Greatest Games of 1991: Runners Up

While our heavy PC-biased panel chose Civilization as the best game of 1991, the two most iconic games of the 16-bit generation were released in 1991. Both Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog were the flagship titles for Nintendo and Sega’s new systems and really defined the greatest system war of all time.

Super Mario World

For me, the best game of 1991 is an easy choice: Super Mario World. All of the great gameplay of Super Mario Brothers 3 was improved upon here. The graphical upgrade that the Super Nintendo made possible was at full force–the game looked amazing. The level design in the game is absolutely perfect. You could finally save your progress, so the game was much bigger and more involved that previous iterations. The difficulty of Super Mario World was a step above its predecessors due to the incredibly challenging Star Road levels. The visual style also allowed Super Mario World to age better than most of its contemporaries, and it is still incredibly fun to play today.

Sonic the Hedgehog

On the other side of the coin (or ring- HA!) is Sonic. This game has aged pretty badly and is not much fun at all to play today. While Mario required you to study the level and search for upgrades to help you through the levels, Sonic basically requires you to hold right on the joypad and hope not to blindly run into a cheap death by spikes or a dumb-looking enemy. I find it downright hilarious that back in 1991 people actually thought that Sonic was just as good as (if not better than) Super Mario World. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see that Sonic sucked.

Regardless, Sonic was a very significant game for its time in that it provided the first real competition to Nintendo’s empire. Billed as the system for your cooler older brother, the Genesis was a real success and proved there was room in the market for more than one console. Despite my litany of complaints above, at the time it was fun to see a game move at the speed Sonic did. Through multiple replays, you could really fly through some of the levels, and that could be pretty cool.

Although the other Sonic entries on the Genesis were decent, everything since (with the possible exception of Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast) has been crap. To put it lightly, this does not help Sonic’s legacy. In the end, Sonic the Hedgehog’s significance really can’t be denied; however, that doesn’t make me eager to go back and play it again today.

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