For the past three weeks, we have been on a 1990s rollercoaster ride ranking the decade’s best games according to the defunct meta score video games page, GameRankings. This week is 1992’s turn, and as expected, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Genesis, and the Personal Computer remain the top performers.
In 1992, Technotronic was hot and Kriss Kross unleashed their massive hit “Jump” into the world, but most importantly, the SNES was a new gaming console in the U.S. Sega had to step up its game in order to match Nintendo’s machine blow for blow.
As always, we want to let our readers know that this isn’t our personal (or official) best list for the 1992 year. The rankings here are solely decided by an Excel spreadsheet (available online) which lists every game tracked by the late GameRankings site. Some of these games had as little as 3 reviews to their credit. These were the early days of the medium, and games were only reviewed by printed magazine publications.
Popular games like Street Fighter II, Toejam & Earl, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV, and Mega Man III barely missed the list. The aforementioned games were as good, or better, than some of the entries here, but we are going by the scores that GameRankings compiled 3 decades ago.
So, without further ado:
10. Soul Blazer (SNES) – 85.58
Soul Blazer is an action-RPG developed by Quintet and published by Enix. In a year topped by the release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Soul Blazer managed to standout due to its incredible quality, dark storyline, and challenging gameplay.
Soul Blazer is a spiritual predecessor to Illusion of Gaia and The Granstream Saga, but many pundits consider Blazer to be the superior Quintet developed RPG. Liberating souls and restoring a doomed town were never more fun.
If you were an early SNES adopter, between Soul Blazer and the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, you probably had some of the best childhood memories in terms of epic adventuring.
9. Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES) – 86.35
Side-scrolling shooters were all the rage in the early 1990s, and most gamers at the time either owned a SNES or had owned an NES. The Contra series might be the most well-known commodity in the side-scrolling shooter genre and has been a Nintendo mainstay since its inception.
Contra III continues the run and gun arcade experience of its predecessors. The game offered single and two-player coop campaigns that were very addictive.
Needless to say, critics loved Contra III, praising its challenging combat, visuals, and great use of the SNES’ Mode 7 in the game’s two overhead stages. Contra III had players fending off an alien invasion in an atmospheric post-apocalyptic scenario.
In hindsight, critics consider Contra III the greatest game in the entire series and one of the very best console games of all time.
8. The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse (SNES) – 87.00
Before Kingdom Hearts took the world by storm, Disney games were actually generally well received by critics since these games had a tendency to be fun.
The game has a typical childish Mickey Mouse tale. Pluto is taken by Emperor Pete, and Mickey Mouse has to go through six platforming levels in order to save him.
Critics praised the game’s visuals. However, they complained that the adventure was too short. The game was aimed at children, and thus, Mickey had an infinite number of lives. This was uncommon at the time, since games in the 1980s and 1990s were usually on the hard side of things.
Even then, the game scored well with critics, at least according to Game Rankings’ data base. I must stress the fact that Game Rankings only had three reviews as a source of reference for The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse’s meta rating.
7. Streets of Rage II (GEN) – 88.00
Shooters were big in the early 1990s, as were platformers, but beat‘em ups also had a great run. Who does not remember the good old Double Dragon and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle days on the NES? Streets of Rage was Sega’s own killer beat’em up.
Streets of Rage II arrived at a crucial time for the Sega Genesis in the American market, as the SNES was taking hold of the territory. Streets of Rage II did not only become one of the Sega Genesis’ top sellers, but, according to critics of the era, also compared favorably to Super Double Dragon and Final Fight.
Some of these critics even praised the game as the best fighter available on consoles (though Street Fighter II might have something to say about that) and went on to gush about the game’s graphics and aural presentation.
The game’s two player ‘team mode’ continues to entertain critics and gamers alike to this day. Streets of Rage II is considered one of the greatest games of all time by many publications.
Editor’s Note: Street Fighter II arrived in 1992 to American SNES consoles, however, it holds a GameRanking’s average score of 81.57 from seven critic reviews. Given the game’s score, it did not make this list. We know that a lot of fans preferred the game over other entries listed here.
6. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (GEN) – 88.44
Sonic The Hedgehog built the Sega Genesis, and Sega treated the sequel to the console’s highest selling game with an incredible measure of respect, spending 10 million dollars in its marketing. The amount was incredibly high for a video game product at the time (the equivalent of more than $20 million today), but the money was well spent.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was prettier and larger than the first game. It went on to sell 8 million copies. The game introduced a likable side kick in Tails, and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 kept the Sega Genesis competitive with its Nintendo 16-bit rival during the early part of the 1990s.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a short but challenging romp that could be played in split screen mode with a friend. While the game lacked Super Mario World’s depth, Genesis owners had little to complain about, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a winner.
