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Forums - Gaming Discussion - 1991, Game of the Year


1991, Game of the Year

Street Fighter 2 8 10.26%
TMNT: Turtles in Time 2 2.56%
Eye of the Beholder 0 0%
Sid Meier's Civilization 5 6.41%
Metroid 2: Samus Returns 1 1.28%
Sonic the Hedgehog 11 14.10%
Final Fantasy IV 13 16.67%
A Link to the Past 31 39.74%
Super Castelvania IV 4 5.13%
Other (please specify) 3 3.85%

The 1991 game of the year is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The runner up is Final Fantasy IV.
The master thread for all of these contests can be found here.

If you didn’t glance at the list of games in the poll yet, then you are going to want to sit down first.  The games in 1991’s list are incredible.  There are essentially 5 platforms represented in the poll: Arcade, Home Computer, Gameboy, Genesis, and SNES.  Somehow all 5 platforms were succeeding at once.  The games in this year’s list played a huge role in making that possible.

Please comment on what you believe to be the Game of the Year for 1991.  You might even want to discuss/argue with other posters first before you vote.  Or maybe you just want to argue with yourself first?  Whatever.  Please vote for Game of the Year for 1991 and post why.  Without further ado, here is the list of games:


Street Fighter 2 (Arcade)
Throughout the mid to late 80’s the popularity of the arcades was gradually starting to dwindle.  Then Street Fighter 2 gave the arcades a serious shot of adrenaline.  Not only was this game extremely popular, but it started a new trend of other publishers releasing fighting games for the arcade.  Throughout the rest of the 90’s, fighting games would dominate the arcades.  Street Fighter 2 went on to sell over 220,000 arcade cabinets worldwide across all editions, making it the third best-selling arcade game of all time behind only Pac-Man and Space Invaders.  Furthermore, it went on to sell over 12.4 million copies on the SNES and another 1.6 million copies on the Genesis across all editions.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade)
Turtles in Time was the sequel to Konami’s 1989 arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The arcade cabinet for Turtles in Time was so popular that it even exceeded sales of the first game, making it Konami’s best-selling arcade game ever.  The SNES would get a home version of this game a year later with the Genesis getting a similar game called The Hyperstone Heist.


Eye of the Beholder (PC/Amiga)
Eye of the Beholder was a new Dungeons and Dragons series from SSI.  Instead of following the style of the gold box games like Pool of Radiance, Eye of the Beholder was more of a dungeon crawler like Wizardry or Might and Magic, but in real time.  The game would later be ported to the SNES and Sega CD and it would also spawn two more sequels.


Sid Meier’s Civilization (PC)
Sid Meier releases his ultimate contribution to gaming and establishes the 4X genre.  Civilization also popularized the phrase “just one more turn”, allowed people to attack a phalanx with a tank, and revealed that Gandhi is an evil bastard that lacks honor.  Co-designer Steve Shelley would leave the publisher, Microprose, in 1992 and join Ensemble studios to design Age of Empires.  Civilization would go on to sell over 1.5 million copies and the Civilization series would sell over 51 million copies.


Metroid 2: Samus Returns (Gameboy)
The sequel to the original Metroid would end up on the Gameboy.  Metroid 2 went on to sell over 1.7 million copies continuing to prove that Metroid was one of the top IP for Nintendo in this era.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
Sega finally develops a character that can give Mario a literal run for his money.  Sonic the Hedgehog was the most popular game on the Genesis, becoming the new game bundled with the system, and selling over 15 million copies.  Sonic was also the main reason that the Genesis became competitive with the SNES, making total hardware sales for the two systems nearly tied in North America and making the Mega Drive the more popular system in Europe.

TV Show Intro:


Final Fantasy IV (SNES)
RPG storytelling takes a giant step forward with Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II as it was called at the time outside of Japan).  When Final Fantasy fans want to experience all of the best story games in the series, they usually start with IV.  Sakaguchi tells the story of the Dark Knight, Cecil, who becomes a Paladin, with a whole host of other fleshed out characters.  The SNES hardware also had fantastic sound capabilities for the time, and this was shown off by the music of Nobuo Uematsu.  Final Fantasy IV would go on to sell 1.8 million copies on the SNES. 


The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
One of the notable sequels on the SNES that doesn’t have the word “Super” in the title, but don’t let that fool you.  A Link to the Past returns to the form of the first game but with better graphics, a more elaborate storyline, more items, and an overworld that effectively doubles in size due to the dark world.  The really could have just called it “Super Zelda”.  A Link to the Past would go on to sell over 4.6 million copies on the SNES.

Commercials Collection:


Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
Simon Belmont returns in this SNES sequel that shows off improved controls, mode-7 graphics and an impressive soundtrack.  Super Castlevania IV is often considered the best Castlevania in the pre-Metroidvania era of the series.

Other (please specify)
If you think another games deserves to be "Game of the Year" other than one of the 9 I listed above, then please vote “Other” and say your game in the comments.  If the "Other" category takes at least 2nd place and no other game gets at least 50% of the vote, then I will do a runoff vote including the most mentioned game(s) from the comments.

