"Favorite" Games of 1993 through 1996

Picking my favorite games for a specific year has become a difficult task simply because viable contenders are often so numerous, but that's not always the case. When it came to these four years, my choices were a little more obvious.

Clearly, using "favorite" is probably not the best word, but neither is "best" and I don't care enough to jump headlong into a thesaurus. Doing so would be devoting more time there than I spent playing at least half of these games.

List items

  • Favorite Game of 1994

    I didn't have much experience with the Mega Man series when I gained Mega Man X, which might help explain why I was so bad at it. It also didn't help that I was only a child. I only managed to best Sigma sometime later, after doing a bit more growing up. But even as I fought countless battles against the likes of Launch Octopus and Boomer Kuwanger, my friends and I always enjoyed it.

    We also liked the interaction between stages. Best Chill Penguin and Flame Mammoth’s lava-filled factory becomes iced over. Likewise, take out Storm Eagle and his plane apparently crashes into Spark Mandrill’s stage, killing some of the electricity and making it safer for X. Not every stage mingled with another, but it was a small, great touch that improved an already great game. A remake on PSP brought the game into 3D and added additional content, but it can’t replace the memories I have of the SNES original.

  • Runner-Up of 1994

    The two Mario Land games always existed in a strange place, never quite feeling like a traditional Mario game. The worlds and enemies didn't quite fit, like they were inspired by Mario games but didn't actually feature Mario until the last moment. When that team was given the green light to develop a spin-off featuring Mario Land 2’s antagonist Wario, it must have been a freeing moment. No longer where they bound to Mario and could progress in any sort of direction they wished.

    Wario Land does make some meaningful changes, specifically the ability to touch an enemy and not take damage. Likewise, enemies don’t perish when stomped on, but can be stunned, reading for Wario’s dash attack. Still, the result isn't unlike a Mario game; Wario gains special abilities after grabbing specific hats (or helmets) and he progresses through a largely linear path of levels, collecting coins along the way.

    And unlike Mario games, the collected coins serve a point in the story: by the game’s end, the amount of loot gathered earns Wario anything from a birdhouse to planetoid. Wario Land changes up some things and feels a more confident game as a result. Also, it’s pretty fun.

  • "Favorite" Game of 1996

    If nothing else, Shadows of the Empire will be remembered as the first of many beautifully realized depictions of Hoth. Sure, games have seen the ice planet before, but never like so. It truly felt like taking part in one of the trilogy's most iconic battles, even if the AT-ATs were as easily beaten with blasters (unlike the film) as tripping it with cable.

    The rest of the game is a blur of third-person jumping and shooting, and I have little doubt Shadows of the Empire hasn’t aged particularly gracefully. But that Hoth level was cool (no pun intended), wasn’t it?

  • "Favorite" Game of 1995

    When Rare brought Donkey Kong Country to Super Nintendo, the CG-rendered sprites were amazing, for the time. When Rare brought Donkey Kong Land to Game Boy, the CG-rendered sprites looked downright bad. The Game Boy had neither the power nor the color pallet to handle what impressed us so much on the SNES, making a game where Donkey Kong became lost within the background visuals.

    Beyond that, Donkey Kong Land just isn't very good. Donkey Kong Country may be called boring by today's critics, but Land is worse. Skip DK's later Game Boy titles and instead just play Donkey Kong '94, a far better game.

  • "Favorite" Game of 1993

    Depicting lost health by losing limbs is so obvious for a Incredible Crash Dummies game that it would be unforgivable if this didn’t happen. Fortunately, players were treated with a hopping test dummy after several hits, an animation that is likely better and more amusing in my own memories than in reality.

    I have no memory of this Super Nintendo game other than hopping and repeatedly failing at the first level. The latter may have more to do with my young age at the time than any particular challenge on the game’s part.

  • "Never Been Played" of 1994

    I gained a Sega Genesis less than a decade ago, but never had the proper cords to connect it to a television. While Sonic the Hedgehog 2, one of the games that came with the console, is playable everything, Risk isn't. Of course, this isn't some forgotten game that cannot be played elsewhere, too, but I am simply saying that I have never played Risk, on Genesis or elsewhere.

    So why include it? Why not? It's at the bottom of a list cluttered by mediocrity, and I'm not handing out any awards for being included, so it's not going home with any honors.