Studio 89 - Games that defined the year 1989

4th July 2024

Posted in: Articles

As we celebrate the launch of Studio 89, we look back at the games that defined the year 1989; the launch of our original Studio speaker.



Conceived in the 1980s. Reimagined for today.

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Nintendo | Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Arcade and Game Boy

Whilst initially launched in the Soviet Union back in 1985, 1989 saw a more widespread release of the game onto the arcade, Nintendo’s NES and Game Boy, which it was bundled with from launch. This made it the best-selling video game of 1989.

The simple yet addictive game involves moving pieces (‘tetrominoes’) into position as they descend the screen. Lines disappear as they are filled and the game ends if the pieces reach the top. The classic Tetris game and variants continue to sell on newer consoles and mobile phones. Selling an estimated 495 million consoles, Tetris is the second best-selling franchise behind only Mario.


Super Mario Land

Nintendo | Game Boy

The first Mario game released by Nintendo for their Gameboy, Super Mario Land was released as a launch title for the handheld console. Though only featuring 12 levels, the game allowed players to replay the levels in hard mode once they had complete the game.

The side-scrolling platformer was wildly popular, selling over 18 million units worldwide and appearing in many lists as one of the console’s finest games. Reviewers praised the graphics for a portable game of the time, in addition to the music featured. The Mario franchise remains popular to this day, branching off into other styles of games including RPGs, sports games, racing games, and party games




Capcom | Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Released on the NES in 1989, DuckTales is a game based on the animated Disney TV show of the same name. Featuring the Dickens-inspired Scrooge McDuck as he travels around the world (and even the Moon), finding treasures to further increase his fortune.

Reviewers and players alike praised the non-linear gameplay, allowing players to choose the order levels are played in and revisit selected stages to retrieve additional essential items. Consequently, the game is often cited as one of the best NES titles. The iconic game was remastered in 2013 for the popular consoles of the time. This included improved graphics and music, and voice acting.


Super Monaco GP

Sega | X Board

Released by Sega, this F1-themed racing game is a successor to 1979’s Monaco GP and was initially released as an arcade game before receiving ports on video game consoles and PC's.

Originally only featuring its namesake racetrack, home media releases of the game included additional circuits based the 1989 Formula One Championship calendar. This allowed players to race against opponents over a full season. The game is a classic, considered amongst the finest and most realistic racing games of the era. The success of this game spawned a sequel, the 1992 game Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II.


Golden Axe

Sega | Acrade and Mega Drive/Genesis

The first release in the series of ‘hack-and-slash’ video games, this side-scrolling game was also originally an arcade game, before receiving ports for major consoles later in the year.

Players must choose three heroes and must take revenge on villain Death Adder who has kidnapped the king and princess of the fictional land of Yuria and stolen the titular Golden Axe. The game also offers local cooperative multiplayer, allowing the players to combine their character’s skills to defeat the enemy. The franchise has received four sequels and three spin-offs to date, with the most recent release in 2008. In 2023, developers Sega announced a new title for the classic series.


Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Konami | Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

The third main instalment of the gothic horror game series, Konami’s Dracula’s Curse is the sixth overall game in the series and a prequel to the original 1986 title. Taking place in 1476, as Trevor Belmont from the famous vampire hunter family is tasked with defeating Count Dracula and his army of monsters.

The game is celebrated by critics, with retrospective reviewers praising it as amongst the best in the series. In particular, the non-linear gameplay and four companions that offer unique abilities and alternate endings that offer replay value. The Castlevania series has released many follow-up games over the years, including most recently the spin-off Lords of Shadow series released in the early 2010s. Castlevania III has been rereleased numerous times for newer consoles, including for the Wii, 3DS, Xbox One, and PS4 amongst others.



Capcom | Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

This dystopian NES game was released by Capcom alongside the arcade of the same name, though the games differ in plot but feature the same main character.

Set in the year of 2048, the game centres on Hiryu, a young member of the elite operatives known as the ‘Striders’. He is tasked with the assassination of Grandmaster Meio, who threatens global domination. The non-linear action game allows players to explore the world, revisiting stages to discover new items to help them further in the game. The original game was rereleased in 2006 on the Game Boy Advance, with home console sequels released in 1999 and 2014. The arcade game received a sequel 1999 sequel, which was ported on the PlayStation in 2000.


Winning Run

Namco | Arcade

Another F1-inspired racing game, Winning Run is an iconic arcade machine from the late 80s. The game was considered revolutionary at the time by gamers and critics for its realistic graphics, cockpit-themed cabinet and first-person view, all creating an immersive game.

In this game, players must finish in first place whilst avoiding opponents and obstacles including pits and chambers. The popularity of the arcade game led to two Japan exclusive sequel games; Winning Run Suzuka GP, also in 1989; and Winning Run '91, released in 1991.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Konami | Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Not to be confused with the arcade game released the same year, the home console game was the first video game adaption of the famous crime-fighting turtles.

The Konami platformer lets players control the four turtles, each with unique weapons and abilities, switching between them to navigate levels and combat enemies. The turtles embark on a mission to rescue their friend April O'Neil and their master Splinter from the villainous Shredder. The game was a massive commercial success, selling over four million cartridges worldwide. The game is known for its challenging gameplay and is a nostalgic classic game for video game players. This was the first of many TMNT video games, and the most recent as of writing is 2024’s Mutants Released.



Maxis | Amiga, Macintosh, IBM PC and Commodore 64

The classic city-building simulation game was developed by Will Wright and released by his company Maxis. The first in the Sim series, which also includes the life simulation games The Sims. Playing as the city mayor, your job in this game is to design and manage a city, whilst maintaining budgets and keeping the citizens happy.

The game was immediately praised as being innovative and addictive, winning plenty of awards. It eventually sold more than 2 million units across all platforms. The SimCity franchise continued to release new versions until 2013, with a game of the same name being the last major release of this iconic series.


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