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Some 1988 games:
Galaxy Force II (ARC, 1988/SAT/3DS, ) - Rail Shooter, Spaceship-based
-Very smooth sprite scaling with large and detailed sprites
-Cave segments with branching paths
-Lock onto and shoot several targets at once, Homing missiles
-Level select screen (Xain'd Sleena, Mega Man)
-Fuel mechanic (River Raid?)
-Pretty impressive music

Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (PCs, 1988) - WRPG/Sandbox or OW RPG (FP dungeon exploration, TD world exploration and TBS combat)
-Deeper storytelling and more complex plot
-Puts a new spin on the virtue system of the previous game by having them enforced harshly on the world's inhabitants by a corrupt despot and makes the player a fugitive
-The shadowlords have various effects on NPCs if present in the town you're currently in
-Day/night cycle and NPC schedules
-Old party members and locales+NPCs carry over from the previous game with some growth/changes
-Combat is almost always optional
​-More object interaction (like pushing chairs in front of doors to block off access or taking torches off the walls)
-Look command
-Stealth element
-More advanced combat (diagonal aiming, equip individual hands) and more varied loot
-Villains must be stopped with cunning rather than force

Exile (Electron/BBC Micro, 1988/AMI/C64, 1991)(Superior Software/Audiogenic) - Platform Adventure/Action Adventure (thrust-based flight)
-Life-preserving teleport system (when very near death your avatar is automatically teleported to a location that you've previously designated)
-Very open-ended structure
-Advanced physics (gravity, inertia, mass, explosions, shockwaves, elemental (water/earth/wind/fire) effects) and puzzles designed around them
-Advanced enemy AI for the time (reacts to nearby noises, has line-of-sight vision, remembers where the player was last seen?, etc)
-Can grab some creatures to stop them from hurting you
-Four item inventory (your pockets are actually stasis fields meaning an object is completely suspended in time and space (a live grenade won't explode for example))

Bionic Commando (NES, 1988) - Platform Adventure, Side View & Top Down View Hybrid (map encounters only)
-Impressive graphics
-SMB3-like hub map with patrolling enemies and branching paths
-Hookshot mechanic (replaces jumping)
-Spy on enemy communications and communicate with allies in communications rooms
-Neutral areas where you get attacked for opening fire and can talk to NPCs for tips as well as find items
-Temporary spinning orbs shield power up
-Pick what gear to use before landing in an area (later used in Assault Suits Leynos)
-Quick exit code lets you exit any sidescrolling area
-Some gore and the game features Adolf Hitler as the enemy leader
-Escape sequence after the final boss (Xain'd Sleena, Metroid)

Dragon Quest III (NES, 1988) - JRPG
​-Build a party of four (hiring system - can leave or replace members and re-recruit them later, six classes)
-Warp to any visited town (Ys?)
-Vault feature
-Pretty open ended/non-linear structure
-Gradual day/night cycle with effects on gameplay
-Giant bird ride
-Monster fight betting
-More meaningful dialogue choices
-Rudimentary battle formations (order)
-Invisiblility spell

Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter (PC-88/PC-98/FM-7/X1/MSX, 1988/PCE CD, 1989/NES, 1990/PC DOS, 1994) - ARPG, TD View
-Impressive graphics:
-Some innovative mechanics (transform into a demon to talk to enemies, gradually learn enemy stats by killing more of them (need to drink the bestiary potion first - later versions only?), bargain for a better iron ore price)
-Some ability/tool gating (mattock for breaking a couple of walls, stone shoes to not slide down icy slopes, magic fireballs melt ice blocks, the monster transformation, other more key-like tools)
-Healing points in dungeons
-Diary feature (it's not a full fledged journal/log feature though)
-You can shoot villagers with fire magic (harmless but sometimes results in new dialogue)
-Interesting how the first dungeon actually connects to the first town via someone's basement
-Interactive dialogue with key characters - choose the subject to ask about
-You can exit most boss battles at will

Some other graphically impressive games:
​IO: Into Oblivion (C64)
Mega Man 2 (NES)
Post edited August 25, 2020 by ResidentLeever
Some 1989 games:
SimCity (PC/AMI, 1989/SNES, 1991) - City-Building/Management Sim
-Second game of its kind?
-Good interface for its time (shortcut button for the sidebar menu, quick-scroll, stats on most important things)
-Some advanced mechanics to explore (zone stacking, most efficient zone/road placement and optimizing growth via gifts and taxes, dealing with pollution and crime)
-999+ different standard maps as well as a few scenarios to play
-Basic weather effects depending on the season
-Trigger disasters at will
-EGA 640x350 resolution widescreen mode on DOS

