Posted on April 4, 2017
“Game developers are unoriginal and only reuse concepts utilized in successful titles because they can’t come up with ideas of their own.” At least, that is how it seems, but the reality is much deeper than that. What we actually see happen is developers taking a long-known idea presented in a game, and revising it to keep the game play from becoming stale. Occasionally, developers take more drastic measures though. Such is the case with the Wii, which came after the explosive success of the Mario Kart Franchise.
When Super Mario Kart was released it was instantly a success with nearly 9 million sales worldwide and the title of 3rd best-selling game for the SNES. It tapped into formerly unexplored territory by focusing on the multi-player experience for a game, and as a result, it fathered the party game genre. That being said, there were multi-player games before this, but none of them had the impact that Super Mario Kart had. After Nintendo noticed how well their game performed they attempted to emulate this with other titles. Most of the games that followed soon after failed, with the exception of Mario Kart 64, and it took time for Nintendo to find out what made the Mario Kart series as successful as it was.
In order to understand what made Mario Kart successful, we first have to understand what made Nintendo successful in the first place. The success wasn’t from the graphics, as the SNES was a 16-bit console in a time when the industry standard was 32-bit. The success didn’t come from the stories crafted, as Nintendo stories tended to be rather cookie cutter. It took time for Nintendo to realize this, but what made SMK and all of their other titles wildly successful was that at the core, the games were purely fun.
I remember hearing a story once about a meeting between executives at Atari or Sega in the days of the NES. The story goes that an executive was questioning the success of Nintendo. He asked, “How could it sell as well as it was? Even if it had outdated graphics?” Another executive responded, “Yeah, but have you played it? It’s fun!”
Nintendo finally realized that the real magic of the Mario Kart games was in their beautiful blend of fun gameplay and good-natured competitiveness when they released another two video game series that would soon become juggernauts in the industry: Super Smash Bros and Mario Party. Once this simple formula had been figured out it was just a matter of doing this relatively new genre of game justice. The release of Mario Party 2 and 3 showed that that there was a definite interest in group oriented games, but Super Smash Bros. Melee went above and beyond and ended up being the highest selling game on the Gamecube.
At this point, Nintendo was nearly at its peak. It seemed that they couldn’t release a dud, and soon their success would be taken to another level. Nintendo had an idea for a home console that would be unlike any that had been released until this point. They chose to mold their new console on the lessons they had learned, and the result was a console that nearly exclusively focused on multi-player mechanics, along with a new play style in the form of a controller with motion controls as a core concept. The Console was the Wii, and it went on the be one of Nintendo’s best selling consoles, as well as one of the best selling consoles of all time. The Wii ended up selling 101 million units before the end of production and even though technically it was behind the consoles of that generation, it still ended up receiving mostly positive reviews.
Local multiplayer games ruled the market for a time and though they have since faded away, their imprint on the culture remains evident. We still see party games all over the place, but it in this modern era they are usually indie titles made by smaller developers. One place you can see party games flourish is on Steam. Games like Dead By Daylight, Gang Beasts, and Speedrunners may seem vastly different at first glance, but they all take heavy influence from early party games. Strange as it may seem, Super Mario Kart is largely responsible for the success of party games, and ultimately, the Wii.
Posted on April 2, 2017
Role-playing Games. On the surface, they’re similar: Grab up your sword, barge into your neighbor’s house and grab anything not nailed down. Kill the surprisingly common wildlife along the way. Queue your attacks, pick your skills, and wait patiently for the ATB gauge to refill before striking the definitive blow and hearing that oh-so-familiar fanfare begin to trumpet. Save the world with the power of friendship, world maps, spells, and (more often than not) a handy guide book.
The games on this list represent an (unfairly) skewed representation of Super Nintendo RPGs. Though this article covers a minute spread of RPGs, it’s important to note this is only a small fragment of the total RPG collection and in no way is intended to be a greatest hits. It’s also important to note the distinction between Western-styled RPGs and Japanese-styled RPGs. Though each share certain aspects (namely, stats, point of view, etc.) this article covers primarily Japanese-styled RPGs, and those unique enough to stand out from the herd.
Psychic kids. An alien hellbent on possessing or destroying all life on earth. A descent into madness via suburbia. Hippies.
