1990 Electronic Gaming Monthly Video Game Buyer's Guide

December, 1989. The USSR is crumbling. Captain N and the Super Mario Brothers Super Show! premiered earlier in the year, and a weird cartoon called The Simpsons will spin off into its own show this month from a segment on The Tracey Ullman Show. There's a really addictive new NES game called Tetris made by Soviets(?!), the Genesis and the TurboGrafx-16 are brand new, and the 16-bit era is dawning...

What was your favorite game of the year? See if your favorites (and least favorites) match ours when EGM picks the winners of 1989 and highlights the games, machines, and companies that made this the hottest year in the history of video games!!!!!

(Electronic Gaming Monthly, aka EGM, is published by EGM Media Group LLC, and this is reproduced without permission for scholarship and research. Their website is http://www.egmnow.com/.)

List items

  • Most Exciting New Theme in a Game

    Although it had a successful life as a computer game prior to appearing on the Nintendo, Tetris has managed to capture the hearts and minds of Americans despite the fact that the Russians are behind it.

    An overly addictive puzzle game that's nauseatingly simple to play, Tetris has already spawned a flurry of sequels that use similar types of reflex/strategy combinations. None of the post-Tetris entries look that promising, but Tetris itself will long be known for creating a brand new genre of gaming.

    Most Lawsuits

    This title, which barely beat out Double Dragon 2: The Revenge for top honors (they settled out of court), thas been the focus of Nintendo's attack on Tengen. It's too bad, since the Tengen NES version of Tetris was a cool copy of the arcade. Now we're starting to hear that the newly designed NES's won't even play Tengen games (players have been saying they don't fit). All's fair I suppose...

  • Best RPG Video Game

    Using an award-winning computer game (the traditional breeding ground for RPGs) as a blueprint for a new NES RPG is tough to beat!

    Worst Ending in a Video Game

    After spending mega-hours to finish this RPG, the virtual lack of an ending makes the adventure seem pretty worthless.

  • Hottest Hero in a Video Game</b>

    Besides blasting away Dr. Wily and his evil minions, that mega-fantastic video game super-hero, Mega Man, also beat the likes of Simon Belmont (who fights a Dracula with more lives than Jason) and Link (what a wimp)! Mega Man's wide array of implements and superior firepower (not to mention his doo) make him number one in our books.

  • Most Ridiculous Premise for a Game

    As non-conventional video games, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune were fun to play and Anticipation wasn't overly stomach-churning. But who really needs a video game version of Tarot cards? The mystical responses aren't even interesting. At this rate a "Learn to Program BASIC on your Nintendo" and "Video Calculator" carts can't be far behind. Please guys, don't forget, it's a video GAME system.

  • Most Eagerly Anticipated Game (That WAS released)

    While Ninja Gai Den and Strider helped generate a fair amount of interest, no other game was being looked for as much as Konami/Ultra's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It didn't really live up to expectations, but for a while Turtle hunting was the hottest hobby at Kay-Bee.

  • Most Eagerly Anticipated Game (That WASN'T released)

    The third chapter of the Super Mario Bros. series played to rave reviews and a chart-breaking run in Japan last year. In the states, however, it looks as though we'll have to wait until some time in 1990 to experience the further adventures of Mario and Luigi. For those of you who just can't wait, go plop a quarter in a Play-Choice 10 with SMB 3 at your local arcade. You'll find out why we're forecasting it as a strong contender for "Game of the Year" next year.

  • Best Movie to Game

    While this one may get pushed back into the early part of next year (Warner Bros. rumoredly thought initial versions didn't follow the movie close enough), Sunsoft's Batman video game for the NES is so good that it's hard to not give the game high praise after we've seen and played it. Although it's essentially a Castlevania spin-off, the game play and theme do the Caped Crusader complete justice.

  • Worst Movie to Game

    No hacking and no slashing makes Jason a dull boy. Unfortunately, LJN has done such a great job of translating the James Bond of slashes that they end up with a game that's as bad as the movies on which it's based.

  • Most Power-Ups in a Video Game

    Talk about enhancements! River City Ransom offers more power-up options and weapons than any other game in recent memory. By entering any of the different shops along the parkways, you can purchase books to learn new fighting techniques, buy squid and bagels for energy, or even a FREE smile from a pretty counter girl. All of the diversity makes this cartoon version of the classic Double Dragon (also from Technos) even more fun to play!

  • Wimpiest Hostage in a Video Game: President Bush in Data East's Bad Dudes

    A cheeseburger-totin' President held hostage? Whatever happened to good-lookin' damsels? And what's with this cheeseburger conspiracy thing?

  • Most Unpronounceable Game Title

    Why not just call it "Become a Mean Dude and Take Over a Country!" or "Unite Japan" or something like that? How many kids are going to be asking for a game they can't pronounce?

