A Look Back At The Heisei Era’s Console And Game Releases (Part 1)



The Heisei era encapsulated a tumultuous time in Japan, both in real life and in the world of entertainment. In real life, Japan experienced a golden economic bubble that burst and led to a downturn that lasted nearly the rest of the era, a terrorist incident, two major earthquakes in 1995 and 2011, and more. In the world of video games, the Heisei era saw the shift from 2D games into 3D, and more specifically in Japan, the shift from home consoles to handhelds, and finally to mobile gaming.


So here’s Part 1 of an un-comprehensive list of the some of the major Japanese console and game releases that helped define a generation of people. It’s funny to see just how many characters and games came from this one period of change.


Note: Part 1 will cover the first 10 years of Heisei, lasting from 1989 to 1998. The dates listed are by Japanese release date.


Heisei 1 (1989)

Major Console Debut: Game Boy

Debut: April 21, 1989

game boy

Perhaps it’s only fitting that the Heisei era, which saw a shift towards portable gaming in Japan, started with the Game Boy’s launch. The Game Boy launched in Japan in April, with Alleyway, Super Mario Land, Baseball, and Yakuman as the launch titles. Later on June 14, Tetris would launch on the system, and other games to join the lineup in 1989 included Castlevania: The Adventure from Konami and the first-ever SaGa series game, Makai Toushi Sa Ga (released as The Final Fantasy Legend overseas).


Other notable releases:

July 27 – Mother (FC)

November 7 – Madou Monogatari Episode II Carbuncle, the first Madou Monogatari game (MSX2)


Heisei 2 (1990)

Major Console Debuts: Super Famicom & Game Gear

Game Gear Debut: October 6, 1990

game gear

Sega’s answer to the Game Boy, the Game Gear would launch a year later with Columns, Super Monaco GP, and Pengo as its launch titles in Japan. The system had color and a backlit screen, but suffered from how energy-consuming it was as a result. Other titles in Heisei 2 included Wonder Boy and G-Loc Air Battle.


Super Famicom Debut: November 21, 1990

super famicom

The long-awaited successor to the then-7-years-old Famicom. The system had two launch titles – Super Mario World, and F-Zero. Home to many classic titles, just in Heisei 2 alone it got ActRaiser, Pilotwings, Gradius III, Final Fight, and SD The Great Battle in Japan.


Other notable releases:

February 11 – Dragon Quest IV (FC)

April 21 – Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (FC)

April 27 – Final Fantasy III (FC)

July 20 – Metal Gear II: Solid Snake (MSX2)

July 27 – Doctor Mario (FC/GB)


Heisei 3 (1991)

Notable releases:


March – Street Fighter II (Arcades)

April 20 – Super Robot Wars (GB)

April 26 – Langrisser (MD)

June 28 – Seiken Densetsu/ Final Fantasy Adventure (GB)

July 1 – NEOGEO home system releases

July 19 – Final Fantasy IV (SFC)

July 26 – Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive)

November 21 – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SFC)

December 20 – Fatal Fury (Arcades)


Heisei 4 (1992)

Notable releases:

kirby jp

January 28 – Romancing SaGa (SFC)

March 7 – Otogirisou (SFC)

March 20 – Shining Force (MD)

April 27 – Kirby’s Dreamland (GB)

July 14 – Mario Paint (SFC)

August – Virtua Racing (Arcades)

August 27 – Super Mario Kart (SFC)

November 30 – Shin Megami Tensei (SFC)


Heisei 5 (1993)

Notable releases:

mystery dungeon

February 21 – Star Fox (SFC)

March 12 – Ogre Battle (SFC)

March 23 – Kirby’s Adventure (FC)

April 3 – Breath of Fire (SFC)

June 6 – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (GB)

July 12 – Prism, Co., now Nippon Ichi Software, established

August 8 – Secret of Mana (SFC)

September 9 – Torneko no Daibouken: Fushigi no Dungeon (SFC), the first Mystery Dungeon game

October 1 – Gust established

October 29 – Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PCE)

November – Ridge Racer (Arcades)

December – Virtua Fighter (Arcades)

December 17 – Mega Man X (SFC)


Heisei 6 (1994)

Major Console Debuts: Sega Saturn & PlayStation

Sega Saturn Debut: November 22, 1994


The then-latest Sega console, which became the home of many arcade ports, and later original titles. Sega Saturn launched with Virtua Fighter, Wan Chai Connection, Myst, Tama and Mahjong Goku Tenjiku.


