Historical context: Not much to say. Things heat up with Sega and Nintendo. Sega continues releasing pretty awesome games that rival the quality of the SNES’s stuff. However, the Sega CD continues sucking. Also worth noting is that 1992 saw the release of Wolfenstein 3D. While this just barely missed out on being on this list (mostly due to me only having played it for about 30 minutes over the course of my entire life), it was enormously important for the development of PC gaming, first person shooters and iD software’s dominion over both. For a while, at least.
5. Shining Force (Sega Genesis - Climax)
This almost didn’t make the list because, to be honest, I’d kind of forgotten about it. A few years ago I downloaded it for my Genesis emulator and got to around the third chapter before my save got corrupted and I had to start over. Not wanting to go through the same 8 hours of gameplay again, I abandoned the game. Confession: I have never finished Shining Force. However, I feel I’ve played enough of it to understand how fucking addictive and fun it is. Unlike most console RPGs of the time, it was a grid-based strategy RPG, distinguishing itself from the Final Fantasy series. In a lot of ways, the gameplay has a lot more depth than Final Fantasy. While there is really not much in the way of character customization or story (though Shining Force’s story is refreshingly unpretentious), Shining Force actually makes meenjoy the act of battle in an RPG, something which I often find annoying. Instead of hundreds and hundreds of short random battles, Shining Force has maybe 30 battles that take around fifteen minutes to complete, and they involve a lot of planning and strategic thinking. This is not really unique to Shining Force, admittedly, as there is an entire genre dedicated to this sort of thing. It’s kind of embarrassing to write this as someone who has never played another tactics RPG before. I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. But what I do know is that Shining Force is a really fun game with deep gameplay that I have trouble tearing myself away from when I start. It’s one of those games where four hours will pass in what feels like thirty minutes. Then you feel really lonely and terrible.
4. Final Fantasy V (SNES - Square)
Super fucking underrated. This is one of the best Final Fantasy games. Tragically, it was not released in America for some silly bullshit reason. Eventually we got a port of it for the Playstation, I think. The version I played was a fan translated SNES rom. Final Fantasy V doesn’t quite have the complexity of story and characterization that VI or VII had, but it had one of the most engaging character customization systems I’ve yet to see in a JRPG. Instead of having a dozen or so unique characters that you’re constantly swapping out as the situations demand, Final Fantasy V only has four player characters, who will always be in battle with you for the entire game. What you switch out is their jobs. FFV has something like 25 jobs that you can assign to any of your characters, who all start basically as blank slates with the same stats and no abilities other than “fight”. The jobs change their stats, abilities and appearance. And as they grow accustomed to certain jobs, they can take skills and attributes of that job and apply it to other jobs. You got someone who’s been going into battle as a black mage a lot? Well now you can make them a knight, and give them the ability to do some black magic as well. So you get a dude slashing people up with a huge sword AND setting people on fire. The possibilities for mixing and matching skills and jobs were endless. Eventually you just start devising your own little systems for who should get what, and what job/skill pairings are the most useful. It is easily the most customizable Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played.
3. Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES - Konami)
Contra III is super fucking underrated. Some aliens come to Earth and blow up a city and two gnarly slices of beefcake say “fuck no” to that. And many aliens are killed. It plays just like the first Contra, except with some new weapons and the machine gun as your default. Also, you get bombs. Contra III is a classic to me for two main reasons. This is probably starting to get predictable, but the music is baby punchingly hard. Fuck. Shit. How this never seems to be included in lists of the best SNES soundtracks of all time is baffling to me. Secondly, the level and boss design is way above average for a game like this. You fight a giant turtle that births winged maggots at you. There’s a part where you scale a thousand foot wall trapped between the legs of a large robot, and you kill it by shooting it in the fucking eye-vagina. You fight a giant airship while hanging from a fucking missile. Remember when action shooters were ridiculous? These days, a game has a sequence where you escape an enemy base in a fairly banal snow mobile chase and everyone fucking whines about how it’s not realistic. Fuck everyone who plays video games.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis - Sega)
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis - Sega)
Many consider this to be the best in the series. I’m not sure I’m totally on board for that, but it’s a marked improvement over the first one. The controls are tightened up, the level design is better, it looks better, it sounds better and the boss fights are more interesting. Two things were added in this one. One is Tails the flying fox who is kind of a pussy. The other is Sonic’s ability to wind up in a ball and shoot off like a gun from a non-moving position. This made the game a little less about momentum, and a little more about being a dick to robots and scientists. It is a lot more fun, though, and the soundtrack, as usual, is fucking sweet.
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES - Konami)
Turtles in fucking Time. It was a goddamned arcade game from 1991. Then some Konami people were like “hold up, nigga. Let’s take this game to the the fucking Super Nintendo.” And they did and it was awesome. If you played video games in the early 90’s and you don’t have some really fond, vivid memories of this game, your childhood sucked. It’s one of the best beat ‘em up games of all time. Turtles in Time is just so creative and fun to play. Every level really integrates the shit out of its time period. The foot soldiers are often wearing fun disguises that match the era, the music always matches really well, and they always have really cool set pieces that draw you into the events. In the prehistoric era, you have to deal with foot soldiers attacking you in dinosaur stampedes. In the pirate level level, navy ships will start sailing by way off in the distance, signaling a barrage of cannon fire you’ll have to dodge. The old West level is on a moving train with an fast-paced SNES mix of the theme from (I think) For A Few Dollars More. The name of that level? Bury My Shell At Wounded Knee. Who would’ve expected that kind of literary reference in a fucking Ninja Turtles game. It’s all really well done. And this is the first console TMNT game where each of the turtles actually plays differently as far as their respective strengths, speeds and special moves. I don’t even know why I bothered writing this much. Like I have to fucking explain to you why Turtle in Time is the shit. Fuck me.