  • Worst Spelling Error in a Game (tie)


  • Worst Spelling Error in a Game (tie)

    "Secret Bonuss"

  • Most Unintelligible Spelling in a Game

    To view some strange writing, turn the game on, and then reset the game by pressing the Run and Select buttons at the same time. Once the game is reset, push and hold down the number one button, then the number two button, then the Run button, and then the Select button. Wait for the title screen to quit changing and when the word "Start" appears, push up eight times. Now go find a translator!

  • The Longest Ending in a Video Game

    At the conclusion of this rally racing game, your alter ego jumps from his car and rushes onto the shoreline and into the nearby ocean. While not tremendously exciting, the next couple of minutes are spent watching the sun go down in what seems like real time, while a boat drifts by.

  • The Best Game of the Year

    With graphics and sounds right out of the arcade and game play that kept us challenged after the first play, Ghouls and Ghosts took the top spot hands down. Ghouls blew us away from start to finish and really showed how good a 16-Bitter could be!

    Best Graphics in a Video Game

    From the screens full of highly details game characters, to the multi-dimensional scrolling, to the enormous fully animated Boss creatures, Ghouls and Ghosts is an excellent example of just how powerful the Genesis' 16-Bit brain is. This game is so close to the super-charged coin-op of the same name you may find yourself looking for a coin slot!

    Worst Stomach Problem in a Game

    Pass the pepto! Never before has projectile vomiting been brought to life with such detailed animation and color tones!

    Best Sequel to an Existing Game - tie with Mega Man II (see below)

    Coolest Boss Attackers - tie with The Legendary Axe (see below)

  • The Best Game of the Year (Nintendo)

    With its cinemascope effects, interesting storyline, and radical game play, Ninja Gai Den proved to be an instant winner.

    Best Ending in a Video Game: Tecmo's Ninja Gai Den

    With super graphics detailing an equally outstanding storyline, the climax of Ninja Gai Den is better than some movies we've seen recently. Not only does the game explain many mysterious secrets, it also leaves the door open for part two (which is coming next year).

  • The Best Game of the Year (Sega)

    Will Wonder Boy's problems never end?!? Hopefully not, since the games just seem to get better and better! This time around you can change into different animals during your battles.

  • The Best Game of the Year (TurboGrafx)

    The perfect blend of action and adventure make The Legendary Axe a must-have for Turbo owners. Great graphics and sounds compliment the outstanding theme.

    Coolest Boss Attackers (tie with Ghouls and Ghosts)

    The number-one games for both the next-generation machines wiped out the competition. Loki, at the conclusion of Ghouls is a formidable opponent who rests upon a fantastic throne. Jagu, from Legendary Axe, may not be as regal, but he's every bit as mean. You'll find that the other Boss characters from these two games are equally nasty.

  • Best BGM and Sound in a Video Game: NEC's Fighting Street

    Thanks to their revolutionary mega-peripheral, the CD-ROM, NEC's first release captured this category hands-down. Fighting Street is filled with CD-quality music, and sounds, not to mention true-to-life voices!

  • Best New Video Game System

    Although it's catching heat now that the TurboGrafx-16 is sitting alongside, the Genesis edges out its worthy competition with its true 16-Bit processor and superior graphic and sound ability. With more games, the Turbo could dethrone the Genesis, but with more games available and over 20 expected by Christmas, the Sega name and the Sega games let Genesis reign supreme!

  • Most Challenging Video Game

    The Master System finally came into its own when Sega released this little gem. Phantasy Star is a fantastic and futuristic RPG that continues to battle even the most ardent gamers with its expansive environment and challenging situations. Throw in a wide variety of oppponents as well as some nicely drawn visuals and you get a game that exceeds its challenge by only one factor - its addictiveness!

  • Best Sports-Themed Video Game (tie)

  • Best Sports-Themed Video Game (tie)

    While this category may be crowded with winners, each title is deserving of the Best Sports Video Game title.

    Both World Class Baseball from NEC and Tommy Lasorda Baseball from Sega stand out as the premier basseball simulators, reproducing all aspects of play (battling, fielding, etc.) with breathtaking realism thanks to the mega-powered processors driving the games. They both look great and play great (in fact, they look almost identical although the Turbo title came first).

  • Best Sports-Themed Video Game (tie)

    Culture Brain's new Baseball Simulator 1.000 gets top honors in this category, surpassing other outstanding efforts such as John Elway's Quarterback, Tecmo Bowl, and the Jaleco library by taking liberty with the sport itself and creating an entertaining and playable cart. Some of the specific pitches (which will give you an idea of the nature of this game) include the "Ninja" pitch and a flaming (literally) fastball that causes batters to EXPLODE if they are beaned!

  • Best Sequel to an Existing Game (tie with Ghouls and Ghosts)

    Taking top honors here we find good old Mega Man back on Dr. Wily's case. Mega Man 2 succeeds by staying true to the nature of the first game but adds a whole new cast of crazy Boss villains, as well as a slew of unique power-up not found in the first game! This is not so much a new game as it is an extension of the first! Ghouls and Ghosts grabs another award here due to a tie-in with a game called Ghosts and Goblins. There's no comparing the two, however, with Ghouls surpassing the original in more than just name.