Quest For Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero (PC, 1989)/VGA ver., 1992) - Quest Adventure/RPG hybrid, Real-time combat (heavily stat based)
-Character creation with stat distribution (6 abilities/attributes, 7 skills), three classes (fighter, magic user, thief - can break into houses an steal certain items) and you can create hybrids of all three to an extent, shops, loot enemy corpses)
-Option to export your character to the next game (Wizardry)
-Different ways to solve problems depending on which class you picked (proto-Immersive Sim)
-Day/night cycle (can check time of day at any point) with effects on gameplay
-Non-random enemy encounters (monsters can also follow you until you're a couple of screens away)
-Can examine pretty much anything in the game world
-Movement speed options
-Running and sneaking moves
-Sleep at will (can choose for how long, can be killed when outside if you try to sleep all night)
-Activity based stat building/progression (FF2?, Dungeon Master)
-Pretty open ended structure
-Dialogue trees and P&C interface replaces the text parser in the VGA ver.
-Good sense of humour overall (witty, sarcastic, silly, references, slapstick)
-Many ways to die (Space Quest)
-Can skip dialogue on a per text box/paragraph basis
-Tooltips in-game (question mark)
-Some good puzzles (quiz which changes a bit every time you reload or replay, kobold's cave, yorick's labyrinth)
-Mini-game (mage's maze)
-Pretty expressive sprites, Character portraits during dialogue, Pretty impressive MT-32 music
-Can block+dodge and use two types of attacks in combat (swing and stab) - can also throw rocks and daggers at enemies (rocks can be picked up pretty much anywhere in the wild) or cast spells at them outside of combat
-Slightly different ending depending on which side quests you finished

Prince of Persia (PC, 1989) - Action platformer/Puzzle platformer
-Inspired the cinematic platformer subgenre which in turn inspired games like Tomb Raider and Ico
-More realistic physics than usual
-Cling onto and climb platform edges
-Fencing duels (parry, parry-then slash/counter attack, move backwards)
-Avoiding combat is sometimes preferred
-Nice animation (rotoscoping), Good use of the Roland MT-32 module for the time
-Upgradeable lifebar (large red potions)
-Temporary hover jump/slow fall ability via the green potions (these are used when picked up)
-Upside down room puzzle (one of the later green potions has this effect) and a doppelganger/mirror image puzzle

It Came from the Desert (AMI, 1989) - Graphic Adventure w/ FP Light-Gun and Top Down Run 'n Gun-style action sequences, TD escape sequences with basic stealth at the hospital, Hub map
-Proto-Survival Horror (Time limit (need to collect evidence and present it to the mayor), Interactive nightmares)
-Sound signalling before a giant ant appears
-Dialogue trees
-Need to keep track of NPC schedules
-Make calls from and sleep at home (can choose for how many hours to rest)
-Mostly ambient OST

Aleste 2 (MSX, 1989) - Vertical Shoot 'em up
-Respawn on the spot (with the default special weapon and lowest levels - not enough later on) and adjustable ship speed (Thunder Force 2)
-Pretty large weapons arsenal (6 special weapons) with 5 (!) levels of upgrades for each, many levels of upgrades for the main gun
-8 pretty long stages
-Nice cutscenes, A couple of voice samples (scratchy though)
-Temporary shield power up which can be stolen by bosses
-Choose starting special weapon before beginning
-Good bosses overall (some with multiple phases)

River City Ransom (NES, 1989) - Beat 'em up/ARPG Hybrid, 2-player co-op
-Enemy comments during gameplay that don't interrupt the action
-RPG elements: Gain new moves by leveling up using food/books/music CDs (10 different stats) , 2 item inventory, open ended structure for the genre, shops
-Good arsenal of moves for the time (pick up and throw enemies or use them to punch others (lol), block move (punch/kick incoming attacks at the right time), punch boxes to make them slide, throw weapons, jump kick, run)
-Change difficulty on the fly
-Help menu in-game
-Password save anywhere
-Unlimited lives (lose half your money and start in the previous mall area when dying)
-Expressive sprites
-Sauna bathing (increases will power+stamina and restores health)
-2-player specific moves (you can jump on top of your partner and stand on his head, your partner can throw you (no damage) while you're on top of him enabling you to fly through the air performing multiple attacks, there are a number of power ups in the game that enable 'tag team' attacks)

