The Best Year in Gaming: The Sweet Sixteen, Southeast Conference

Welcome back to our Best Year in Gaming March Madness bracket competition! We’ve completed round 2 and are now in the middle of the Sweet Sixteen of our competition, narrowing things down to a final four years for the competition.

Yesterday we looked at some tough matchups in the Northeast conference. 2004 was a year I thought to be a lock for the finals, but it nearly fell to 1999 in some tight competition – I definitely underrated the Planescape: Torment impact. Meanwhile 1991 vs. 2009 was insanely close, but 1991 pulled out the win by the narrowest of margins.

Results: 2004 and 1991 win

Today we’re returning to the Southeast Conference for our Sweet Sixteen matchups. Our first matchup here has 1994 squaring off against 1997 in what’s the biggest powerhouse duel of the 90s we’ve seen yet.


Were you a Super Nintendo kid or a PlayStation kid? Because that’s what this is likely going to come down to. 1994 is hands-down the Apex of the 16-bit era, the middle of the console wars between Nintendo and Sega, and man, they were throwing out some real heat. This is the year of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Super Metroid, and Donkey Kong Country. Its the year of Final Fantasy VI and Earthbound. It’s the year of WarCraft, System Shock, and Doom 2. It’s the year Magic: the Gathering really exploded, showing us what the game could be with its expansions. It’s the year of Planescape, Dark Millennium, and Illuminati. 
Yet, 1997 is no slouch, either – it boasts its own Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII. Its’ the year Symphony of the Night forced people to add “vania” to the end of the genre name that Super Metroid defined three years earlier. It’s the year of Diablo, Fallout, and Grand Theft Auto. It’s the year of Mario Kart 64, Age of Empires, Gran Turismo, and Star Fox 64. 
Ultimately ’94 has a stronger claim in terms of volume and importance, but 1997 has a stellar lineup to point to and if you grew up on the PlayStation might be a year you look back on more fondly.


This was very much a ’90s bracket and it shows as we pull another mid-90s year here in our Sweet Sixteen, this time with 1996 vs. 2002. ’96 was the year Nintendo finally moved into the fifth generation of consoles with the Nintendo 64, and in doing so defined the 3D action platformer with Mario 64. Meanwhile Sony and Sega were fighting it with hits like Tekken 3, Panzer Dragon II, Resident Evil, and Crash Bandicoot. but the real video game action was happening on PCs – Duke Nukem 3D, C&C Red Alert, and Tomb Raider showed off the Windows PC as the gaming platform of the future. And on the tabletop we had some stellar card games hit in the second wave of CCGs with Netrunner, Middle Earth: The Wizards, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!, while the release of Codex: Chaos changed Warhammer 40k forever.

2002 gives us the first major year of competition for the sixth generation of consoles – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a smash hit on the PS2, and Microsoft landed some blows of its own with Splinter Cell and Jet Set Radio Future, but Nintendo were really killing it that year, releasing Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire. Meanwhile on PC WarCraft III, Neverwinter Nights, and Morrowind gave us three of the best PC games of all time.

This one is anyone’s game and I’m interested to see how things shake out. I also wonder if either of these years has a chance against the winner of ’94 vs. ’97 but we’ll check back on that one in three days.

If you’re interested in voting on the outcome, head over to our Patreon and join our Discord server to vote. Otherwise, check back tomorrow for the winner and the next matchup in the Southeast Conference.
This article is part of a larger series on the best year in gaming. For more years, click this link. Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at