In the early 90s, Nintendo got its first blush of competition in the form of Sega with the Sega Genesis. It claimed it could do what “Nintendon’t” and boasted far better graphic quality. Meanwhile, Nintendo shifted into its next generation going from NES to SNES, doublings its graphics card amount from 8-bit to 16-bit. The games that were released of this era ranged through several genres but it showed that it wasn’t afraid of a little competition. Here are 20 of the best games from this era of Nintendo.
20. Super Castlevania IV (1991)
Along with several other Nintendo characters that we fell in love with in all its 8-bit glory, the Castlevania franchise followed its way to the Super Nintendo, expanding its horizons. The game, which is considered by some as more or less a remake of the original Castlevania for NES, follows everybody’s favorite vampire hunter Simon Belmont. Belmont, with his trusty whip, travails through the late 1600s Transylvanian backdrop to defeat the ever-so-hated Dracula. This is one of the games that helped popularize the mechanic that has been since known as Metroidvania, the side-scrolling free-roaming style of platforming that isn’t always used, but is a favorite amongst those who play adventure platformers.
Why Noah loves Super Castlevania IV…
After years of playing Castevania I, II and III, Super Castlevania IV was a light years jump beyond the 8-bit graphics of the ’80s. Yeah, the Sega Genesis had already been out for two years with its exciting exclusives and pretty graphics, but for a Nintendo fanboy, Super Castlevania IV was a system seller and a showcase of why you made the right decision in buying a Super Nintendo instead. The game’s eerie and catchy soundtrack used instruments never heard in the bleeps and bloops that emanated from NES or Atari, and the Mode 7 effects weren’t overused, but when they were they were stunning. Notable examples included a dungeon level housed within a spinning cylinder, a stone golem boss that grew and shrank to incredible proportions, and a puzzle platforming stage where the entire room would rotate around you when you latched your whip to certain switches. Add on the ability to swing Simon’s whip in any direction, versus just directly forward, and the gameplay felt almost liberating. The Castelvania series has had justifiable and meritorious success since evolving to a “Metroidvania” structure, but the stunning and unforgettable experiences and detail within this Super NES showpiece demonstrated how advanced Konami had become at creating a traditional action platforming title.
19. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)
With Super Mario World becoming a huge hit, Nintendo followed it up focusing on the breakout character in the game– the green lovable dinosaur known as Yoshi. In this game, which is actually a prequel, Baby Mario is found in the woods by a bunch of different colored Yoshis. He and his twin brother Luigi had been kidnapped by Kamek and it’s up to Mario and the several Yoshis to save his baby brother from the evils that ensue. The crayon-art style and homey feeling that the game gave helped prove that cutesy art styles doesn’t make for bad gaming at all.
Why Michael loves Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island…
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is radically different from its predecessor, giving us a fresh Mario story and new gameplay elements. Right from the box art, the game has a unique art style. Looking back at the stage select screen gives me chills. The game taunts you with hidden bonuses, inside and out. Red coins made their debut here, along with the fan-favorite, Kamek. The most memorable part of Yoshi’s Island was the final boss battle which included incredible music and a giant Baby Bowser. I remember getting a bit scared as he inched closer and closer to the screen. Overall, placing Yoshi in the starring role of this sequel made for a worthy adventure.
18. F-Zero (1991)
F-Zero came around the block in 1991, around the same time that SNES launched in North America. The game proved to be a big hit with the public, weaving together the racing game genre with a futuristic setting. this created a unique and engaging gameplay experience. Along with the usage of Mode 7, a 3D rendering type technology, F-Zero proved to be a little ahead of its time in the graphics department. Player chose from several different characters, the two most notable being Captain Falcon and Samurai Goroh, and could choose from three classes– Knight, Queen and King. The game is a classic that helped reinvent the racing genre for generations to come.
Why Lewis loves F-Zero…
F-Zero had much to prove upon its release in 1991. Not only was it a launch title for the legendary Super Nintendo, it was also a tech demo of sorts for Nintendo’s proprietary Mode 7 technology, which allowed graphical layers to be scaled and rotated. Needless to say, F-Zero was a huge success, helping to show off Nintendo’s new tech, and rake in the praise from critics and gamers alike.
My personal highlight of the title (next to racing at 1000mph of course) is the incredible music, which well and truly put the Genesis in the shade. Big Blue, Mute City, Port Town amongst others were an aural treat for my young ears, so much so that I would record them onto cassette and listen to them on long car journeys! Epic stuff.
F-Zero helped successfully launch the most lauded console in history. Here hoping Nintendo will do it again with Wii U. F-Zero as a launch title? I’m laying my neck on the block and saying yes, definitely.
17. Mega Man X (1993)
While Mega Man was a huge hit on NES, Capcom decided to do a reboot of the ever popular series, coming up with the Mega Man X series, which took off with the titular game in 1993. This story takes place 100 years after the events of the original Mega Man series in the year 21XX (as they put it) where Dr. Cain finds in the ruins of Dr. Light’s old research facility a capsule that contains our protagonist X (or Mega Man X). Dr. Cain tries to replicate him and ends up making things worse when the android robots’ free-wills go in different directions (depending on the android of course). This relaunch brought a new fervor and reinvention of a franchise that was already insanely popular.
Why Kyle loves Mega Man X…
Mega Man is just concentrated awesome. His games have robots, jumping, shooting, and sliding. Mega Man X took all of the aspects of the original series and bumped them up to extreme levels. The X series is to the original series as classic rock is to punk. X jumps up walls, dashes across gaps, and equips powerful armor all to a shredding soundtrack. The Mavericks are good-looking and very powerful. The story is packed with action and robot-killing. And of course there are Mets on the password screen! Mega Man X is also a very well-designed game that really knows how to balance fun with difficulty. But the most important thing is that when I play Mega Man X, I just feel cool.
16. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)
The Legend of Zelda franchise’s first foray into world of handheld consoles checks in at number 16 with Link’s Awakening. The story deviates from the usual formula, nary a mention of Zelda and outside of the comfort of the kingdom of Hyrule. In this game, Link is traveling abroad for training purposes. A storm destroys his boat and he washes ashore on Koholint Island. While there, Link given a quest by a talking owl who asks for him to collect the 8 instruments of the Sirens in order to awaken the Wind Fish, who is the guardian of the island. The game sold well and proved that the franchise most famous for its console games can indeed translate well to the handheld.
Why Katharine loves Link’s Awakening…
The first Zelda game I ever completed, Link’s Awakening was the subject of several sibling bust-ups when I was younger. We took this game everywhere, and every time a long car journey was involved my three brothers and I would always fight over who got to play it first. It’s easily my favourite Game Boy game, and I loved the fact that it was painfully aware of itself being a game too, often breaking the fourth wall with its witty dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humour.
The main reason why I love this game though is because of Eagle’s Tower, the seventh and penultimate dungeon. From its eerie music to its fiendish puzzles, this dungeon was one of my formative proving grounds as a young gamer, and I’d even go as far as to rank it as one of the best in the entire series. Of course, it wasn’t just Eagle’s Tower that made its mark—this is the brain child of Yoshiaki Koizumi, after all (the guy who created Z-targeting and all the weirdness in Majora’s Mask), and it laid down the foundations for several Zelda tropes of the future. Everything from its trading sequence to its collection of instruments– even fishing!– can be traced back here. The Zelda series owes a lot to this little adventure, even if it was just the dream of a big old whale.