The Super Nintendo is the cherished second generation of Nintendo home consoles, released in North America during 1991. The system was beloved due to the sheer quantity of games as well as their outstanding quality. Built on 16-bit architecture, the Super Nintendo as a system was powerful for its time, yet the strongest selling point for the system were always the games themselves. These titles were the cream of the crop and many of them hold up particularly well even today. The following are the 10 best titles released for the system. The impact each game had on the industry as a whole is accounted for, but an emphasis is placed on how the game would be received if initially released today.
10. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)
Known simply as Yoshi’s Island, this somewhat polarizing game has continued to earn more praise as time passes. The sequel to the universally acclaimed Super Mario World and the second original Mario platforming title on the system, the expectations heaped on this game were out of control. While Yoshi’s Island would go on to meet and exceed those expectations, the manner in which it did so received opposition. The graphical style was changed dramatically, altering the semi-realistic look of the original and choosing the look of a hand-drawn animated coloring book. This gave the appearance of a less mature game and one designed for children, which was far from the truth. The graphics are timeless and have likely aged better than any Super Nintendo title, but at the time such a drastic departure for the series was difficult to accept. That is unfortunate because Yoshi’s Island is one of the deepest, most satisfyingly challenging platforming games ever created.
9. Super Mario Kart (1992)
The mascot racer that started an army of copies, Super Mario Kart is the definition of a classic. While seven sequels have since been released for a total of eight iterations, the original remains unique. No single player race has managed to top the difficulty level of the original, as the emphasis on multiplayer in the later versions made the single player experience an afterthought. The original was built for multiplayer as well, but the single player experience is no slouch and, as stated, is a definite challenge. Computer opponents had specific items unique to their character that added intrigue. Furthermore, the use of the feather as an item is a relic to be cherished. This item allowed the user to perform a high jump: a technique that permitted players to take shortcuts by jumping over walls. Finally, the creation of the blue spiky shell had not yet been completed, keeping Super Mario Kart races feeling more pure and less luck-driven.
8. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (1995)
Diddy’s Kong Quest takes everything the original Donkey Kong Country did and improves on it. The impressive pre-rendered 3D graphics evolved to look even better, but more importantly, the gameplay was smoother. For example, the original hid level secrets in hard-to-find locations. While a novel idea, many of these secrets are so obscure that unless found accidentally, potentially following a guide may be the only choice to discover them. Conversely, Donkey Kong Country 2 places these secrets in more intuitive and smarter locations. While still difficult to spot, they are logical and not simply found by sheer luck. As well, the player is given the option to purchase hints regarding the whereabouts of these throughout the game. Other changes included charge attacks for your animal buddies, superior underwater levels that included secret locations, bonus levels that contain mini-games that must be completed in order to mark the secret being located (instead of simply adding needless extra lives as in the original), and exceptional level design.
7. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996)
The marriage of Squaresoft (creators of Final Fantasy, now known as Square-Enix) and Super Mario lead director Shigeru Miyamoto proved to be one of the most surprisingly successful collaborations in video game history. The first roleplaying game in Mario’s history, Super Mario RPG boasts JRPG elements from the Final Fantasy series mixed with action platforming gameplay from the Mario series. Combined with outrageous humor, one of the best soundtracks in videogame history and pseudo-3D graphics, Super Mario RPG is a spectacular game that will appeal to a wide audience due to the melding of genres. The game offers tremendous replay value with a bounty of hidden secrets and, as is customary in Squaresoft titles, even an optional (insanely difficult) boss not required for the main storyline. Mario is in fine form here and this remains the best Mario RPG to date, as the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series have been unable to replicate this gem’s charm.
6. Super Mario World (1991)
A launch title for the system that came packed-in with every new console for several years, Super Mario World defined the Super Nintendo generation. Boasting colorful graphics that appeared far more vibrant than the previously-released Mario 3 on the NES, Super Mario World simply popped off the screen, inviting all players to experience this wonderful game. New power-ups were introduced and the world map was further developed to include hidden paths and even secret worlds. However, the major gameplay addition here was the introduction of Yoshi the dinosaur. Mario’s sidekick Yoshi makes his first appearance here as a riding mount. Incorporated wonderfully into the gameplay, Yoshi was more than a gimmick. He helped players reach secret areas and allowed them to take one extra hit of damage. Colored Yoshis were hidden throughout the game, whose unique special powers included endless flying, fire-breathing and power-stomping. Super Mario World is a legendary game that will always prove to be ageless.
