The Super Nintendo Entertainment System represented the pinnacle of video games in the early 90s. Seeing as we didn’t get a PlayStation until late in the decade, and I didn’t get my own PS1 (or PS2) for that matter until much later, the SNES was the console I spent the most time on growing up as a child.
And man, was it a great one.
There are dozens upon dozens of excellent video games released for the SNES, not the least of which being almost all of Nintendo’s mainstay franchises. I can’t even tell you how often I played Super Mario World, which to this day is still one of the greatest Mario games of all time. That end stage jingle still pops up in my head every now and then. And how can you discount the first appearance of Yoshi in the main Mario series? And the feather cape? Classic! Bowser’s clown car/plane hybrid thing makes a showing here. Taking into consideration how supremely well regarded the final entry in the Mario series on the original NES was, Super Mario Bros. 3, it’s an astounding achievement for this game to be just as good, if not even better, in multiple facets. Without question, Super Mario World was the Mario game that got me in to Mario games.
Looking back on the SNES, there are a few other huge franchises I got my start on, and one big one always comes to mind: Mortal Kombat. Fighting games have long been one of my favorite genres and I have the SNES to thank for that. Specifically, my brother Phil. Growing up, we would have to rent the original MK from the store here and there, and while our parents didn’t like us to play it in front of the younger kids my mom babysat, once they were gone we played for hours. Back then there wasn’t an internet to show you all the moves and fatalities, so when “Finish Him” popped up, and we had no idea what to do, but heard from friends what you could do, we were hooked. I’ll never forget the time my eldest brother Ben pulled off Sub-Zero’s spine rip fatality. Oh man… I still get chills thinking about that! Yeah, I know it was on the Genesis only, but we played it on the SNES too!
Anyway, back to Phil. When the sequel, MKII, came out, we played it constantly. And I mean constantly. After school, before dinner, after dinner, with his friends, with my friends, it was always on. I picked up several characters, but more importantly, learned some basic rules of fighting games in general. Moving on from the bloody MK series, I found myself in to Street Fighter. I always thought Street Fighter II was a bit clunky, but really found my groove with Street Fighter Alpha 2 on the SNES. Again, Phil and I played a lot, along with his friend Brandon. I found I wasn’t as skilled in SF as MK, but still liked playing and trying to master characters. Speaking of masters, to this day the only fighter Phil can still beat me at is Rare’s own Killer Instinct. I can recall one specific day where he actually taught me how to play on the SNES Advantage fight stick. He showed me combos, when to pull them off, how to input the buttons, and how to read your opponent. I think it was only a one-time affair, but it stuck with me. While we don’t play too many games these days, I think that moment defined our brotherhood around games, and is a major factor in my gaming today.
Moving away from fighters, the Super Nintendo had a few big franchises I enjoyed without my brother’s input. One such franchise was an evolution of one of my favorites on the NES, Mega Man X. Unfortunately no where near the spotlight today, Mega Man was at his peak in the mid 90s. Mega Man X on the SNES was a futuristic, new take on the series, and it brought a lot of new content to the tried-and-true formula. New robot master, new abilities, a new setting, new villain, and you could even throw a freaking fireball straight out of Street Fighter II. And the music! Oh man, some classic tunes right there!
Donkey Kong Country was an impactful game to the industry, but for me I just thought it was fun. You got to run around the jungle and such, stomping on crocodiles and gophers while avoiding bees. What more could you want? How about Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, with it’s equally impressive though very different visuals, and crazy epic final boss. Not enough you say? Let’s talk about the very first Super Mario Kart on the system, literally paving the way for an entire genre of kart racers to come. I didn’t get to this one until much later, but Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger all came out on the SNES, and they are by far some of the greatest 16-bit RPGs of all time. And then at the end of the SNES age we were given what many consider to be the best game on the console, Super Metroid. Quality gameplay, intriguing story, great boss battles, creepy music… Samus’ SNES outing was such a memorable, fun game!
One final game I want to discuss is usually up there when talking about the best the SNES had to offer. Just like Super Metroid, this is also considered by many a gamer to be the best on the console: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. While I thought Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on the NES was a cool game, there’s no denying it was drastically different from the original Legend of Zelda. I think that’s what made A Link to the Past so refreshing: it was a return to form and what series fans were craving. Bigger story, bigger quest, new items, updated visuals, fun gameplay, this game had everything a good sequel needs to thrive. There is a reason this game has been ported to pretty much every Nintendo console to date: it’s just that good! I know I’ve mentioned it a lot here, but the music in A Link to the Past is far and away some of the most memorable and iconic for the series. My mind is scrambling to pick just one song to mention without starting to think of another! You know what, just listen to the entire soundtrack!
Moving away from the Super NES’ games, I have to talk about the SNES controller. Since I didn’t play the PlayStation until much later, and only really dabbled with the Sega Genesis, the SNES controller was the only controller I used for most of the 90s. While improvements have been made to gaming controllers since, I always felt the simplicity in the SNES controllers’ design made it timeless. It is essentially the same design Nintendo went with when making the Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U controllers. Four buttons, two shoulders, and a d-pad was all you really needed to play just about anything. Classic design that has withstood the test of time!
The Super Nintendo reigned supreme in our house for years. Though the Sege Genesis was present for most of that time as well, it was Nintendo’s console we gravitated toward. At least until the late 90s when the Nintendo 64 released and changed everything. Again. But that’s a discussion for another time!