Hello friends and future friends!
I mentioned last post that I rather enjoyed thinking about all these old games that I owned and the associated memories that came along with it. I decided that for this particular Friday of ranking top things, I’d look into the classic Super Nintendo.
I knew I was going to have to split games into categories, but I also faced a dilemma. Would I be providing my favourite games, or would I be ranking the best games?
If just give the best games, then it’s going to be exactly the same as every other SNES games lists. Sure, some people might think Final Fantasy 6 is better than Chrono Trigger, or opinions would be split on whether Donkey Kong Country 2 is better than Yoshi’s Island, but it’ll still be fairly typical.
However, many of these games are classics for a reason, I’m not going to pretend that Super Mario Kart isn’t incredible just to be a contrarian.
So the solution I came to was to give my favourites in slightly atypical categories. I’m only including games I’ve played, so no matter how good I hear Kirby Super Star is I can’t list it, but Uniracers could be even if I never owned the cartridge.
Best SNES Party Games
So, you’ve got a bunch of friends of varying skill levels that want to play retro games, and you’re all hanging out together. First of all, you’re so lucky, Must Be Nice. Second of all, you need a variety of games to play as people swap in and out. Mustn’t require lots of time before being able to enjoy playing, or be a Co-op game that takes 10 hours to complete.
Also, before you ask, I haven’t played NBA Jam.
You just can’t go wrong with Street Fighter in… most forms it takes. Ideally, everyone is around a similar level of competence (or incompetence) so the matches are close and entertaining. You can even run a small tournament if you want.
If one person is wildly better than the others, they can try drinking extra alcohol to balance it out a bit. (also there’s a handicap system in game if you want)
Modern wresting games like WWE 2K-whatever tend to be slow and unfriendly to beginners. You know what isn’t? THIS. You can pick up a controller and enjoying it immediately either in 1v1 battles or co-operative 2v2 fights. You can also use a multi-tap to have some 4 player brawls which is even more outrageous.
The action is fast, fun to watch, reasonably deep, and you can argue over who gets to be the coolest wrestling mayor in history. I’m listing this ahead of SF2 because:
A- If you can get 4 player games running, then that’s a big plus.
B- Normal fighting games can be hard to get into if you’re not already a fan.
C- Even if you don’t know what you’re doing in this game, you can pair up with someone who is a bit better and balance things out.
Micro Machines is a great laugh in multiplayer. It’s a racing game with simple controls and imaginative maps, taking toy vehicles across pool tables and sand castles and baths and more.
It’s less about reaching the finish line first and more about getting a large enough distance ahead of the other racers to get points, since you all share one screen. Trying to get a full screen ahead of the others to score is wonderfully self-balancing, since if you’re in the lead you have less time to react to corners and obstacles. You also get fabulous opportunities to sabotage other racers by ramming them into treacle or into a pit, so there are always chances for petty vengeance too.
I once showed this game to a room full of young guys who’d never seen a Micro Machines game before, and within 5 minutes they were hooked.
2: Super Bomberman (series)
I have to admit, one of my fondest faintly-remembered nights of gaming came from playing hours of multiplayer Bomberman on a SNES, but I never knew which one it actually was.
So, I’m not totally sure which one is the best version, (I’ve played 3 of them) but I’m going to guess they are all great fun. If you don’t know, you get up to 4 Bomber-people in an arena armed with an unlimited supply of bombs. You blast your way through some obstacles to obtain power ups, and try to trick each other into getting exploded.
It sounds violent but look at that cover, it’s actually colourful and adorable. As the timer runs down to the last seconds and the arena closes in on the remaining contestants, it becomes amazingly nerve-racking, tense and exciting.
There was a part of me that thought, hey, this game doesn’t even have 4 player modes compared to later versions. Maybe one of these other games deserve the top spot, and Mario Kart can rule over the N64 and WiiU?
Still, despite overall better sequels on later systems, I can’t deny how excellent this game is to play with people. This version has a different feel to the fully 3D versions of the future, (which will totally throw people off when you go back to this by the way) and individual races and battles tend to be over more quickly.
There’s also something to be said about the brutal difficulty level in the 150CC Cups being excellent viewing if people are just about good enough to complete them. You’ll rarely feel pressure like trying to perfectly perform in Star Road, and having another player ‘helping’ is a great idea.
This (frankly unbelievable) run makes it look easy. Trust me, it is not.
Best SNES Games To Bond With Someone Over
By comparison to the last section, this list is when you have one person you’re going to spend a bunch of time with. Sure, obviously the above games are also great, I’m thinking games that have a longer length, games where you might need more teamwork to practice or just a kind of journey to share.
Honourable Mentions: Super SWIV (aka. Firepower 2000), various Kirby Games
Super SWIV is a shoot ’em up game, but it’s fairly unique in that it has two different vehicles to use through the levels. The Helicopter flies over all terrain, but can only shoot forward, while the Jeep can shoot in any direction but has to be concerned with being hit by trains or being crushed by the ever-moving camera.
