Most Important Events Of The 1990s In Gaming


  • Doom and Wolfenstein revolutionized gaming with the creation of the modern first-person shooter genre, inspiring countless games and custom levels.
  • Controversial games like Mortal Kombat led to the creation of the ESRB, establishing the ratings board for video games.
  • The competition between Sony and Nintendo in the 90s, with the launch of the PlayStation and N64, resulted in the creation of some of the industry’s best games.

After spending most of the 1980s finding its footing after rebounding from a near-fatal crash, video games felt like they were in a unique place. The 1990s was a decade built on counterculture and a sense of attitude that felt wholly unique, so it was no surprise that video games followed suit.


10 Best Retro Games Of The 90s

These retro games represent the best the 90s had to offer the world of console and PC gaming, and they’re still just as good.

The 90s were filled with technological innovations, sweeping changes in the culture and business of video games, as well as launches of some of the most important pieces of hardware and software of all time. It was heavily impacted by the previous year but had an even greater influence on the years to come.

1 Doom And Wolfenstein Create The Modern First-Person Shooter

doomguy about to shoot a zombieman

Although the first-person perspective had been seen previously in games like Battlezone and Maze War, the modern first-person shooter as fans know it hadn’t been fully created yet. It wasn’t until id Software, with John Carmack and John Romero at the helm, created Wolfenstein 3D in 1992 that it came into existence and followed shortly by Doom in 1993.

These two games were crucial to both inventing the first-person shooter genre and changing the way games were played moving forward. Dozens of Doom clones flooded the market, as these two titles paved the way for custom levels made by players and inspired the likes of Half-Life, Turok, and Star Wars: Dark Forces.

2 Mortal Kombat And Others Lead To The Creation Of The ESRB

Controversial Video Games Give Birth To The Ratings Board

sub-zero blasting jonny cage with ice

As the 1990s began to show just how different this generation of games was going to be, it was still something of a Wild West. Games like Doom, Duke Nukem, and Night Trap were releasing their bloody and violent content. Meanwhile, Mortal Kombat was causing controversy because of its over-the-top violence and fatalities.

Both Mortal Kombat and Night Trap were at the epicenter of the United States Senate Hearing on Video Games, where the earliest formation of a rating board began. This ultimately led to the creation of the ESRB, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

3 Sony Enters Video Games And Challenges Nintendo

Sony And Nintendo Challenge Each Other For 90s Dominance

the playstation 1 opening logo

Beginning as a joint venture between Nintendo and tech giant Sony, the initial goal was to create a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo. But after Nintendo opted out of what they felt was an unfair contract, Sony called it “the greatest ever betrayal” and put their own console into development. They launched the Sony PlayStation in September 1995, competing directly with the Nintendo 64 that would launch a year later.


10 Most Timeless PS1 RPGs, Ranked

These games have stood the test of time and are still great to replay today, even though they were released for the first PlayStation console.

By this time, the Sega and Nintendo rivalry had cooled down and it was all about the PS1 vs the N64. PS1 titles like Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy 7 clashed with N64 blockbusters Ocarina of Time, Mario 64, and GoldenEye. The competition was fierce but it led to the creation of some of the industry’s best games.

4 CD-Based Gaming Changes The Industry

Increased Storage Space Allows For Revolutionary Games

snake pointing a gun towards mantis in mgs1

While the 80s and early 90s were built around a catalog of amazing 2D platformers and RPGs, the industry was about to change in ways that no one could understand. Cartridges were great, but the limited storage capacity was something of a detriment for games that wanted to step out of the bounds of two-dimensional play.

So when games started to make the transition from carts to discs, it changed everything about the industry. Suddenly, storage space was a non-issue and games could do more than ever. Voice acting and large-scale, gorgeously animated cutscenes became one of the staples of 90s games. It allowed titles like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy 7 to flourish and become icons.

5 Final Fantasy Forgoes Nintendo For Sony

Square Finds New Home For Franchise Amid Dispute With Nintendo

aerith looking towards the camera in final fantasy 7

For the first six entries, the Final Fantasy franchise called Nintendo’s platforms home. Through two console generations and six incredible RPGs, Squaresoft had cultivated a great relationship with Nintendo. But as series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi sought to create something more expansive, things had to change. Following a dispute with Nintendo over the price of N64 carts and a growing 3D market, Square took the series elsewhere and launched Final Fantasy 7 on the PlayStation in 1997.


Every Final Fantasy Game Released On The PS1, Ranked

The PS1 was home to plenty of amazing Final Fantasy titles. Here’s how every one of them ranks.

Becoming one of the most popular games of the 1990s, Final Fantasy 7 not only took the series in a bold new direction, it also influenced a host of games that were trying to capitalize on its success. Children and teenagers of the decade became obsessed with JRPGs, a phenomenon that continues to this day as FF7 is once again back in the spotlight and the genre is as strong as it has ever been.

6 The Arcades Experience A Rebirth

4-player action from the simpsons arcade game

As the golden age of arcades began to wither away in the 1980s, it wasn’t exactly flush with confidence as the decade began. But when the 90s rolled around with its focus on counterculture and attitude, the arcades started to show signs of life. By appealing to the young crowd of the era, arcade games began to reflect the times they were living in.

Due to an influx of both new 3D technology and a collection of some of the best games of the decade, arcades started to experience a revolution. Sega was at the forefront once more, as the release of the Model 2 was a game changer that saw the likes of Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA and Dynamite Cop showed that arcades were on their way back to the top.

7 Resident Evil Creates An Entirely New Genre

Capcom Solidifies The Survival Horror Genre

chris aims a gun in resident evil 1

Horror gaming is one of the industry’s most popular staples these days, but among the many sub-genres that exist within that spectrum, it was Resident Evil in 1996 that codified one of the most intriguing – survival horror. This blend of action, horror, and survival was one of the decade’s best games and jumpstarted a genre that is still being refined to this day.


8 Best PS1 Survival Horror Games, Ranked

Many a great survival horror game could be found on the PS1, and these games were the best of them.

Its schlock horror vibe is bested only by its unique mix of an unintentionally funny script, questionable line readings, and 90s action movie energy. It was a game that inspired the likes of Silent Hill and Parasite Eve, as well as becoming one of indie gaming’s most popular offshoots. In terms of games that may have defined the 90s and a large section of the industry moving forward, Resident Evil sits at the top.

MORE: Darkest Resident Evil Games