games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Games of 1994 – Super Metroid, Earthworm Jim, More

September 12, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Super Metroid

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. This year we’re looking at games of 1994. I wanted to correct a small error from last week’s column to start with. Technically, Mega Man X is a game from 1994, at least when it comes to America. There doesn’t seem to be a set release date, or none that I can find, but it came out in January. Ah well, given the time frames of these older games, small mistakes are bound to happen. Anyways, here is my list of 1994 games. Enjoy:

#8: Cruis’n’ USA

There is a much better (in almost every way) racing game below on this list, but I still enjoyed Cruis’n’ USA when it came to arcades. Part of that was the sense of style, the game didn’t take the art of racing too seriously, letting you bang around other cars or do occasional jumps in the air like it was nothing. It had a pretty decent sense of speed also, not blistering fast, but the game kept itself moving and the real world locations looked fairly detailed for the time. Also, let’s not forget that without Cruis’n’ USA, we probably wouldn’t have gotten San Francisco RUSH, so we owe a lot to this game.

#7: Earthworm Jim

While Mario focused on great platforming and Sonic was all about speed, Earthworm Jim’s forte was being a truly bizarre platformer. The game is honestly kind of a satire of other platformers of its time, with “Princess What’s-Her-Name” as the princess you have to rescue, or the various bosses you encounter like Psy-Crow or Bob the Killer Goldfish. Even as a parody of platformers though, it still is a pretty decent one, with some inventive levels and quirky gameplay.

#6: Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct is like the redheaded step-child of the fighting game community. However, even the original game isn’t entirely without merit. At the time, it looked great with detailed characters that rivaled Mortal Kombat’s graphics and better audio capabilities. The fighting was a tad on the rote side but the characters themselves were solid and all have been included in the recent KI game. I probably played more of Killer Instinct on the SNES when it came out a year later, but the arcade version was far superior.

#5: Vay

I mentioned this game two weeks when talking about Lunar, but between the two Working Designs RPG’s, I much prefer Vay over Lunar. Lunar has battles from the side, while Vay has battles from behind, which is a fairly meaningless difference but one I immediately recognized in 1994. The basic story is that your fiancé is kidnapped on the eve of your wedding, and as the prince, you need to rescue her by reactivating an ancient robotic armor suit that had been sealed up long ago. I’m sure there were other games prior to this, but this was the first RPG that I played where one of the main characters got killed, during an anime sequence, and they stayed dead. Vay isn’t fondly remembered these days, but I always enjoyed it.

#4: Donkey Kong Country

On just the pure platforming mechanics, Donkey Kong Country might be lacking compared to other games of the genre. However, its graphics and sound more than make up for it. The game used pre-rendered 3D sprites, like with Killer Instinct, to give more detail and animation to the characters moves. Some of the worlds, anything underwater or the ice levels, looked spectacular. On the audio side, the music for the game was impressive, and I can still remember certain songs from the game, even now. The sequels to Donkey Kong Country weren’t nearly as memorable as the first one.

#3: Sonic 3 and Knuckles

I imagine this will be the last time Sonic the Hedgehog makes an appearance on these lists going forward. Suffice it to say, the later year Sonic games weren’t exactly kind to the blue blur. Arguably, Sonic 3 is the better game between the two, but because they were originally supposed to be one overall game, I included both games on this list. The complete package gives you three characters to play, 14 emeralds to collect and a whole host of various robots to destroy, courtesy of Doctor Robotnik. While I haven’t played it yet, it looks like Sonic Mania has finally recaptured the glory that Sonic 3 and Knuckles was able to reach in 1994.

#2: Daytona USA

DAYTONA! LET’S GO AWAY!” could be heard almost instantly the second you would walk into any reputable arcade in the mid-90’s. Aside from having one catchy theme song, Daytona USA blew away the competition with fantastic graphics and some real floaty driving. While it may look archaic by today’s standards, Daytona USA was at the height of graphical fidelity, thanks to the then-new Sega Model 2 arcade system. Not only was it a 3D racing game, but it was one with lush graphics and that ran at 60 frames per second. Hell, most racing games now can’t even do that correctly. As weird as it is to say, Daytona USA might be one of the most important racing games of all time.

#1: Super Metroid

Really, the funniest part about Super Metroid to me now is how much I disliked it when it first came out. To be fair, I didn’t own a SNES till about it was half way out and my only experience with Super Metroid was playing it at a demo kiosk at a local K-Mart. It wasn’t until I played Metroid Fusion years later that I really *got* Metroid, so I went back to Super Metroid to give it a whirl. Super Metroid really has a few things going for it, it’s a fairly simple story but the game sets up a haunting atmosphere on Zebes that few games even now, can barely compare to. The game is filled with great action and some pixel-perfect platforming sequences that you have to really be dexterous to accomplish. Also, while the Genesis had better audio capabilities, the SNES really came into its own this year with music from Super Metroid and the before-mentioned Donkey Kong Country. It’s just a shame it’s been over a damned decade since the last good Metroid game, and “no”, Other M doesn’t really count.

As usual, for comments, list which games you liked in 1994 and why.

Next Issue
Top 8 Games of 1995

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison