If you’re still deciding wether or not the SNES Classic Mini is for you, look no further than this review…
With the SNES Classic Mini releasing soon, it seemed like an interesting idea to have a look at each game included on the console and give it a mini-review. (Reviewed on the SNES or 3DS/GBA/Wii when possible) Be warned: Some level of knowledge is assumed for most of these franchises, as to keep the reviews short but entertaining.
To make your life easier, here’s an index:
Super Mario World
As one of the launch games, it was surprising to see the game managed to show off just what the SNES was capable of from the 1st day of its release. The controls were super responsive and the level design pushed the boundaries of what we knew was possible at the time. It’s the game that introduced us to everyone’s favourite rideable dinosaur: Yoshi. It will also let you get a new power up that lets you play as caped Mario, a high-jumping, far-gliding super-plumber! Other new things seen here are the ability to hold back-up items (like a mushroom or a fire flower) that will release upon being hit and the now well-known spin jump (that let you break bricks below you but also lets you screw drive enemies into oblivion). It’s a great platformer that still holds up well today and one of the first games I’ll be playing on my SNES classic.
Super Mario Kart
What would a Nintendo console be without its own version of Mario Kart? Well you might say that now but this is where the series had its humble beginnings. It didn’t only kickstart its own namesake series but the actual genre of mascot kart-racing where you can use items against your unsuspecting opponents. It’s probably the prime reason two controllers are included in the box and you’ll no doubt enjoy countless hours racing against the person next to you on the couch. The gameplay is fun in its own right, but the fact you got to play as Mario universe characters on Mario themed tracks made it all the more attractive. Major point of interest for those that might say “Why not just play the latest instalment?” >> it has NO-FREAKING-BLUE-SHELLS! So take the lead in this Faux-3D racer and enjoy keeping it while others eat your rainbow coloured dust.
Is it me or are we beginning to see a trend with Nintendo’s use of adjectives in game titles? Either way, it’s never used more appropriately than here as “SUPER” is exactly how this game can be defined. The controls are super-sharp and responsive, something you’ll hear many a speedrunner boast about. A major difference introduced here is Samus’ ability to also aim diagonally, which alleviates the need for those annoying jump-shots to hit enemies on the ceiling. But the most important one is without a doubt the addition of a minimap: this makes exploring the game so much more enjoyable and makes it easier to avoid unnecessary backtracking. Map computers are scattered throughout and help immensely with discovering the many hidden collectibles. While playing through it you’ll constantly unlock new abilities and each one invites you to use it to get to hidden treasures or find new shortcuts. The game is near *perfect* and a likely candidate for “Best game on the console”.
The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past
If Super Metroid doesn’t take the title for Best Game, than this one is sure to be a top contender. There are many gamers out there who would even put this in their top 10 games ever. The graphics are fantastically clean, the soundtrack is highly memorable, the controls are tight, the world is perfectly designed and there is just so much to explore that you’ll be entertained for hours and are likely to discover new things to do upon each playthrough. The game even introduces a whole new world halfway through just when you thought you were nearing the end. The combat never seems to feel old (it’s soooo satisfying to swing your sword) but even that has to take a backseat to the brilliant puzzles. To solve most of these, you’ll need to use the item you most recently acquired and it’s a recipe that hasn’t gotten old after all these years.
It’s also one of the games where I look forward to using the brand new rewind function of the SNES Mini as I can recall one particular boss that has the ability to throw you down a few levels and you then have to travel all the way back up to him only to find his health fully restored. + There are also the wallmaster, large hands that grab you and drop you of at the entrance of the dungeon. With the new feature, these become a non-issue. Due to this, the SNES Mini version of A Link to the Past may just be the best version you can play.
