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A Brief History of Gaming
At the Newsstand: The Game Magazines of September 1994
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 16, 2014   |   Episode 36 (Show Archive)  

So far September has brought disappointing reviews for one of the biggest releases of the year, more fallout from faux-scandals and a lot of talk about the new Smash Bros. game. But that wasn't the case twenty years ago. Leave today's hot topics behind and take a trip to 1994, back when the newsstand was full of game magazines. Journey with us as we flip through old issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro, Mean Machines Sega, Game Informer and Super Play to see what everybody was talking about in September 1994.


Was Atari's ultraviolent Primal Rage better than Mortal Kombat? Although the answer is a decisive no, this cover art makes a convincing argument. With that explosive background and the bloodiest uppercut ever seen on a magazine cover, it's impossible to think about anything other than Primal Rage. Perhaps that's for the best, as almost no big games were reviewed in this issue and the big news involved Knuckles' Chaotix. Blizzard's oft-forgotten Blackthrone won top prize as EGM's Game of the Month.

GAMEPRO (September 1994)

Just back from the Summer Consumer Electronics Show, GamePro had a choice of literally hundreds of never-seen-before games to put on their cover. They had brand new hardware to show off, including Sony's PlayStation and Nintendo's Ultra 64. It was one of the most exciting times to be a games journalist. So what did GamePro toss on their September cover? The Death and Return of Superman, a poorly-received action game built on a comic book publicity stunt. At least Revolution X wasn't the cover story.


Mean Machines Sega didn't have time for The Death and Return of Superman, because Robocop was in the middle of his war against The Terminator. Although nowhere near as gruesome as the Genesis game, this magazine cover is appropriately badass. And it wasn't just the cover story, because this issue was filled with big features covering Mortal Kombat, Populous II, General Chaos and news of the Sega Saturn. This issue was so big that it included a standalone Jurassic Park review booklet.

GAME INFORMER (Sep/Oct 1994)

Although they had spent most of the year talking about Mortal Kombat II, Game Informer decided to make the popular fighting game the focus. Thankfully they mixed things up by introducing readers to a series of new fighting games, but none were as big as Mortal Kombat. This issue also brought news from the Summer Consumer Electronics Show, which included the first look at Donkey Kong Country, Sonic & Knuckles and the PlayStation. This was a great issue for people that like Mortal Kombat puns.


Bless their hearts for trying, but Sega Visions was the only magazine giving the Sega 32X any attention. It certainly didn't help that the big push included the poorly-received full-motion video game Fahrenheit. Like the other magazines, this issue was heavy on Mortal Kombat II and Super Street Fighter II coverage. On the other hand, Sega Visions was beating the drum for their brand new "toy," the Sega Pico. They spent four pages on this curious device before jumping back into reviews of Brutal: Paws of Fury, Clayfighter and Ballz.


Super Play came prepared for the summer lull. While other magazines were posting covers about dinosaurs and supermen, this UK-based magazine featured a lengthy article talking about Japanese games. They also featured a player's guide for Super Metroid and a feature called "Irresponsible Pictures" that reviewed anime. In fact, this issue was heavy on Japanese animation, something we would see a lot more of going forward. Super Street Fighter II was their top scoring game this month at 96%, Sonic Blast Man 2 was the lowest with 31%.
As much as things have changed in the last twenty years, some things remain the same. Even after his death and return, Superman is still a popular superhero. His most recent movie brought in $668 million worldwide and people can't stop talking about 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Robocop has also seen a resurgence in his popularity, thanks to this year's PG-13 reboot. And then there's Mortal Kombat, which has never gone out of style in those two decades.

Although Primal Rage was an arcade hit, the sequel was cancelled late in development and Atari abandoned the franchise. On the other hand, it's extremely easy to see why Digital Pictures opted against continuing the Fahrenheit series. Even with these misfires, a lot of the content in the twenty year old magazines is still relevant today. These issues only hinted at the amazing 32-bit battle that was not even a year away.



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