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (SMS, 1989) - Platform Adventure/Metroidvania
-First area ties into the prequel (used later in Castlevania: SotN)
-Transformations (swimming, wall/ceiling walking and flying, down- (Dragon Buster) and upstab/swing - Zelda II/Rastan)
-Characters with gear affinities
-Hidden gear combos (transform anywhere)
-Create blocks (Solomon's Key)
-Block projectiles
-Fairly impressive music overall (FM & PSG)
-Can transform anywhere w/ a secret gear combo
-On GG the charm stones are used to teleport back to town
-Loading a password save resets consumable items in chests which makes it easier to grind for charm stones for example
-Some sequence breaking possibilities (can do Lion Man's area before the pirate ship, more with the tasmanian sword which is gained in that area)

Ys Book I & II (1987 port/PCE CD, 1989) - ARPGs, TD View
-Nice cutscenes with voice acting, Well-produced CD redbook music throughout most of the game

Herzog Zwei (MD, 1989) – Early RTS/RTT, 2-player vs. mode w/ split-screen (can also pick split-screen in SP mode)
-Mini-map (switch between seeing the map with bases and enemy commander or a zoomed in view showing nearby units relative to the commander)
-Transforming mech avatar (plane/ground trooper) - this unit transports and orders other units plus it can resupply+repair itself by hovering over any controlled base
-Pretty impressive music and enemy commander AI
-Capture bases to gain resources faster and to win (later used in Dawn of War)
-Each captured base acts as the main base for the purpose of picking up finished units with the commander
-Decide unit command/behavior before building it (can be edited for a built unit by picking it up)
-Max 50 units per side
-Can repair units
-Base attacked and homing missiles warning symbols in the HUD
-Air, ground and water units
-Build turrets which can be transported to where you want them at any point
-Some queued commands orders (destroy nearest enemy then go take over/guard the nearest neutral base, hunt down attacking enemies then return to position, etc.), -Choose your path (level select screen)
-Low and high ground
-Patrol move (unit moves in a circle) and attack enemy main base move (makes the unit ignore enemies)
-16-way fire (can't stop at 30 degree angles though and can't strafe)

Graphically impressive 1989 games (8-bit):
Post edited August 27, 2020 by ResidentLeever
ResidentLeever: Dragon Quest III (NES, 1988) - JRPG
​-Build a party of four (hiring system - can leave or replace members and re-recruit them later, six classes)
-Warp to any visited town (Ys?)
Bard's Tale 2 (1986) also had a spell that would let you warp to any town.

Also, Might and Magic 1 had a spell that lets you warp to any town, as well.
Alright, coolios.
Some 1990 games:
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX, 1990) - Stealth Action/Action Adventure
-Radar feature in a non-vehicle sim game (turns off temporarily when detected or while in air ducts, shows enemies and some important NPCs; Cyborg Hunter?)
-Enemy soldiers now move between screens (King's Valley)
-Certain terrain makes noise that will get the enemies' attention, you can crawl under tables and some vehicles (also helps to avoid the aforementioned noises)
-Can speed up text on a per paragraph/text box basis
-Checkpoints at the beginning of each area/when exiting or entering a building (Psycho World?)
-Get tips from NPCs via the transceiver (they won't always reply though - a bit jarring in the beginning when you're told to call people and they don't reply)
-Some interesting level design (getting transported to places by using the box disguise, escort segment, the rooms with soldiers hiding among soldier mannequins, moving infrared laser rooms (new variations on them, garbage room in the first building, enemies turning off the lights)
-Pretty good at creating a sense of vulnerability at times
-Some new interesting gear (use the cigarettes to detect infrared lasers, mortar missile (chopper boss), mouse robots to distract enemies with, the enemy can place a tracker in your inventory if you get captured (can be thrown away), night vision goggles, national anthem casette tape (freezes soldiers for ~10 seconds), etc.)
-About twice as long as the prequel

