Top 10 games that turn 20 this year.

The 90s were like a golden age of gaming! So many enduring classics were born in the age of grunge rock and Hammer pants that it’s easy to forget just how long they’ve been with us. 1997 in particular was a banner year for the gaming industry. Game systems were everywhere with the N64, Playstation, and Saturn (remember when SEGA made consoles?) being the current generation. So crank up Meredith Brooks’ Bitch and take a walk down memory lane with some of the best oldies but goodies that continue to influence games being made today. These are my personal top ten games of 1997.

10. Riven

Riven, the sequel to Myst was released on PC in North America on October 31, 1997. Like its predecessor, it was an achievement in computer rendered graphics at the time. While only able to move from scene to scene by clicking, it presented some of the most breathtaking views that gamers were likely to see for years to come. Myst took players to a number of worlds called ages. Riven, by contrast, mostly takes place on a single damaged world.

Despite having high quality visual elements, Riven was criticized at the time for being too similar to its predecessor. In a time when games like Super Mario 64 were trading off high quality textures for more open world exploration, Riven ended up feeling a little too isolated for some critics. Regardless, it still earns a place in my top ten for the year.

If you want to see what Cyan has been up to lately, go take a look at Obduction.

9. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was initially released in North America for the Sony Playstation on September 19, 1997. It was our first look at the bizarre, aptly named Oddworld universe. We find Abe working a factory job as a janitor and living contentedly until he discovers that his people are about to become the next great snack sensation. It turns out that corporations are bad and only interested in exploiting their labor force in any way possible. Abe makes a run for it, but later returns to free his people and become a hero. The end.

Abe’s Oddysee is notable for its focus on stealth and puzzle solving over traditional platform mechanics. Abe doesn’t have much in the way of skills outside of buffing floors and, oh yeah, mind controlling certain creatures. Honestly, I spent a lot of time making him “talk” to his brethren purely to get reactions out of them. I found it novel and entertaining.

Abe’s Oddysee got remade in 2014 as Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty for those looking for a shinier version of the original.

8. Quake II

Launching for PC on December 9, 1997, Quake II was a redirection for the Quake franchise. Though the multiplayer remained similar to the original, the single player portion became more story driven. Levels are larger and involve objective based quests rather than a run and gun style of rampant slaughter. Quake II also embraced a more sci-fi narrative than the original game. While it boasted many improvements over the original, I personally wish they’d kept the Nailgun and Super Nailgun. I felt like those weapons were a sort of signature of Quake.

The popularity of Quake II led to it being ported to the Playstation, N64, Mac, Linux, Dreamcast, and Xbox 360. Quake continues to be a favorite among longtime gamers even today. So if you’re among those fans, you probably already know that Bethesda announced Quake Champions last year at E3.

7. Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter

Now we’re starting to get into the really good stuff. Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter was released for PC on April 30, 1997. XvT is the third installment in the X-Wing game series, though it originally didn’t fit in story-wise. Prior to the release of the Balance of Power expansion, the single player campaign was a series of unconnected missions lacking any cutscenes. Balance of Power introduced a fifteen mission story as well as a few other improvements to game play. XvT was originally geared as a multiplayer game and with the expansion supports up to 8-player co-op for the campaign.

I still think fondly of it as one of the best space flight sims of the time. Honestly, I don’t know that I really cared that much about the story just as long as I got to pilot iconic fighters from Star Wars and blow stuff up.

Note: It is currently available as part of Star Wars bundle over at Humble Bundle through February 21st.

6. Star Fox 64

Star Fox 64 released for Nintendo 64 in Japan on April 27, 1997 (North American release was June 30, 1997). It was the first game to support the Rumble Pak and early versions of the game shipped with it. As with the original Star Fox on the SNES, this one follow the exploits of Fox McCloud and his wingmen as they save the galaxy from evil. Those guys still want you to do a barrel roll; they’re obsessed.

Star Fox 64 was met with critical acclaim for its smooth gameplay and high level of detail. In addition, it had a high replay value due to the inclusion of “medals” that challenge players to keep their wingmen alive while achieving high scores. Doing well enough unlocks additional vehicles in multiplayer mode as well as expert difficulty in single player.

If you’re jonesing for some Star Fox 64 action, a 3D version was released for the 3DS in 2011.

Onward to the top 5 >