Earthbound has a lot of great things going for it: on the surface a fairly standard modern RPG, when it was released it was a one-of-a-kind experience. Never before had the expanse of America been considered fertile ground for an RPG. Gone were Goblins and Griffins. In their place were soccer moms and evil taxis. No longer were airships and boats de rigeur: now you rode on Tessie and fought the occasional UFO. Often imitated, both for its unique and trippy battle system as much as its quirky sense of modernity, Earthbound is considered a cult classic and beloved by many a fan.
Try it or Buy it: Do you like RPGs set in the modern day? Are you interested in the cult phenomenon that inspired such modern day bestsellers as Undertale and LISA? Do you dig a non-standard, genre-breaking experience in your classic JRPGs? Then definitely buy.
A classic in every sense of the word, Chrono Trigger’s timey-wimey storyline sets it through nearly every age of a world on a far-away planet in an effort to dislodge the eldritch alien life form that will eventually consume your whole world. Your cast of protags: A mute, katana-wielding ginger. A plucky female scientist. (How’s that for progressive? Chrono Trigger came out in 1995!!!) A princess with a mean bowgun. A cavewoman as strong as an ox. A robot with anxiety. A bipedal frog with more culture than you. If you play your cards right, you might even find a mysterious stranger in a purple cloak joining your team…
With artwork by Akira Toriyama of Dragonball renown, and gameplay and story done by the fabulous Square dev team of Final Fantasy fame, it’s easy to understand how this game became so popular. Boasting multiple endings and a New Game Plus feature, Chrono Trigger is truly in a league of its own.
Try it or Buy it: Do you like cinematic battles? Do you like combo attacks? Do you like a massive linear storyline that spans time and space? Buy it, man. You gotta. Or else the world may one day be devoured…
An Enix RPG, 7th Saga follows the player as he chooses one of seven different characters and embarks on an adventure throughout the realm of Ticondera to find seven runes.
Look, I have to be honest about this game. It’s not pretty. The character graphics on the map and the map itself is basic at best; the storyline is practically nonexistent in the beginning, and to say the game is difficult is an understatement (depending on character choice.) A cryptic NPC in the first town tells you to defend before you attack, every time. Battles are fast-paced and frequent.
But the amount of characters you can play as, coupled with their unique stats, the random nature of the story, and its nonlinearity ensures this game remains fresh. And when you enter into a battle, the monsters and characters are not only animated, but animated gorgeously.
The music is catchy and blood-pumping. And as you go, you can randomly pick up some of the other characters you chose not to be to help you on your journey.
Try it, or Buy it: If you’re a fan of grueling, old-school dungeon dives with challenging, fully-animated battles and a story where your allies change every time you play, buy it.
Illusion of Gaia:
A little non-standard RPG here, but Illusion of Gaia is one of the Blazer series, a similarly themed trilogy of games beginning with Soulblazer and ending with the European-only release of Terranigma. Illusion of Gaia stars Will, a charming young man who spends most of his day dodging class at the beach. When he and his friends go away on an adventure, he discovers that the world he lives in is one which has gone through a cycle of destruction and rebirth; by visiting famous landmarks on his world (that echo those of Earth’s history) and destroying the evil within, he is awakening the old world once again.
Illusion of Gaia is haunting. It’s an action RPG where you have a storyline cast, but in the end you’re really just controlling Will, either as Will himself, his alter-ego Freedan the Knight, or the enigmatic Shadow. Themes of poverty, despair, slavery, and more are explored.
Try it, or Buy it: Have you ever wanted to trek to the Seven Wonders of Earth? Get lost at sea? Whack enemies in the face with a flute? Transform into a more dashing, powerful version of yourself? If so, Buy it.
Posted on April 2, 2017
Growing up in the 90’s, I was absolutely enthralled with video games. It might seem like a long time ago, but in that lovely decade, home consoles were not the only source of gaming entertainment. While in 2017 they’re mostly extinct and dying, few decades ago they were some of the most popular locations to hang with friends. I’m of course referring to arcades. Arcades played a huge part in home console releases, as providing accurate ports of arcade classics often drew gamers to home consoles. Arcades had many popular genres, but there were two genres that I consider more popular than the rest. Both the fighting and beat ’em up machines were often surrounded by eager kids, waiting to drop their quarters in and kick some butt. Although fighting games provided a unique competitive aspect, beat ’em ups offered challenge and cooperation. This made them perfect for home consoles, where you didn’t have to worry about losing quarter after quarter due to constant game overs.
