The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a console very close to my heart, being that it was the very first console I ever had access to as a child. I whiled away the hours playing true classics like Super Mario World and Zelda: A Link to the Past… But like so many other gamers of my generation, I also spent a great deal of time on games that ranged in quality from poor to mediocre.
And, to my shame, some of those sub-par experiences are so couched in nostalgia that I truly love the games I shared them with – unironically and without reservation! And I will share them with you today, knowing full well that the weft and wane of public opinion has not been kind to any of these titles over the years. And I do so because I hope that reading about them will kindle those same warm, nostalgic memories in others… But mostly I’m doing it because my inner child is screaming at me to do it, and he pretty much calls the shots. So, enjoy!
#5: The Adventures of Mighty Max
Let’s put the least defensible first, shall we? This game is such a footnote in the SNES library that you’re unlikely to find much information on it other than its underwhelming review scores. So why would I even mention it? Well, it actually relates deeply to my childhood psychology and how I played games as a kid; in short, I bounced off of games very quickly if they didn’t immediately interest me.
The exception to this rule was if the game in question was related to something else I liked… And as a kid, I just happened to be a Mighty Max fan. So, despite my usual inability to judge quality at that time in my life, I ended up playing the Adventures of Mighty Max so much that I was forced to confront the cold, hard truth – some games just aren’t very good. Even my prepubescent brain couldn’t ignore the dull environments, the samey gameplay, the mind-boggling decision to make you have to toss every enemy off-screen after incapacitating it… And thus, a game critic was born!
So thank you, The Adventures of Mighty Max for SNES. Thank you for showing me what a bad game was, so that I could better avoid them throughout my gaming life.
#4: Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey
Of all the 90’s platformers starring Mickey Mouse, this is one of them.
Aficionados of the genre would probably point you to Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, and they would be right in doing so – especially for a young Disney fan as I was. In addition to more vibrant art design and better graphics, Magical Quest allowed its players to make use of unlimited continues if its content proved too challenging by default.
Not so with Mickey Mania, I’m afraid! Though I was capable of beating Super Mario World at an early age, I continually failed to master Mickey Mania until the cartridge was lost to the mists of time… But I still remember the early levels of the game fondly after playing them so often, and even after so many defeats I never tired of bringing color to Steamboat Willie’s black-and-white world one interactable object at a time.
#3: Ultima: Runes of Virtue II
The Ultima series is well-regarded as an RPG series, having spawned many quality PC titles and ports thereof… However, when it came time for the series to migrate to Nintendo consoles, it manifested as two action-adventure titles for the Gameboy; Ultima: Runes of Virtue I and II. The latter was ported to the Super Nintendo, and I am happy to report that this is the very version that I played!
I’m happy to report this because even though I found it endlessly confusing and frustrating as a kid, it was the closest thing to an early open-world RPG that I had ever experienced. Unlike games like Link to the Past, Runes of Virtue offered a choice of playable characters and gameplay options that captured my imagination and bestowed upon me a thirst for sweeping, immersive RPGs that persists to this day. It may lack the quality and proper RPG mechanics of the mainline Ultima games, but for me it was a vital entry point to the wider world of RPGs, and for that I will always be grateful to Runes of Virtue II.
#2: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
Of all the games listed here, this one is probably the most widely reviled. Square intended Mystic Quest to drum up interest in the genre by serving as a beginner’s RPG… However, even by my own admission the gameplay is pretty terrible, limiting your party to a maximum of two members at a time and using action-adventure elements to distract from its shallow mechanics.
But the reason this game stuck with me after all these years? The reason I recently bought it again after losing my childhood collection so many years ago? It’s all about the music and sound effects, man. The overworld music is perfectly triumphant and bombastic, the town music is smooth and inviting, and the satisfying “shwing!” of your character’s sword occasionally echoes in my subconscious to this day. As an RPG it’s frightfully unstimulating, but every now and again I’ll play through the first couple areas anyway just for a hit of those sweet MIDI melodies.
#1: Disney’s Aladdin
I’m so tired of Genesis fans telling me that their version of Aladdin is better. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong – I’ve played this game through so many time that I’m incapable of judging anymore. I ritualistically fire this one up every few years just to play it through in one sitting because, when played well, it maintains a feeling of precision and velocity that keeps me coming back again and again… And all the while it perfectly transmits the charm of the animated film in sequences like the genie levels, maintaining a tight and satisfying level of challenge throughout.
There are unquestionably better platformers on the Super Nintendo, but in this gamer’s case I’m as likely to spend a night of enjoyment with Disney’s Aladdin as I am Super Mario World to this very day… And honestly, despite my best efforts here today I couldn’t fully encapsulate why. At the end of the day that’s what this list is all about; the ineffable quality of nostalgia mingled with personal preference, and how its clouding of our judgement may just be a small price to pay for the satisfaction of reconnecting with an old favorite.