What a decade the 90s was! It was full of great transcontinental TV, music that was both broody and cheesy and some of the coolest toys and gadgets the world had ever seen (here’s looking at you, Tamagotchi).
Despite the fear that the millennium bug would destroy every piece of electronics that existed, we did make it past 31st December 1999. And even though we have long since said goodbye to dial-up internet and pagers (thank god!), there are a few things about the 90s that have stuck around.
1. Mature Cartoons
Technically, funny cartoons for adults have been around since the days of Betty Boop. But it was the 90s that popularised adult animation on mainstream TV. The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead, South Park and King of the Hill were all part of late-night comedy television in this decade.
These programmes prove that animation isn’t just for children and are still part of the television scene around today. What’s more is that these cartoons have paved the way for modern animation and whilst they may have faced a little bit of snobbery in the 90s, today, people realise they are both entertaining and intelligent.
2. Video Games
During the 1990s, video gaming was really having its day. Mario was jumping down chimneys everywhere and Sonic was burning through shoes like no-one’s business. Of course, video games are still popular today, but it is online gaming that has had more of a lasting impact on today’s life. Online multiplayer games exploded in the late 90s as the internet became more widely available.
90s video games were marked by groundbreaking developments in technology, storytelling, and gameplay. Here are five video games from the 1990s that are frequently recognized for their enduring influence and popularity:
- Super Mario 64 (1996) – A revolutionary game for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 was one of the first to offer a fully realized 3D world. It set the standard for 3D platforming games and is often hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) – Also for the Nintendo 64, this game is remembered for its groundbreaking mechanics, including a lock-on combat system and context-sensitive controls. It’s frequently lauded for its narrative depth, open-world design, and immersive gameplay.
- Final Fantasy VII (1997) – This PlayStation title brought the RPG genre into the mainstream in the West. Known for its epic storytelling, complex characters, and cinematic graphics, Final Fantasy VII has a legacy that spans numerous sequels and a recent remake.
- Doom (1993) – Released for MS-DOS, Doom wasn’t the first first-person shooter, but it was the game that popularized the genre. Its fast-paced gameplay, multiplayer feature, and mod-friendly design had a lasting impact on gaming.
- Pokémon Red and Blue (1996, English release 1998) – These Game Boy games started a multimedia franchise that is still incredibly popular today. Pokémon Red and Blue introduced the concept of collecting, training, and battling monsters, creating a formula that has been replicated by many games since.
3. Music: The Timeless Soundtracks of a Generation
The ’90s were a golden era for music, spanning genres from grunge and hip-hop to pop and R&B. Bands like Nirvana and artists such as Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and Britney Spears became icons whose music still resonates with fans old and new. The decade’s sound continues to influence contemporary artists, and ’90s playlists are a staple on streaming services, evidencing the era’s enduring appeal. A range of genres from grunge and hip-hop to pop and R&B were popular. Here are some songs that were widely recognized and celebrated throughout the decade:
- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (1991) – Often hailed as an anthem for Generation X, this grunge track was a pivotal song in the early ’90s, signifying the mainstream breakthrough of alternative rock.
- “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears (1998) – Marking a defining moment in late ’90s pop, this song catapulted Britney Spears to stardom and became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
- “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992) – Featured in “The Bodyguard,” this power ballad showcased Houston’s extraordinary vocal talent and became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
- “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer (1990) – Blending rap with a sample from Rick James’ “Super Freak,” this song was everywhere in the early ’90s, known for its catchy hook and iconic dance moves.
- “Wonderwall” by Oasis (1995) – A defining song of the Britpop era, “Wonderwall” became an anthem for a generation and remains one of Oasis’s most beloved and enduring songs.
- “Vogue” by Madonna (1990) – Madonna’s stylish and danceable hit not only dominated the charts but also brought the underground “voguing” dance to mainstream attention.
- “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio featuring L.V. (1995) – Featured in the film “Dangerous Minds,” this song was a major hit, blending rap with a chorus based on Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise.”
- “No Scrubs” by TLC (1999) – A late ’90s anthem, this song by the girl group TLC became known for its catchy melody and its empowerment message.
- “Enter Sandman” by Metallica (1991) – This track was a significant hit for Metallica, bringing their heavy metal sound to a wider audience and becoming one of their most recognizable songs.
- “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (1997) – As the theme for the film “Titanic,” this song became an international hit, showcasing Dion’s vocal prowess and becoming synonymous with the film’s romantic narrative.
4. Fashion: The Return of ’90s Trends
Fashion is cyclical, and the ’90s have made a remarkable comeback in recent years. High-waisted jeans, crop tops, chokers, and flannel shirts, once the staples of ’90s wardrobes, have reclaimed their place in the fashion world. Iconic brands from the era like Tommy Hilfiger and Champion have also experienced a resurgence, appealing to both those who lived through the decade and younger generations.