Enter the Super Nintendo. While the NES had featured a handful of beat ’em ups, it was the Super Nintendo that truly embraced the genre. Besides classic arcade ports, we got fresh new titles exclusive to the system. There’s quite a few beat ’em ups for the Super Nintendo, and not all of them are created equal. Strap in and take notes, because these are (in my opinion) the top five best beat ’em up games for the Super Nintendo.
5: Final Fight
For our first entry, we take a trip to the arcades thanks to this excellent port. Final Fight isn’t just a singular game, but rather the first in a series. There’s quite a few Final Fight titles for the SNES, but the first one remains the best. Developed by the legendary Capcom, Final Fight followed the story of Mayor Mike Haggar as he attempts to rescue his kidnapped daughter. There were some changes made to the game in its transfer from arcade to home console. Most notably, one of the playable characters named “Guy” was removed. He was later reintroduced in a separate version of the game, but fans were disappointed to see another character removed in his place. The Sega CD has a more accurate port of the arcade classic, but if you had an SNES, there was a good chance you have some nostalgia for this classic.
4: Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
Before comic book characters dominated big budget Hollywood, they were heavily featured in beat ’em ups. In fact, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage is only one of a few Spider-Man centric beat ’em ups. Besides releasing on the SNES, Maximum Carnage also arrived on Sega Genesis. The versions are slightly comparable, but seemed to fare better on the Nintendo platform. Maximum Carnage marked the first time that a game truly followed a comic book plot, rather than just featuring comic book characters. The game also did a great job featuring a plethora of characters, both good and bad. We got to see a bit of Iron Fist, Captain America, and some lesser known heroes. The entire game gears up towards an epic confrontation with the main villain Carnage and his group of evil doers. Whether you were a fan of comic books or just beating some dudes up, Maximum Carnage provided a great experience.
3: Batman Returns
Marvel Comics weren’t the only company getting game adaptations in the 90’s, as Batman saw his fair share of features as well. The Dark Knight found himself in this brilliant take on the 1992 Tim Burton film of the same name. Interesting enough, Batman Returns is a pretty different game on the various systems of which it saw release. The Sega Genesis version in particular is quite different, and the Super Nintendo version still remains the most fun (to me, at least). This version of the game sees Batman squaring off against Catwoman and the Penguin in a classic side scrolling action adventure. Batman Returns provided hard hitting action that made players truly feel the power of Batman. Although it’s a bit short, the game was an excellent way to experience the movie in a new light.
2: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Power Rangers was a huge franchise in the 90’s, and one that still continues to this day. The original season (the Mighty Morphin’ story line) was arguably the best and most memorable, and it really kick started the Power Rangers craze in North America. The Super Nintendo saw two Power Rangers releases; one based on the show (that’s the one on this list), and one based on the film.
I enjoy both of them, although many will say that the movie tie-in was less than satisfactory. However, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers holds a special place in my heart. I can clearly remember sitting cross-legged on my friend’s basement floor, clutching the SNES controller and joyfully beating the snot out of many of the show’s notable villains. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is similar to Maximum Carnage in that way, constantly featuring memorable villains and plot points from the original source material. I won’t lie, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers isn’t exactly the most exciting game even when compared to games ranked lower on this list. However, due to my immense love for the source material, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers nearly tops my list.
1: TMNT IV: Turtles in Time
If you played a Super Nintendo when you were a kid, you probably played this game. When I started thinking about my picks for this list, there was no doubt which game would come out on top. Beyond personal opinion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is widely regarded as one of the best beat ’em ups of all time… period.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise saw quite a few beat ’em ups, both in the arcades and on home consoles. I also have pretty fond memories of playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project, which released on the NES. Much like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Turtles in Time represents much more than an excellent action game. It also reminds me of the many hours spent playing it with my friends. Regardless of the occasion, Turtles in Time was often a go-to game to play with friends. Beyond the excellent visuals and excellent recreations of key TMNT villains, the gameplay was both challenging and rewarding.