5. Super Mario All-Stars (1993)
While this current generation is plagued with remasters and re-releases, Mario All-Stars was released at a time when this trend was not commonplace. Furthermore, Mario All-Stars is one of the best compilations ever released, holding its own as an individual title for the Super Nintendo. Firstly, the game includes all three original Mario titles released for the NES. Super Mario Bros. is one of the most influential games in history, and Super Mario Bros. 3 is often in the conversation for the best game of all time. Having them in one package for a new generation was remarkable. Secondly, All-Stars includes Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, a title never released in North America. Finally, All-Stars included a save system, a capability that the NES could not perform. Saving during sessions was a game-changer, as gamers were no longer required to leave their systems operating if they needed to take a break. Mario All-Stars does everything right and is a must-own for any fan of Nintendo.
4. Final Fantasy 6 (1994)
Released as “Final Fantasy 3” in North America due to several titles in the series having never been released outside of Japan, Final Fantasy 6 is the landmark title for JRPGs. Odd numbering sequence aside, Final Fantasy 6 is a flawless game, proving to be tremendously deep and engaging. Straying from the conventional JRPG mythical lore, Final Fantasy 6 ditches the knights, princesses, castle locations and other archaic JRPG elements and introduces a fantasy world with a high level of technological competency. The game presented a major shift for the way JRPGs were received as this world, which appears more reflective of current human society, is far more engaging for the player. Upping the playable character roster to 14 (a number yet to be matched in the series) and allowing each character to remain personalized and unique was very impressive. The “esper system,” the game’s substitution for powerful summon attacks, is rewarding and addictive. The customization allowed with the system proves yet again how well-constructed this game truly is.
3. Super Metroid (1994)
The third game in the Metroid series, Super Metroid puts the previous NES titles to shame and turns them obsolete, a rare feat for a Nintendo title whose prior games often age gracefully. Super Metroid follows the journey of Samus Aran venturing into the planet Zebes. The game focuses on exploration; with a map at hand the massive labyrinths present in the game are investigated. Super Metroid includes a score that suits the game perfectly. The eerie music played while exploring dark corridors is fine-tuned and elevates the game in astounding fashion. The game proves to be a giant maze which can be navigated fairly quickly during replays, but for the uninitiated can take upwards of 10 hours to complete. The game continues to be played today as competitive speed runs of the game have increased the longevity of this excellent title. The fusion of gameplay with atmosphere, sound and cinematic elements is top-notch; Super Metroid is a game that absolutely must be experienced.
2. Chrono Trigger (1995)
Taking the groundwork that Final Fanatasy 6 had built, Chrono Trigger introduces a world that appears modern and without the archaic medieval setting JRPGs had settled into. The gameplay element fondly remembered with Chrono Trigger is the time travel component. Seven separate eras of the world can be accessed with past actions affecting future events. The result is 13 unique endings. The player receives an ending based on how they completed the game and the consequence of their actions. This novel idea was so far ahead of its time that even to this day, the concept of alternate endings seldom surpasses Chrono Trigger. Chrono Trigger is also cited for introducing “New Game +,” a mechanic that allows players to replay the game after completion but maintain their final party stats and equipment. This permits the player to quickly attempt to experience the different endings and explore the game further with ease.
1. EarthBound (US – 1995, Japan – 1994)
With a cult following like no other, the popularity of EarthBound today far exceeds its initial reception in North America. Now viewed as a timeless classic, the general public’s knowledge of EarthBound is owed largely to the inclusion of the game’s protagonist, Ness, being included in the roster for the 1999 hit Super Smash Bros. The strength in the game lies in the humor. In a satire of the RPG genre, instead of finding treasure chests with items, the player rummages through garbage bins in town. Instead of potions, the player eats hamburgers to replenish health. The innovation is the fact that there are no random encounters. Enemies are seen on screen and can be avoided if desired. Enemies that are weaker than the player will even run away, reducing the amount of tiresome grinding the genre is known for. EarthBound is exemplary in all facets and is the best Super Nintendo title ever released.