What games were popular in 1990

In the pivotal year of 1990, the realm of video games was undergoing a significant evolution, shifting from the beloved era of coin-operated arcades to the burgeoning domain of home gaming systems. This period gave birth to a host of legendary games that would etch their names in the annals of gaming history. Let us delve into an overview of the year’s most celebrated games, spanning a range of platforms:

Arcade Attractions

Arcades continued to captivate players in 1990, with several memorable titles making their debut:

Street Fighter II – Crafted by Capcom, this combat-centric title rose to fame, setting a benchmark for its genre. It captivated players with a roster of unique characters, each with their own array of special moves, fostering a competitive spirit that resonated in arcades globally.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – This action-packed offering from Konami let players embody their cherished hero in a group-oriented arcade adventure. Lauded for its authentic recreation of the animated series and its compelling cooperative play, it was a crowd-pleaser.

Final Fight – Capcom delivered another engaging brawler with this title, featuring a trio of protagonists on a mission through Metro City’s urban sprawl to save the mayor’s abducted daughter. Its intricate visuals and gratifying combat mechanics distinguished it among arcade classics.

Home Gaming Systems

With the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega Genesis (also known as the Mega Drive) at the forefront, several influential titles emerged in 1990:

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) – Hailed as a pinnacle of gaming creativity, Super Mario Bros. 3 was a tour de force. It unveiled novel power-ups, groundbreaking level design, and an overarching world map, enriching the Mario lore and ensuring a high replay value.

Mega Man 3 (NES) – Capcom’s third chapter in the saga of the Blue Bomber perpetuated the legacy with new elements such as the slide motion and Mega Man’s robotic ally, Rush. It upheld the franchise’s hallmark of challenging yet satisfying play.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Genesis) – Sega’s platform adventure starring the iconic Mickey Mouse captivated players with its quest to thwart the villainous Mizrabel and save Minnie. Its superior graphics, smooth animation, and engaging gameplay won over Genesis enthusiasts.

Personal Computers

PCs were becoming a stronghold for gaming, with several paramount titles launching in 1990:

The Secret of Monkey Island – Lucasfilm Games (later LucasArts) set a new bar for narrative and wit in gaming with this point-and-click escapade. It chronicled Guybrush Threepwood’s venture to attain pirate status and save the governor from the spectral pirate LeChuck.

Wing Commander – The space combat simulator from Origin Systems was lauded for its cinematic storytelling and enthralling gameplay. Players assumed the role of a fighter pilot, navigating the cosmos in a human-Kilrathi interstellar conflict.

SimCity – While its initial release was in 1989, SimCity’s acclaim soared in 1990 as it expanded to various platforms. This urban simulation game allowed players to craft and oversee their metropolises, juggling expansion with the likes of disasters and fiscal limitations.

Handheld Devices

The market for portable gaming was also on the rise, predominantly propelled by the Nintendo Game Boy:

Tetris (Game Boy) – Though Tetris was conceived in the Soviet Union during the 1980s, its Game Boy rendition in 1989-1990 propelled it to worldwide fame. The game’s straightforward yet magnetic design was a perfect match for the handheld device.

Super Mario Land (Game Boy) – This mobile iteration of the Mario franchise introduced fresh concepts and a novel backdrop distinct from its NES siblings. Despite the Game Boy’s modest capabilities, it captured the essence of Mario adventures and became a top-selling title.


The year 1990 presented a rich and varied gaming tableau, marked by influential releases from arcade cabinets, home systems, PCs, and handheld gadgets. This era unveiled a litany of seminal titles, not just defining their genres but pushing the frontiers of what was conceivable in gaming. Players reveled in street skirmishes in Final Fight, embarked on enchanting journeys in Super Mario Bros. 3, and partook in grandiose space conflicts in Wing Commander, shaping an unforgettable epoch of digital amusement.

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