Many developers have tried to reboot this classic on a variety of systems, but often to little success. Even after these reboots and remakes came out, I found myself returning to the SNES classic time and time again. Turtles in Time entertained me for numerous hours across my entire life. From childhood to college, I have so many fond memories of kicking shell with friends. Any game that create lasting memories and help friends bond deserves a high spot on my list. It doesn’t hurt that Turtles in Time is one of the best games ever made, either.
What’s your favorite beat ’em up game? Leave a comment!
Posted on April 1, 2017
This post is the first of a series that takes a look at games that didn’t get the attention they deserved.
Do you recall the last fighting game you played? More than likely it was one of two major franchises, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. Both of these franchises have lasted throughout each generation of consoles and their trials and tribulations. Other games haven’t been so lucky. One such game was Weaponlord, which was originally released for the SNES in 1995, but later released for the Sega Genesis. Though Weaponlord received generally positive reviews and created mechanics that are still used in fighting games today, it was quickly forgotten. For this reason I will dust off this gem and see just why it got shelved.
At its core, the game was a 2D fighting game, but compared to the titles being released then, Weaponlord was far ahead of its time. While most clones of fighting games lacked the intricacies of character controls that the originals had, Weaponlord was the exact opposite. The combat featured complexities that had yet to be seen before, such as “thrust blocking,” which almost certainly inspired Street Fighter III’s parry system. The many changes to combat made exploiting unfair tactics in fights much more difficult, so no more pinning someone in a corner where they would be unable to attack. The changes also forced people to be able to react to potential blocks and counter attacks, rather than just attempting to chain long combos. The combat has a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it the game transforms to an engaging duel between two skilled combatants. The developers took a major risk by incorporating so many new mechanics and concepts, and valuing innovation over an established formula, but in the end it worked out well.
For the most part, the game was aesthetically pleasing. Its theme seemed pulled directly from the world of Conan The Barbarian. The direction taken with the art style gave the game a unique world that distinctly belonged to Weaponlord, rather than pulling from the success of other games and copying their formula for world and character design, which yet again highlights the developers need for innovation. On the other hand, the sound design wasn’t memorable, and the narrator couldn’t hold a candle to Mortal Kombat’s sinister voice over.
The main area that Weaponlord struggled in was its dreadful performance. Even for the SNES the animations were choppy. They were bad enough that they drove away many potential players, and make the game less visually captivating as it otherwise could have been. It is my belief that poor animation quality is where the game fails to appeal to the masses. The idea of a sequel, or a remake, have been thrown around, and I can honestly say that as a fan of fighting games, the idea alone makes me excited. If the game were to be remade using entirely modern technology, it could easily be one of my favorite games of all time. Though a little over two decades has passed since the release of the game, it still hosts an incredibly complex fighting system that is unique to this day.
Though this game was undoubtedly innovative and groundbreaking, it struggles in one of the key departments that games need to succeed. This isn’t to say that the game is bad, because it certainly is not. In fact, I would recommend that anyone who has an SNES or Genesis play the game immediately. It offers a unique experience that has yet to be replicated in the 20-some years the game has been on the market. Like many of the games in my Super Nintendo Time Capsule series, Weaponlord is a phenomenal game with a single fatal flaw that acted as the nail in the coffin.
Did you play Weaponlord? What character was your favorite? Comment below.
Posted on March 31, 2017
1991, the year the Super Famicom made its way to America under the name of Super Nintendo Entertainment System or SNES, as it’s often called. Many gamers would consider this the first golden era of gaming. The battle between the SNES and the Sega Genesis was intense, as they both went all out with their popular IP’s. But of course, the overall winner was the SNES. It’s been 26 years since its release and even nowadays we still talk about it, but just what made this console, what it is? Well we are here to talk about that.
The Super Nintendo was at its time one heck of a machine. Six years had passed since the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and it had grown outdated. It had very old graphics and sound compared to the newer and “cooler” Sega Genesis that was released in 1989, but this wouldn’t last long as Nintendo had a strong comeback when they launched the SNES. The powerful graphics, big games and advanced audio were a blaze that created a revolution in home gaming consoles.
