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Nintendo Power's Top Ten Reviewed Games of 1991
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 27, 2015   |   Episode 87 (Show Archive)  

The year is 1991. Smells Like Teen Spirit is making Nirvana a household name, Terminator 2 is topping the box office and Darkwing Duck is making my childhood a little better. But there's no time to talk about spin-offs that only lasted a year, because today we're counting down Nintendo Power's top reviewed games of 1991.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
When Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves hit theaters, critics knocked everything from the rushed production to Kevin Costner's accent. Thankfully, none of these problems plagued the Nintendo Entertainment System adaptation. Nintendo loved Robin Hood, giving it a 4.3 out of 5. It managed to outscore Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, ActRaiser and F-Zero. Electronic Gaming Monthly wasn't nearly as convinced. Steve Harris hated the movie and the game, giving it a 4. Sushi X was more generous, concluding that if you liked the movie you'll love the game. I'm not sure I subscribe to that mindset, but perhaps Nintendo Power really loved the movie.
Final Fantasy Legend II
Even bigger and better than the 1990 original, Nintendo Power couldn't believe Square was able to fit Final Fantasy Legend II into a tiny Game Boy cartridge. Of course, what they forgot to mention is that this isn't a Final Fantasy game at all. It started its life in Japan as SaGa 2: The Treasure Legend. Nintendo Power didn't care what name was on the box, they just knew they were impressed with the lengthy quest, great graphics and tough challenge. They noted the boss and level designs, concluding that Final Fantasy Legend II is a must-play.
Mega Man in Dr. Wily's Revenge
With Capcom skipping a year between Mega Man 3 and 4, Nintendo Power was forced to shower praise on this Game Boy greatest hits package. Not unlike Final Fantasy Legend II, the magazine was stunned that Capcom was able to take such a graphically demanding game and shrink it down to the Game Boy. They weren't alone, as Electronic Gaming Monthly couldn't stop gushing over Capcom's triumph. "Mega Man is mega awesome," proclaims Martin. "This is definitely my favorite Game Boy cart." Critics who had originally brushed off the Game Boy's potential were suddenly on board with the handheld, thanks in large part to Mega Man in Dr. Wily's Revenge.
The Immortal
Before striking gold with John Madden Football, Electronic Arts tried their hand in a number of high-fantasy adventure games. Although it never picked up as much traction as Final Fantasy, The Immortal was a huge hit with critics at the time. Nintendo Power praised its unique camera perspective and challenging gameplay. While this 8-bit NES game was good, it was the Genesis game that critics fell in love with. GamePro gave that game a perfect 5 out of 5, while Sega Pro gave it a 94%. Nintendo Power didn't know what they were missing.
Metroid II: Return of Samus
Metroid II: Return of Samus was the biggest Game Boy game of the year, and Nintendo Power wanted you to know it. They spent the months leading up to the release hyping the game, and then continued the sales pitch months later. Given all the attention they gave the science fiction action game; it would have been shocking to not see it on this list. They were especially impressed with the large graphics, which actually looked better than the NES original. GamePro agreed, giving Samus' portable outing a perfect 5 out of 5. Suddenly everybody was excited to see where this franchise would go next. They would not be disappointed.
Deja Vu
If you've been following this series, then you already know that Nintendo Power has a thing for graphic adventure games. They ranked Shadowgate the second best game of 1989 and Maniac Mansion was high on the 1990 list. This year it's Deva Vu, which takes the gameplay of Shadowgate and mixes it with a 1940s film noir. While it didn't score as high as Shadowgate, Nintendo Power still loved the adventure enough to rank it among the year's ten best. GamePro agreed, giving the game a 4 out of 5. They weren't as taken with the point and click gameplay, but felt the story was worth the trip.
Forget the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because critics couldn't contain their excitement for Battletoads. Developed by Rare for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this 2D brawler benefitted from great graphics and a kooky sense of humor. Nintendo Power fell in love, giving Battletoads a staggering 4.5 out of 5. They certainly weren't alone, as every single magazine hailed the beat-em-up as one of the year's best games. No magazine gave the game a score lower than a 9 out of 10. GamePro gave it a perfect grade, it was all 9s from Electronic Gaming Monthly, Computer + Video Games gave it a 91% and Video Games & Computer Entertainment gave it a 9. Everybody loved the Battletoads.
Final Fantasy II
In a twist you probably saw coming, there are two Final Fantasy games on the list. Final Fantasy II is not just a huge step up from the 8-bit original, but also the first 16-bit game to make the list. Released within the Super Nintendo's launch window, this epic role-playing game was everything Nintendo hoped for. They loved the complex storytelling, magic spells and fight graphics. The noted that the enemies don't wait for you to make up your mind and that it's filled with snap decisions. It probably won't come as a surprise that GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly agreed. The sequel picked up stellar reviews and awards for best role-playing game.
Super Mario World
Now here's a twist you likely didn't see coming: Super Mario World was not Nintendo Power's top rated game of 1991. The Super NES pack-in was able to dominate coverage throughout most of the year, but came just shy of the top prize. But don't feel too bad for the platformer, because every other magazine went out of its way to gush over Super Mario World. Nintendo Magazine System gave the sequel 98%, tying it with Super Mario Bros. 3 as their highest rated game. You also saw high marks from CVG and Super Play, who gave the platformer a 96% and 94% respectively. Electronic Gaming Monthly also loved Super Mario World, but ultimately gave Sonic the Hedgehog the edge in their 1992 Video Game Buyer's Guide.
What game could possibly be better than Super Mario World? Believe it or not, the answer is SimCity. When the Super NES launched, Nintendo Power posted a blow-out review guide that gave Mario's first 16-bit outing a 4.5 and SimCity a 4.6. The magazine gave the simulator a big push by praising the unique mechanics and replayability. They weren't as excited by the presentation, but felt the lasting value and theme more than made up for that. Most other magazines agreed, though some had a few reservations. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game mixed scores, including a 6 from Sushi X. He complained that the game was slow and boring. I guess that's why he's a make-believe video game critic and not a city planner.
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