Well, would you look at that? It’s August 23, 2011– meaning it’s been twenty years since the Super Nintendo Entertainment System graced North American shores with its overwhelming presence. We here at Nintendojo don’t need to tell you what that means– judging from your responses to our poll, you like yourselves some SNES– so let’s just hunker down and talk about our feelings instead. For the SNES, of course.
From 3 Ninjas Kick Back to Zoop, a great many games debuted on Super Nintendo. We’re talking about a console that even made licensed games look good– a console that, by some accounts, was supposed to just lay down and die in the face of the oh-so-cooler Sega Genesis, which famously did what Nintendon’t. You have to admit that was a bloody console war, with fanboys on both sides ranting about their Marios and Sonics. But in the end, it all came down to the games– and SNES had a lot of them. Here are our favorites. What are yours?
Marc N. Kleinhenz
ActRaiser, no questions asked. I was all of twelve years old when that game hit, and it made such an impression on me. The side-scrolling levels were, I thought, decent enough, but the top-down, Sim City-esque sequences were where it was at. (Funnily enough, when I first got my Wii, I gobbled ActRaiser up as soon as it was available on the Virtual Console, played the hell out of it, and still walked away with the same damn impressions. Too bad, though, that I could no longer beat the final boss…)
There weren’t any religious connotations. Really.
More than a sterling example of (cutting-edge) old-school gameplay, solid music, and difficult-but-rewarding mechanics, the game has taken on a new light in the modern era: a period when Enix/Square could develop compelling, original content that would influence gamers around the world for generations to come. Although a substantial amount has changed in the 20 years since SNES’ release, this is the area where it really hits home the most for me. Someone play taps and give me my hanky.
And if you put a Super Scope to my head and made me choose another title, it would have to be Contra III: The Alien Wars. Those graphics — particularly the Mode 7 sequences — literally blew my little mind.
I guess that explains that…
I was quite young when the SNES came out in the UK– four years old to be precise. I was only just beginning to tinker about with my family’s NES at that time, roaming aimlessly about Zelda II: Link’s Adventure, blasting frantically through Mega Man III and failing miserably at Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll. I can’t quite remember when I leveled up to the SNES, but one of my lasting memories of the console was playing Aladdin.
Back when licensed Disney games were still good, this was one of the best platformers ever, and the first level in the market place was a particular favourite– swinging about on the posts and doing headstands off the guards made me feel like an acrobatic ninja, effortlessly gliding toward my goal with style and grace. I loved it so much that I played it all over again on my Game Boy.
I also have a very soft spot for Donkey Kong Country. Looking back on it now, this title was probably where I really cut my teeth as a gamer, both in terms of testing my dexterity and nurturing my penchant for hidden secrets. It was also one of the first games I had seen through right to the end without getting stuck or giving up when the going got tough, and I remember being so proud of myself when I finally toppled King K. Rool and rescued that giant pile of bananas. (Although quite why DK needed so many bananas or even why King K. Rool wanted those bananas in the first place was beyond me at the time.)
So, Nintendo’s one console to rule them all is turning twenty? We Europeans had, (in my opinion) the much more aesthetically pleasing Japanese-style SNES, which gained four colours and lost the purple buttoned box effect of its North American counterpart. However, no matter what colour and shape your SNES came in one feature defined the console: its games. Glorious games of unrivaled quality for the time. Picking one title in particular seems unfair, maybe needless, as the sheer volume of great games SNES offered was all encompassing and gave us exactly what we needed, in the genres we wanted.
Europeans and Japanese got colors. Americans got purple and grey.
It would be easy to say nostalgic feelings and childhood days gone by influence the memories we hold of Nintendo’s 16-bit masterpiece, but the truth is SNES was actually that good. Great games, great sound and ever-evolving graphic capabilities meant that, even well into the 32-bit generations, the humble Super Nintendo could still throw up a few surprises– Street Fighter Alpha 2 being a prime example of such feats. I have often thought to myself that it must be great growing up nowadays, playing such high-quality experiences as Uncharted, Halo or Gran Turismo-type racing spectacles. But the truth is, I would not have had it any other way. SNES is the reason I got into video games the way I did, the reason I am writing for Nintendojo right now. It was a privilege to grow up around such exciting titles, and to have been around when one of the greatest consoles in history was at its peak is something I would never change.
For me the SNES represents the pinnacle of a few different series. My favorite Zelda game of all time appeared on the console (A Link to the Past), as did the phenomenal Final Fantasy II (er… Final Fantasy IV) and the most perfect RPG ever: Chrono Trigger.
But you know what? I still haven’t even mentioned my favorite SNES game. That game would be Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. The reason I’ll always have fond memories of that game in particular is that it was my introduction to my favorite genre, the role-playing game.