By the time Nintendo launched the SNES, the Sega Genesis already had the market won, and with over 100 games available, gamers throughout the country loved Sega. However, the Super Nintendo introduced something interesting and appealing. Nintendo had narrative adventures – stories with true emotional depth and charm. The system’s rich color palette, powerful 16-bit graphics and ability to simulate 3D graphics gave game producers liberty and an energy boost so to say. The possibilities of the console made them eager to create games for it: new adventures, RPG’s, action and Co-op games. Games that were born in the NES era saw new light with the SNES, such as Earthbound and The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past.
The dedicated graphics chip ran all the images on screen, allowing the CPU to focus on raw data, such as processing sprites, and the relation object-space in a game.
The SNES sound chip was superior technically, as it had better availability on sound channels and could keep better sample quality. Whereas the Genesis had a synth-like music system, making it more suited for techno and drum/bass music. The SNES audio chip was meant for orchestration like-sound.
The SNES was not a console made to recreate the feeling of an arcade machine – it was made to create a new and original experience of gaming at home. It was the start of a new age in gaming history. It was the first gaming console for many, and sold more than 30 million units. And earned even more millions of hearts of the gamers around the world along the way.
Posted on March 29, 2017
Ah, the good-old platformer. There are ledges to scale, jumps to be made, and heads to be bounced on. It can be argued the typical platformer started to diverge from its Mario-esque roots in Nintendo’s sophomore outing, the Super Nintendo. Gone were the copious coins and relentless empty bricks to smash. Rather than continue in the same mold as their previous gen iterations, some platformers became a little more weird and wacky, a little more dangerous and debonair. Not only were there jumps to be made, but these jumps were decidedly non-lethal to your enemies; furthermore, jumping into your foe was, more likely than not, fatal to you.
Jumping as an attack was replaced with fists, blades, or other melee weapons. Power ups were replaced with magic systems. Gone were the sometimes smooth walls of yesteryear. In their place: ways to climb, ways to stick, ways to move in more than your standard left or right. Sonic booms that flew across the screen, magic meters, spells, and more turned the typical platformer into its more evolved format: the sidescroller.
However, despite their prevalence, only a few truly stand out for their level of difficulty. Gone was a long timed cakewalk with an occasional bounce: now there was only pain. The following games were dedicated to squashing every last bit of patience from the player. Cheap deaths, pitfalls from nowhere, and annoying enemies await the player who dares to play these games in the face.
#5: Earthworm Jim
You have to hand it to Shiny. It takes a certain level of diabolical genius to craft your mascot character as a nightcrawler in a spacesuit. On paper, none of Earthworm Jim’s disparate elements should work together: your Earthworm main character is a space traveller, in an intergalactic playground where even hell is just another planet. He fights enemies with his limited capacity gun, or alternately, whips the enemy with his own body. The first level has you launch cows from catapults while you dig through a massive junkyard, fighting off crows, rabid dogs, and a pervasive sense of weirdness. It goes even further than that: later levels include a recurring space race minigame against your arch enemy, and one level even has Jim descend to hell. The tortured screams of the damned play alongside orchestral muzak as the boss, Evil the Cat, dances in the background.
The difficulty? Though Jim has a health meter, it depletes quickly. Bosses are often obtuse, and though patterned, they do not play nice. Enemies are best killed as quickly as possible. The mad dogs in the first level take off a good third of your health per chew alone.
The outcome: Worth a play, if only to say you’ve experienced the depths of madness.
Skyblazer is an underappreciated cult classic. Though certainly challenging (hidden enemies galore, a first boss that immediately kills you as part of the storyline) it’s also interesting inasmuch as it’s ahead of its time.
Raglan, the introduction screen states, God of Chaos and Destruction, has arisen. He requests that Ashura the Demon Lord ravage the land. Sky, the titular character, is a sort of clingy magic ninja—and the son of a great magician, the Skylord. A powerful magical descendent, Diana, has been kidnapped by Ashura, and Sky’s tasked with getting her back.
