While we patiently wait for Nintendo to confirm and announce the SNES Classic Edition retro console we can have a bit of fun speculating on which games it should include.
The Super Nintendo was blessed with arguably the greatest gaming library of any console. While Mario, Zelda, and Metroid didn’t start with the SNES, it was where they became titans of the industry. Super Metroid helped create an entirely new genre. Mario began to dip his toes into numerous succesful spin-off series like Mario Kart, which became a series all its own. And The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the poster child for 16-bit gaming nirvana.
The NES Classic Edition came bundled with 30 games, most of which were published by Nintendo. Let’s decide which 30 SNES games should grace the upcoming SNES Classic.
1) Super Mario World
The obvious choice. Super Mario World was the fourth main Super Mario game, and the first on SNES. It took the same excellent platforming gameplay of the Mario series from NES and expanded it in exciting new ways, from hidden switch blocks to ghost houses to ridable Yoshis. Everyone played it and everyone loved it. It’s a guaranteed lock.
2) Super Mario Kart
Arcade-like, top-down racers had existed before Super Mario Kart, but none had so perfectly combined tight controls, hazard-filled maps, and that classic Nintendo art into such a beautiful package. It’s funny to revisit the flat tracks after decades of excellent 3D Mario Kart racers, but Super Mario Kart remains a solid racer. The arena battle mode is just as fun as ever.
3) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Nearly every modern game developer will cite A Link to the Past as an inspiration. It was the quintessential action-adventure game, and the prototype for the modern open-world RPG. Link hacked and slashed his way around Hyrule and through dungeons. Dozens of Zelda titles later, A Link to the Past remains a fan-favorite.
4) Chrono Trigger
You can’t make an SNES retro console without one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Chrono Trigger was the resulting collaboration of a dream-team of Japanese artists and developers, and featured a unique time-spanning storyline with a memorable cast of characters. Arguably includes the best original soundtrack in gaming.
5) Super Metroid
Super Metroid was already the third title in the Metroid series, but the first break-out hit. With a huge planet to explore, secrets to uncover, and bosses to fight Super Metroid was a dauntless but rewarding undertaking. Out of all the first-party franchises on this list, Metroid has been the most ill-served by the big N, leading to many excellent indie developers to pick up the slack.
6) Donkey Kong Country
Easily the most graphically impressive game of its time, Donkey Kong Country was the go-to title to show off what the SNES could do. Utilizing full CGI instead of pixels, the levels were gorgeous and fun, and the cheery, head-bobbing music was super groovy. The game was so successful it spawned two sequels and introduced the world to the extended Kong family.
7) Street Fighter II Turbo
Fighting games were all the rage at the arcades. When popular fighting game Street Fighter came to consoles, people came in droves. The roster of fighters featured a fun international cast with a variety of powersets, from Blanka and Chun-Li to Dhalsim and Ryu. I was more of a Mortal Kombat man myself, but Street Fighter’s presentation was unmatched.
8) Final Fantasy III
One of the first RPGs I ever played is still one of my all-time favorite games. Final Fantasy VI was released in the US as Final Fantasy III. Confusing name change aside, it delivered a stirring, epic fantasy story by focusing on the large cast of characters. It also includes one of gaming’s best villains in Kefka, the Joker-esque clown.
People weren’t sure what to make of this odd modern-day RPG that later became a cult classic thanks to lead character Ness’ inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Earthbound is actually known as Mother 2 in Japan, with the first game arriving on the Wii U virtual console for the first time in 2015. For a localized title Earthbound is shocking well-written and satirical, and holds up incredibly well.
10) Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
As a sequel to Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island was a jarring change of pace. This time you controlled Yoshi as you escorted baby Mario through hazardous levels that featured as many puzzles as platforms. It was a divisive sequel at the time, but taken on its own is a fun game that spawned its own Yoshi-centric series.
11) Star Fox
Star Fox looks pretty rough by today’s (or even yesterday’s) standards, and its modern legacy isn’t that great. But the original Star Fox game gave us some solid 3D flight simulation that was previously regulated to high-powered PCs. It also featured that classic Nintendo charm, with a cast of memorable furry companions. Do a barrel roll!
12) Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Before Sony mucked things up, Square Enix (then Squaresoft) and Nintendo were so chummy back in the 80s and 90s that they produced this magical JRPG starring gaming’s biggest icon. The Mario world was fully represented in a massive turn-based RPG, featuring Bowser, Peach and some new characters as companions. One of my favorite games on the Super Nintendo.
13) Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana looked like any other JPRG but with one major difference: battles played out in real-time. The action-RPG hybrid emphasized the hacking and slashing aspects of RPG within a colorful fantasy world. It also uniquely featured local co-op, allowing up to two friends to control the other two AI party members.
14) Mega Man X
The Mega Man series exploded on the NES, and the series continued with the new ‘X’ moniker on the SNES. Mega Man X continued the same brutal difficulty and boss fights but added fun new abilities, like wall-climbing, making each level a rewarding adventure.
