The 1990s was the decade when computer games finally went mainstream. There were several reasons behind this:
- Manufacturing cost of computer hardware such as processors, hard drives and memory meant PC prices declined sharply
- The transition from sprite-based graphics to 3D graphics meant PCs are able to render higher quality 3D graphics
- The dominance of Microsoft's Windows operating system meant game developers can focus development work on a single platform
- The growth of internet connectivity in households
As a result of these factors, the number of games released by the mid-90s quadrupled compared to a decade earlier. But out the thousands of game titles released during the decade, which five were considered the best? Let's find out.
1. Resident Evil
Resident Evil was a ground-breaking game which reinvented the first-person and third-person shooter genres. The “survival horror” game, released in 1996 by Japanese developer Capcom, also introduced several innovative game features that helped usher in the zombie video game era.
Resident Evil used a combination of great graphics, compelling music and engaging storytelling to create a scary, yet riveting experience for users. Critics and end-users alike were raving about the game soon after release. 20-odd years on, Resident Evil has spawned nine sequels, two remakes and 13 spin-offs, as well as six features films, four animated films and at least ten novels.
If you're new to video games, Resident Evil is a great place to start - specifically, inside an eerie zombie-infested mansion.
Fans cosplaying as Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield from Resident Evil. Image courtesy of William Tung
2. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Named after legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk, the game flew a little under the radar initially owing to its niche focus. The developer, Activision, also had rather low commercial expectations for the game. However, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater became the sleeper hit of 1999. The combination of amazing game mechanics, intuitive controls and great background music (Dead Kennedys' "Police Truck", anyone?) helped moved the game to the top of many year-end lists. The game also turned Tony Hawk into a global celebrity.
Doom is arguably the most influential computer game of the 90s. It is essentially a first-person shooter game – a very, very well done one at that. The setting is simple: players have to prevent demons from the underworld from emerging at a gateway on Mars. The art, music and general atmosphere of the spooky and bloody game is extremely immersive, which cause players to develop quite a memorable connection with the game. For gamers who have only been exposed to 2D games prior to this, Doom was breath-taking.
A motion picture adaptation of the game starring Dwayne ‘The Rock' Johnson and Academy Award-winner Rosamund Pike was released in 2005. Alas, it flopped spectacularly.
4. Mortal Kombat
So, how you a powerful personal computer, an excellent graphic engine, and responsive controllers – how do you maximise this for games? You create a fighting game unlike anything ever created before. Players can choose from one of the seven characters and practice its personalised combat and finishing (Fatality) moves. The gory in-game scenes attracted quite a bit of controversy, which probably helped popularised the game even more.
Starcraft is a real-time strategy (RTS) game featuring a struggle for dominance involving four alien civilisations based on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy. Sure, there have been many other RTS games released before, but Starcraft was the first truly great one. The game scenario was appealing, the strategy and tactics required were logical, the art direction and voice acting was wonderful (for its time), and the mechanics were intuitive. The success of Starcraft definitely helped to shape the future games release under the genre.