There are plenty of other fantastic games on SNES, and I’m sure my fellow writers will highlight those titles. But if I were deserted on a desert island and only allowed to bring a single game, it would definitely be Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
Though my earliest memories of gaming date back to the NES (which my dad brought home in 1993 when I was four), the SNES definitely has a special place in my heart. Though I didn’t own huge amounts of titles for it (because I was nine and had no income), I rented game after game, some great (Donkey Kong Country 3), one unspeakably bad (Mario Is Missing!), and some insanely weird (Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures). Yes, I enjoyed consoles very late in their lifespans, but if I could do it over, I wouldn’t change a thing; I’m forever grateful that I didn’t miss out on SNES, one of the best gaming experiences of all time.
The very first game I owned for SNES was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, a title that left a very deep impression on me when I was at summer daycare (age 8). Every second of that game was enjoyable, and I’ve played it over and over again, exploring every nook and cranny looking for secrets and goodies. That wonderful game fueled my love for every Mario RPG since (both the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series).
The second game I owned for SNES was the iconic Super Mario All-Stars. I still remember the day my mom purchased it for me; the choice I was given was between AAAHH!!! Real Monsters for SNES, a watch, or Super Mario All-Stars. I shudder to think what would have happened had I decided differently. So many afternoons were lost to Super Mario Bros, The Lost Levels/2 Japan, Super Mario Bros 2/USA, and, of course, Super Mario Bros 3.
Because really, how often does this boxart see the light of day?
However, neither of those games are my absolute favorites. Believe me, they were definitely contenders, but my all-time favorite game on SNES (and possibly my favorite game ever) is Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. One day I decided to rent it, liked it a lot, but got stuck on a level (World 2-6: The Cave of the Mystery Maze). Eventually, I had to part with the game because the rental was due. But a few months later, I was at a certain store that didn’t really have a video game section at the time, but there was one stand with a bunch of used SNES games– and one of them was Yoshi’s Island. After perusing the entire selection, I settled on bringing Yoshi home, this time for good. After checking everything, I found the well-hidden secret in that cave, fell in love with the game, and saw it through to the end.
At first I was content just to finish every level, but later I had a strong desire to search everywhere and get absolutely everything in every level (red coins, flowers and stars) necessary for 100% completion. This proved to be the most special experience I have ever had with a game– ever. Yoshi’s Island is filled to the brim with innovation, imagination and insanely charming and fulfilling level design. Even though Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World are imprinted onto my mind by nostalgia (and the fact that they’re legendary games), I’m compelled to give first place to Yoshi. Since then, countless dozens of hours later, I achieved 100% on every level in the game– including the GBA secret levels. Wow– what a platformer!
I feel I need to conclude with this message found in the original SNES game: “We, the Mario team poured our hearts and souls into creating this game for your entertainment. It is full of secrets. Enjoy!”
Back when I first got my SNES, I was all about the side scrolling platformers. Now that I thing about it, I don’t think it was because I thought platformers where the coolest thing ever, it all boiled down to the simple fact that Super Mario World and Super Ghouls n Ghosts where the first two games my brother and I owned for it. Sure, we picked up hockey games every once in a while, but for the most part I was all about Mario, Donkey Kong Country, and even Cool Spot, the single greatest advertisement/video game ever made.
However, when I hear somebody mention SNES, my mind immediately jumps to JRPGs, which is king of funny because I didn’t really explore that part of the SNES library until well after N64 was released. Pokémon really gave me the itch for the genre, but most Game Boy RPGs didn’t meet my expectations and N64 had pretty much nothing to offer, so I booted up my old SNES and went hunting for the numerous gems it had to offer. Now Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games of all time, Earthbound has left me craving like a hopeless junkie, and Final Fantasy VI turned me into that snobbish jerk who sighs whenever somebody tries to talk about how amazing Final Fantasy VII is.
Oh, and then there was A Link to the Past, which needs no description.
I’m going to say something shocking. I never owned a SNES before earlier this year. So when I started thinking about what my favourite title could be it wasn’t the fun filled trip down memory lane it was for many other people, but a (semi-)serious exercise in history of gaming.
The SNES had some great renditions of some of my favourite franchises-– Castlevania: Dracula X, Breath of Fire II and Star Fox. But the game I think has had the most profound effect on gaming today was Harvest Moon. Released in 1997 the SNES edition was the first in the long running series and began a terrifying trend in gaming that continues to this day. It was an effective and addictive game, with simple mechanics that produced complex and enjoyable results.
Without Harvest Moon we wouldn’t have the laid back and colourful relaxation that is Animal Crossing and Zynga would never have produced a game to clog our Facebook newsfeed. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.
