That isn't to say the SNES version is unplayable, but anyone that has tried both would be lying if they said the Nintendo version was superior to the Genesis one. I didn't really play either, at least not when they came out. I was an NHL Stanley Cup kid (sad trombone). I got into the series around NHL '96, but I've had many opportunities to go back and play NHL '94, on the Genesis and my beloved SNES. And while my nostalgia heart lays with the '96 and '97 iterations of EA's NHL video game, it's pretty damned obvious why NHL '94 still shows up on lists of the greatest sports games ever made over twenty-five years after it was released. It's that damned good.
The NHL video games have evolved (?) into a very deep, simulation style franchise over the years. Much like EA's other flagship sports titles (Madden and FIFA), their yearly hockey game contains everything a die-hard hockey fan/armchair GM could ever want. You can manage a franchise for decades, stock your farm systems with can't miss prospects, and manage your salary cap season after season. NHL '94 doesn't have any of that stuff. It doesn't even have a season mode. But what it lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in unmatched, incredible, addictive, FUN gameplay.
If you own a current NHL game and try to play against someone that's never played before, it won't be fun. It'll take them a few games just to figure out how to shoot the puck properly. NHL '94 is like a jacked up version of Ice Hockey on the NES; anybody can pick up a controller and have the controls locked down in minutes. The physics engine is great, it really feels like your skating on ice. And this game introduces the one timer. It might seem laughable now, but this was a HUGE deal back then!!!
Two and a half decades after it's release, NHL '94 is still one of the most beloved sports video games of all-time. Tournaments still get held regularly, and it has a loyal fanbase. So much so, that on it's 20th anniversary, EA added an "NHL '94" mode to NHL '14. It constantly shows up on "greatest games in history" lists, and Jeremy Roenick has said on numerous occasions that he's more well known for his NHL '94 counterpart than he is for anything else he accomplished in his career. This game is the Wayne Gretzky of hockey video games. (Which is ironic, considering there are a bunch of Wayne Gretzky branded hockey games throughout history, and they all suck).
My buddy Brad makes his podcast debut this week. We're both gamers and huge sports nerds, and we had a hell of a time talking NHL '94. Enjoy!