It all started when my NES disappeared one day. My parents told me it was in the shop for repair. I was young and dumb enough to believe them. They actually gave it to my cousins because me and my brother were getting a SNES for Christmas a few weeks later. I didn't have all that many games but I gradually increased the amount I had over the years while they were still making new games. I purchased a few games used after the console had stopped making new games, but these are not included on my list. The following list is the straight up I played the shit out of them when I was a kid and have many fond memories of them. I hope I can share some of my positive memories with you and encourage you to bring out some of your own happy memories.
Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts
I feel like people know this franchise but I'm not sure how many fans it really has. It's a really cool side scroller platformer deal. When your guy (Arthur) gets hit by an enemy he loses his armor and is left in his undies. How cool is that? Very. It has a variety of weapons that are each quite unique. Some of the weapons are good in certain stages and circumstances which adds more depth to the game. Also, each weapon is upgradable when you get armor upgrades. I always used the fast throwing knife or the upwards firing bow and arrow.
The setting of the game is pretty cool as it's just what you would expect from the title and cover of the box - a bunch of monsters out to get you. I have a fond memory of staying up very late when I was younger and a friend and my brother and we played the shit out of this game. We threw Game Genie on it so we could get unlimited continues because I could never get past one of the later stages without it. Anyway, I think my friend and my brother gave up and just watched me play for most of the time. I got to the last boss and beat him down. I thought I had just beaten the game then it says I need to find a key. What the hell? I thought okay maybe it's at the end of the first level or something. Nope. I played a few more stages and figured the key was probably at the last stage I had already beaten. I don't want to beat the game twice in order to beat it once. I can't believe how vividly I remember playing this game that one frustrating night. Oh well, I never beat it but it gave me many hours of fun.
I got this game for Christmas one year and I was pumped. I think there were commercials for it on TV or maybe I read about it in Nintendo Power Magazine. Either way, I bought into the hype and was not disappointed. The image of the game held up to how it was advertised - as a badass, dark, combo-driven fighting game experience.
Maybe just as important to the game itself was what it came with. A CD! The Killer Cuts CD. It was the soundtrack to the game (which is awesome) and my very first CD I ever owned. So the music ruled, the atmosphere of the game was unique, the combos were extensive, and the characters were well done. Combo lengths (number of hits) had different names with each name getting more impressive as the length of them increased. There were super, awesome, mega, monster, and ultra combos that I remember off the top of my head. The ultra combos I think could only be done if your opponent was close to dead and you pretty much just had to perform a decent combo then button mash. When you pulled one off the announcer yelled, “ULTRA, ULTRA, ULTRA!”
There were stage dependant finishing moves although they were not as impressive as any Mortal Kombat game. The game got fairly hard as you progressed near the end. Spinal, a skeleton with a sword and shield always gave me trouble, as did the final boss, a two headed ogre looking dude with a club. But since I picked Orchid, a chick who fought with yellow, size changing glow sticks, I always eventually won in the end. Some other characters included a werewolf guy, a boxer, a cyborg, and an ice monster. All of which were well designed and suited the game nicely.
I wonder if anyone else liked this game just to play against AI as much as I did. I was not even a sports fan when I played this game all those years ago. Hell, I didn't even know of any of the players in the game (Jordan was not in the game because it would have been unfair). The Bulls were still the beat team without him though. I remember thinking that the Atlanta Hawks logo looked not like a hawk, but instead like pacman eating a dot of something.
This two on two basketball game was really designed for the multiplayer aspect of arcades but I think I was too short to go to the arcade and see the screen back in the day. There was a turbo feature that you could pretty much hold down 90% of the time and it also allowed you to push down your opponents. No fouls or foul shots to slow the game down either. But you did have the ability to get "on fire." If you made three consecutive shots in a row, you would get unlimited turbo and would have around a 93% chance of making any shot you take within half court. The ball would actually be on fire too. Seems dangerous yet extremely manly, right? Let's go outside and convince some kids to try that one.
