25 years ago today, Nintendo released one of the best consoles ever made: the legendary Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In celebration of this momentous occasion, I thought I'd take you back to the past and recount seven of my favorite SNES games of all time.
With the NES, Nintendo revived the legendary video game crash of 1984 and ushered in the golden age of console gaming. With the SNES, however, the company smashed our wildest expectations and gave way to an era of splendor, wonder, and amazement. I still remember my first time playing Donkey Kong Country on my brother's console, instantly being pulled into the whimsical--yet sometimes sadistic--tropical world of platforming apes. But once I got my own SNES I was introduced to the love of my gaming life: retro RPGs.
The SNES delivered some of the best JRPGs in existence, many of which are still enjoyed to this day. A good portion of these games--like Chrono Trigger--pushed forth new mechanics that are still being used by developers in modern games, showing just how ahead of their time these games were. Below I have a quick list of seven of my favorite SNES games of all time, but be forewarned, it's quite RPG heavy.
1. Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger is, and was, my favorite SNES game of all time. Right when I got my SNES I burned through Super Mario Land and sampled the huge wall of games at Blockbuster. Ahh, those were the days! I happened upon Chrono Trigger and I really liked the box (that's how it was done back in the day, folks) so I picked it up. And I'm so glad I did.
Right when I jumped into SNES I wasn't so interested in RPG type games. They were kind of boring and seemed complicated; I just wanted to jump in, mash buttons, and kick some ass. Chrono Trigger taught me to be more patient, and opened my eyes to the world of real RPGS.
Right from the get-go I was hooked. I loved the battle system and I actually wanted to read about the characters. This was a pretty big deal for me at the time, as I didn't really like reading much in games. But this one was different. The visual style was so colorful, but it matched that fantasy world that had my imagination flying everywhere.
I should note that at this time my dad was really big into fantasy books, and I'd always love looking at the covers with the dragons and knights and elves and whatnot. So Chrono Trigger appealed to me on a deeper level.
The combat system was engaging, and I liked experimenting with the tech system and trading out characters to see what worked best. There was an air of sword and sorcery, and this thrill of discovering new mechanics and ways to beat bosses and monsters that really appealed to me. This game taught me to think differently about games, and introduced me to a whole new definition as to what a game could be.
To this day I love Chrono Trigger, and regard it as one of--if not the--best RPGs ever made.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
I had a very hard time choosing between Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger for the top spot.
After playing this at a friend's house, I did everything in my power as a budding nerd to get this game in my SNES collection. Lo and behold it worked, and I found myself utterly enchanted by the 16-bit world of Hyrule. I played this game after Chrono Trigger (but its worth remembering that I never really 'beat' games as a kid, I just played them and progressed here and there, but would move on to other titles) so I had an idea of what SNES fantasy games could be like, but A Link to the Past just blew me away.
I'd played the original Legend of Zelda on NES and really couldn't get too far. LttP was completely different: while I didn't get the perfect game, I devoted so much time and effort to discovering secrets and beating this game that my other games got neglected. I was obsessed and completely enamored by this game at every turn, even if it did make me incredibly frustrated when I couldn't figure out what to do. Luckily my friends jumped in to help along with the odd Nintendo Power magazine.
To this day A Link to the Past stands as one of the best SNES games--and pretty much the best Zelda game--ever made.
3. Final Fantasy VI
Admittedly I didn't get into Final Fantasy VI until my teenage years. And honestly, it's a good thing I waited. Even though I started to love RPGs as a kid, Final Fantasy VI would've been too rich for my diet, which was used to lighter fare.
FF6 has a webwork of interlinking stories and characters, all of which are developed throughout the story. And like all Final Fantasy games, it has a huge world to explore filled with secrets and a huge progression system. At this time I was moving on towards the Nintendo 64, but still fired up the SNES every now and again when the urge struck me, and discovering FF6 was an amazing journey to say the least.
Like most of the games on this list, Final Fantasy 6 still holds up today. Pick it up if you ever have a hankering for some quality retro JRPG action--especially if you like your games infused with interesting characters and a big overarching storyline.
Earthbound was the kind of game I'd get lost in, and it would drive me nuts from time to time. It didn't help that I really had to convince my parents to buy it for me with tons of chores and good grades. Once I finally got it, though, I couldn't really progress. Remember this was back before the internet, where you had to know someone or grab a cheat book. But I didn't give up, and eventually found my way...but I never ended up beating the game even to this day.
I was attracted to this game because the heroes were just normal kids with their own little quirks. I thought it was so amazing that youngsters could be at the center of an RPG experience, and it really echoed some of my youth growing up in the suburbs--it was really rare for me to make that kind of real life connection to a RPG.
5. Donkey Kong Country
This one was the first SNES game I ever played, and I couldn't have asked for a better starter game (well except for maybe Super Mario World). As a NES owner I had played tons of platformers, but Donkey Kong Country felt so unique with its amazing graphics and hilarious style, and I found myself just pulled right in to the soothing tropical world filled with apes and mischievous critters. Plus my Super Mario Bros. 3 sensibilities paid off here, but I had to learn tons of new tricks to keep up. Ultimately this game just "clicked" with me.
Sure the game got downright sadistic at times, but it was always the first game I fired up on my brothers SNES. It was this game that convinced me to beg my parents for a Super Nintendo at Christmas, and then my horizons broadened to massive heights.
As a kid I didn't really like racing games. F-Zero was the exception. I didn't own this game, but I played this at a friend's house every opportunity. It was like a ritual for us. Every time I came over, we'd fire up F-Zero and smack talk each other while zooming across those brightly lit spaceways. Those neon futuristic visuals really sparked my imagination, and I was so blown away by the new parallax scrolling. I'd always imagine little side stories like what the future people were thinking when they saw these crazy hover-racers flying across roadways at death defying speeds.
I always wanted to walk around that future city and see what it was like. F-Zero made a huge impression on me as a kid, and I'll never forget it.
7. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
This was another game I didn't own and played with friends. Zombies Ate My Neighbors was my first real introduction to lengthy couch co-op gaming, and a few of my friends and I would team up to take on the hordes of zombies and explore the huge levels. I was always really impressed by how big the game felt, and love the wacky style and all the different weapons and items.
Sure we didn't really ever get that far, but that didn't matter. We had fun, and were always communicating and trying to figure things out. That's the magic of co-op gaming, and it really had a huge impact on how I bonded with some of my friends--most of which I still play online games with even today.