Skyblazer feels like a game developed for a different platform, like a gen one Playstation game. Sky can punch, kick, backflip, and send bolts of energy out at his foes… all in the first level. When approaching a wall he sticks to it like Spiderman. Levels are made to take advantage of these skills, and they’re expansive. The first real playable level has the player jump in and out of trees. The only trouble is the moving, monstrous, oh-so hungry flowers within. The ease with which Sky darts through the level hides an equivocal level of danger to the player. One cannot hope to bounce and fly from tree limb to tree limb. Enemy placement is determined to make you utilize every ounce of strategy you have at your disposal.
The outcome: Well worth the play for a game well ahead of its time.
Kyle Blackthorne, alien prince, has been living on earth for twenty long years after an invasion of Orcs kills his father and enslaves his tribe. Delving into Earth’s military forces in the twenty year gap, he adopts a kickass machine gun and a Rambo cut. One night, after breaking out of prison, right before hijacking a car in the middle of the desert, he’s teleported back to his homeworld for the vengeance he’s long sought.
Blackthorne is very much a sidescroller: Kyle jumps, hides in the shadows, picks up powerups, and uses his unlimited machinegun to pick off Orcs one by one. At least Interplay chose to include a tutorial: despite its thoroughness (and a nebulous message towards the end that asks you to ‘experiment with the controller to see what else you can do’) the controls are still mind-numbingly precise in origins. To get an idea of the exacting nature of the controls, consider: You can crouch, roll, jump up on ledges, and jump-run… talk to allies, hide in the corner, duck, and there’s even an option to fire behind you. But there’s no move cancel, or frame animation cancel. Each time you make a motion Kyle will complete the motion in its entirety.
The controls are just not fluid. The mechanics work, of course, but someone looking for the relative quickness of a sidescroller like Skyblazer may want to skip it.
The outcome: If you’re looking for a well-oiled, miss-a-single-button and you die sort of game, Blackthorne’s gritty, Conan-meets-Phantasy Star-meets-Rambo dungeon delver will be sure to please.
#2: Battletoads in Battlemaniacs
So I know what you’re thinking. Technically, isn’t Battletoads a beat ‘em up? Well, yes. But there’s also enough other things tossed into the mix this incarnation that it’s impossible to classify it as anything other than a sidescroller. The ‘Toads use their polymorphic kung-fu to literally BOOT enemies off the screen, ramhorn them into the abyss, or drop anvils on their head as finishing blows.
After the deceptively standard first level, Battletoads literally flips the script. Level 2 is a hoverdisc ride vertically down through a tree trunk filled with angry robotic hornets and flying rats with pointy hats. Level 3 is another of the Battletoads classics: the hoverbike race. Any brave soul who faces it and lives to play another day is met with an insane platforming level composed of holding onto giant snakes that function as platforms and avoiding spikes. Another level involves yet another insane race, this time running from a rat wielding a chainsaw with an arguably better motorcycle engine than your own.
The outcome: Any attempts to beat this game will involve many hours of hair pulling, controller throwing, and possible crying. At least the music is good!
#1: Super Ghouls and Ghosts
This is the only game in the world to give you a double jump and then punish you heavily for even daring to use it. Super Ghouls and Ghosts is the sequel to the NES platformer Ghosts ‘n Goblins. You play as Arthur, whose wife was kidnapped by the ultimate evil, Sardius. Embarking with an unlimited amount of throwing lances and some very flimsy chainmail, Arthur must face a horde of ravenous undead and monsters thirsty for his very blood.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is hard. That’s an understatement. Most levels have the player up against tricky jumps, insane amounts of enemies, and a completely random powerup system that has a chance to kill you. One touch from a caustic ghoul causes Arthur’s armor to simply explode off of him, after which he runs around in his skivvies. There are ways to get another set, and even an upgrade, but doing so is different for each level… and each armor drop point also has the nifty little ability to possibly kill you, depending on timing.
To cap it all: Even when you think you’ve beat it, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts tricks you again, making you start again from scratch in order to face the final boss.
The outcome: Just save yourself the trouble on level one and double jump into that first zombie’s open, waiting arms. Walk with me through this piece of fanfiction fridge horror: The corpses that continuously churn from the ground all look the same because they are all previous players who have died and died again. Arthur is Sisyphus, pushing that eternal boulder in his own personal hell.