5. King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (PC) – 88.75
On cue, a PC game makes an appearance on the year’s best list (for a third consecutive year). Expectedly, it is also another point and click adventure. As with the Monkey Island series, the player had to solve puzzles while selecting different dialogue commands on the screen.
King Quest VI’s is a 2-D game featuring professional writing, which was uncommon in games outside of the PC space. The game also featured professional voice acting and a computer-generated intro movie, a revolutionary feature at the time.
Over the next 4 years, King Quest VI would go on to sale 3.8 million copies, becoming an undeniable success in the personal computer space. Critics have lauded King Quest VI as one of the greatest games of all time. It continues to appear in all time lists to this day.
4. Alone in the Dark (PC) – 90.00
Before Resident Evil, there was Alone in the Dark. Alone in the Dark is considered the first 3-D survival horror game. That fact will probably come as a shock to PlayStation 1 gamers who grew up playing Capcom’s own take on survival horror games.
Alone in the Dark is the game that influenced Shinji Mikami in the creation of Resident Evil. Alone in the Dark takes place in a haunted mansion, and the player can choose between a female or male character to begin the quest. Exploration and puzzle-solving are the name of the game, even though combat is important with certain weapons found throughout the mansion.
Unlike Resident Evil, inventory space is compromised by weight of items rather than by slots. Alone in the Dark was revolutionary. It was one of the scariest experiences available on any entertainment medium at the time and was a game that gave PC gamers early bragging rights over their console counterparts.
Even though Alone in the Dark hasn’t aged as well as other horror games from the 90s decade, it is one of the most influential titles in gaming history.
3. Indiana Jones and the Fate of the Atlantis (PC) – 90.00
Indiana Jones is another point and click adventure for the PC. The game allowed players to choose from verbs and dialogue choices to progress through the quest. Indiana Jones featured three modes of play, which included a puzzle-oriented mode and combat focused one.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was universally acclaimed at launch. It even won ‘adventure of the year’ awards from highly respected printed publications such as Game Informer. Critics praised the game’s storyline, comparing the game’s plot to the best that Indy had to offer in film.
In 1998, PC Gamer listed Indiana Jones and the Fate of the Atlantis as the 41st best PC game of all time. Critics had it right in 1992, Indiana Jones is one of the greatest adventure games ever.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) – 92.87
After Zelda: Link’s Adventure experimentation with 2-D side-scrolling and level gains for experience, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past returned the series to its overhead view roots.
A Link to the Past introduced a few Zelda mainstays, such as a parallel world and the Master Sword. Nintendo used a 1MB cartridge that allowed Shigeru Miyamoto, along with Nintendo EAD, to craft a large world for players to explore as Link.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is considered by many to be the pinnacle of 2-D action-RPGs. Nintendo delivered a masterclass in level design, visuals, and sound. Few games looked as good in 1992, and even fewer could match the polished level of gameplay of Zelda’s 3rd console iteration.
How good is A Link to the Past? Some critics will argue that the game is the greatest The Legend of Zelda game ever. Many even rank it as the one of the three best games on the SNES. While The Legend of Zelda would achieve its ‘break out’ moment on the Nintendo 64, A Link to the Past is one of the most challenging and enjoyable games in the long running series.
A Link to the Past was showered with Game of the Year awards in 1992, and it continues to serve as an example of stellar, if flawless, 2-D level and puzzle design.
1. Super Mario Kart (SNES) – 93.60
Who would have thought that cart racing game featuring Super Mario characters and worlds would go on to become one of Nintendo’s greatest and most profitable franchises in history? I don’t think many did, but Nintendo EAD crafted a racing masterpiece for the SNES in 1992.
Super Mario Kart set out to right F-Zero’s wrongs by featuring a two-player split screen mode. To gamers younger than 20 years old, split screen gaming must seem like prehistoric technology today, however, back in the 1990s this was the only way to play with friends apart from paying a visit to an arcade.
Like F-Zero before it, Super Mario Kart utilized the SNES Mode 7 in order to deliver the impression of ‘3-D’ visuals. The effect, which remained a novelty in 92, mesmerized critics everywhere. Super Mario Kart also brought strategy and combat to multiplayer racing encounters, and critics found this mechanic to be essential in turning Super Mario Kart into one of the deepest and most addictive experiences available on the SNES.
Super Mario Kart started the tradition of Mario Kart games becoming massive multimillion unit sellers, as the game went onto sell 8.76 million copies. This number made it one of the most commercially successful games of the 1990s decade.
How important is Super Mario Kart to gaming as a whole? Guinness World Records ranks the game at #1 (all time) when it comes to initial impact and lasting legacy as far as console games go.
I have to agree with GameRankings here, Super Mario Kart was 1992’s best game, even if I preferred The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past over it.
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