During halftime you would see a clip of a guy throwing down a dunk, which I thought was so cool for SNES to have those type of graphics. But after halftime, no matter how large of a lead you had, the AI always seemed to come back and get the game within one shot of winning or tying the game by the last minute or two. To this day that always happens to me when I play the game. Suspenseful endings are cool and all, but it just seems like the first 3 quarters of the game don't even matter because the score is almost always tied or very close to it by the end.
Also, did I mention there were spectacular dunks where you can jump 78449 feet in the air and dunk so hard the backboard shatters? I wish I watched basketball when backboards were still made of glass.
Mortal Kombat II
This game in my opinion was the height of the Mortal Kombat franchise. It took and improved upon everything in MKI yet did not change things enough to make the game less fun. The best part of MKIII was in the beginning when a text appeared that read, "There is no knowledge that is not power." I still quote MKIII on that to this day.
My fighter of choice was Kitana, the razor fan wielding outworld princess. It was actually unusual for me to pick females in video games during this time in my life (probably because of the fear of video game transmitted cooties), but in Killer Instinct I had one as well as with MKII. The game had awesome fatalities, including stages ones (The Pit II or the acid stage anyone?). It also included a few secret opponents you could fight, but were tough to do, especially Noob Saibot (check out the origins of his name if you don't know it already). I had to play a shitload of 2 player games with me just beating a non-existent second player in order to fight Noob. Once I got to him he demolished me. I was so mad. Actually all three of the secret characters were really tough.
The Goro replacement in MKII was named Kintaro. He was difficult and intimidating. He had a bunch of ways to attack you and it was fairly tough to predict what he was going to do next. Once he did hit you it took off like 30% of your life just for one hit. If you managed to get through this many-limbed beast, you got to the boss man. Shao Kahn. He wasn't as tough as Kintaro but still put up a good fight. The best part about him was how he just taunted you before and after every round to really instill doubt in your mind as whether or not you were worthy to stand in mortal combat against him. You see what I did there? Yeah, you're right it was really funny.
Super Mario World
This game really began the tradition of expecting Nintendo to have a really good Mario games with the release of its consoles. Whether or not they did it is debatable. And yeah, Luigi's Mansion for GameCube I'm counting here. Anyhow, Mario World looked pretty and backed up the prettiness with really solid game play and creativity. It was the future of platformers.
The best new aspects to this game were the cape and Yoshi. You can fly with the cape and eat berries and shit with Yoshi. I think it was this game that started the whole everybody loves Yoshi thing. He was in so many games since Mario World. It had all the classic enemies and items with some new additions. I personally liked the rhino guys and the hammer brothers that sat on the flying platform. And what was with those football guys? They were in so many stages and I don't know why.
The stages were also really neat. Ghost houses! A sunken and haunted ghost ship (redundant)! Secret stages accessed by finding more difficult way out of stages! A super secret world with radical names for each (I think radical something or other was the name of one of them). Yeah, Mario World rocked my socks.
Donkey Kong Country
I also really liked the second game, but this I think I played this one more and I give it more credit because it was the first. It had awesome 3Dish claymation graphics. It really was an amazing step forward in how beautiful developers could make games look.
You controlled both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. Donkey was stronger and could kill some enemies easier but was slower. Diddy was faster and more nimble but had a harder time killing some enemies. There were animal friends that helped you kill your enemies like Rambi the rhino and a swordfish guy for underwater stages. You collected bananas instead of coins like in Mario, and balloons were the one-ups rather than green mushrooms.
The story, stages, and enemy designs were cartoonish but it worked well because the game play was right on. You had to find and fight King K. Rool. It took me a really, really long time to realize that his name was supposed to sound like "cruel." My favorite enemy was the invincible dudes that tried to kill you or just chilled out depending on whether the barrels had a red light or a green light. And the best stages were the ones where you were in a mine cart and had to navigate a rickety track and jump around to save yourself and take out the baddies.
Super Mario All-Stars
Yes I am actually including this game as a separate game. This is mostly because none of the games it had included in it were on the SNES. It was four games in one - Mario I, Mario I: The Lost Levels, Mario II, and Mario III. The only game I had owned for the NES out of the four was Mario I, the rest I was introduced to through this compilation of early Mario games.
