds. They do all this while saving little animals too; don’t say they don’t care!
Playing as Tails was a nice touch too, especially with the split screen co-op mode. Did anyone play as Knuckles by using the special slot-in cartridge set-up? That was worth its weight in golden rings!
I still can’t believe that the Genesis/Mega Drive is thirty-years-old. Sonic celebrates his birthday this year too! I guess time flies when you’re having fun… and when you happen to be a super-sonic hedgehog.
7. Mario Kart 64
Few games left as big as an impression on me as Mario Kart 64. This game was everything back in the day and still remains my favourite Mario Kart title to this day.
Sure, Super Mario Kart was a blast and played well, but the textures and the graphics used in the N64 title blew me away.
This was the very first game I played on the N64, and I loved everything about it. From the faces on the back of each Kart to trying to make the secret tunnel on the Koopa Beach level. And who could forget Bowser’s Castle and Toads Turnpike; classic tracks!
If for some reason you have completely bypassed all the Mario Kart games ever released, then let me fill you in. Race around tracks as your favourite Nintendo characters while firing weapons at other opponents.
Mario Kart 64 has the quintessential Rainbow Road track too, accompanied by that epic soundtrack. Flying upside down and playing as Bowser’s distant relatives or Link in Mario Kart 8 is all well and good, but storming through DK’s Jungle Parkway with the ape himself is what weekends were made for.
It might not be the first, but it’s certainly the best!
8. Thief: The Dark Project
Next up on our list of the best 90s games ever made is Thief: The Dark Project. This is one of the very first games that I ever bought for the PC, and what a game it was!
To say I was never very good at stealth games, I sure bought a lot of them. Maybe it was something to do with my obsession of becoming a spy, or maybe it’s just because they looked cool and my mates had them. I don’t know; all that matters is I had Thief, and it was awesome.
Fans of Assassin’s Creed will love Thief. The game sees players exploring a medieval city called… ‘The City’. As Garret, a master thief who usually makes do with robberies, gamers become inadvertently mixed up in a plot to stop a superpower from taking over the world.
Talk about getting more than you bargained for!
Whether skulking around dank streets or infiltrating buildings for collectibles, Thief: The Dark Project is a brilliant game that fans of Syphon Filter and Splinter Cell will feel right at home with.
9. Metal Gear Solid
Despite Metal Gear Solid being yet another stealth game that I sucked at, it was one of those games that warranted perseverance. I gave it my all and never regretted a minute of it.
Before long, I was bossing this classic game, and I quickly realised that it was one of the most perfect PS1 games ever made.
It topped our best PS1 games for a reason, after all!
Solid Snake, the game’s protagonist, remains one of the gnarliest video game characters to date too. He even jumped out of the box on our feature image at the top of this article like a pro!
What makes Metal Gear Solid so special then? Well, it’s choc-a-bloc with uber-cool names like Solid Snake for starters. Plus it has organisations with names like FOXHOUND and DARPA; if that doesn’t yell ‘this is an exciting game’, then I don’t know what does!
Metal Gear Solid switches between a 3D view and a top-down perspective. Top-down is great for seeing where Solid Snake is sneaking to and from, and the action kicks into full 3D mode whenever players engage with enemies.
Honestly, you owe it to yourself to play Metal Gear Solid. It’s undoubtedly one of the best 90s games of all time, and we can’t give it any higher praise than that!
10. Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening takes the number 10 spot on our list of the best 90s games of all time. We covered the new Switch remake in our Links Awakening review back in 2019, but the Game Boy Game remains the original and the best.
This top-down adventure sees Link shipwrecked on Koholint Island. He must retrieve a set of instruments from several dungeons in order to wake the Wind Fish inside its egg.
Yeah, it sounds insane, but it’s a really good game!
Link’s Awakening was never supposed to be a Zelda game. Miyamoto saw the title halfway through and liked it so much that he wanted it added to the Zelda canon. As such, there are lots of appearances from other Nintendo bad-guys such as Goombas, Chain Chomps, and Bloopers.
Don’t let that put you off, however. Link’s Awakening is a classic title, and the fact that it doesn’t happen in Hyrule isn’t that big of a deal.
The levels are well thought out and nicely put together, and it’s one of my favourite portable Zelda titles along with Minish Cap and Spirit Tracks.
11. Donkey Kong Country
It’s impossible to have a list of the best 90s games without including the incredible Donkey Kong Country!
Shigeru Miyamoto was never a massive fan of the pre-rendered graphics used in this game, but Donkey Kong Country will forever be one of the best games released during the 90s in my opinion. And it’s not just me that thinks this either; the case above bears the million-seller mark on it, proving that Donkey Kong Country is a fan-favourite.
