Twenty games that are now 20 years old

By Brenna Hillier, Monday, 9 February 2015 08:15 GMT

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Time’s wingéd chariot continues to do its thing. Contemplate your own mortality with this look back at 1995’s biggest releases.

Now that the shine has worn off 2015 a little bit and our hangovers have cleared enough for us to unhook our liver machines, we’ve suddenly been struck by a sense of horror: it is 2015 and we are getting closer and closer to the grave.

Some VG247 readers weren’t even born 20 years ago, but we all were. Oh gosh. We’re all going to die. Here’s what we were playing while you were all crawling around in your playpens or possibly even appearing as a glint in your parents’ eyes.

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Chrono Trigger

One of the best RPGs of all time, Chrono Trigger was a legend in its own lifetime and a stand-out even in the star-studded SNES catalogue. Square Enix did a lot more with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but it’s not just nostalgia for a lapsed franchise that makes this one special – in fact, it might have been too special to turn into a sequelised series, and we should be thankful we only got the one follow up.

Square Enix’s largest ever game at the time of its release, Chrono Trigger boasted a then-unprecedented amount of player freedom to explore its time travelling worlds, multiple possible endings, the introduction of New Game+, and a colourful, loveable cast. It’s been re-released on mobile, DS and the PlayStation Network, and comes highly recommended.

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Command & Conquer

Warcraft had kicked things off, but Command & Conquer signals the beginnings of peak popularity of the RTS genre. Building on the success of Dune 2 but refining those concepts even further, Command & Conquer is both easy to learn and a rabbit hole of depth (up to a point; the meta game is, naturally, static). Set in an alternate history, it captured imaginations with its ridiculously cheesy FMV sequences.

Although most people would argue that RTS games don’t work on consoles, Command & Conquer was particularly popular among PlayStation owners and is considered a classic of the PSOne era. It also released on PC, of course, as well as Saturn and even N64. It was a simpler time, when rapid mouse work and actions per minute weren’t so dominant.

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Descent

The kind of game analog controls are made for, Descent released before twin sticks became common and has a hell of a learning curve as a result of that. It was probably the first game to grant players full 3D movement – pitch, yaw and roll as well as perpendicular movement – and taking advantage is an eight finger job at the very least, on keyboard or control pad.

As well as introducing a whole generation to game-induced motion sickness, Descent pioneered a technology called portal rendering which significantly reduces the processing cost of then-fancy polygon graphics. It had LAN support for eight players and on-the-fly multiplayer, and spawned sequels, expansion packs and even a novel series.

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Destruction Derby

The team that later became Ubisoft Reflections produced this vehicular combat sim, kicking off a series that lasted until the PS2 era. With weak graphics – even for the time – and not especially excellent handling, it didn’t have the guts to stand up against vanilla racers, but what it did have was astoundingly advanced destruction modelling and genuinely exciting collisions. It really was jaw-dropping.

Destruction Derby is much more about driving and ramming than competing titles which feature extensive weaponry, although races often devolve into grimly determined quests for survival. You can pick it up via the PSN if you wish to relive this experience, but, uh.

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Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Released just one year after Rare blew our minds with the first Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest was one of the most hotly anticipated sequels of the SNES era. It didn’t quite match its precursor in terms of sales and critical reception, which is probably not much of a surprise; the next generation of consoles was already on the horizon, and the absolute magic Nintendo was able to squeeze out of the 16-bit era didn’t look as impressive any more.

Still, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is a great game, and if you tracked down all the bonus levels and every DK coin, you had serious playground chops. Plus: pirates! And the opportunity to rescue the big buff bloke, while playing as the skinny sidekick and his even skinnier female friend! Progressive stuff for 1995.

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Earthbound

Oh, it’s so hard to explain what makes this unusual game so special. At a time when most RPGs were stock fantasy affairs, it was set in the kind of suburban environment many SNES-owning kids lived in. It included a parental figure who appeared as an absent voice on the phone, doling out pocket money; ditto. It was a “playground full of insignificant things” which somehow became all too significant.

The second in a series of three and the only one to make it west (its Japanese title is Mother 2), Earthbound did not sell well in the US – possibly because Nintendo had no idea how to market this beautiful, delicate creature. Happily, its cult popularity has kept the dream alive, with protagonist Ness featuring in Super Smash Bros., and a virtual console release making it officially accessible to modern gamers.

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