15) NBA Jam
These days sports games are all about hyper-realism, with accurate team rosters and real-world physics. Back in my day, we had President Bill Clinton as a secret unlockable character in our basketball games! NBA Jam featured only 2-on-2 matches, but did have the NBA license. Most importantly it was fast-paced and fun as hell. Bonus points for the amazing arcade-like announcer, who gave us the infamous phrase: “He’s on fire!”
16) Super Mario All-Stars
Nintendo was milking its older games as early as the SNES era. Super Mario All-Stars included the first three Super Mario games on the NES, as well as The Lost Levels, which could be considered the real Super Mario Bros. 2. Considering how difficult acquiring an NES Classic Edition is, I wouldn’t be remiss if this 4-in-1 pack were one of the 30 included titles.
17) Final Fantasy II
Also known as Final Fantasy IV, yes JRPGs names were very confusing in the 90s. Compared to the first Final Fantasy on the NES, this sequel was light-years beyond, offering a compelling story starring an ex-bad guy and his new allies. Final Fantasy IV would set the stage for Squaresoft’s seminal series for decades to come.
18) Super Castlevania IV
Castlevania was already a well-known franchise on the NES before this 16-bit title launched. Super Castlevania IV is a psuedo-remake of the original game, featuring whip-cracking vampire hunter Simon Belmont battling demons and gothic monsters en route to Dracula. Advanced whip controls and new levels outside the castle helped make this the best Castlveania title until the PlayStation era.
19) Mortal Kombat II
Mortal Kombat on a Nintendo console? Yes indeed! Mortal Kombat is sadly known more for its bloody controversy that sparked the violent video game discussions of the 90s. But MKII is a remarkable fighting game, with a fluid range of motion and satisfying move set for each fighter. Finish Him!
Without F-Zero, there is no Super Mario Kart. F-Zero was one of the first games to use the simulated 3D graphics of the SNES, called “Mode 7.” It featured arcade racing action in a cool sci-fi setting with equally awesome music.
21) The Lost Vikings
Blizzard Entertainment is more synonymous with Warcraft and Overwatch, but in 1993 they developed a unique side-scrolling puzzle-adventure game called The Lost Vikings. You had to use all three viking’s unique abilities to defeat enemies and overcome traps. I prefer the excellent 1997 sequel, but the original is more iconic. Fun Fact: The viking trio are represented in Blizzard’s MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.
22) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
Beat ’em ups were a dime a dozen during the 16-bit era, and most were mediocre. Turtles in Time continued the excellent legacy from Turtles II and Manhattan Project on the NES and Arcades. Local co-op beat’ em up reached its shell-shocked zenith as you traveled throughout iconic time periods battling the Foot clan.
23) Demon’s Crest
A criminally underrated game and one of my personal favorites, Demon’s Crest let you play as one of the demons from Ghosts ‘N Goblins in a dark world of skeletons and death. It was an awesome mix of Metroid and Castlevania, featuring Mode 7 travel between locations, tons of hidden secrets and demon forms, and multiple endings.
24) Rock ‘N Roll Racing
Another great classic Blizzard title introduced nine-year old me to Black Sabbath. Rock ‘N Roll Racing featured midi-quality classic rock songs, a hilariously over-the-top hard rock announcer, and top-down racing with lasers and spikes. In short: it was an instant classic.
25) Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
JRPGs flourished in the 16-bit age, so I’ll understand if you missed the relative late arrival of Lufia II. This turn-based RPG featured a unique dungeon system where enemies moved only when you did, and a memorable generation-spanning story that still haunts me. And don’t worry about seeking out the original inferior game, Lufia 2 is a prequel anyway.
26) NHL ’94
NHL ’94 is still considered one of the best sports video games ever made, which is both very sad and a testament to how excellent this game is. The controls were intuitive and fun, and up to four players could join in for fast-paced skating action. If you play only one hockey game, make it this one.
27) Sunset Riders
How do you make a better Beat ‘Em Up? Give everyone guns! The co-op arcade action was vibrant and exciting as you traversed through classic Wild West scenarios with either pistol or shotgun.
28) Harvest Moon
The original farm sim arrived late in the SNES life span. It provided a uniquely peaceful gameplay experience compared to the extreme explosions that permeated 90s gaming. With the popularity of Stardew Valley, it seems like a no-brainer to include this classic farming game on the SNES Classic.
29) Super Punch-Out!!
Super Punch-Out followed the Nintendo path of “take a solid game from the NES and put Super in front of it.” Super Punch-Out had the same great fighting rhythm of its predecessor but with a fun new cartoon art style and goofy fighters.
30) Jungle Strike
Part strategy game, part shoot ’em up, the Strike series let you pilot a helicopter as a special forces hero. It was basically a 90s action movie with large top-down maps and fun tasks to accomplish. The first and third games, Desert Strike and Urban Strike are all pretty solid.