Grunge fashion, emerging as an integral part of the grunge music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s, primarily in Seattle, is characterized by its laid-back, disheveled, and unpolished style. This fashion movement was a stark contrast to the more flamboyant and meticulously styled trends of the 1980s. Here are some key elements that define grunge fashion:
- Comfort and Practicality: Grunge fashion focused on comfort and practicality. The clothing was often loose-fitting and gave an impression of being effortlessly thrown together.
- Thrift-Store Aesthetic: A significant aspect of grunge fashion was its thrift-store vibe. Clothes often looked second-hand, worn, or vintage, and mixing and matching different styles and layers was common.
- Flannel Shirts: The flannel shirt became synonymous with grunge fashion. Typically worn unbuttoned over t-shirts or tied around the waist, these shirts were a staple of the grunge look.
- Ripped Jeans: Distressed and ripped denim jeans were another key element. This style was in direct opposition to the neat, designer jeans of the 1980s.
- Layering: Layering was a significant aspect of grunge fashion, often involving a combination of several items like a t-shirt, flannel shirt, and a thermal undershirt or a heavy, knitted sweater.
Footwear and Accessories
- Combat Boots and Sneakers: Footwear in grunge fashion typically included combat boots, such as Dr. Martens, or old sneakers, like Converse or Vans. This choice of footwear complemented the overall casual and rugged look of the grunge style.
- Minimal Accessories: Unlike the flashy accessories of the 1980s, grunge fashion favored minimalism in this area. Simple jewelry, if any, and understated pieces like beanies or slouchy hats were more common.
Hair and Makeup
- Unkempt Hairstyles: Hair was often kept long, messy, and unstyled, reflecting the laid-back attitude of the grunge ethos.
- Natural or Minimal Makeup: The grunge aesthetic typically involved minimal makeup, emphasizing a more natural look, which was a departure from the heavy makeup trends of the previous decade.
Grunge fashion represented a significant shift in fashion trends, emphasizing comfort, authenticity, and a nonchalant approach to personal style. It was a reflection of the music and cultural attitudes of the time, and its impact is still seen in various forms in contemporary fashion.
5. Technology: The Digital Dawn
The ’90s witnessed the dawn of the digital age. While technology has advanced significantly since then, many foundational elements from the ’90s remain. Video game consoles like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 paved the way for modern gaming culture. The World Wide Web, although in its infancy back then, laid the groundwork for the internet as we know it today.
The ’90s were not just about the advent of the internet; they were also about the birth of online communities and culture. Early chat rooms, forums, and the inception of iconic websites like eBay and Amazon fostered the first waves of digital social interaction and e-commerce. These platforms were the precursors to social media and online shopping as we know them today, revolutionizing how people connect, share information, and conduct business. The ethos and practices of these nascent online communities continue to influence internet culture, underscoring the ’90s as a critical era in shaping the digital world.
6. Television and Movies: The Unforgettable Screen Gems
Television shows and movies from the ’90s have a timeless quality that continues to captivate audiences. Series like “Friends,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” still garner high viewership on streaming platforms. Similarly, films such as “Titanic,” “Jurassic Park,” and “The Matrix” remain popular, often serving as cultural references and benchmarks for cinematic excellence.
7. Pop Culture and Toys: A Lasting Legacy
Tamagotchis, Pokémon cards, and Beanie Babies were more than just toys; they were phenomena that defined childhood for many ’90s kids. These items have become collectors’ treasures, and the Pokémon franchise, in particular, continues to thrive through video games, movies, and merchandise.
8. Sports and Athletes: Legends Never Die
The ’90s were a golden age for sports, with athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams rising to prominence. Their legacy extends beyond their respective sports, influencing fashion, culture, and even social issues. Michael Jordan’s Air Jordans, for instance, remain as popular as ever.
9. Literature: The Books That Captivated a Generation
The ’90s produced literary gems that continue to be read and celebrated. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, which began in the late ’90s, sparked a global phenomenon that lives on through movies, theme parks, and a fervent fan base. Other works like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Fight Club” also originated in this decade and continue to resonate with readers.
Conclusion: The ’90s – A Decade That Lives On
So whilst the 90s may not have made the best choices with some things, it definitely paved the way for bigger things in other areas. And it certainly had a lot to show for when it comes to things like cartoons, games and tech. The 1990s may have concluded over two decades ago, but its cultural, technological, and fashion trends have proven to be more than just passing fads. They’ve left a lasting legacy, shaping various aspects of modern life. The ’90s, with its unique charm and character, continues to be a source of nostalgia and inspiration, reminding us that some things truly are timeless. After all, these are the things from the 90s that we still enjoy today.