The difference in styles means you really want to stick to your choices and practice with them and you’ll definitely need practice. There are also different weapon types you need to pick up upgrades for, so you need to coordinate who is getting what. The game is hard as nails (as expected of a top down shoot ’em up) and might be too aggravating. I want people to bond, not get divorced.
Kirby games on the other hand often have awesome Co-op modes and are friendly towards less hardcore gamers, but I never played any on the SNES.
I do think I rate this particular side scrolling beat ’em up more highly than most people. The SNES does have *many* good, often splashier games in that genre that you can check out (Final Fight 2/3, Turtles in Time, Captain Commando etc) but I like this one, it’s a bit slower and you can actually block!
Being able to block/counter almost every move changes the dynamic so that if you’re in trouble you can actually stall for time while your friend comes to help out. This genre also tends to have a bunch of bullshit difficulty (technical term) built in due to their history of being arcade games. This game is hard, but fair, so worth a few runs if you’re into it.
I would recommend the Japanese version though, since the American version was rushed and left somewhat unfinished.
While the common consensus is that DKC2 is the ‘best’ one, I have reasons for putting this one here. It also isn’t ‘true’ co-op where you both have control at the same time, but that’s okay.
So why this one? While all the DKC games have overworlds, this one has more stuff to do, secrets to discover and so on making it feel more like an adventure. The difficulty curve has been adjusted, keeping the more fiendish levels in reserve while drawing you in with pleasant early areas.
It’s just a great, varied game to enjoy.
This game is… crazy and interesting. It’s an adventure/action/RPG mix best played with a friend. I guess it’s not all that long a game if you already know what to do, but it takes you on a fine little journey.
2: Super Mario Kart (again)
Not only is Mario a great competitive game, it’s also a great co-op game. As mentioned above, this game is hard as nails to beat on the higher difficulties and harder tracks. It pays to have a friend.
There’s also something about playing a game in a way you’re not ‘supposed’ to that’s innately quite fun. It may be a racing game, but deciding to play as a wingman, running interference against the cheating AIs is great fun. (and they do cheat)
If you and your friend are new to the game, working your way through the easier difficulties is also very satisfying too, it’s great for everyone.
1: Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 (Japan-only sequel)
I never owned this as a child, but having played it a bit later on, it’s my number one game I want to get all the way through with someone. It plays like a mix between a traditional RPG with Zelda-like combat, and having another person with you makes it much better.
It’s a fine game on your own, but the journey together is leagues better. If you’re really lucky, you can actually go through it with 3 players! (though it will take some time before the 2nd and 3rd players can join)
Honestly I should just put ‘looking for someone excited to do a full playthough Secret of Mana with me’ on any dating profile I make, since that cuts right to the heart of all that is important in life. Commitment, teamwork, discovery and staying inside playing games.
Best SNES non-Square RPGs
As my favourite overall genre, I had to do something like this. Squaresoft were just absolutely killing it for so long they own the whole list. Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 4-6, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, it’s a flawless victory.
I noticed while trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything I’d played that people seemed to group A Link to the Past as an RPG. I understand why, but I don’t really think of it that way. It’s hard to explain where the line is, since something like Illusion of Gaia does feel like an RPG while Zelda doesn’t. I guess it’s the experience points/dealing damage in the form of numbers thing that Zelda games don’t do. Honestly, Zelda games feel like their own genre to me. For example, Alundra on PS1 is a great Zelda game, or Okami.
Shadowrun always gets high praise, but I couldn’t get into it when I tried. I might be too dumb though and I’m missing something to make it seem better.
A strategic RPG that’s unique compared to most others under that title, it has incredible depth in the various systems to do with alignment, night and day cycles changing units, and the fact that there are 13 endings to get. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever gotten a neutral one at best.
Lufia 2 is just good in basically every department. It is definitely a bit cliched these days, but hey that’s okay.
I love the Tales series, and this is what started them off. The combat is surprisingly fast and does absolutely not mess around if you make mistakes in the real-time 2D battles.
It’s not just the combat though, the game is oozing character from the sprites to the dialogue, and it is surprisingly mature despite how it looks.
Everyone knows about Earthbound by now. It’s an imaginative atypical experience starring some kids in a pseudo-contemporary-American setting. You should play it at some point if you like RPGs.
Having said that, for all I appreciate it for what it is, I have never felt any particular desire to replay it.
I mentioned recently that I thought Terranigma was underappreciated, and I really do think it’s up there among the best on the SNES. The animation, the music, the controls, the environments and enemies are all great. Try it.
Soulblazer and Illusion of Gaia are all both high quality games, and this the spiritual 3rd game in the ‘series’ is like a culmination of their efforts. I put this ahead of Earthbound because I think this game is just straight up more fun to play, even if Earthbound might be a more quirky experience.
Wow, I could spend all day talking about video games, and I didn’t even hit platformers. I probably should talk more about individual games more often when I think about it. Probably easier than travel-talk if I’m not going anywhere that often for the time being!