Welcome to the third entry of our series on the best games of all time! Since Loresworn has only been around since 2015, but D.M. and T.J. have been having opinions about games much longer than that, we’re embarking on a journey through every year from 1980 to the present, listing our favorite games that came out each year. Every week we’ll be discussing a specific year, listing what we think are the five best games from that year. At the end of this saga, we will look over all the games from each year to create Top 25 Games of All Time lists for each of us, and a grand Top 100 Games of All Time to stand as Loresworn’s final word on the subject!
Be sure to check the last page for the current rankings in the Best Game-lympics, where we will be scoring the current leaders in the Platform, Developer, and Country of Origin categories based on where each of their games place on each year’s list.
Last Week: Best Games of 1990
Next Week: Best Games of 1992
T.J.’s Picks, #5 – #2
5. Final Fantasy IV
FFIV is where I feel like the series started to grow up. It’s the earliest Square game to exhibit something resembling a modern narrative and attention to detail in areas like plotting and character development. While it would later be blown out of the water in most of those areas, even by its immediate successor, it demonstrated a decisive move toward the Square we know today. I couldn’t name you a character from either of the first two Final Fantasies. There was the dragon guy? And the one with the hair? But from FFIV and forward, the cast became one of the most memorable and special aspects to every new adventure.
4. Street Fighter II
Much like FFIV, Street Fighter II is the game where the legendary fighting franchise started to gel into something we’d think of today when you hear the name “Street Fighter”. The core cast came into focus. The mechanics and controls started to develop an identity of their own. And man, did we burn a lot of quarters on this sucker. Even when newer games with flashy, 3D graphics made their way into the local arcade, there was always that one Street Fighter II machine in the corner. And on many occasions, it commanded more attention than any of the fancier stuff around it.
3. Sonic the Hedgehog
From the time I first held a Genesis controller until well into my teen years, Sonic was my guy. I started on Mario, but I ended up becoming much more of a Sonic kid. It was faster. It was slicker. Just moving through the world and watching the action unfold was a joy in itself. The environments, the music, and the characters all had an energetic and relentless attitude that made the tedious, meticulous jumping puzzles of Mario’s realm seem almost quaint. The series would only get better going forward (at least as long as it stayed in 2D), but even the original Sonic the Hedgehog is a crazy fun little game that I can still pick up and enjoy to this day.
This is another one of those where I need to introduce a big caveat: My first Civ game was Civ III, and I’ve only played the original as a curiosity in later years. It’s quite a bit more primitive than the Civs I grew up on, but it still deserves a place in the Pantheon of ’91 for the ideas it introduced that would evolve into true greatness over successive generations. The idea of leading a tribe from the stone age to the space age was nothing less than revolutionary and captivating as a concept. Without it, many of my favorite games even of recent years may never have existed.