‘Member the ’80s and ‘90s? Pepperidge Farm remembers. From fashion and music to movies and video games, 2016 was unquestionably a year fueled by rampant nostalgia. Nintendo was particularly savvy in tapping the veins of sentimentality for Pokémon’s 20th anniversary. We relived our adventures through Kanto in the re-release of the Game Boy originals, collected reprints of the very first card sets in the Pokémon Trading Card Game and were finally given the opportunity to catch ‘em all in the real world with Pokémon GO.
Yet even with a new entry in the famed Pocket Monster-collecting franchise dominating the minds of consumers, the surprise hit of the holiday season was definitely last month’s release of the NES Classic Edition: a miniaturized version of Nintendo’s very first home console that came preinstalled with 30 retro classics. With the coveted 8-bit machine flying off store shelves faster than a speeding bullet bill, we here at Nintendo Wire couldn’t help but dream up a scenario where its super-systemed successor received the same loving treatment. So without further adieu, here’s the top 30 games we’d personally love to see on the (hopefully) inevitable SNES Classic Edition.
1. Super Metroid
Super Metroid is often considered the magnum opus of Samus’ intergalactic adventures in bounty hunting, and for good reason. Its masterful level design, atmospheric soundtrack, vibrant visuals and adrenaline-fueled boss battles all culminate into one of the greatest 2-D action adventure games ever produced. Most impressive is its ability to tell an emotionally-charged narrative with nary a spoken or written word, instead expressed entirely through pantomime and incidental details of its world. It’s a true classic in every sense of the term whose influences knows no bounds, not only spawning an entirely new genre of Metroidvania-style games, but also inspiring a generation of indie developers to create masterpieces of their own.
2. Contra III: The Alien Wars
Few things in life are as gratifying as mowing down swarms of aliens with an arsenal of machine guns and flamethrowers. Made only better with a buddy in tow, Contra III easily stands tall as one of the run-‘n’-gun genre’s finest. Even now almost 25 years later, the game’s dystopian setting, adrenaline-fueled soundtrack and tight controls perfectly blend together to secure its position as one of the best 2-D action platformers to grace our televisions.
3. Secret of Mana
Every time the haunting echoes of Secret of Mana’s title theme (see below) triggers upon bootup is a poignant reminder of just how truly epic a masterpiece this game is. Inspired just as much by The Legend of Zelda as its Final Fantasy brethren, SoM seamlessly integrates action gameplay with elements of traditional turn-based RPGs much to the envy of most modern games today. More importantly, its pick-up-and-play nature and ability to play with up to three friends make it an accessible entry point for those intimidated by the genre. Coupled together with some truly mesmerizing characters, lush environments and vibrant animations and it’s easy to understand why this earned a solid spot on our SNES Classic’s dirty thirty.
Part 2-D platformer, part god simulator, ActRaiser is a unique hybrid of genres that surprisingly doesn’t get explored more often. Players are tossed into the tunic of a dethroned deity, answering prayers by day and slaying monsters in 2-D sidescrolling stages by night. Yet despite this revolutionary mashup, ActRaiser’s most critical claim to fame is its beautifully-synthesized soundtrack composed by none other than Yuzo Koshiro of Streets of Rage fame. The classically-themed pieces featured here run the gamut from soothing or dramatic to outright adrenaline-pumping epics, earning it a top spot as one of the best video game soundtracks ever produced, bar none.
5. Super Punch-Out!!
A series near and dear to my heart, no compilation of SNES classics would be complete without notorious underdog Little Mac and his trusty trainer Doc Louis. A super sequel to its phenomenal predecessor on the NES, Super Punch-Out!! uppercuts the tried-and-trued formula of perfect timing and pattern recognition to dizzying new heights with its beautifully-colorful art style, greatly expanded cast of quirky opponents and new super punch mechanic. To this day, it remains one of the best designed puzzle-strategy games around — no small feat for a game that’s technically a boxing simulator.
6. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is perhaps one of the most devilishly difficult games you’ll ever play, hell-bent on trying your patience and crushing your soul every chance it gets. While some players today would no doubt be turned off by its old school challenge, it’s hard to deny the immense satisfaction that comes with slaying hordes of demons in nothing but your skivvies. Couple that with incredible level design, imaginative enemies and gripping gameplay, and you have one of the best platformers the superpowered system has to offer.
7. Earthworm Jim
Of all the amazing platformers that made this list, Earthworm Jim is without a doubt the grooviest. Launching cows with refrigerators, racing psychotic space crows, bungee jumping with evil snot monsters, guiding mutant canines across hostile planets and flushing killer goldfish down toilets are just a few of the crazy situations players find themselves in during this sentient earthworm’s excellent adventure. Couple that surreal sense of humor with impressively fluid animations and fantastic character designs and you have one of the most uniquely bizarre platformers to ever grace the system. Don’t believe me? The Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt begs to differ:
8. Super Castlevania IV
Simon Belmont once again reprises his role as a whip wielding warrior hell bent on Dracula’s demise in this super-sized retelling of his very first adventure. Staying true to series roots, IV made great strides in perfecting the classic 2-D action-platforming formula established by its NES predecessors, often praised for its enhanced gameplay mechanics, inventive level design and superlative soundtrack. Despite a personal preference for the Metroidvania genre adopted by future installments, Super Castlevania IV remains a perfect example of old-school action-platforming at its finest.
9. Star Fox
Star Fox’s humble beginnings as the first ever Super FX-boosted cartridge lit the galaxy on fire back in 1993, completely obliterating ’90s pre-conceptions of console capabilities. More than just a glorified tech demo, it had all the trappings of classic on-rail shooters wrapped lovingly in an epic sci-fi setting full of intergalactic turmoil, cosmic dogfights and incomprehensible space jargon. It deserves immense credit for laying the groundwork for its masterfully crafted N64 predecessor, not to mention solidifying Fox McCloud and his ragtag group of anthropomorphic wingmen as legendary Nintendo icons.
10. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Obviously this was the first game that we cemented onto this list… Okay, maybe the second. Link’s adventure on Super Nintendo harnessed every brilliant element of The Legend of Zelda’s design and perfectly expanded upon it. In the process it crafted the formula that the majority of the subsequent games in the series would go on to follow to this day, and even after dozens of said follow-ups, A Link to the Past effortlessly remains one of the series’ finest entries.
11. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Like Super Mario Bros. 2, this rethinking of the 2-D platformer was a major departure from the series it calls home. Floaty platforming, levels that were as vertical as they were horizontal and a brilliant egg-tossing mechanic made for a brand new and instantly beloved experience. It’s no wonder that this playful sequel found a strong and loyal following and went on to inspire an entire long-running series of its own.
12. Tetris Attack
“Now, let’s go play together… Together under the clearest of blue skies.”
This disturbingly-addictive puzzler starring Yoshi and his pals has about as much to do with Tetris as it does with filing taxes. A charmed-up version of Panel de Pon, Tetris Attack remains one of the most tense and nuanced multiplayer puzzle games out there. Piling massive blocks on your opponent by making oversized matches or deftly chaining together combos has never felt better. It also hosts a delightful, dino-centric campaign and a mind-bending puzzle mode. Even though it’s not really a Tetris game, this game called Tetris certainly gives Tetris a run for its money.
While it can sometimes feel more like a series of aptitude tests than a video game, we still think Pilotwings deserves a spot on this list. One of Super Nintendo’s original launch titles, this aviation sim aimed to familiarize gamers with all of the joys and monotony of becoming a certified pilot, skydiver, hang-glider and, you know… rocket belt operator. It may not be the most riveting experience on the system, but it’s unlike any other and it feels great to be awarded each new hard-earned set of wings.
