This was the year when things really started to heat up. For years, Nintendo had a vice-like grip on console gamer consciousness. Sega decided to fight fire with fire - and in 1991, its star, Sonic the Hedgehog, burst onto the scene. With the release of the Super Nintendo in August, Super Mario World, the most technically accomplished and perfectly polished entry in the Super Mario Bros. series, showed up as well, and sparks flew. A fierce battle raged from then on, and we gamers reaped the rewards immediately.
Nintendo, determined to make the Super NES a success, didn't just rely on mushroom power. The company launched two new series alongside it. F-Zero and Pilotwings forged new paths in racing and flight, with technology and gameplay we'd never seen before. Loyal third party publishers, responsible for huge hits on the NES, weren't far behind with updates. Super Castlevania IV refined an adventure formula many already thought perfect, while Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts married punishing difficulty with slick graphics. It wasn't all rehashes, though - Act Raiser, an Oreo of creamy action sandwiched between crunchy wafers of top down god-simulation, stands out even now; its like was never seen again. If that wasn't enough, Square's Final Fantasy II brought role playing games to the next level, with inventive gameplay, a huge cast of lovable characters and a deeply involving story that set the tone for the series from then on.
PC gamers were anything but left behind. Its releases show the breadth of the platform at that time: Lemmings' puzzles and gallows humor made us fans - fast. Out of this World's atmospheric adventure took the left-to-right action games of the past into a whole new dimension, blending 3D graphics with a 2D world and showing that games could be truly artistic. Finally, Wing Commander II proved to be the apex of the series, with its epic story and engrossing gameplay. Scorched Earth, on the other hand, was an underground hit - its tank battles were fiendishly addictive.
Arcade games had maintained popularity, but their second boom had its genesis in this year. The Simpsons maintained the status quo, blending the popular TV characters with Konami's refined beat 'em-up formula. But it was Street Fighter II's debut that marked the beginning of a bold new era.