Final Fantasy III (NES, 1990) - JRPG
-Job system
-"Per enemy type" multi-targeting
-Numbers indicating who is striking what target in the next round
-Can unlearn spells
-Damage indicator on the actual monster sprites (similar to Zelda II)
-More equipment customization
-More interactive environment
-Temporary party members that follow the party in the overhead view and can be talked to manually
-Underwater exploration
-Pretty major overworld change at one point
-Proper row system
-Shops and stash in the airship

Bomberman (PCE, 1990) - Maze Action/Arena Combat, 5-Player vs., Portable link battle support (TurboExpress)
-Two vs. modes (skull mode includes a negative skull power up)
-Several levels of upgrades (blast size, number of bombs at once, speed - SP only)
-Upgrades carry over to the next level in SP

Moving Adventure Psy-O-Blade (MD, 1990) - Adventure/Visual Novel, Rail Shooter segment, Sci-fi horror theme
-Pretty rich lore/fluff if you examine stuff (for the time and for consoles)
-Save almost anywhere
-Meta humour, Pop culture references (Sierra adventure games?)
-You can't die
-Animated portraits during dialogue (Strider NES, Faria)
-Social justice stuff (black characters in authority positions, computer savvy female char, spoiler: another female char saves the day in the end)

Gargoyle's Quest: Ghosts 'n Goblins (GB, 1990) - JRPG/Action Platformer Hybrid or Platform Adventure (Zelda II-like), Horror/dark fantasy theme
-Play as a demon fighting for rulership of the demon realm
-Some interesting mechanics (stamina-based flight and wall climbing/clinging (Strider, NG), create platforms on spiked walls)
-Large and detailed boss sprites on GB

Race Drivin' (ARC, 1990/AMI/PC/MD, ) - Racing (Cars)
-3D polygonal graphics at a pretty good framerate
-Ramp jumps
-Satisfying crashes
-Replays (see also Stunts (PC) from the same year)

Alpha Waves/Continuum (PC/Atari ST, 1990) - 3D Platformer/Maze Platformer, TP view
-First polygonal 3D Platformer? (Simulcra from the same year sort of counts)
-Bouncing physics
-Emotion-themed areas (main difference is in the music)
-2-player vs. split screen (Atari ST and Amiga only)

Wing Commander (PC, 1990) - FP Space Flight/Combat, RPG/Adventure hybrid
-Weaves what you’d expect to be menus into a P&C game environment (save slots, training arcade cabinet, score board (behind the bar) and medal screen (in your locker))
-RPG/Adventure aspects (get new ships and weapons as the game progresses, well-developed characters for the time, manually talk to NPCs between missions, talking team mates during missions, some enemies will communicate with you during battle)
-The game continues when a team mate dies during a mission and has NPCs talking about them afterwards and even plays a funeral cutscene)
-The game also continues if you fail a mission without dying (mission tree system with some storyline variations)
-Give orders to teammates during missions (stay in formation, break formation and attack, attack my target, etc.)
-Auto-pilot (A) triggers a short cutscene in which your ship moves towards the next objective (lets you skip longer distances like a fast travel feature)
-Can have the camera chase your missiles up until impact
-Skip dialogue on a per sentence basis during dialogue and mission briefings
-Good map system (click a location to have a crosshair appear on the in-game radar and main screen)
-Lock-on missiles (need to be behind the enemy though)
-Switch between targets in combat with T
-Weapon inventory (cycle with W (missiles) and G (guns))
-Basic mission rankings
-Some of your teammates are actually pretty useful (unlike in Star Fox)
-Can eject yourself from your ship (to surrender instead of dying)
-Some enemies will escape if you don’t kill them quickly enough
-Sequence breaking - if you know the mission tree well you can cheat its win/loss system and get to the good ending while skipping most of the game (by ejecting during missions)
-Ship damage can randomly take out weapons/break the ejection system/make you slow down a lot/remove parts of the interface (this last one also causes a constant noise to trigger until the mission is over which is very annoying though)