Are any of these games in your collection? Any games you think should be added to the list? Leave a comment below.
Posted on March 21, 2017
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is widely considered one of the greatest consoles ever made. The “Golden Era” of Nintendo produced some of the most influential games of all time, and many of them still hold up as great games, more than 20 years later.
These are 10 of the best games you can find from what is arguably Nintendo’s greatest era of game development. As with any top 10 list, this is subjective, and your favorite game may not appear on it. Maybe it would show up on a Top 11 list, but that’s not what this is.
Some basic ground rules on the list are that we’re only taking one game per franchise, and we’re only including games that got a Western release – so sorry, Tales of Phantasia, we’ll talk about you some other time.
We’ll start the list with the only game in this list that never truly got a franchise.
Chrono Trigger was an absolute dream project. In fact, it’s code name was actually “the Dream Project,” based on it undergoing development with some of the titans of the anime and game industries at the time. The game was developed by a team-up of Hironobu Sakaguchi and Yuji Horii, the creators of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest – the two most popular RPG series in the world at the time. Meanwhile, art and character design were handled by Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball Z.
Frequently lauded as one of the greatest RPGs of its era, Chrono Trigger took the unique visions of its genius creators to create a completely unique experience. Using an active-time battle system, Chrono Trigger did away with the “random battle” conventions of most RPGs of the era for a map where you can see most of your enemies before you engage them.
Chrono Trigger boasts a fluid battle system with dynamic movement and unique team-up attacks, and some of the most beloved characters and best music of the era. If you’ve ever carried a torch for an RPG of any kind, you owe it to yourself to give Chrono Trigger a good, long look.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
It’s a tough call deciding whether to include this game or the original Super Mario World on this list. Both are great, influential games, and they’re distinctly different in their mechanics. Super Mario World is one of the most solid platformers you’ll ever play, and Yoshi’s Island is distinctly different.
But Yoshi’s Island takes everything about Super Mario World and throws a coat of creativity over the top. The platforming is still top-notch, and the boss battles are incredibly clever. But the whole environment feels alive and artistic compared to Super Mario World’s more static feel.
Again, both games are great, and are highly recommended. The gameplay between the two games is so different, they may as well be different franchises, yet both are absolutely masterpieces. But the creativity and graphical fidelity of Yoshi’s Island puts it over the top, even though Crying Baby Mario remains one of the most hated escort missions imaginable.
Super Metroid is basically the reason we have the term “Metroidvania” to describe map-exploration games that are heavy on movement-based powerups and backtracking.
Super Metroid is, in addition to being perhaps the very best action-based game on the SNES, the progenitor for an entire genre. Sure, you could argue that the original Metroid for NES was the true origin, but Super Metroid took everything that was great about the original and turned it up to 11.
Better graphics, smoother movement, a more atmospheric feel, and memorable boss fights are the highlights of this game, which is a favorite in the speedrunning community. If you’re looking for a dangerous, creepy sci-fi world to explore at your own pace, Super Metroid is the best you’re going to get.
Mega Man X
Mega Man got 6 games in the NES era, with 2 and 3 sitting in hearts as the best of the crop. But when the franchise made the jump to 16 bits, we got Mega Man 7 first… which was disappointing in a lot of ways. But shortly after, we got Mega Man X – a reboot of the series with a similar, yet totally new protagonist.
Mega Man X is still a Mega Man game in its feel, with the core mechanics of shooting and platforming fully in place. But an upgrade to visual design, and wildly new movement mechanics like dashing and wall-jumping, give it a totally new feel.
The level design in Mega Man X is revolutionary, and really demands full mastery of the new mechanics the game introduces. Even the story, while a bit tired by today’s standards, has more meat to it than most Mega Man games up to that point in time. Mega Man X is stage-based, not exploration-based like Super Metroid. But both stand tall as the best side-scrolling, shooting-based action games on the console.
Final Fantasy 6 (Final Fantasy 3 in the US)
This is the entry that always generates debate. We’re only choosing one Final Fantasy, and some will argue that Final Fantasy 4/2 (U.S.) deserves this spot. Both are great, but there are a few things that put FF6 over the top.
