If you wanted to argue that I should not be allowed in society, this would be pretty good evidence. If it makes you feel better, I also have lots of opinions on knowledge about things more socially acceptable than video games.
Historical context: Sega and Nintendo are still going at it. Sega finally invents Sonic. There is much rejoicing. They also come up with the Sega CD, an expensive CD-based peripheral for the Genesis that had exactly three good games. CD technology for console gaming was really young, and it was probably a mistake for Sega to try to force that into the market. The end result was a ton of really, really shitty games whose selling points were that they had live action video scenes, often in the place of any sort of gameplay. Speaking of which, this is the same year the Phillips CDi was released. The CDi is justifiably regarded as the shittiest abortion in the history of video games, and is notorious for releasing three godawful Zelda games and a perplexingly terrible Mario game.
Spoiler warning: This list contains no CDi or Sega CD games.
5. U.N. Squadron (SNES - Capcom)
Originally an arcade game release in 1989, U.N. Squadron was a side scrolling shoot ‘em up game where you controlled a jet and fought helicopters and weird robots and pick up trucks and shit. Some people consider the SNES port to be better than the arcade version, and there’s good reason for that. You can choose between three different pilots, who all control differently. On top of that, you can use money earned from killing shit to buy new planes, all with different abilities, and customize them with all sorts of different weapons before taking them out for battle. It’s probably the most interesting and flexible system I’ve ever seen in a genre that usually lies somewhere in the realm between tedium and clusterfuckery. It’s not an easy game, but it’s not a pointless mess of shit flying at you like these games tend to be. And even when it does get rough, it takes more than one hit to die, which is unusual for a “shmup” game. The fact that I find U.N. Squadron playable is remarkable in itself. The fact that I find it fun is something like a miracle.
4. Metal Storm (NES - Irem)
A fairly late release for the NES. At this point, most games on this system were sequels to established NES series like Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man. Also, Battletoads (which didn’t make this list because fuck that game). Metal Storm was released by Irem, most known for arcade classics like Kung Fu and R-Type, but not much else. Metal Storm is not unlike Contra. It’s a side-scrolling action game, where shit shoots at you, you shoot back, while gaining powerups like better guns and shields. You can only hold one of these power ups at a time. It doesn’t sound that remarkable, until you take into account that you can manipulate fucking gravity. Basically any time you want, you can just reverse gravity, so everything on the stage shoots up to the ceiling (including you). At first, this is not much more than a novelty, required only to overcome a couple of set pieces (like walls that are too high to jump over). However, later on it molds itself into the core gameplay so well that you can’t imagine playing without it. It’s pretty hard to describe unless you’ve played it, but putting fundamental forces like gravity into the hands of the player was something that wasn’t really done in 1991. It would almost seem like a lame gimmick today, not much different than the slew of games that let you slow down the flow of time, but it’s pretty unique to see a 20 year old game experimenting with ideas like this. And the experiment is pretty successful. The game plays great and is a challenge without being a soul destroying experience like old school shoot em ups tend to be.
3. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis - Sega)
Yes indeed. 1991 was the year Sonic was invented. The game that finally legitimized Sega’s XTREME image, which they had been desperately trying to use to prove that they were cooler than Nintendo. There’s not a lot to say about Sonic that hasn’t been said. The series got a lot better with the subsequent sequels, but it’s hard to not include this one simply because of how important it was. Sonic had some fucking attitude and he was fast. It was pretty unusual to have a platformer that was this fast paced. It was one of the earliest platformers I can think of that actually was fair competition against Mario, just because it couldn’t be compared at all. Mario games were all about precision jumping and cautious movement, and these were staples of platformers in general. If you tried to play Sonic like that, you would die. It was very much about momentum, and tearing through your obstacles without overthinking it. Sonic simply didn’t control well when he was standing still. If you spent too much time thinking about a particular enemy in your path, or getting on a certain platform, you’d fuck up and get killed. For that, it was really unique, and it was the game that single handedly managed to distinguish the Genesis from the SNES. Now there was truly an experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else.
2. Super Castlevania IV (SNES - Konami)
First of all, if this is not the most badass musical theme for any game protagonist on the SNES, I don’t know what the fuck is. Alright. Super Castlevania IV is a misleadingly titled remake of the first Castlevania game. Dracula has risen and Simon Belmont, like his grandfather for him, must take his whip and go take care of some business. The business of killing Dracula. If you asked a sample selection of Castlevania fans which game is the best, I’d bet about 80% would answer Symphony of the Night. The remaining 20% would probably choose this. While it offers nothing new to the story of Castlevania (which was never all that amazing to begin with, let’s be honest), it is by far the best pre-SOTN game. It controls more smoothly than its NES predecessors and introduces the simple but effective idea of being able to swing your whip in any direction, rather than just straight ahead of you. The level design is better than any Castlevania done in this style. There are lots of creative ideas peppered throughout, like an area where you have to hang from a hook by your whip as the whole room rotates around you, and you swing out of the way of bats and try not to fall on spikes. Super Castlevania is full of cool and engaging concepts like this that can be really immersive and often make the classic Castlevania games look childish in their simplicity. Though Castlevania III still kicks ass.
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES - Nintendo)
A Link To The Past is truly one of the best games ever made. Imagine the original Zelda, but completely better in every single conceivable way to the point where there is no reason you would ever need to play the original ever again. As a reference to those unfamiliar, the original Zelda, despite being five years old at this point is still better than most of the games that have made these lists so far. Link to the Past is a prequel to the original games. Link (presumably an ancestor of the original Link, or just an unrelated boy chosen by fate) is contacted telepathically by Zelda, the princess of his kingdom, to go on a quest to rescue her from a wizard. He does so, and accomplishes it fairly quickly, only to find out that this wizard and his plot are tied into a much greater problem, related to an ancient and powerful evil. He then must continue his quest, which takes place mostly in a dark land parallel to his own, to put an end to it. This game has two different worlds to explore, both equally large. You’d think playing through it the first time that when you go to fight the wizard, you’re actually finishing the game. In fact, you’ve only completed a third of it, and there is a lot more awesome shit to come. There’s a healthy amount of clever puzzles involving traveling back and forth between the two worlds, adding an extra layer to this already pretty deep experience. I want to take Link to the Past behind a middle school and get it pregnant.