46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron (PC-98, 1990) - JRPG (prequel to EVO: Search for Eden), TD view
-Evolution mechanic (start out as a primitive fish and use points gained from defeating enemies to change your stats and eventually transform your creature into something stronger, faster, smarter or tougher; possible creatures are based on real evolutionary trees for the era you're in (there are six: ocean, reptiles, early dinosaurs, late dinosaurs, pre-modern, and spoiler: (dystopian) future) and eventually you can evolve into a human being and "beyond")
-Can evolve "off the evolutionary map" and end the game prematurely
-Outcast theme (once a strange light begins to sicken the others, they blame you - the outsider - and kick you out of the village; similar to Secret of Mana)
-Mortal servant of a deity theme (play a mortal servant of Gaia, the goddess of the Earth)

Graphically impressive games:
ResidentLeever: Final Fantasy III (NES, 1990) - JRPG
-Job system
-"Per enemy type" multi-targeting
-Numbers indicating who is striking what target in the next round
-Can unlearn spells
-Damage indicator on the actual monster sprites (similar to Zelda II)
-More equipment customization
-More interactive environment
-Temporary party members that follow the party in the overhead view and can be talked to manually
-Underwater exploration
-Pretty major overworld change at one point
-Proper row system
-Shops and stash in the airship
Zelda 2 doesn't show damage numbers; the numbers you see during gameplay are actually experience points, which isn't all that different from how Super Mario Bros. and many arcade games showed points.

For an even fancier airship, check out the one in SaGa 3, particularly once it's fully upgraded late in the game.

Also, one thing FF3 did poorly is the lack of variety in enemy stats; if an enemy is undead, all enemies in the dungeon are (with one minor exception), and the same can be said of splitting enemies. The result is that random encounters end up being rather boring.

Another negative thing about FF3, one that may have been ahead of its time; status ailments (and a few other spells, like Drain) outright do not work on bosses. The game actually checks to see if you are in a boss battle, and if you are, the spell will fail if used on the boss. FF4 continues this (though one boss, Dark Elf, doesn't count as a boss for this purpose), while FF5 gets rid of this rule.

ResidentLeever: Gargoyle's Quest: Ghosts 'n Goblins (GB, 1990) - JRPG/Action Platformer Hybrid or Platform Adventure (Zelda II-like), Horror/dark fantasy theme
-Play as a demon fighting for rulership of the demon realm
-Some interesting mechanics (stamina-based flight and wall climbing/clinging (Strider, NG), create platforms on spiked walls)
-Large and detailed boss sprites on GB
The flight mechanic is basically the same as that used in Doki Doki Panic (1987) and Super Mario USA (SMB2 in the US, 1988). (In Super Mario USA's case, it's the princess who has this sort of flight.)

Also, Dragon Quest 4 can be added to the list, as it came out in 1990; here, the most notable feature is the fancy AI that controls your companions in Chapter 5. The AI will even learn, so after Cristo (Kiryl) has repeatedly tried to kill a boss with Beat, he will eventually stop trying, for example (and I believe this knowledge persists after a party wipe). DQ4 also had the ability to switch party members during battle, provided the wagon is present.
Post edited August 27, 2020 by dtgreene
dtgreene: Stuff

Also, Dragon Quest 4 can be added to the list, as it came out in 1990; here, the most notable feature is the fancy AI that controls your companions in Chapter 5. The AI will even learn, so after Cristo (Kiryl) has repeatedly tried to kill a boss with Beat, he will eventually stop trying, for example (and I believe this knowledge persists after a party wipe). DQ4 also had the ability to switch party members during battle, provided the wagon is present.
Zelda 2 - I know, that's why I said similar. That's a fair point regarding points though those don't affect your character in as tangible a way.

What about the Saga 3 airship?

About negative points - Sure, but I'm mainly focusing on what the games did right here (or if it was creative for the time) unless it became a trend later.

Gargoyle's - You can upgrade its duration in GQ and latch on to walls as you move into them, letting you scale them. But it might've been inspired by SMB2/DDP, who knows.

That's cool, haven't played DQ4 yet.
ResidentLeever: What about the Saga 3 airship?
It starts out as a stationary object in a shrine whose sole use is to travel through time.

Later on, it becomes mobile, and there's a whole bunch of upgrades you can get for it:
* The ability to go over water, and later game, over mountains.
* A toilet that allows you to change characters back to their initial race. (You actually get this very early in the game, and yes, this game allows characters to change their race by eating meat (turning into monsters) or installing parts (turning into robots).
* A device that acts as a free inn. (You get this before the airship becomes mobile, but later than the toilet.)
* Various weapon upgrades, that allow the airship to fire at the start of any aerial battles (and also during the final battle).
* Later on, you can get crew members to board the airship, who in turn provide shops.

