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The Best Puzzle Games You Should Be Playing From the 1990s

The Best Puzzle Games You Should Be Playing From the 1990s

The 1990s were a golden age of gaming. Some of the best and most influential titles were released in this decade, and there’s a reason we still talk about it today. The decade saw the release of magnificent RPGs such as Final Fantasy 7 and 8, phenomenal action games such as Metal Gear Solid, and even the debatable best game ever Ocarina of Time released in the 1990s. However, when reflecting on the decade I feel that we don’t talk enough about the many amazing puzzle games released that decade. As the puzzle genre is mostly an indie playground today, many gamers are returning to play older titles. The 1990s are full of some of the best games the genre has to offer. Here are the best puzzle games you should be playing from the 1990s.

Myst

© Screenshot from the computer game Myst

  • Release Date – September 24, 1993
  • Release Platforms – macOS, Saturn, PlayStation, 3DO, Microsoft Windows, Atari Jaguar CD, CD-i, AmigaOS, Pocket PC, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Android, Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
  • Steam Review Score – 9/10

Myst is considered by many as the pinnacle of puzzle games from the 1990s. What set Myst apart was its innovative approach to gameplay and immersive storytelling, with intricate puzzles set in a stunning environment. From the moment players step onto the mysterious island in Myst, they are enveloped in a rich atmosphere. Each puzzle within the game feels meticulously crafted. The best puzzles challenge players to think critically, and Myst excels.

The 7th Guest

©One of Stauf's many puzzles: This one requires Ego to close all of the coffins. When one coffin is selected, that one, and some of its adjacent ones, open or close.

  • Release Date – April 1993
  • Release Platforms – Nintendo Switch, Android, Microsoft Windows, Linux, iOS, CD-i, macOS, DOS, Mac operating systems, Classic macOS
  • Steam Review Score – 7/10


The 7th Guest occupies a special place among puzzle games of the 1990s. The title is loved for its atmosphere. Set within a haunted mansion, players are drawn into a world of mystery and suspense as they navigate its corridors. What sets The 7th Guest apart is its integration of full-motion video. This design choice truly brings the game’s characters and environments to life in a way that fills gamers with nostalgia when revisiting the title. The puzzles themselves are also well-designed and range from logic puzzles to brain teasers.

Lemmings

©Lemmings Cover Art

  • Release Date – February 14, 1991
  • Release Platforms – Amiga, MS-DOS, Mac, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Amiga CDTV, Archimedes, PC-98, PC-88, MSX, FM Towns, X68000, Apple IIGS, SNES, PC Engine CD-ROM², Mega Drive, Game Gear, Amstrad CPC, Master System, NES, Commodore 64, 3DO, Lynx, SAM Coupé, Game Boy, CD-i, CD32, Windows, PlayStation, J2ME, Linux
  • Steam Review Score – N/A

Lemmings was one of the best-reviewed video games of the 1990s. Love of Lemmings has spiraled into many sequels, remakes, and spin-offs. Many gaming publications at the time considered the game a perfect blend of puzzle and strategy gameplay. Looking back on the game though, Lemmings was truly something special. It was original even if it was a bit on the repetitive side.

Loom

A Steam promotional image for Loom.

©LucasArts - Original

  • Release Date – January 1990
  • Release Platforms – MS-DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, Mac OS, FM Towns, TurboGrafx-CD
  • Steam Review Score – 9/10

In 1990, one of the kings of puzzle games, Lucasfilms Games released Loom to critical success. While the game didn’t sell as well as its developer would have liked, many critics praised it upon its release. Its graphics and moment-to-moment gameplay send it into the upper echelon of puzzle games of the 1990s. Many fans look back on it with the same fondness; although compared to modern games, its age has shown a bit.

Rampart

©The battle phase in single-player mode.

  • Release Date – February 1991
  • Release Platforms – Arcade
  • Steam Review Score – N/A

Rampart is not only one of the best puzzle games of the early 1990s but it’s set the blueprint for the tower defense genre. The game was a very successful arcade cabinet but went on to have very successful console ports as well. The gameplay consisted of the player defending a territory consisting of a wall surrounding a set of castles and cannons. A very simple premise that arrived at the perfect time. In 2007, even a PlayStation 3 port was released with online multiplayer. Over 20 years later, Rampart continued to hold up.

The Secret of Monkey Island

©Cover Art of Monkey island

  • Release Date – October 1990
  • Release Platforms – Amiga, Atari ST, FM Towns, Classic Mac OS, MS-DOS, Sega CD, iOS, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Metacritic Score – 88 (Universal Acclaim)

When I think of the best puzzle games from the 1990s, my mind immediately goes to The Secret of Monkey Island. I wasn’t alive when this game came out but when I talk to gamers older than me many of them praise this game to high heaven. This game was designed to create something simple and accessible and that’s why so many people look back on it fondly. If you’re into puzzles or even PC games as a whole, this is a must-play.

Dr. Mario

Dr. Mario box art and gameplay

©CheatCC

  • Release Date – July 27, 1990
  • Release Platforms – NES, Arcade, Game Boy, SNES (Satellaview, Nintendo Power), Game Boy Advance
  • Metacritic Score – 66 (Mixed)

As successful as this game was in the 90s, it was a controversial release as well. Many parents weren’t sure how they felt about how this children’s game portrays medicine. Critics praised Nintendo’s take on the matching tile formula and also praised how challenging it was. This truly was a great time for Nintendo, even their puzzle efforts were good. This game hasn’t aged as well as other entries in the article but it’s still an important step in 1990s puzzle games.

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

©Puzzle Fighter Flyer

  • Release Date – May 29, 1996
  • Release Platforms – Arcade, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Windows, Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance, mobile phone, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Metacritic Score – 83 (Generally Favorable)

Originally a response to Sega’s Puyo Puyo, this game came into its own as one of the best puzzlers of its era. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo was one of the most successful arcade games when it was released. It even outperformed other very popular arcade cabinets, like Tekken 2. Looking back on it, maybe this game wouldn’t have done as well without the Street Fighter brand but I would argue that all of its parts are what make it add up to the classic video game it is.

Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus

©CC-BY-SA - Original / License

  • Release Date – November 25, 1998
  • Release Platforms – PlayStation, Windows
  • Metacritic Score – 88 (Generally Favorable)

The Oddworld games are just that, odd. But they’re more than that, they’re brilliant in their own odd way. Its gameplay is a bit on the trial-and-error side however, despite its criticisms, this game went on to win many awards. This game resonates with a lot of people and it feels as if it depends on whether you get its oddness or not. One thing that can’t be debated though is that the cutscenes are amazing.

Tetris Attack

©Tetris Attack box art

  • Release Date – October 27, 1995
  • Release Platforms – Super NES, Game Boy
  • Metacritic Score – N/A

You cannot talk about puzzle games without Tetris. Tetris Attack is another entry in the long line of phenomenal puzzle games that is the Tetris franchise. The game reviewed incredibly well with many of the critics praising its art direction and addictive gameplay. This game was so popular it created its own sequels separate from Tetris known as Puzzle League. The game has a lot in common with Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and some believe it wouldn’t be as popular without the IPs tied to it. No matter where you land on that debate, there’s no arguing the legacy it has garnered. The Puzzle League games are some of the best puzzle games of all time.

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