While playing video games is now considered one of the most mainstream pastimes a person can have, things weren’t always this way. Decades before Fortnite and Among Us were global sensations, video games were something of a niche hobby pursued by enthusiasts.
Those enthusiasts were often treated cruelly in mainstream portrayals, and those who enjoyed video games were often the target of derision by their peers.
However, some of the early days of gaming are also a golden age in terms of certain types of game design and storytelling. While the hobby wasn’t nearly as accepted, some of the finest games of all time were crafted in the early ’90s for systems like the Super NES and Sega Genesis.
Super Mario World
Super Mario World was the fourth Super Mario game since the NES original kicked off the series in 1985. It was the first entry in the series to hit a 16-bit console, and that meant brighter colors, smoother motion, and more robust animations.
The storybook world of Mario was more alive than ever, and fans simply couldn’t get enough of it. The game was a launch title with the SNES, and remains one of the best-selling games of all time.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Believe it or not, there was an era in which Sega actually made game consoles. Moreover, for a brief moment in the 90s, the Sega Genesis was doing better than the SNES. This was largely on the back of an aggressive ad campaign and an undeniably awesome mascot: Sonic the Hedgehog. That speedy blue hedgehog had lightning-fast gameplay and a rocking soundtrack that made him the “cooler” option over Nintendo’s portly, mustachioed mascot.
While the future games in the series would go on to exceed the original in essentially every way, the original Sonic the Hedgehog catapulted Sega into an era of success that some viewed as improbable. Sadly, it wasn’t to last, but the company made quite the name for themselves in a short span of time.
A Link to the Past
Only the third game in the Legend of Zelda series, A Link to the Past suddenly locked in the formula that the series would stick to for decades to come. The first two entries in the series were well-received, but the original was rather simple compared to other roleplaying games. The second entry, a side-scrolling hack-and-slash game, struck a very different tone from the original.
The third entry, however, landed on the exact mix of dungeon-crawling, puzzle-solving, and monster-slaying that would define the series for years to come.
Even the most recent entry in the series, Breath of the Wild, owes much to the ambitious and legendary third entry in the series. While arguably better games have come out since, nearly all adventure and RPG games owe some debt of gratitude to A Link to the Past.