Many of the SaGa games definitely make the list for various reasons; SaGa 1 is perhaps the first JRPG to do the multiple worlds thing, for example. (An earlier, non-JRPG, example I could give is Ultima 2 with its time travel and other planets.) SaGa 3 is actually the most conventional game in the series, as it has levels and experience points, which no other game in the series has; even the SaGa 3 remake lacks those "standard" RPG elements!
Alright cool, thanks for the info.

Pretty sure Phantasy Star 1 also had multiple planets.
Some 1991 games:
Metal Storm (NES, 1991) - Action platformer/Puzzle platformer, Early mech action game
-Fleshed out reverse gravity mechanics with creative level design
-Very good animation and some large, detailed bosses. Parallax scrolling

Cocoron (NES, 1991) - Action Platformer/Proto-Platform Adventure
-Interesting character creation system (gain a new one after each boss; combine three parts - body/weapon/head, name each build, builds can be canceled after testing them out (in an empty room though), each part has a few different looking sprites to choose from)
-Choose which order to tackle the levels in (hub map)
-Different paths depending on where you were previously when picking a new level to play (similar to Clash at Demonhead)
-Some good enemy AI

Dragon Crystal (GG, 1990/SMS, 1991) - Early console Rogue-like (along with Fatal Labyrinth)
-New gear shows on your avatar
-Dragon familiar (follows behind the player)
-Deteriorating armor and items to prevent it temporarily (one armor type won't rust)
-Can transform equipped weapons into other weapons
-Some interesting items (item that transforms monsters into other monsters, HP exchange item, berserk item (double dmg but half hp), random teleport)
-Pay to continue mechanic (up to 3 times only, lose all unequipped items, keep levels and status)
-From Rogue?: Hunger mechanic, Dropped items are preserved on the floor, Throw items at enemies or at walls to identify them

Seirei Senshi Spriggan (PCE CD, 1991) - Vertical Shoot 'em up
-Visually impressive with some cool effects and busy action without slowdown and only minor flicker, Good cutscenes with voice acting
-Interesting weapon system (collect coloured orbs in 4 different colours that you can do a triple combo with (each new orb replaces the first one in your inventory) - 3 orbs of the same colour gives you a strong but specialized weapon)
-Two types of smart bomb (waste an orb or pick a flashing one up - the latter option is not always practical and the first one downgrades your weapon though),

ToeJam & Earl (MD, 1991) - Early console Rogue-lite/Collectathon w/ 2-Player Co-op, Platforming via temporary gear, Stealth element
-Dynamic split screen
-Various interesting mechanics and tools (decoy item, can high five each other to average out your life bars in co-op, can pay the opera singer to take out all enemies on screen, move faster on roads, random teleporter item, present randomizer item, unfall/togetherness item for going back if you fall down accidentally or joining with the other player in co-op, can avoid lightning and tornadoes while underwater, can avoid death from a total bummer by timing using a healing present right)
-Randomly generated levels and items
-Funk and hip hop culture theme
-In-game epilogue

Sonic the Hedgehog (MD, 1991) - Hop 'n Bop Platformer
-Very fast and fluid movement with great visuals for the time as well as great music for an earlier MD game that uses the chips more fully (FM, PSG, PCM)
-Ball physics in a platformer
-Loops and curved slopes, rotating bonus level
-Ring system increases accessibility (stay alive as long as you can keep catching them after getting hit unless you fell down a pit or got crushed)
-Alternate paths through levels (each levels tends to have 2 or more "floors" and staying up top is generally harder)
-Expressive character sprite with "attitude" where they were usually cute or goofy beforehand - became a trend
-Environmentalist theme

Master of Monsters (MD/PCE CD, 1991) – TBS, 4-Player vs.
-Five different factions
-Unit evolutions (pokemon-like)
-Animated battles (Fire Emblem)
-Music select (Herzog Zwei?)
-Day/night cycle that affects unit strength (Simon's Quest)
-Some interesting spells (Warp, Again (the affected unit gets one more turn), Reverse (reverses the day/night cycle))
-Good unit variation
-Shows damage calculations before attacking
-Speed options
-Impressive music for the MD