Whether riding around on Rambi the rhino or hurtling around levels on a minecart, this title had it all. Two monkeys out to kick a bunch of cruel crocs into touch; what’s not to love
Speaking of cruel crocs, King K. Rool might not be as well known as Bowser or Ganondorf, but he’s still one of the meanest dudes around. What kind of sadistic villain steals someones entire banana hoard?
Gamers take take Donkey and Diddy through each of the game’s levels, collecting bananas while avoiding or pulverising K.Rool’s minions along the way.
This is a fast-thinking, fast-paced adventure game that can often be found chilling in my SNES cartridge port. For me, this console can be summed up by blasting barrels and golden KONG letters; its one of the most important games of my childhood!
Of course, many gamers know Donkey, Diddy, and K.Rool from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Is there any Nintendo character not on that game? They’ll probably put Slippy Toad up there soon, and that’s scraping the bottom of the barrel-blaster!
12. Super Smash Bros.
My mates and I definitely put a lot of hours into Super Smash Bros. back in the day. Can you believe that this game came out all the way back in 1999?
Back when there were only a handful of characters to choose from and no Super Smash moves, this game was the ultimate multiplayer button-mash game. Up to four players could battle it out using their favourite Nintendo characters – it was what we’d all been waiting for!
Plus, that moment that Captain Falcon appeared as an unlockable fighter still remains one of my greatest video game moments of all time!
The levels were memorable, as were each characters signature moves. Samus had her plasma cannon, Fox his Pistol, and Mario his fireballs (which sounds like something he should buy some ointment for).
Throwing enemies off the edge of arenas and smacking them into oblivion with a baseball bat were my favourite methods of winning, but I also had my fair share of button mashing too.
If any readers out there have joined the Smash world on the Switch and want to know where it all started, then this is one of the best 90s games that you need to buy immediately. It’s one of the finest games Nintendo has ever produced and a real winner if you want to get back into couch co-op once Covid is over.
Just prepare to be disappointed when Jigglypuff appears as a character…
13. Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango marks the 13th spot in this list of the best 90s games ever made! Recently remastered, this Tim Schaer/LucasArts game is an absolute triumph, if not a little weird.
But hey, all of the best things are a little weird, or at least that’s what everyone keeps telling me…
Grim Fandango is an action-packed collecting adventure. Players control Manuel “Manny” Calavera through the land of the dead, searching for objects, conversing with NPC’s, and solving puzzles.
The game itself has a very ‘day of the dead-style’ theme to it; think Coco crossed with a Film Noir movie about the Mafia, and you’re probably on the right tracks.
Manny looks at objects and people as players pass them, allowing gamers to interact or converse at various stages. Manny can’t die, mainly because he’s already dead. This is a usual feature in LucasArts games and allows players to concentrate on enjoying the gameplay rather than worrying about collecting lives.
With a host of memorable characters and a storyline that could have been pulled straight from the legends of Día de los Muertos, Grim Fandango is one of those titles that you never forget.
14. Super Mario World
Everyone knows who Mario is; the man’s an institution, for crying out loud! Put on a pair of blue overalls and a red hat and 99.95% of people will know you’re pretending to be Mazza.
As game characters go, he’s one of the most iconic there is. A firm fixture in the golden age of gaming, Mario has moved from sewer-stomping to a vibrant overworld adventure with colourful bad guys to thwart and Yoshi to lend a helping hand.
Super Mario World is one of the most successful and best 90s games ever made with an incredible 20-million copies under its belt.
For those who haven’t played it before, the storyline might seem terribly familiar. Save Peach from Bowser; done. Though this time, players must save Dinosaur Island at the same time too!
Play as Luigi, use Yoshi to nomm up enemies, and stomp on bad-guys to your heart’s content. Honestly, if you haven’t played this game, then we demand your immediate removal from this website. Before you go to the great ‘Game Over’ sign in the sky, do us a favour and make sure you grab a copy and play it from start to finish.
The SNES version of Doom received the superstar treatment thanks to the Reality engine. It made use of the Super FX 2 chip and looked pretty damn good for the time.
Not only that, but it came with a coloured cartridge too which makes it a neat title to keep out on show in your games room.
The PC version is undoubtedly the best out there, but the SNES port held its own with the other versions in my opinion.
Ok, so it’s missing five levels and doesn’t have any levels exclusive to the SNES. Still, it remains the only home console port to include all of the secret levels and boss levels, which is pretty important if you ask me!
Sony holds the crown for the best-looking home console version of Doom, however, with the PS1 port being hailed as an ultimate triumph. Which title you buy will inevitably be down to which consoles you own. Maybe you’ll buy all of them!
Doomguy is often cited as being one of the most influential figures in the world of first-person shooters. The Master Chief wouldn’t be running around the Halo without him, and Doom is a hellishly-addictive game that everyone should have in their collection.
16. Earthworm Jim 2
I still remember the first time I put Earthworm Jim 2 into my Mega Drive and started blasting everything in sight.