PlayStation Debut: December 3, 1994


The third faction that came into existence after Nintendo and Sony’s deal fell through. Featuring a CD-ROM drive and the capabilities for increasingly-popular 3D graphics, PlayStation launched with Ridge Racer, Take the A-Train 4 Evolution, Crime Crackers and more.


Other notable releases:

January 21 – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (GB)

February 18 – The Legend of Xanadu (PCE)

March 19 – Super Metroid (SFC)

April 2 – Final Fantasy VI (SFC)

May 21 – Tokimeki Memorial (PCE)

August 25 – The King of Fighters ‘94 (Arcades)

August 27 – Mother 2 / Earthbound (SFC)

September 2 – Live A Live (SFC)

September 23 – Angelique (SFC)

November 25 – Banshee’s Last Cry (SFC)

November 26 – Super Donkey Kong (SFC)

December 16 – King’s Field (PS) was FromSoftware’s first game which established their reputation for punishingly hard games

December 23 – Umihara Kawase (SFC)


Heisei 7 (1995)

Notable releases:



February 24 – Front Mission (SFC)

March 10 – Panzer Dragoon (SS)

March 11 – Chrono Trigger (SFC) was voted the top game of the Heisei era by Famitsu readers.

June 30 – Arc the Lad (PS)

June 30 – Ace Combat (PS)

July 21 – Virtual Boy released

October 6 – Tactics Ogre (SFC)

December 9 – Dragon Quest VI (SFC)

December 15 – Tales of Phantasia (SFC)

December 15 – Genso Suikoden (PS)


Heisei 8 (1996)

Notable Console Debut: Nintendo 64


The next console by Nintendo after the Super Famicom, which had the wind in its sails taken by the PlayStation which released earlier with better hardware in some aspects. Its major contribution to gaming is the first analog stick on a controller. N64 launched with Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, and Saikyou Habu Shogi in its lineup.


Other notable releases:


February 27 – Pokémon Red/Green (GB)

March 21 – Kirby Super Star (SFC)

March 22 – Biohazard / Resident Evil (PS)

April 1 – Soul Edge (Arcades) was the first game in the eventual Soulcalibur series

May 14 – Fire Emblem: Geneology of the Holy War (SFC)

July 12 – Popolocrois Monogatari

July 21 – Game Boy Pocket release

July 26 – SD Gundam Generation

August 6 – Harvest Moon (SFC)

September 20 – Revelations: Persona (PS)

September 27 – Sakura Wars (SS)

November 26 – Dead or Alive (Arcades)

December 26 – YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. (PC-98)


Heisei 9 (1997)

Notable releases:


January 31 – Final Fantasy VII (PS) singlehandedly turns the PlayStation into a force to reckon with.

February 28 – Dynasty Warriors (PS)

March 20 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS)

April 27 – Star Fox 64 (N64)

July 10 – Armored Core (PS)

October 30 – Culdcept (SS)

November 13 – Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (SS)

December 10 – beatmania (Arcades)

December 11 – Klonoa: Door to phantomile (PS)

December 23 – Gran Turismo (PS)


Heisei 10 (1998)

Major Console Debut: Sega Dreamcast


Sega’s final home console before going full third-party. The console had basic internet connectivity, and featured graphics leaps and bounds above the Saturn. Dreamcast in Japan launched with Godzilla Generations, Virtua Fighter 3tb, Pen Pen Tricelon, and July. Within the same year, Sega would release their showcase of 3D graphics and gameplay with Sonic Adventure.


Other notable releases:

February 11 – Xenogears (PS)

May 14 – Guilty Gear (PS)

July 23 – Kagero: Deception II (PS)

August 1 – Pokémon Stadium (N64)

September 3 – Metal Gear Solid (PS)

September 25 – Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry’s Wonderland (GB)

October 28 – NEOGEO Pocket releases

November 21 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

December 18 – Mario Party (N64)

Alistair Wong
Very avid gamer with writing tendencies. Fan of Rockman and Pokémon and lots more!