It was a relief to have Mario I back after my NES was taken from me. It really was quite the epic game. The levels got pretty tough once you get deeper into the game. I always got nervous heading into Bowser's castle with lava and narrow jumping locations, fireballs shooting at you when you get near Bowser. Trying to decide whether to run under Bowser or jump over him to hit the ax to send him into the lava. These are great memories. The Lost Levels I heard was made to please the Japanese players were who supposedly way better on average than their North American counterparts. Nintendo wanted to give the Japanese people a challenge that they did not want to waste on North Americans until Mario All-Stars. I personally have never beaten the Lost Levels.
Mario II I think I had rented for NES before and thought it was a really odd looking game. I think Nintendo just threw the Mario characters on this game and it was originally something else with different characters and had something to do with a dream. It was different but good. It was one of those games where I would try to beat it in one sitting if I had a couple free hours. And did anyone else have nightmares about those flying metal face guys who chased you when you picked up a key?
Mario III = awesome. I still get together with friends and play this game out. The suits are good in this game. The frog suit is great; I always challenged people to try to get as far as they can with only the frog suit. The raccoon thing where you grew a tail and pointy ears when you got a leaf was great. You could fly temporarily and float around which was a precursor to the cape in Super Mario World. The special raccoon suit (tanooki) where you could turn to stone to avoid being damaged by enemies was nice. And the hammer suit...what can I saw, it was so badass. Possibly the best suit, if it even counts, was the boot you could jump into on that one stage. It was adorable and fun to have Mario jumping around in a big green boot.
If it were not for Mario All-Stars, I never would have experienced the feeling of relief of having Mario I back, the frustration of The Lost Levels, the strangeness of (the American) Mario II, or arguably one of the greatest console games of all time - Mario III.
Super Mario Kart
I remember renting this game when the SNES was very new. I was so excited to be able to control the cast of characters the game included. YOU CAN BE BOWSER AND KOOPA?! Holy shit. I remember picking Bowser the first time I ever played but later switching and remaining loyal to this day to Koopa. I think this was the first SNES game which I thoroughly enjoyed the multiplayer aspect. Driving around those courses with the orbs floating around your cart as you try to hit your opponents with turtle shells was so much fun.
The racing portion of the game was really good too. It seemed to be the perfect degree of difficulty. It was really easy on 50cc but once you manned up and played 150cc special cup you were in for a challenge. How many times did I fall off the edgeless sides of Rainbow Road you ask? More than I care to remember because that was the single most frustrating part of the game. You get to the last course on 150cc and you have a chance at taking the overall gold. Then you fall off the side ONCE and you're completely done for. When I first played the Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 64 I knew that it was a total pansy-ass version compared to the original.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
This is one of my favorite if not my number one favorite arcade port of all time. It was a classic beat em up simple game that was a blast when you had buddies to play with. I was a huge TNMT fan during the time of the game anyway, so I ate up all the bad guys you had to fight like Slash, Rat King, and Bebop and Rock Steady. Some of the mechanics in the game are pretty cool as well. I like how you can throw your enemies at the screen and could run, slide, and do acrobatic moves. Although the historical accuracy of the time traveling in the game are a little off, I still like kicking ass near dinosaurs, on a boat, on a train, and eventually into space. And I always laugh when I play Neon Night Riders. I think our present is supposed to look like that with all the flying platforms and futuristic cityscape. Hell, the game was made in 1992, how did they think 20 or so years would change THAT much?
In my opinion the game has endless replay value and goes down as one of the games I have played more than any other. You can beat the game so fast too that it retains my interest like the vast majority of games cannot. I usually beat the game in like 22 minutes I think. Even if you take your sweet ass time you probably won't be playing for more than 30 minutes. And because you can pick between the four different turtles, somehow the game just never gets old. This is one of those games I play with my brother when he comes back home to visit and it fits the occasion perfectly.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
This game is a perfect blend of great graphics, creative game play, and all-around cuteness. It was a relatively late release for the SNES, which is evident in its graphics. Somehow the SNES kept pushing the boundaries of how far they could take their 16 bit console in terms of graphics. I also liked the amount of replay value the game has. It was easy enough to beat the game regularly, but tough to get a 100% score on every stage, beat the bonus stages, then get 100% on the bonus stages. And how cool was it to have six eggs following you around?