Remember F-Zero? You know, Nintendo’s other phenomenal racing game. Well, we hope Nintendo does, too. This blazing-fast, futuristic racer was the perfect antonym to Super Mario Kart. Foregoing red shells and power-ups in favor of speed and precision, F-Zero brought a whole new feel to the ’90s racing game scene. Along with some of the coolest music and characters the Super Nintendo (and Smash Bros.) would ever see.
15. Super Mario All-Stars
Long before the age of HD remakes, Super Mario All-Stars was one of the first times that a collection of beloved classics got the full makeover and re-release treatment. Without backwards compatibility, the ability to play Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3 on SNES with updated visuals was an exciting proposition. Throw in the previously unreleased Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (The Lost Levels) and eventually Super Mario World, as well, and this cartridge is an automatic must for any Super Nintendo library.
In an age where video games seek to simulate everything from tedious day jobs to unorthodox surgery to the apparently outrageous adventures of livestock, it’s easy to lose sight of how it all began. The original “sim” was first released on PC in 1989 and made its way to Super Nintendo a couple years later. SimCity on SNES was an excellent recreation of the PC original, but with a an added twist of Nintendo flair. Who needs kaiju when you’ve got Bowser to stomp your city flat? And who could be more deserving of a golden monument than Mario? Without SimCity there’s a metropolis-sized hole in this otherwise fantastic collection of games.
17. Super Mario World
The game that brought Yoshi to the masses not only brought Mario into the 16-bit age in a big way, but showed the world a shining example of platforming perfection. Everything about the game, from the colorful palette, the sound design, the music, the levels themselves and the new ideas and tools it brought to Mario’s disposal, is top quality and ranks among not just the finest Super Mario games or the finest SNES games, but stands as one of the greatest games of all time.
18. Super Mario RPG
This marriage of Nintendo’s Mario world and concepts with Square’s RPG knowhow brought endearing characters and a fantastic adventure unlike any before for the mustachioed mascot. Journeying from sewers to skytops and everything in between, it stands as the origin of the more modern likes of Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi games. Still, something about the original has kept fans’ attention on Geno, Mallow and all the rest year after year and it serves as another among several fantastic RPGs on the system.
19. Mega Man X
The classic Mega Man games were some of the finest action platformers of the NES, with the second making its way to the NES Classic. It’s only fitting that the successor to the Mega Man name be a part of a hypothetical SNES Classic, though this time the original game stands out more than any follow up. By adding faster mobility options, plenty of hidden upgrades and means with which the game world would change and progress based on your chosen level order, even the grumpiest of gamers consider it one of the most well-done sequels in all of gaming.
20. Kirby Super Star
With multiple ways to enjoy, Kirby Super Star stands as the gold standard of what it means to be a Kirby game. With a great selection of copy abilities (complete with matching headwear) and some inspired and addicting sub-games, it allows anyone up for a trip through Dream Land to take their pick from spelunking for treasures, racing King Dedede, bringing down Meta Knight’s iconic airship or traveling the galaxy — among others. This one is an absolute must and stands both as my personal and a widely undisputed favorite for the little pink puffball.
21. Kirby’s Dream Land 3
A different slice of Dream Land goodness, this entry in the Kirby series brought with it new animal buddies and Copy Ability combinations and an adorable crayon-based art style. One of the last games released for the SNES before focus shifted to the N64, this often-overlooked gem saw Kirby taking on Dark Matter once again. What it lacks in mode variety it makes up in charm, as well as the unique challenges each level presents to get one of its elusive Heart Stars.
Strange, funny, and even a little heartrending, this quirky RPG exchanges swords and sorcery for baseball bats and psychic powers. With a cavalcade of weird enemies like hippies and taxis, a lovable cast of eccentric characters and true innovation in the way game stories are written, EarthBound is a classic that has proven itself to be one of the greatest video games of all time.
