The 1990s are one of the greatest turning points in gaming. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, gaming developers in North America, Europe, and East Asia were in a race to create video games with superior graphics and gameplay mechanics. Though once the realm of bulky arcade machines, companies like Sega and Nintendo were looking to create an unforgettable at-home gaming experience.
During the 1990s, gamers had unprecedented access to some of the world’s most cutting-edge consoles—and even PC games. Technological advances meant that these games offered superior mechanics, while a boom in creativity in the gaming industry led to innovative new titles like GoldenEye and DOOM.
At the time, there was such a proliferation of games that the market seemed oversaturated. However, hindsight is 20-20, which means gamers today can look back and appreciate the release of some of the industry’s most influential titles. Do you know which ones were first released in the 90s?
Throughout the 90s, the top games were those developed for consoles like Sega and Dreamcast, to name a few. However, gaming wasn’t the only form of entertainment for techies. Instead, the internet was also greatly influencing the outlook of gaming—casino titles included. While some video game developers were tinkering with multi-player titles like OutRunners and Xtrek, other companies were instead focusing on setting up virtual casinos.
Some of the first truly virtual gaming experiences were offered to poker, blackjack, and roulette players. For some casino gamers, the switch to a fully digital format was surprising. After all, the casino is a social location—so, how would a move online shift that experience?
Online casinos offered players more freedom to stay at home—and even to learn how to play. For example, a player might understand the basic roulette board layout, but may not know how that changes between the American and European variations. By playing online first, they can test their knowledge and learn the ropes—without playing live at a table. Over two decades later, online casinos remain one of the most popular and lucrative gaming sectors.
In 1996, Nintendo published its Pokémon Red & Blue series for the Game Boy. The multi-layered releases introduced the world to the mega-popular franchise, while also helping poularize the company’s brand-new handheld console. Today, both releases are hailed as some of the best video games of all time, as they helped to steer an open-world RPG title. It also kicked off what would become a multi-billion-dollar franchise for Nintendo, which culminated in another ground-breaking release with Pokémon GO.
Some of the earliest video games were simulations, designed to help train professionals in fields like piloting. During the late 1980s, developers like ZX Spectrum and EA began to tackle sports simulations. However, by 1993, game writers and designers decided to run off the beaten path. Unlike its predecessors, gamers in NBA Jam weren’t bound with hyper-realistic gameplay mechanics.
This meant they could leap and run much higher and faster than characters in other sports sims. The two-on-two format also included licensed images and names from actual NBA rosters, bridging gaming and reality just like fantasy sports groups had been doing for over a decade. It quickly became one of the biggest cult hits to come out of the 90s.
Above, we mentioned DOOM as one of the 1990’s titular releases—but it still bares breaking down how and why DOOM (1993) shaped the future of gaming. The title was one of the first FPS (first-person shooter) titles to nail down gaming mechanics. In other words, it set a precedent within the genre that developers today continue to follow. However, the game took things even two other new directions.
First, the game explored horror and slasher genres within gaming, which helped develop interest for future 90s’ releases like Half-Life (1998), Diablo (1996), and Resident Evil (1996). Second, it included a contemporary soundtrack with some of the most hardcore metal and rock tracks at the time—which were still considered counter-culture.