People will debate the merits of active time battle systems vs. turn-based systems forever, but Final Fantasy 6’s battle system does have a lot more intrigue to it than most. Between using fighting-game inputs for Sabin’s Blitz moves to a fluid, flexible system for summoning and magic, Final Fantasy 6 really broke the mold before FF7 broke the series into the mainstream on the Playstation.
But let’s get real here, the star of the show when it comes to FF6 is the story. A great cast of characters, the Final Fantasy series’ best villain, the opera scene, the mid-game plot twist, there is just so much to love about Final Fantasy 6. Loving Final Fantasy 6 today does require a willingness to go back to some classic RPG systems that might feel old and clunky today, but the journey is well worth it.
Donkey Kong Country
With an honorable mention for its sequels, Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, the original Donkey Kong Country is a stylish, unique platformer that is very possibly the best-looking game on the SNES. And it has co-op play, too!
But Donkey Kong Country is more than just a pretty face. It brings smooth, fluid gameplay with two playable characters that feel different, yet are similar enough to both get through each stage. Solid platforming action, clever puzzles, and actual water levels that everyone doesn’t hate with great music are the most memorable elements of this revolutionary title.
Donkey Kong Country is responsible for bringing Donkey Kong into the forefront as a mainline Nintendo character, and was the true arrival of Rare as a premium Nintendo developer for the next decade.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Anyone who doesn’t include this on a list of the best SNES games of all time is either lying or has never owned a SNES.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the quintessential Zelda game, even two decades after its release. It is effectively an upgrade over the original Legend of Zelda, which was the first home console game to sell over 1 million copies. It maintains the same top-down perspective, but adds a fully-developed story, more dungeons, smoother action, and a greatly expanded inventory.
More importantly, A Link to the Past set the stage for most of the series’ long-standing lore. The Master Sword, Hookshot, Ocarina, and the use of magic spells all originate with a Link to the Past, and they all continue through the franchise for years to follow. A Link to the Past is the origin of many of the conventions we now know to be Zelda staples.
Kirby Super Star
Kirby Super Star is an odd game, and you could argue that Kirby’s Dreamland 3 is more deserving of this slot on account of it have a single, continuous campaign. By contrast, Kirby Super Star is like a collection of minigames and tiny little self-contained adventures.
All the games have the same basic mechanics – Kirby eats enemies and copies their abilities. But there are slight differences between the campaigns – one is a simple stage-based adventure, but there is also one that is based on treasure hunting and exploration. Later still, a stage allows you to collect and keep powers and call them up as desired throughout the game.
It feels like a compilation of greatest hits, only it isn’t. It’s just the best way to experience a Kirby game. Even today, if you wanted to introduce someone to the Kirby franchise, Super Star would be a good place to start.
Star Fox looks like almost nothing else on the SNES, and for good reason. The Super FX Chip allows the game to process vector-based graphics, making this one of the only games on the SNES able to truly simulate a 3D feeling.
Ultimately, Star Fox is a scrolling shooter with branching paths, giving it phenomenal replay value and a strong “high score” mentality. While the action may seem repetitive on the surface, there is a lot of depth to the game and secrets to uncover. This is one of those games that requires competence to finish, but rewards you for absolute mastery.
If you want a taste of one of the most unique shoot-em-ups of the early 1990s, this is your game. The music to the first stage is still iconic, and while the game does show its age in some places, it plays like a dream.
Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG was a silly idea that probably shouldn’t have worked. Getting RPG masters Squaresoft to cram Mario into an RPG could have turned out to be very silly. And actually, it is very silly. But it works, and it makes Super Mario RPG one of the most charming, and capable RPGs on the console.
Like Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG’s is based on engaging enemies you see, not random invisible enemies on the world map. But it also manages to incorporate uniquely Mario-like elements like platforming and power-ups. The game’s battle system is turn-based, but is dynamic by requiring timed inputs to deal or prevent additional damage during battle.
It isn’t the longest or most involved RPGs you’ll ever play, but it’s easily one of the most fun, and can be enjoyed even by people who aren’t huge RPG fans. It truly feels like a masterful culmination of the close partnership between Squaresoft and Nintendo in the early 1990s.