Kingdom Crusade/Legend of Prince Valiant (GB, 1991) - MP Action/RTT, Top Down View
-A sort of evolution or Archon where you capture land and castles by moving onto them with one unit at a time and fighting 1 vs 1 battles when encountering enemy units (capture all castles or defeat all enemy units to win)
-Mini-map on GB
-Some advanced gameplay options (world/map size – also affects army size, handicap - affects how much land each player starts with+units' starting HP+eventually army size if you drag the slider far enough), switch between characters on the fly)
-TD jumping with adjustable jump height and direction (w/ the wings)
-Diagonal movement and attacks
-Stat upgrade items (each unit has seven stats)
-Context sensitive melee attacks (Shinobi?)
-Some interesting spells (tome/open book - reverses enemy movement, staff/circle of life - homing attack, necklace - revive a dead unit of your choice (you also get to redeploy the unit), etc.) and power ups (scroll - see enemy HP, etc.), terrain effects and low+high obstacles (can jump over the lower ones), can regenerate HP by moving up to a friendly castle's entrance, etc.
-Block projectiles by facing the enemy and standing still

Street Fighter II (ARC, 1991/SNES, ) - Fighting, 2-Player vs.
-Set a new standard for Fighting games
-Pretty large and memorable character roster
-Combos and throws (Double Dragon had throws)
-Can make your opponent dizzy by playing well
-World traveling theme

Lemmings (PC/AMI etc., 1991/PC Win, 1995?) - Action Puzzle/RTT, Resource management element (limited jobs)
-Assign jobs/roles to units (decent assortment of roles)
-Semi-control over a tribe/flock of lemmings automatically moving forward (inspired Ico)
-Destructible environment (Scorched Earth)
-Create platforms (Solomon's Key), Dig paths (Dig Dug)
-Nuke button (blows up each lemming individually, taking part of the environment with it)
-EGA & VGA 640x350 resolution widescreen modes (Snarf (1990))
-Fast forward function (Win 95 version)

Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood (PC, 1991) - Quest Adventure, Hybrid gameplay (Light Gun-style mini-game (archery), Strategy mini-game), Hub map, Partially non-linear
-Adjustable difficulty for action sequences (set it to lowest and they are skipped)
-Pretty good attention to detail history-wise
-Unusual intro (background story told via a bard's song)
-Fairly well developed characters (displays scenes at the end of each day where you get to know the group)
-Ranking system (affected by various optional things like giving money to people or how you deal with strangers when taking their clothes, three alternate endings to find; QfG?)
-Call on your band/party using a horn (somehow this usually doesn't alert the enemy)
-Some fun ways to get killed (there are also post death scenes where the party discusses your idiocy)
-Some somewhat randomized riddles offering extra replay value

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1991/GBA) - Action Adventure, Top Down View
-Game structure gradually opens up (not to the point of the first game though) - begins with a tutorial that doesn’t feel like one, most of the gating doesn’t feel too forced
-Parallel worlds (light and dark; Silviana FDS) with a few puzzles involving traveling between them
-Teleportation and fast travel (by bird or warp points in the water, later warp tiles), can warp out of dungeons (and even boss fights), save & quit to restart at link's house or the sanctuary)
-Interesting mechanics (bomb jumping, hook shot, block switches in third dungeon, magic effects, create blocks with a magic cane)
-Large selection of equipment
-Some context sensitivity (flippers/lantern light/glove/boots are all equipped automatically)
-Various control improvements and new moves (diagonal movement, strafing with the sword, three kinds of sword attacks including the spin attack, block projectiles with the sword beam, swimming)
-Holds your hand a lot more than the previous games, Making money is pretty fast
-Guards that start attacking Link directly when alerted to his presence (game's a bit inconsistent about what they'll react to though; Metal Gear)
-Running with the boots - 005 (ARC, 1981)
-Respawn on the spot if you have a fairy in your inventory
-No traditional dodge move but you can dodge some things by ramming walls
-Some sequence breaking is possible using bombs and ramming knockback around pits

The best looking 16-bit games:
Best looking 1992 games:
I'm doing a poll series focused on graphics over at the gamefaqs classic gaming board for those who are interested, starting with 1987. I'll post the next one later tonight, not sure how long it'll go but probably to the end of the 5th console gen.