Nintendo didn’t really surprise anyone by announcing the SNES Classic Edition, a 16-bit sequel to the massively successful plug-and-play NES Classic Edition emulator box, would be coming out this fall. The news sure got us excited to revisit some of our childhood favorites, though. The device’s roster of 21 games is loaded with beloved classics, but feels a bit light relative to the nearly 800 games released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System from 1991 to 1998. We’ve highlighted nine more titles for the SNES that we really wish would round it up to an even 30, like its older brother, the NES Classic.
Truly a classic of the 16-bit era, this 1995 Squaresoft RPG sprang from the so-called RPG “dream team” of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii, and Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. Chrono Trigger tells a thrilling, twisty tale of time travel, unlikely friendships, and saving the world that still feels remarkably fresh. It also introduced a few conventions found in RPGs (and other games) to this day, including a “New Game Plus” feature, letting players loop through the story again after completing it to explore its many alternate endings. This was only really possible because, notably among its JRPG peers, Chrono Trigger doesn’t waste your time at all with tedious grinding. Regardless of platform, many fans still hold it up as one of the greatest games of all time.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest
Rare’s original Donkey Kong Country will be available on the SNES Classic Edition, but we’d be lying if we said we wouldn’t rather be playing its sequel. Released in November, 1995, just a year after its predecessor, Diddy Kong’s Quest took everything we loved about the first game and made it better. Its backgrounds are livelier and more detailed, its charming, faux 3D character animations are smoother, its levels are longer, and its secrets are more satisfying. Released about six months prior to Nintendo redefining platforming once again with Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong Country 2 may have been the pinnacle of 2D platforming at the genre’s heyday.
Mortal Kombat II
While Street Fighter 2, which did make the cut, may be the most influential fighting game ever, Mortal Kombat II‘s cultural footprint can’t be understated. Its rotoscoped animations — made using live actors — and gory “Fatality” finishing moves meant that the Mortal Kombat series had the most realistic and disturbing violence that video games had yet seen — so much so that Senator Joe Lieberman held it up as en example of how dangerous games were becoming for impressionable youths. The resulting controversy led to the creation of the ESRB rating system for games, ultimately (and ironically) securing the medium’s ability to explore mature themes and imagery. Street Fighter 2 is fun, but the system really needs MKII to give a complete sense of mid-90s fighting games.
Seiken Densetsu 3
Like early Final Fantasy games, SquareSoft’s Secret of Mana series’ numbering got a bit thrown off as the series was only partially ported to the west. What English-speaking gamers know as Secret of Mana was actually released as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan. At the time, many of us didn’t know even about its sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3, which launched two years later in Japan, but never made its way west outside of unofficial fan-translated ROMs. Like its predecessor, Seiken Densetsu 3 is an action RPG that can be played either solo or in 2-player co-op. Players choose three out of six possible playable characters, setting one as the protagonist and the other two as party members to subsequently pick up. Each character had their own story to follow, giving the game a huge amount of replay value. Other systemic improvements over the last game include character classes, and a day/night cycle and calendar system tied to elemental magic. This would have been a great opportunity to introduce a lost classic to a wider, English-speaking audience.
Stardew Valley may be one of our favorite games of the last few years, but it couldn’t exist without the innovative gameplay model defined by the original Harvest Moon. Like its many sequels and copycats, Harvest Moon casts you as a young man who has inherited a family farm in disrepair. By cleaning up the land, raising crops and livestock, taking part in local community festivals, and finding a wife, the player lives out a pastoral fantasy that still resonates with a lot of gamers. Developer Natsume is still releasing entries in the series, with a new title coming to PC and Switch in 2018, but they’ve done very little to improve upon the charming original, which makes its absence on the Classic a disappointment.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
From Streets of Rage to Golden Axe, the side-scrolling beat-em-up was a defining genre of the 90s. They were born in arcades, allowing for a great co-op experience, but the release of 16-bit home consoles meant that gamers could take these experiences home as well. In Turtles in Time, Leonardo, Donatello, et al. team up to take down Shredder and associates across various time periods, sending goons hurtling across the screen. Though originally released in arcades, the SNES version became the definitive version for many players thanks to new levels, a time trial, and a versus mode. The arcade version still has one major advantage — four-player co-op. Both the Ninja Turtles and sidescrolling beat-em-ups are particularly iconic of 90s pop culture, so Turtles in Time would have brought some serious retro cache to the Classic Edition’s line-up.
Tetris is one of the most iconic games of all time, coming, in some form, to basically every platform since 1984. Tetris Attack (first released as Panel de Pon) has almost nothing to do with that other than being a matching block puzzler. The Tetris Company’s Henk Rogers even said that he regretted allowing the license, since it diluted the Tetris brand. Whatever you want to call it, though, Tetris Attack is an undeniably great game, and one of our favorite competitive titles from the SNES. Like Tetris, rows of colored blocks gradually fill a vertical shaft until it hits the top and the player loses, but this time they join from the bottom. Swapping two blocks horizontally at a time, the player reconfigures the field until lines of three or more matching blocks are cleared. Scoring chains and combos causes garbage blocks to dump down onto your opponent’s screen, keeping the competition spicy and engaged.
Where most early sports games were a bit dry and abstract, NBA Jam showed how to embrace the unreality of sports video games, and it was wildly successful as a result. Published by Midway in 1993, it featured 2-on-2 basketball with real life contemporary players from the 1993-94 NBA season. (Fun fact: It’s also one of the first games include the digitized likenesses of active pro athletes). The gameplay was most notable for its exaggerated style, with tremendous dunks and iconic one-liners that defined sports and games ever since.
One of the console’s strangest releases, Mario Paint was a creation toolkit that allowed users to create static images, simple animations, and MIDI music, utilizing images and sound effects from Nintendo’s Mario franchise. Well before widespread online content creation tools and connected consoles, Mario Paint was perhaps decades ahead of its time in empowering player creativity before we had the infrastructure to easily share it, and its echoes can be felt in the fantastic Super Mario Maker. We can understand leaving this one out, since it was released alongside the little-used SNES Mouse peripheral, but it’s a real shame that we won’t be able to go back to this classically quirky Nintendo title.
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