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Nintendo Power's Top 10 Reviewed Games of 1994
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 01, 2016   |   Episode 93 (Show Archive)  

The year is 1994. Ace of Base had just seen The Sign, Forrest Gump ate a box of chocolates and Friends began its run on NBC. But I don't care if your job's a joke, you're broke or your love life is D.O.A., because today we're counting down Nintendo Power's top reviewed games of 1994.

Final Fantasy III
Three years after Nintendo Power called Final Fantasy II the third best game of 1991, Square returns with the biggest role-playing game release of the 16-bit era. Scoring a 4 out of 5, Nintendo Power raved about the graphics, massive scale and battery back-up. They noted that with more than 100 hours of gameplay, there's a lot to see and do in Final Fantasy III. That said, they had issues with the sappy story, which they conclude was not written with Americans in mind. They also complained about the weak animations and lengthy cinema scenes. Of course, it won't come as much of a surprise that the rest of the press gushed over this RPG. Die Hard Game Fan's Skid gave it 99%, calling it "the role-playing experience of a lifetime." Ed Semrad at Electronic Gaming Monthly went one step further, noting that he had never seen a game with so much depth and detail. "It's going to be near impossible to top this." He wasn't wrong, as Square would soon find out.
Metal Marines
Not to be confused with Metal Mech, Metal Storm or Metal Gear, Metal Marines is a strategy game from Namco. Nintendo Power loved the "great concept and good challenge," noting that the password option was a real life saver. That said, they weren't as thrilled about the play control and awkward combat. They also wished there was more strategy involved. Super Play also noted that the game isn't as complex as it seems, but spun it as a general positive. They recommended gamers know exactly what they were getting themselves into before spending the money. GamePro was decidedly more positive about the experience, concluding that "Metal Marines has the fire power, the mettle, and the metal to be a great robo-warrior strategy game." I would expect nothing less from GamePro.
Battletoads & Double Dragon
Seeing the success of both Battletoads and Double Dragon, Tradewest scrambled to create the unimaginatively titled Battletoads & Double Dragon. This weird mash-up hit pretty much every 8- and 16-bit console, but Nintendo Power liked the Game Boy version the best. They were impressed with the variety of play and characters, giving this game a significantly higher score than the Super NES version. That said, their main complaint was that it was "virtually the same" as the other ports. With most critics focusing their attention on the console versions, Video Games was the only other magazine to review this Game Boy release. Noting the limitations of the Game Boy hardware, the review complained about some of the missing elements and the extreme difficulty. They gave it a 7 out of 10.
Batman: The Animated Series
By 1994, Batman was already a popular mainstay on TV screens and game consoles. He was the star of several big-budget Hollywood blockbusters and a number of well-received action games. Batman: The Animated Series continued the trend, and also manages to add a second Game Boy release to the list. "Excellent game play, graphics and play control," raves Nintendo Power. They wished there were more enemies and a higher difficulty, but that wasn't enough to keep it from earning a high score. Game Players wasn't as thrilled with the Caped Crusader's portable outing. Vince Matthews complained that "after just a little while, you simply won't care what happens to Gotham." Fun fact: That's also my review of the Gotham TV show.
In the same year they released Warcraft and The Death and Return of Superman, Blizzard Entertainment gave us Blackthorne. Sold as the action equivalent of Flashback and Out of This World, this Super NES game kicked serious ass. Nintendo Power was stunned by the "great graphics and terrific sound effects." They were intrigued by the story and concluded that "no one, not even the good guys, are safe from your wrath." That said, they did wish the play control was a bit faster. The rest of the critics largely agreed, giving the game a range of 8s and 9s. Game Players called it a "smooth-scrolling action game with unusual weapons and even more unusual game play." Die Hard Game Fan echoed those feelings, stating that "this is one of those games that becomes addictive the minute you pick up the controller." K. Lee gave it a 90%.
