All the Games From 1994 You Should Still Be Playing

Collage of screenshots from Super Metroid, Earthworm Jim, and Killer Instinct.

All the Games From 1994 You Should Still Be Playing

1994 was the year of the cartridge. Nintendo dominated the year with the Game Boy but Sega provided great competition with its Sega Genesis home console. Video games were debated by Congress over topics of violence and sexual content and Game Zero magazine became the first video game news magazine to transition to online journalism. 1994 was an eventful year full of amazing releases that are still worth your time today. Here are all the games from 1994 that you should still be playing.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid boss battle

©naswinger / Nintendo / Intelligent Systems – License

Super Metroid is a game you can always come back to; it gets better every time.

Seen by many as the pinnacle of 2D Metroid, Super Metroid is a perfect game to kick off this article with. The game is consistently praised for its atmosphere, controls, gameplay, and music. Many gamers consider the game one of the greatest of all time especially since it pioneered the Metroidvania genre alongside Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The player controls Samus Aran as she searches the planet for a Metroid that has been stolen by Ridley, the leader of the Space Pirates. The title’s side-scrolling action-adventure gameplay continues to be fun as time goes on and the game can be completed in under three hours.

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot

Final Fantasy VI was the best-selling game of 1994 in Japan. In the West, it still broke sales records despite being released in the last quarter of the year.

Also known as Final Fantasy III in North America, Final Fantasy VI is still regarded as one of the most fun and innovative RPGs ever. The game has difficulty, amazing graphics, a gripping narrative, and a beautiful OST composed by the great Nobuo Uematsu. Final Fantasy VI is a menu-based turn-based RPG who’s story develops as you progress through towns and dungeons. Today, the RPG genre has changed a lot but this title still stands as a game every RPG enthusiast should give a try.


EarthBound gameplay

©NintendoComplete / Ape Inc. / HAL Laboratory / Nintendo – License

It took some time for the world to come around and see the greatness of EarthBound. Today, the game is seen for what it is: A unique RPG that has a lot of heart and a lot to say.

Unfortunately, EarthBound was released during a time frame when the RPG genre was doing poorly outside of Square Enix titles. Over the last decade, gamers realized that EarthBound wasn’t trying to compete with Final Fantasy. EarthBound was laying the foundation for some of the best indie games of all time due to its charm and tone. There would be no Undertale without EarthBound. EarthBound features many traditional role-playing game elements: the player controls a party of characters who travel through the game’s two-dimensional world composed of villages, cities, caves, and dungeons. But what makes Earthbound great is how it differs from the original formula and that unique vibe is still enjoyable today.

Doom II

©Doom II

Doom II refined everything that made the original Doom good and fans of the “Boomer Shooter” genre will find themselves right at home with this title.

This title might be light on story but if you need just a mindless shooter to sink your teeth into, this is a perfect game. It is very accessible: it can run on pretty much anything, it’s easy to get your hands on, and it’s simple enough a child could play it. If you’ve played and loved Doom then you’ll appreciate the fact that this game is just more Doom since the developers opted to reiterate a winning formula instead of changing things drastically. Everything was upgraded, even multiplayer which allows players to use LAN functionality. Doom II can kind of be seen as a fun party game to bring out at your next LAN Party even for modern gamers.

Killer Instinct

Screenshot of the main menu of Killer Instinct 1994

©Screenshot of the main menu of Killer Instinct 1994

This title was a commercial hit in the arcades and the homes of consumers with it dominating sales charts in the following year as well.

While some gamers refer to it as “better Mortal Kombat“, Killer Instinct isn’t perfect but it’s addictive. The sound design and voice acting carry this title and even today hearing “C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!” evokes a new level of nostalgia. Killer Instinct plays like many other fighting games, in which the player controls a character to beat an opponent in a one-on-one encounter. The game borrows mechanics from other fighters like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. This title implemented auto-combos way before they would become a topic for debate allowing accessibility to casual fighting game enthusiasts.

Donkey Kong Country

©Donkey Kong Country screenshot

Donkey Kong Country re-established Donkey Kong as a popular Nintendo franchise and is even credited as a key factor in Nintendo winning the console war of the 1990s.

The title received a lot of praise for its variety and depth for the time. This title completely changed expectations for platformers. Donkey Kong Country set a new precedent for 16-bit gaming and everything that came before it kind of pales in comparison. Donkey Kong Country is a side-scrolling platform game and a reboot of the Donkey Kong franchise. Its story begins when King K. Rool and his army of crocodiles, the Kremlings, steal the Kongs’ banana hoard. The game has 40 phenomenal levels that can be enjoyed alone or with a fan. In today’s drought of local co-op titles, Donkey Kong Country saves the day.

King’s Field

King's Field II players must contend with menacing foes like this skeleton.

©King’s Field II players must contend with menacing foes like this skeleton. – License

Today, From Software is a household name because of its era-defining Elden Ring release. However, the ideas of Elden Ring had to start somewhere and they started here with the niche and underappreciated King’s Field.

This game was ahead of its time. It was heavily criticized for its difficulty and unconventional structure which is exactly what the Souls series is praised for today. King’s Field is an action role-playing video game played from a first-person perspective. Players navigate the dungeon’s five environments, which are rendered using real-time 3D graphics. This isn’t to say King’s Field is perfect it did not age as well as other games from its time. However, this game is an important step into what eventually became one of the most influential titles of modern gaming and deserves to be played today.

Sonic The Hedgehog 3

©Sonic the Hedgehog 3 screenshot

Sonic The Hedgehog is a franchise that needs no introduction and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 might be the best Sonic game of all time.

The title not only features the debut of fan-favorite Knuckles the Echidna but it also has music composed by the late great Michael Jackson. Like the two prequels to this release, Sonic 3 was also released to critical acclaim. Some critics believe the game didn’t innovate enough on the foundation set in its prequels but it’s obvious Sega decided to just polish its already winning formula. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a 2D side-scrolling platformer. As with Sonic the Hedgehog 2, players can control Sonic, Tails, or both simultaneously. If you’re a Sonic fan then you will be a fan of Sonic 3 because it’s just that good.

Earthworm Jim

©Earthworm Jim screenshot

Earthworm Jim was a 1990s powerhouse that has all but vanished from modern gaming.

This game plays as a 2D sidescrolling platformer with elements of a run-and-gun game as well. The player controls Jim and must maneuver him through the level while avoiding obstacles and enemies. The gameplay is a perfect window into 1990s gaming. Earthworm Jim has phenomenal animation quality, level design, and humor. It’s a complete shame that this game has been forgotten over the last few decades but it definitely should still be played today.

System Shock

©System Shock screenshot

System Shock is the blueprint that gave us other classics such as Deus Ex, BioShock, and Prey.

This title is seen by many as a breakthrough for the FPS genre. The game is set inside a large, multi-level space station, in which players explore, combat enemies, and solve puzzles. It arrived at the perfect time to be a foil to Doom. While it’s in the same genre it is way more complex of a game. It didn’t reach the same level of success as Doom but it left behind a legacy of story-based action games that look to System Shock for inspiration. If you’re a fan of FPSs that put a lot of effort into telling a gripping narrative, it is important to go back and play one of the games that pioneered that type of narrative design.

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