The winner of this vote will be decided Monday, Oct 2 at 11:59 EST.


Last edited by The_Liquid_Laser - on 03 October 2023

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A Link to the Past.
Like Mario World before it, it represents both a new high water mark for an already beloved series, and it has aged like fine wine.
In 1991, it was peerless in this field.

If, for some reason, you don't think any of those games in the top 9 are good enough, then are some other notable games from 1991:

Captain America and the Avengers (Arcade)
Formula One Grand Prix (Home Computers)
Wing Commander 2 (PC)
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (Home Computers)
Mega Man 4 (NES)
Tecmo Super Bowl (NES)
Yoshi (NES)
Puyo Puyo/Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (MSX 2/Famicom)
Streets of Rage (Genesis/Mega Drive)
John Montana Football (Genesis/Mega Drive)

So many big names there. Sonic the Hedgehog gets my vote though.

LttP and it isn't even close for me. LttP is top 10 all time.

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Final Fantasy IV gets my vote.

In my top 5 in the FF series and it is also my first Final Fantasy game.

As a Zelda fan I would really like to vote for A Link to the Past. But no matter how good it is, it is a more or less a refinement of established formula. On the other hand Civilization just stands out so much for doing something completely different in video games sphere (though heavily influenced by boardgames) and basically launching the 4X genre for video games, so honestly, without second thought, that's where my vote goes.

Honorable mention goes to Lemmings on Amiga, and Alien Breed as a great local co-op shooter.

I think in 90s we will see more and more divergence between mainly computer and mainly console gamers, but since this is quite console heavy site, I expect some of the titles that helped (re)define what video games are, that were PC games, not to come on top.

Cultural Impact: It's so tough to choose! So many legit revolutionary games here! When I think of "gaming in 1991", the first thing that comes to mind is that it was the year that cemented Sega as a household name here in the United States. ToeJam & Earl, Streets of Rage, and above all Sonic the Hedgehog deserve immense credit here. Sonic in particular became Sega's most iconic franchise and led the Genesis to consistent victories over the Super NES in holiday sales throughout the first half of the decade here in this country. Among other things, the Sonic franchise soon expanded into a comic book series, two concurrent cartoon shows, and much more mass merch. Sonic was so popular here in the U.S. during the early '90s that in 1993 he became the first video game character to be represented in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He even had a cameo in one our school plays ("The Nutcracker 2"). For a time, Sonic was bigger than Mario. Something about the vibrant color palette, the hipper soundtrack, the character's edgier vibe, and the speed factor just won over Americans instantly. The first game in the franchise took a good deal of inspiration from the slow-paced platforming in the Super Mario games in the bulk of its zones (one sees the Mario influence especially heavily in the Marble Zone), but Sonic would establish a clearly distinct franchise identity the following year and soon come to influence many if not most platforming games throughout the 1990s and even some beyond, ranging from the likes of Bubsy and Aero the Acro-Bat to Bug!, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and even Nintendo's biggest Super NES hit, Donkey Kong Country, all of which you'll notice used "edgy" talking animals/creatures as their main protagonists. Platforming games were now aimed at teens as much as younger kids.

That said, it's also tough to argue against the monumental impact of Street Fighter II both at the arcades and in homes. Tournament fighters were one of the big new genres popularized in the early 1990s and Street Fighter II led that trend. And frankly was also the best and most addictive of them. I can't even tell you how much time I spent with this game back in the day. Every kid played it.

Then there is Final Fantasy IV (which contemporaneously was known as FF II here because it was only the second game in the franchise to see a Stateside release), which is the game that, to me, gave JRPGs a distinct cultural identity. RPGs before this were mostly inspired directly or indirectly by Dungeons & Dragons. While FF IV still bears some of those hallmarks, it began a march toward emphasizing storytelling over player freedom that, for a generation, wound up cementing Japanese RPGs as more popular and respected than their American counterparts. Without FF IV I'm not sure we'd have the term "JRPG". I didn't get it initially, but when I finally discovered it a couple years later, it became the game that got me into the genre.

None of those three developments seems to retain much influence over the gaming world of today, but they each contributed a lot to defining an era in gaming and I don't think I can decide which it was that did the most in that regard. I guess maybe Sonic? Maybe? I mean Street Fighter II was my favorite of the options here, but I'm trying to be as objective as possible. a way perhaps we could actually say that Super Castlevania IV has had the longest-lasting cultural impact on gaming though, to apply a different metric of resonance? Hmm...this is a toughie!

My Favorite Game: That said, the '91 game that had the most impact on me was the emotional narrative of Out of This World, as it was known Stateside. (It was called Another World elsewhere.) It's the relationship between the protagonists that cements this cinematic sci-fi action-platforming adventure about escaping an otherworldly prison camp as the most powerful game of the year in my book and the game that, more than any other, changed the course of what I sought in video games. More than any other title, Out of This World made me realize the storytelling potential of this medium and come to highly value it. Before this point, gaming was just about fun to me. After this point, I came to see it as an art form. It evolved me as a gamer.

