1995 is not a year that people usually consider when thinking about the most significant years in video-games long history. It didn’t have any big flashy console releases, such as the Nintendo 64 which released the following year, nor too many games that people think of when trying to decide on ‘the best gaem evarr’.
It remains very influential, however, in that it brought the next generation of consoles to the West, as the PlayStation was released outside of Japan. With it, came an influx of new titles, many of which are still remembered fondly today. Let’s have a look at some of them now:
The original Rayman was released as a launch title for the PS1 in Western territories, and so was many players first experience with the new console. It was beautifully animated for its time, and it is this graphical style which means that it is still one of the more appealing titles to revisit.
As I’m sure most of you know, Rayman is a platformer in which the titular character has to save the world from the villainous Mr. Dark. Storywise, it is pretty much the same plot as Mario, Sonic and most other derivative games from the era. What makes it stand out is its satisfying gameplay and creative level design. The game spawned the Rayman series that still continues, though perhaps not with the same popularity, today.
Mortal Kombat 3
The mid-nineties was still in the era of arcade gaming, and fighting games were among the most popular titles in those sordid dens of nerds. Mortal Kombat was unique for a few reasons; most apparent is the extreme violence of its fatalities, but the series was also fairly strange for it being a series of popular fighting games made in the West. This was the era of Street Fighter and Tekken, both incredibly popular and Japanese.
The third Mortal Kombat title was the first to remove the titular tournament from the story, as the plot concerned Shao Khan invading Earth itself. The game added some of the more famous characters in the series, such as Sektor, Cyrax, Sindel, and Sheeva. It was rather controversial, however, as upon release, several popular characters did not make the roster, including Scorpion, Mileena, and Reptile. These characters were later added back to the roster in the Ultimate Mortal Kombat III rerelease later the same year. The game was well balanced, fun to play and had some of the best fatalities of the series.
Continuing with the fighting game theme, 1995 also saw the release of Tekken 2. Set several years after the previous game, Tekken 2 made the bold decision to feature the previous game’s protagonist as having transformed into a brutal tyrant, who now needed to be defeated in the King of Iron Fist Tournament.
The game was an enormous expansion of the original, with up to 25 characters on the console versions. Tekken 2 truly cemented the series as one of the best in fighting games and helped legitimize 3D fighters to gamers globally.
I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream
1995 was still very much the time of adventure games, with LucasArts riding high on earlier successes and Sierra still trundling along despite most of their titles being shit. When trying to pick an adventure game for this list, I originally intended to list Full Throttle, a very creative title from LucasArts let down by some poor gameplay decisions. However, I decided upon I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, a game based upon the popular short story by Harlan Ellison.
The game was actually written by Ellison himself, and it shows. The game is set in an apocalyptic world whereas god-like AI named AM has killed all humans barring five, who it now tortures mercilessly for its own sick pleasure. The game develops the five characters from the short story in a far more expansive way, and the puzzles are creative yet gruesome, giving the game a macabre feeling throughout.
Ellison also did the voice acting for AM itself, and he delivers a wonderfully hammy performance that only adds to the creepiness of the character. If you are a fan of adventure games but have never played it, I would highly recommend you buy it on Steam now.
Star Wars: Dark Forces
In 1995, the world of PC gaming was still reeling from the release of DOOM two years before. All shooters were titled ‘DOOM clones’, and it was not an inaccurate title, as most developers sought to recapture the magic of DOOM rather than innovate themselves. Star Wars: Dark Forces is not very different from many of these imitators. It is a DOOM clone through and through, having very similar gameplay and level design to DOOM only given a Star Wars coat of paint.
It is significant, however, in that it proved that Star Wars shooters were viable, leading to the release of titles such as Battlefront and Republic Commando many years later. It also marked the beginning of the Jedi Knight series and was the introduction of Kyle Katarn into the old Star Wars canon, a character that would prove extremely popular amongst fans. Either way, Dark Forces remains a fun title to play to this day.
Now that we have reached the final game on my list of influential games from 1995, I am sure many of you are reeling as I have not included Chrono Trigger. Now, while it is an enormously popular and influential title, I have never actually played it. I am sure many fans are frothing at the mouth, thinking that I am no ‘real gamer’ for not having played it. Regardless, since I haven’t played it, I feel I would be doing a disservice in giving a classic my uneducated opinion.
Anyway, Twisted Metal is my final selection. Racing games had been around for quite a while by 1995, being some of the earliest video games ever made. However, with Twisted Metal, as well as Destruction Derby the same year, we began to see a new wave of racing games where the focus was more on fun and destruction than driving skill.
Featuring a crazy array of characters, Twisted Metal placed players in a deadly tournament, where the prize was a wish granted by a demonic character. This Hellish set-up played into the twisted atmosphere, which was bolstered by the wide array of weapons that plays could use to destroy their opponents. The game was the first in a long-running series, and its influence can still be felt in games today, such as the recent release Wreckfest.