The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Super Metroid. EarthBound.
Those are just a handful of the classic games that people got to play on their Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems back in the day. SNES was Nintendo’s 16-bit powerhouse home console that debuted back in 1991. Intended to cut short Sega’s Genesis console from stealing away any more of Nintendo’s market share, SNES was a fantastic piece of hardware that boasted gorgeous graphics and sound, as well as one of the most robust, memorable, and influential software libraries ever assembled. For me, though, Super Nintendo was simply the machine I used to play Maximum Carnage.
My experience with SNES was different than some people’s. I didn’t play any of the three titles I listed above until I was in college. For me, Super Nintendo was the second home console that I ever played; Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was my first exposure to the House of Mario, but I was a small kid and my memories of it are hazy, at best. Super Nintendo, however, is much more vivid in my mind. However, as I indicated a few sentences back, I wasn’t plugging through the Lost Woods or fighting Ridley when I played SNES; I was too busy brawling with street thugs in The Tick!
I spent the bulk of my time with SNES in its prime playing a lot of licensed superhero and cartoon games. I made time for Yoshi’s Island and the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, but overall my tastes were vastly different as a kid than they are now. That said, I think playing such an oddball array of games gave me a glimpse at some real hidden gems that I might never have caught wind of, otherwise! So in honor of Super Nintendo’s 25th anniversary, let’s go through some of (what I think are) the best hidden gems, under appreciated titles, and just plain weird games in the system’s lineup.
2D platformers were a dime a dozen on Super Nintendo, so it took quite a bit of effort for one to stand out amongst the crowd. Disney’s Aladdin did exactly that, mixing tight controls and gorgeous graphics with a wonderful soundtrack and scenes and scenarios plucked straight from the movie. Aladdin could slide down ropes, bop enemies on the head, and hurl apples at foes as he made his way through the game’s numerous stages. Perhaps most memorable of all, though, were the game’s riveting carpet ride stages!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
Konami’s original trio of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games on NES was already something to be proud of, but the developer went and took things to the next level with its fourth installment on Super Nintendo. Turtles in Time boasted gameplay superior to its arcade counterpart, offering both single and two-player co-op throughout the game’s colorful levels. It’s arguable that Turtles in Time loses some of its steam once the quartet head into the past, but the fighting mechanics were top-notch, the music was sublime, and the animation really shined on SNES. Plus, who could forget the Mode-7-hurling of Foot Soldiers into the TV screen?! Priceless.
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
Acclaim’s adaptation of Marvel Comics’ controversial Spider-Man crossover over the same name, Maximum Carnage was cut from the same cloth as games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, but added enough of the web slinger’s flair to stand out on its own. The game utilized a convincing comic book aesthetic, with heavy black shadows, word balloons, and captioned sound effects that made every moment look like it was ripped from the page. Developer Software Creations hammered home the point with the inclusion of comic book pages from the actual story interspersed throughout the game. As a brawler, Maximum Carnage mixed things up with Spider-Man and Venom’s unique abilities, as well as a whole host of Marvel heroes to call in instantaneously to help bring down bad guys. As a bonus, the title came in a bright red cartridge!
Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions
Licensed games are still a staple of the video game industry, but unlike evergreen series like Super Mario Bros. and Call of Duty, they generally reflect the properties that are popular at that given time. For those who grew up during the SNES era, Warner Bros. cartoons were still a fixture, in one form or another, of Saturday morning programming and various merchandise. The Marvin Missions is a great example of the wacky adaptations of these characters and cartoons that managed to make their way to Super Nintendo. It’s a simple platformer, with Daffy making his way through each level blasting enemies with a variety of weapons. Daffy is being highlighted here, but let’s give a shout out to Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Taz-Mania, Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally, Looney Toons: Buster Busts Loose, and other memorable Warner Bros. games that hit Super Nintendo!
Another superhero brawler, this time one based off of the movie of the same name, Batman Returns was another Konami licensed affair that did justice to the source material. Batman’s pace was a bit plodding, but the power of his blows and the large, detailed characters on the screen made combat a joy. Batman Returns also closely clung to the look and feel of Tim Burton’s film, making it as authentic as it was fun. I personally enjoyed taking enemies and smashing them into the background wherever I could, destroying pillars, windows, and more as I cleaned up the streets of Gotham from villains… though clearly not debris!
Before the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, people got their taste of virtual warfare with games like Jungle Strike. Gameplay takes place from an isometric perspective and casts players as the pilots of combat helicopters. Missions are objective-based, with a certain number of bad guys or things to blast into pieces. The gameplay is a little on the slow side, but the methodical pacing and controls lends a sense of realism to the campaign. I always got a thrill out of the intricate (though admittedly sometimes sterile) environments and felt like I was legitimately soaring over the jungle, as well as other places, playing these games. Urban Strike and Desert Strike both deserve some love, as well!
These are just some of my own favorites on Super Nintendo; tell us yours in the comments!