I still remember getting my Super Nintendo Entertainment System on Christmas Day. I mean, how could I not? Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island couldn’t have made my too-young self happier– it was a step up from Super Mario World, a game that had previously taken my world by storm at a friend’s house, just because Yoshi was there permanently. (I liked dinosaurs.) Its art style was absolutely magnificent, and further, it made those long school days that much more bearable as I finally had something to talk about with the rest of my video game-obsessed friends. Yoshi’s Island was the game that managed to help me fight off the accusations of my PlayStation- and Genesis-toting friends that SNES could no more present good graphics than a dog could perform magic; it was my best defense against the dreadful attacks on my sanity that homework provided. And to this day, it remains one of the best games I’ve played.
Yoshi’s Island also introduced Andrew to PETA.
There are others, of course. The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie, second in the heralded line of Disney’s Magical Quest games, is probably the SNES game I’ve played the most, and with the most varied people. Unlike Yoshi’s Island, The Great Circus Mystery was cooperative, and was even difficult at times (though a hundredth playthrough today might be a bit easier than my first fifty). To this day games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, with their combination of cooperation and competition, remind me of The Great Circus Mystery (and certain Rescue Rangers-based games before it). Two years ago, I found the same people I played Great Circus Mystery with years and years ago, and had them play New Super Mario Bros. Wii with me. I could’ve sworn the age of SNES had arrived again.
While SNES didn’t introduce me to video games– that honor goes to a Commodore 64 version of Pac-Man— it certainly propelled my interests sky-high. Without it, I’d probably be writing for Martha Stewart Dojo instead. Maybe.
My story is somewhat unusual in that I hadn’t even played some of my favorite Super NES games until the console had already passed onto that great electronics heap in the attic. You see, I first received the system for my sixth birthday with a copy of Super Mario World, but the library I accumulated during its lifetime consisted primarily of other Mario titles and a few licensed games like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie (don’t look at me like that– I told you I was six). I simply had no way of knowing about the myriad of classics that graced the platform, and I missed out on some of the greatest video games ever created the first time around.
Despite my rather paltry collection, however, the console was responsible for some of my most cherished gaming memories. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars introduced me to the genre with which it shared its name, while Super Mario Kart birthed what would become one of my all-time favorite Nintendo franchises. The former in particular had an immeasurable effect on me: its (comparatively) complex storyline and cast of likable characters were unlike anything I had experienced at the time, and its unusual battle system and imaginative locales kept me engaged in the adventure longer than my childish attention span would normally permit. Having never played a role-playing game prior to Super Mario RPG, it took quite a bit of effort on my part to adjust to its mechanics (imagine my surprise when I learned you could purchase items to revive your allies mid-battle), but the title proved to be a welcoming introduction to an alien genre and essential preparation for my future Pokémon addiction.
My personal collection was laden with a few other gems like Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi’s Island, but I did not discover some of the console’s greatest titles until well into the following generation. Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 introduced me to some unfamiliar faces, and it ultimately inspired me to pick up a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask one day on a whim. I became so enthralled by the game that I purchased used copies of Ocarina of Time (which was impossible to find new at that point in the system’s life) and A Link to the Past almost immediately afterward. The former, of course, is a classic of the medium, but I was particularly impressed with how well the latter held up to both of Link’s three-dimensional adventures. Right from the outset the title displayed a marked sophistication in its design, and its introductory segment, in which you had to infiltrate Hyrule Castle on a stormy night and escape with Princess Zelda through the palace’s sewer system, is easily one of the most atmospheric openings I have ever experienced in a video game. The rest of the adventure was just as epic, and the phantom specter of Age has not diminished its vitality one bit.
Super Metroid, which I purchased on the strength of Metroid Prime, was a similar case, and it, too, became one of the most memorable titles I had ever played. As with A Link to the Past, I was very impressed with how well the experience weathered the test of time. The intricate world of Zebes was immaculately designed and brought to life with a haunting score and stunning graphics, and the eerie sense of isolation for which the series had become renowned was immediately palpable on starting the game. In fact, every locale of the planet was dripping with a foreboding atmosphere, and the seamless way in which they were all interconnected is a testament to the expert craftsmanship that went into creating the title.
It is much too difficult to narrow Super NES’s library of classics down to a single favorite, though I suppose if I must I would choose Super Mario World. The game was, after all, the first I owned for the console, and its expansive levels and devious secrets have made it the best side-scrolling Mario in my mind. I particularly like how dynamic its overworld was, not only hinting at the location of secret exits but also morphing as you cleared different stages. The introduction of Yoshi and the Super Cape (which I felt offered a much more satisfying sense of flight than Super Mario 3’s Super Leaf) were just the sprinkles on an already-delicious gaming sundae, and it is probably the one game I remember most fondly from that bygone generation. Still, it’s an impossible choice for anyone to make, and with a catalog of wonderful titles as extensive as Super NES’s, one could easily make a better case for another.
Got favorite SNES games? What about SNES memories? Let us know– and happy birthday, Super Nintendo. Welcome to your second decade.