I don’t think there has ever been a character quite like Jim before or after his famous series. It was mad, insane almost, but pure genius at the same time.
Who would have thought that a worm in a robotic suit with a mate called snot that acts as a bogiefied-grapling hook could have become such a massive hit?
If we’re being completely honest with each other, I much prefer Earthworm Jim 2 to the original Earthworm Jim title. It just felt more polished, like Sega had improved the formula.
The Barn Blaster remains one of my favourite weapons on any game; I could have done with that in Unreal Tournament a few times!
Jim must save Princess Whats-Her-Name from the evil Psy-Crow, but he might also decide to just sack it all off and take a nap instead. Who knows?
It’s time for one of my all time favourite games; Banjo-Kazooie. This game is perfection from start to finish; it brings back so many memories every time I play it that it just had to feature in this list of the best 90s games.
Rare knows how to make stunning titles, and Banjo-Kazooie will forever be one of their best. We’re talking before they jumped ship to the Xbox here; Nuts and Bolts was just the worst!
This critically acclaimed title is still played by platform-gaming fans all over the world today. It’s one of the reasons why Yooka-Laylee proved so popular; platformers aren’t dead!
For anyone who hasn’t played this epic title before. Banjo and Kazooie are on a mission to save Banjo’s sister Tooty from the evil witch Gruntilda. She plans to make herself youthful by draining Tooty’s essence, a little like the poor Podlings in the Dark Crystal.
Banjo and Kazooie are helped by Bottles the mole, a character that teaches them special moves as they progress through the game. New worlds open up when the player collects jigsaw pieces by completing specific tasks on ace levels such as Freezeezy Peak and Tick-Tock Woods.
As you can tell, I’m a Banjo nerd. From the moment he made his debut on Diddy Kong Racing in 1997, I knew that this was going to be the start of a great gaming relationship. The bird and bear duo deserve a place in our list of the best 90s games, just ignore the Xbox offerings!
18. Unreal Tournament
Next up in our list of the best 90s games is a Dreamcast classic; Unreal Tournament.
Before the likes of Overwatch and Fortnite warped brains across the globe and made every kid late for mealtimes, Unreal Tournament ruled the roost. This first-person shooter has some of the best weapons in any game; they make Turok’s cerebral bore look like a feather duster.
It’s only right that an Unreal Tournament uses an Unreal Engine to power everything going on in the background. The deathmatches in this game look fantastic, even surpassing the graphics that we think of when it comes to the best Dreamcast games of all time.
Taking a leaf out of James Bond’s book, players grab body armour and other insane weaponry while searching for players to wipe out in all-manner of unreal ways.
There are multiple modes to play through including ‘domination’, ‘capture the flag’, and the tense ‘last man standing’!
Test your skills against A.I hordes in single-player mode or order in a couple of pizzas and make your mates wish they had never been born by pumping them full of imaginary lead (I think I take this game way too seriously).
19. Mortal Kombat II
Gruesome fatalities and pausing to figure out how you just pulled off that ace move; it has to be Mortal Kombat II!
No matter what anyone says, Mortal Kombat II is still one of the best fighting games of all time. Liu Kang, Scorpion, Sub Zero; it had so many amazing characters and was way more brutal than Street Fighter.
That didn’t stop me from getting my hands on a copy though. Not appropriate for minors; yeah right!
The Mortal Kombat cartoon was a hit in the 90s, which made playing with these characters even more exciting on the Genesis or the SNES.
The format is the same as every fighting game you’ve ever played. Button mash with kicks and punches while pulling out special moves every once in a while. The difference being that some fights ended with the chance of pulling off a ‘fatality’ killing move. These usually ended with someones head being pulled off or their skin being fried.
Play against the computer or multiplayer couch co-op in a best-of-three rounds match to see who is the ultimate fighter. Bagsy Shang Tsung!
20. Donkey Kong 64
First up in our list of the best 90s games of all time is Donkey Kong 64. It’s the first-ever 3D Donkey Game to hit our screens and one of the best N64 games of all time!
Donkey Kong 64 should appear in more of these lists, though for some reason it always gets left out. Sure, other Rare classics like Banjo-Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day always crop up, but Donkey’s 3D outing is one of the best games ever made.
Up until this game, Donkey just ran and jumped on enemies in a 2D-world. In his N64 title-debut, however, Donkey and his pals wield fruit-based weapons like the coconut blaster. They have cool abilities players must unlock too!
And who can forget the iconic DK Rap! This was pretty much what got me into hip-hop as a kid.
Join Donkey, Diddy, Tiny, Lankey, and Chunky Kong as they fight back against the evil King K.Rool and try collect golden bananas throughout Kong Island.
Each Kong has a special technique players use to reach new areas, meaning gamers must swap between characters to proceed. It’s Rare collecting gameplay at its best and a firm favourite if you loved Banjo.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission. Thank you for your support.
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.