'90s Kid Presents: The Top 16 Greatest Video Games of the Late '90s (Part 3) | Fanboys Anonymous
In Part 3 of our countdown, we have a set of four titles that all transcend mere personal taste and cross into the realm of cultural significance. Each of these titles in a way helped pave the way for their respected genres. This time, we look at all ends of the gaming spectrum, and continue on with number 8.

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8. Tomb Raider. It's amazing that a franchise of games that have varied so wildly along the spectrum of quality could find a way to constantly reinvent itself and stay relevant even as recently as 2013. With the original game released in 1996, the gaming world was introduced to Lara Croft, video gaming's first leading lady. A lot of modern fans scoff at just how significant the first game was. At a time when games were seen as kid's stuff, Lara was one of the first human leading characters to come into the post-NES 3D era. She wasn't just some throw away character lad in a 2D side scroller; she had longevity. This is pretty significant, especially because she's a woman. At a time when video games were still a boy's playground, to have a female lead catch on as strongly as she did is something to really behold. The fact that even today she has reached an elder-statesman level in video gaming history just shows her impact. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sex angle of it all. Lets face facts, I'm sure a lot of the fan base she had was teenagers stuck in those "awkward" years. That's nothing to sneeze at, either. Going back to the comment about the kid's stuff, Lara brought an adult character into the mainstream that nongamers could identify. She wasn't just a gamer crush; she had all guys wanting her (in a matter of speaking). What other actress can say that her lineage as a sex symbol was solidified because she played a video game character. That's right, I'll say it: Lara Croft MADE Angelina Jolie. THAT is something to behold. Let's see Bob Hoskins claim that! Seriously though, the original Tomb Raider may not have aged as well as other games of its day, but thanks to developers constantly giving the old girl a fresh look, we will be seeing the exploits of this adventure queen for years to come.


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7. Half-Life. Before 1998's Half-Life, the first-person shooter (FPS) scene was in the middle of a change. Games were shedding the 2D sprites of the Doom era and moving into the 3D world with games such as Quake in 1996. While the looks were changing, the core of gameplay wasn't; you were still going around corridors, blasting enemies, and finding keys and levers to open doors (for the most part). Half-Life completely changed that status quo. From the moment you start that famous train ride, you are just going through what is a normal day as Gordon Freeman—an every-man scientist working at his top secret government job. Okay, that doesn't sound so "every man," but for the first part of the game, nothing happens. You walk around your surroundings, talk to strangers, and generally loiter about until your main bosses call you in to assist in a new experiment. From there, you open a gate to an alien dimension, and the game starts proper. Or does it? That's what really set Half-Life apart at the time. You weren't just thrown into a hostile environment, forced to blow stuff up Rambo-style. You were still just an every man. Your first weapon is a crowbar. You're going through the motions just as anyone else would. As you do, the game unfolds with you, not in cutscenes. This was interactive storytelling, which you didn't have in mainstream FPS titles that weren't a role-playing game (RPG) at the time. Sure, as the game got deeper, you wound up falling into action FPS troupes with the onslaught of military personnel trying to cover up your escapades, but for the most part, it's just you and the environment. No grandiose score, no enemies that just pop up out of the shadows. Just you and your crowbar. Simply put, Half-Life is to FPS titles what Die Hard was for action movies. Like Die Hard, its lineage can be felt today. Games such as Call of Duty and Halo owe their gameplay to Half-Life. It is a milestone for modern FPSs. The same could be said for our next candidate.

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6. GoldenEye 007. Regarded by many old-school gamers as one of the quintessential Nintendo 64 games, 1997's Goldeneye 007 was milestone for console gaming. In an era in which FPSs were just branching out of their static Doom-esque confines and exploring fully realized 3D, Goldeneye shocked PC gamers by proving that the humble video game console could produce an FPS that could best its PC brethren. Originally designed by Rare as an on-rails shooter à la Time Crisis, Goldeneye faithfully recreated key parts of its 1995 theatrical namesake while still doing more of its own thing. New to the mix was the use of stealth, something not seen in previous FPSs. Rather than going in and blowing everything up, there was emphasis on silent kills, shooting out cameras, and spying on enemies to track their placements. It really tried to emulate what it would be like to play as 007. Even today, its still considered one of the greatest movie-based games in modern gaming. Yet that's not why Goldeneye really has lived on as long as it has. No, its legacy lies within its multiplayer system. Goldeneye was the game that brought deathmatch multiplayer out of the PC landscape and into the split-screen world of consoles. Goldeneye's multiplayer boasted not just your usual deathmatch mode but also three other modes cleverly based on titles from the Bond portfolio, including "The Living Daylights," "You Only Live Twice," "License to Kill," and "The Man with the Golden Gun." I can safely say that there were many college nights in the late 90s and early 2000s spent on all-night Goldeneye sessions. The legacy of this game is truly legendary, to the point where the game was later remade in 2010/2011 by Activision in a vain attempt to recapture that original lightning in a bottle. Although that game limped out of the starting gate to mediocre reviews, history will always have the original title as a high water mark for video gaming of the late 90s. Speaking of high water marks on the N64…


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5. Super Mario 64. Now, before I go into why I put this game as low as I have on this countdown, let me start by saying that I in no way downplay the impact this game had on modern gaming. Super Mario 64 did for 3D platforming what the original Super Mario Bros. did for 2D platformers. Very few games at the time had experimented with 3D, let alone 3D platformers. Sure, games such as Sonic 3D Blast and Nights into Dreams came out mere weeks apart from Mario 64, but they merely flirted with the gameplay concepts that Mario 64 brought to the table. Super Mario 64 was made from the ground up to take advantage of the brand-new Nintendo 64 technology. The game was one of the first to really take advantage of the new N64 analog stick, giving you a full 360 degrees of movement at your disposal. Combined with a dynamic camera system that never hindered the player during the game, you had the archetype for how a 3D platformer should move. Mario ran, jumped, and hip-stomped his way through fifteen unique levels ranging from haunted houses, caves, deserts, and even the inside of a giant grandfather clock. The level designs were all unique and never seemed to be built to hinder the player. This is a big deal because in those days, even in days after, building a 3D world for a platformer that wasn't play-test friendly was difficult for even the most seasoned veterans. Mario 64 also brought several new features to the series, including new power-ups such as the metal cap (which makes Mario all metal and invulnerable), the vanish cap (which allows Mario to walk through walls), and the spiritual successor to the tanooki suit and cape, the wing cap. This game became the template that a lot of 3D games still follow to this day and singlehandedly carried the N64 to success (and that's not hyperbole, given that this game was one of only two games released for the system at launch). Super Mario 64 is a stepping stone for video gaming, and even today the game is still regarded as such. Although four other games are higher on this list, that doesn't diminish its place in history.

With that, we have reached the final four. When Super Mario 64 doesn't even make the top 4, that means the last four have to be true classics. Which games made the cut? Stay tuned, and find out.

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