There were some great stages. Like the one "Eat Fuzzy, Get Dizzy." If you touched the enemy "fuzzy", you took a short acid trip where the stage became technicolored and the ground moved around on you. And the boss stages were all good. There was one where you were eaten by a giant frog and had to throw enemies or eggs at the giant hanging thing in the back of his throat. And the final battle against Baby Bowser was one of the best final battles in the history of gaming. It blew my mind when I saw the little guy turn Godzilla-sized and start shooting fireballs at me. The simple, feel-good story and the cool controls helped this game be more than just another good Mario title.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
My top two games are such a toss-up. And I could write a novel about this game in particular. It still amazes me to this day how truly great this game is. It really is a masterpiece. There is a tremendous amount of depth in A Link to the Past. How big the world of Hyrule was and how many small details and secrets are scattered throughout it are impressive. It's hard to believe that this game is so old. I remember the title screen saying 1991, 1992.
I was so young when I first got this game that I remember it being too text heavy for me. I had a very basic reading level at this point in my life and my older brother read the text to me so I had a better idea where I had to go and what I had to do. Whenever I got a new item, better armor, or my sword tempered, it always gave me such a rush of excitement. I felt that I could go take down Ganon without the help of the seven trapped princesses once I got that red sword. And the red boomerang was always my go to weapon.
I played this game so much. Sometimes I didn't even do what I was supposed to do and just ran around the world and swimming in Lake Hylia. I thank that one monster guy that sold me those flippers for 500 rupees every day of my life. The bosses were awesome like that guy whose face you had to smash with the hammer before you could hit him with your sword, or that two-headed fire and ice dragon. The last battle did not disappoint either as you had to battle Ahganim, the human form, then the true form that is Ganon. There were so many characters you met throughout the game that it is easy to get wrapped up in the rich story, feeling like you are the silent Link. A convincing argument could be made that this is indeed a role-playing game. I guess that term is pretty vague, but regardless, the story ruled.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Yes, that's right; this is my favorite SNES game I own. Part of the reason I like this game so much could have to do with the point of my life I got it. This is probably true of many of the other games on the list, but when I got Mario RPG I was old enough to read and understand all the comically humorous text and dialogue it offered. Much like when I first played Mario Kart, I was excited to play as characters you normally could not play as; in this case Bowser and Princess. The entire cast of characters in the game was really good. Geno was a wooden-toy badass, and I even liked Mallow, the cloud-person crybaby. Frogfucious, Booster, Smithy, Jinx, Culex, and The Axem Rangers, were all great characters.
I think this may have been the first game I purchased and used the strategy guide for. And somehow I really believe it only added to the enjoyment of the game. There were tons of secrets, minigames, and odd little things to discover. It was the first typical RPG I ever played, which is a good thing because it is fairly basic; a perfect introductory game to the genre. It definitely was the one RPG to get me to play other RPGs later on. I may be incorrect on this one, but I am pretty sure that this game was $80 new when it came out. Even if this is true, it was worth every penny and so much more.
There is a great deal of replay value in this game from my point of view. I play through it every once in a while, often trying new things. The first time I beat the game without using Princess I was proud (she has amazing healing and reviving spells). Then I beat the game without either of the over-powered lazy shell weapon or armor. Then I even tried beating Culex the Final Fantasy cross-over before I hit a certain level. The Culex (Final Fantasy) music was so good that I didn't mind that battle taking a ridiculously long time.
Some things I still have not done in the game. One of them is getting all 100 of the secret invisible coin boxes. Is that even what they're called? I don't know. Also, I never was able to do the super or mega jump thirty times in a row or whatever the amount was to get that certain item. I never figured out how to do that. I love it when a game presents so many challenges and is impossible to ever get sick of.