Nintendo Nostalgic: NHL ’94 Is Still As Addictive As Ever
It’s almost Stanley Cup playoff time! With another season of the NHL nearing its end, we are weeks away from knockout hockey. That means great matches, great goals, and hopefully, some great fights for a change. Chances are if you follow a team, they’re also still in the hunt for a spot in the brackets, too. Unless that team happens to be the Senators or the Kings, in which case the salty tears of a horribly blown season might still be flowing.
If you’re a gamer, it’s also time to dust off that Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, and once again boot up the still-reigning king of hockey games: EA Sports’ NHL ‘94. It’s a hockey game so good that it left out the brawls and still delivered a classic simulation of the sport. Here are a few reasons why it still holds up so well.
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Modern technology may have ushered in an era of digitally perfect player renders, but there’s just something about those old-school pixels.
With NHL ‘94, this means an unforgettable (if quirky) look to its play. The rink still looks great, and the skater sprites still stand out. But the real visual character of the game is in its smaller touches, things like the skater animations, the referee throwing down the puck at face-off, and the cartoonishly large size of the puck itself. There’s even a Zamboni that rolls by during period breaks, too!
NHL '94’s graphics may not be the best of the 16-bit age, but they still retain a lot of charm.
The NHL titles of today certainly deliver on realism, but thanks to some fiddly controls, they can be frustrating to play. In 1994, condensing the flow of hockey into a 16-bit gaming experience was even trickier.
But NHL ‘94 just nails it. With simple controls -- a button to body-check, a button to shoot, etc. -- the game keeps things uncomplicated. But crucially, every single action feels great. Players move around like they’re actually on the ice. Body-checking an opponent feels brutal every time you surge into them. And hitting a one-timer perfectly is so satisfying, especially if you score.
Sure, there’s no fighting, but it’s still fast, fluid, wild hockey; perfect for two-player bragging rights. It’s so fun, in fact, that there’s even a thriving community that continues to run online leagues for the game. Talk about a dedicated fanbase.
What NHL ‘94 lacks in the visual department, it more than makes up for with its audio. Slapshots, crowd cheers, and grunts from players getting taken out all sound like they were plucked straight from the arena.
But the real feature is the organ music, of which there is a dizzying amount. Team-specific tunes like "Chicago’s Here Come The Hawks" and classics like the Beatles’ "Today Is Your Birthday" are all here in their 16-bit stereo glory. And how about that goal siren? It sounds particularly amazing in the SNES version.
All in all, NHL ‘94 is ice hockey at its most pure and fun. No 3D immersion or stick stills necessary. It continues to hoist the Cup as the best sports simulation of its kind.