23. Chrono Trigger
When one thinks of the most quintessential RPG of all time, Chrono Trigger immediately comes to mind. The work of an all-star development team of the industry’s finest, Chrono Trigger not only innovated with on-map battles, unique character techniques and location based attacks, but provided one of the most finely-tuned and richly-detailed games of all time. Using time travel as a central plot device and fleshing out a well-rounded cast of characters, the game manages to provide a fulfilling experience that wastes no effort in its entire runtime. This, coupled with the revolutionary New Game Plus and multiple endings, has made it an adventure that has stood the test of time.
24. Donkey Kong Country
The SNES, when it tried, could put out quite the pretty game. Perhaps no title exemplifies that better than Donkey Kong Country, the game that put Rareware in the upper echelon of game developers. Soft rebooting DK from his NES days, this tight new platformer featured an immersive island atmosphere, diverse gameplay and a rockin’ soundtrack. Unlike many other games that pushed graphical boundaries at the time, it still looks great today. Few titles managed to leave as big an impression as DKC when it dropped, and its influence can still be felt.
25. Final Fantasy III (VI)
The last Final Fantasy on a Nintendo home console proved to be one of the finest. Featuring a deep and varied cast of characters in a world of magic and turmoil, Square pushed the SNES to the limits to pull off one of the greatest RPGs ever made. With the unique Esper system and great breadth of playable characters, there’s no reason not to include this masterpiece.
26. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
A nigh-perfect sequel to the first Donkey Kong Country, Diddy’s Kong Quest improved on nearly everything the first had to offer. More animal partners, more collectibles, differing abilities between Diddy and Dixie and an impeccably gloomy yet mystifying atmosphere (assisted by David Wise’s fantastic score) all show Rareware at their prime, creating one of the most magnificent 2D platformers not just on the SNES, but of all time.
27. Harvest Moon
The Super Nintendo was home to many great RPGs, where you take control of heroic knights and powerful magic users. That’s why Harvest Moon stands out – rather than playing through a power fantasy you simulate a simple life in a small town, tending crops and livestock. While the franchise saw more intricate entries later on, the first game carries a iconic and laid-back charm that would set it apart on a SNES Classic.
28. Final Fantasy II (IV)
While many fans may cite VI as the franchise’s high point on the SNES, it’s hard to understate what a massive leap forward Final Fantasy II was, especially in North America. Going from the first buggy, basic and lethargic NES game to the Active Time Battle system was a revelation, and II’s focus on characters and story carried through to later entries. That isn’t to say it doesn’t hold up on its own though, with a fun, fast-paced adventure with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Nintendo would be a bunch of Spoony Bards to pass this one up.
29. Super Mario Kart
Before zero gravity, hang gliders and Golden Mushrooms, there was Super Mario Kart. While the flat courses may not hold up by today’s standards, Super Mario Kart is a great classic to revisit with a buddy. Even though Super Mario Kart has been outdone with each successive Mario Kart title, it will always be heralded as the game that kicked off Mario’s most thrilling hobby. With recent Mario Kart entries including remade tracks from the SNES installment, it’s exciting to go back and experience the tracks in their original form. Just try not to throw your controller when you fall off for the umpteenth time on Ghost Valley 3.
30. Paperboy 2
Were you ever out on your early morning paper route, wishing you were at home playing video games instead? Was it ever the opposite? Were you sitting on your couch just wishing you could deliver papers all the time, from the comfort of your own basement? In the late ’80s and early ’90s, that dream could be a reality! Paperboy 2, the home console exclusive sequel to the arcade game Paperboy, is a simple game, but one of the hardest I’ve had the pleasure of playing on SNES. With rabid dogs, haunted houses and runaway tires all trying to stop you from doing your papery duty, you toss newspapers to houses on either side of the street; you’ll even get the chance to wield the papers as a weapon in order to save a baby in a runaway carriage or stop an armed robbery in order to become a paper-delivering hero. Just try not to chuck papers through any windows; if you do, pedal faster!
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