To put it a certain way, the first time I ever played a video game on the NES several years earlier, I wound up being disappointed by the limits of what seemed possible therein. I had expected it to be like a movie or a TV show that I could interact with. Out of This World was the first game I played that I felt like kind of fulfilled that long-dormant yearning I'd had. Whereas The Secret of Monkey Island to me had felt more or less like interacting with a really funny book or comic, Out of This World felt like interacting with a really moving film.

And how can I let this thread go without adding a mention that Turtles in Time was my favorite of the TMNT classics? Just have to say it!

Last edited by Jaicee - on 30 September 2023

HoloDust said:

As a Zelda fan I would really like to vote for A Link to the Past. But no matter how good it is, it is a more or less a refinement of established formula. On the other hand Civilization just stands out so much for doing something completely different in video games sphere (though heavily influenced by boardgames) and basically launching the 4X genre for video games, so honestly, without second thought, that's where my vote goes.

Honorable mention goes to Lemmings on Amiga, and Alien Breed as a great local co-op shooter.

I think in 90s we will see more and more divergence between mainly computer and mainly console gamers, but since this is quite console heavy site, I expect some of the titles that helped (re)define what video games are, that were PC games, not to come on top.

I agree that PC games are at a disadvantage on this site.  However, I also want to point out that up until this point console games were much, much more popular than computer games.  With Civilization we are just now starting to get to the computer/PC games that ended up being really popular.  Civilization, as a series, sold over 51 million (although some people may not vote for Civ 1 if they like another Civ game better).  Over the next few years we are going to start seeing PC games pop up that were extremely popular, and that may help balance out the bias against PC gaming.

On the other hand, I also think there are some forum users that just click on these Game of the Year threads, vote Mario or Zelda, and then move on to the next thread without commenting.

Civilization for me, it's my nr 2 game of all time to me.

The first time I played Civilization was in 91. I was 17 at the time with one more year of high school to go. A good friend told me about the game and managed to get a copy of it. He didn't have a PC at home himself so came over to my house on a week day to try it out. We copied it to the HDD, started playing and didn't stop until 7AM the next morning. He raced home to have quick breakfast, and I saw him 2 hours later again in class. The game was so good from the get go, there was no time to sleep!

Civilization has caused tons of sleep deprivation, I've played it for years, alone and together with different friends. Just one more turn is the most powerful addictive game play loop there is. The scope of the game was unheard of, start 4,000 BC and lead your civilization into the stars. Or win by defeating everyone else, but going for the science victory was always my preferred strategy. There were so many different ways to play the game, on the world map or random generated maps against up to 7 other civilizations.

I created different game types by hex editing civ.exe, the run-time library compiled in the executable. I mapped out what all the values meant, noted it all down with offsets so I could easily create different versions with more/less growth, higher/lower costs for certain units/advancements and different attributes for opponents. You could change it up from a highly aggressive game to a very cooperative game, a quick game with low costs and abundant resources or a glacial struggle to maintain a civilization on a harsh planet. The Devs recognized the versatility of switching things up and civ 2 had the runtime library all in easily edited config files.

By switching it up the game stayed fresh for years and I beat it many times at the highest difficulty. So many great memories of playing it together behind the keyboard, discussing strategies while waiting for the computer to make its turns. It also taught me a lot about world history and different forms of government. The consequences of nuclear war and global warming.

While I played a pirated version of the first game, I have bought all subsequent versions day 1. The game sprouted other worldly versions as well with Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Civilization Beyond Earth. Still waiting now for Alpha Centauri 2. None of the sequels got me as addicted as the first one though, yet that's also a factor of not having that kind of time nor resilience to skipping sleep anymore. Civilization is a game best enjoyed in 6 to 10 hour sessions...

It's brilliant how much depth and strategy Sid Meier managed to put in a game with 320x200 resolution. The UI was amazing as well as the visuals at the time. Everything was clear and easy to over see. I still prefer the straight top down view of the original, playing on a map, like a board game come to life. It also led to buying the actual board game which we played a lot through university.

1991 had plenty other great releases. Monkey Island 2, Another World, Lemmings, Lotus Turbo Challenge 2, Duke Nukem, Wing Commander 2, Falcon 3.0, F117A Stealth Fighter 2, F1 Grand Prix. Lemmings drew all of us behind the PC, solving levels and writing down the level codes as that was the only way to progress, no save game. Lemmings got me into puzzle games which I'm still into. I just bought Cocoon yesterday and started plugging away at Humanity again, which is pretty much Lemmings in 3D with some devious mind bending puzzles.

1991 also released the awesome Chuck Yeager's Air Combat, arcade dog fighting was new to me coming from more realistic flight sims and Chuck Yeager became an instant favorite. The historic missions were fun, great selection of planes and the mission generator was awesome. It remained my favorite dog fighting game for many years, replacing F19 Stealth Fighter as my previous favorite air combat game.

Last edited by SvennoJ - on 30 September 2023