Young Merlin
Long before Young Einstein rocked a homemade guitar or Young Indiana Jones became a washed-up child star, Young Merlin used his bag of tricks to convince Nintendo Power he was the star of one of 1994's best games. The magazine loved the "Zelda-like adventure and puzzle solving," along with the "excellent sound and interesting items and weapons." They were less enthusiastic about the graphics and play control, but that wasn't enough to keep the game from scoring an impressive 4.2 out of 5. While most of the other magazines gave the game 7s, SNES Force ended up going even further than Nintendo Power. Giving the game a 92%, Chris was impressed with the game's sense of humor and deep adventure. Then again, he also went on a weird tangent about the TV show Mr. Merlin.
Donkey Kong
Not to be confused with the original Nintendo Entertainment System game or a trio of platformers on the Super NES, Donkey Kong is easily one of the Game Boy's very best games. What starts out as a simple port quickly transforms into something much bigger and deeper. Nintendo Power agreed with my assessment, nothing that "it's much bigger with dozens of new levels." They also liked the fact that you could pair the game with the Super Game Boy, adding color to the sidescroller. Oddly enough, their main criticism was that it didn't control like Super Mario Bros., "so it can be confusing at first." The rest of the press didn't seem confused, giving the game mostly 9s. Game Players echoed those thoughts, heaping praise on the lengthy campaign and unique puzzles. They concluded their review baffled that it didn't hit Nintendo's 16-bit hardware.
Having already conquered arcades around the country, it was only a matter of time before NBA Jam found its way to home consoles. While the port was certainly predictable, the quality was not. This fast-paced basketball experience was a huge hit with every magazine, earning rave reviews across the board. Nintendo Power loved the "great graphics, cool moves and totally involving action for up to four players." When it came to negatives, the magazines couldn't come up with a single one. The 4.4 score makes this one of Nintendo Power's best reviewed Super NES games of all time. As I mentioned before, the rest of the press agreed with the high score. Electronic Gaming Monthly's Ed Semrad called NBA Jam the most fun he's had in a long time. "This is as close to a 10 as it can get for a sports game." Admittedly, that sounds a little bigoted against sports games, but it was the 1990s and he didn't know better.
Flashback: The Quest for Identity
Between Blackthorne and Flashback, rotoscoped action games are fully represented on this top 10 list. After being wowed by Out of This World, Nintendo Power was blown away by Flashback: The Quest for Identity. They loved the cinematic graphics, gushed about the deep and involving story, and they simply couldn't believe how good the animation was. It was enough to earn the game a 4.4, with the only negative being the stiff play control. This was a sentiment found throughout most other magazines, with most critics giving it 8s and 9s. Super Play called the game "one of the most playable, atmospheric and downright great games the SNES has got." SNES Force agreed, putting it bluntly, "Buy Flashback at the earliest opportunity. It's truly one of the best pieces of software released this year." Can't say I disagree.
Super Metroid
With new hardware from Sony and Sega just around the corner, 1994 felt like a graduation year for the 16-bit market. Those twelve months brought Earthworm Jim, Doom, Earthbound, the aforementioned Final Fantasy III and one of Nintendo's greatest games of all time. Dubbed "the ultimate space adventure" by Nintendo Power, Super Metroid is arguably Nintendo's best game on the Super NES. The review score certainly bears that out, with only Zelda III: A Link to the Past earning a higher score. The magazine loved the "excellent graphics, sound and stellar play control," noting that "there's lots of variety, secrets, twists, turns and challenge" to be had. Their lone criticism? "Even 100 megabits of Metroid wouldn't be enough." I doubt they would say that after Other M. Obviously, they weren't alone. All three editors at Die Hard Game Fan gave the sequel near-perfect scores, though they didn't have anything to say (that month's written reviews were replaced by dots). Electronic Gaming Monthly also praised the game, and then later named it the best game of all time. That's right, all time. I'm not sure I would go that far, but there's no question that Super Metroid deserves its place on this list.
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