The 1990s were an incredibly significant period in the history of video games. For one, the decade witnessed the culmination of 2D game design, with historic titles like Secret of Mana and Super Mario World 2 displaying stunning depth and visual complexity. It also ushered in the birth of the 3D era in earnest with the Sega Saturn, and then to a much fuller extent on the Sony PlayStation 1 and the Nintendo 64.
Titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Gran Turismo and GoldenEye set blueprints for the way games could be designed and played that are still in use today on the latest PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X releases. Nowadays there is a great interest among developers in resurrecting these historic games for iOS and Android, often with updated visuals and design. Here we take a look at some of the most exciting 90s franchises that are finding new life on mobile operating systems.
Square Enix are no stranger to Android gaming and have been among the earliest and most enthusiastic proponents of porting classic titles from their back catalogue onto Android devices. As 2021 progresses they are showing no sign of slowing this trend, with several exciting releases just around the corner.
The Japanese developers have been cranking new titles and merchandise out of their beloved legacy game, Final Fantasy VII, since it’s initial release on the PlayStation 1 in 1997. It quickly became recognized as a landmark in the history and development of the gaming industry thanks to its mature story-arc, captivating play mechanics and stunning cinematic cut-scenes, and it remains warmly regarded as one of the greatest titles of the 90s. Now mobile fans are getting their own new release following 2020’s much publicized PS4/5 remake. The new game, Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier is, however, a departure from the usual formula. Currently in closed beta awaiting general release on Android and iOS, The First Soldier is a battle royale style game that takes after the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, albeit dressed in the familiar anime-adjacent aesthetic of its parent franchise.
Also announced at 2021’s E3 was the Final Fantasy Pixel series. The goal of the project is to bring the first 6 Final Fantasy titles to mobile operating systems and Windows computers with remastered sound and textures, but crucially, no change to the original titles’ 2D pixel art aesthetic. Square Enix have previously released versions of these games on mobile, but with controversial new 3D character models. While these remakes were critically well received, old school purists have been calling for a more authentic re-release of these games ever since. The first three games in this new edition are expected to land in late July, and will give Final Fantasy purists the dose of nostalgia they’ve been longing for.
Younger gamers may not realize that, once upon a time, Sega was one of the heavyweights in console gaming. With the catastrophic failure of 1999’s Dreamcast console, which was completely outsold by the PlayStation 2, Sega decided to discontinue their hardware division and focus on developing third party titles for their former competitors. Fortunately for mobile gamers, Sega has done a great job at porting some of its most beloved titles to the Android and iOS ecosystems. These include Megadrive classics like Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and The Revenge of the Shinobi. There are also a few choice Dreamcast ports such as Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis and the maddening puzzle game Super Monkeyball to re-acquaint yourself with. Finally, no discussion of Sega would be complete without mentioning everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog. Sega’s Android store features no less than 9 Sonic titles, from made-for-mobile releases like Sonic Forces to classic remasters of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic CD.
Soon to join in the fun is one of the undisputed legends of the 2D era, Konami’s side-scrolling shooter Contra. Originally an arcade game before its successful transition to the Nintendo Entertainment System, Contra is a legend among gamers for its blisteringly difficult bosses, innovative cooperative play and memorable level design. A full remake, Contra Returns, will land in the Play Store in late July. Gamers can expect a fully revamped experience with all new 3D models and brand new game modes including PvP battles and multiplayer tournaments.