If Super Mario Kart doesn’t feel quite fast enough for you, there is always F-Zero. This futuristic racer ups the ante not only when it comes to the sensation of speed but also the difficulty level as it’s a lot less forgiving than the mascot toting “fun-for-all”. You’ll have to memorise every track’s layout if you want to do well at all and if you’re playing a grand-prix, just one mistake could cost you the entire tournament. It’s funny how the games that were known to have the best use of graphics when they released don’t seem to hold up as well though: F-zero feels particularly pixelated and epilepsy-inducing when playing it in 2017. It’s still a blast to play, but it’s lacking a bit in content and you’ll have seen all there is to see in a few hours. Another strike against it is the missing multiplayer, something that feels particularly odd in a racing game. It’s still a MUST include in a package like this though, for what it represented at the time of release and how it showcased the Mode 7 chip (which allowed for the sensation of 3D movement thanks to the rotating backgrounds)
Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fightning
And here we have another game [SHORYUKEN!] where the multiplayer defines how much enjoyment you can get out of it. In fact, it’s still being played competitively today, after more than 20 years. It had a wide roster of playable characters [YOGA FIRE!], each with a very unique fighting style and amazing sprite animations [TIGER KNEE!]. This version featured four different speed settings and had new Super moves for all fighters + it also introduced Akuma as a playable (albeit hidden behind a code entry) character. It’s entertaining enough just playing a few fights vs the AI but the most fun can be had if you invite a friend [HADOKEN!] over or have a sibling you can play against. [SONIC BOOM!! – the attack, not the horrible hedgehog game]
Next on the list is another fighting-based game, albeit this time it’s a 3rd person boxing game. It featured very detailed sprites for the different opponents you’ll face and each of them had a specific pattern that you’ll need to memorize if you intend to beat them. Each one has a certain tell that gives away their next move. Use that information wisely and you’ll be able to dodge any incoming punch and know when to dole out some punches of your own. Dodge enough incoming hits and your Special meter will slowly fill and when full it will let you hit your opponent with a devastating attack. The game still looks great to this day, showcasing how 16bit graphics can still please the eyes 20 years later.
Donkey Kong Country
Again, it’s funny to see how the games that strived to advance the visual technology back in the day are the ones that don’t hold up as well today. Donkey Kong Country managed to impress a lot of gamers when it first released with its faux-3D looks and detailed animations. What Rare managed to display on your TV was simply never seen before at the time and you have to give them credit for that. Furthermore the sound design was off the charts with some tunes permanently edged into my eardrums. The levels are immensely diverse and even the gameplay switches things up as you’ll not only have regular platforming levels, but also mine cart levels, moment where you get to play as an animal or ride them or simply the fact that you get to play as two different characters (with co-op if you have a player2 on the bench!). While the graphics may have aged, the gameplay and soundtrack still manage to feel fresh to this day.
Contra III: The Alien Wars
Contra was one of the most action-packed games you could find on the SNES: not a second goes by in this game where you’re not firing your weapon at whatever the game is throwing at you. The weapon upgrades are handed to you in spades and you’ll even have the option to switch to a secondary weapon for the first time in the series’ history. If your handheld hardware isn’t doing enough damage you even get to use some bombs that wipe out every onscreen enemy. Speaking of which, the creatures and machines you’ll fight are all uniquely designed and you’re constantly curious of what the next level will bring. The game also has a split-screen co-op mode for when you need that extra firepower.
The box boasted that this game has special effects unlike any you’ve seen before, and that may have very well been true in 1993 but looking back at this in 2017 doesn’t do the game any justice. Back in the day it was the first game that had polygon graphics and was able to render true 3D shapes. Unlike many, I wasn’t fortunate enough to play this game in the nineties though and I don’t have any nostalgia glasses to cloud my judgement and visually it’s nothing short of ugly. The gameplay is smooth and responsive, but you’ll need to have memorised most of the levels (a trend in the SNES game library) as the draw distance doesn’t let you see far ahead so there is almost no time to react if you need to dodge oncoming obstacles. (I hope the SNES Mini’s rewind function contributes to the enjoyment here as well) Luckily the game is very short so I can at least recommend playing through it once or twice to experience the game that was so ground-breaking upon release.
NOTE: you’ll have to have played the original game first before Star Fox 2 becomes playable on your SNES Mini.
Final Fantasy VI
I refuse to call this game Final Fantasy III as it was confusingly called when it released in the USA and Europe. This 6th entry in the series is listed by many as their favourite Final Fantasy and some may even list it as their favourite game ever. It was the last main entry for a Nintendo device as the series would later shift to Sony’s Playstation in search of a more powerful console. While the other games on this list have a lesser focus on story, it’s the plot and the well-developed characters that are the driving forces behind this masterpiece. The Villain, Kefka, is particularly memorable as he is just the type of guy that wants to see the world burn. (Think Batman’s The Joker with magic powers…) The setting in a world with magic and technology living hand in hand is one that has always felt particularly pleasing to me. As usual, the sound design is nothing short of amazing and it’s nothing short of a miracle what Nobuo Uematsu managed to get out of Nintendo’s device. The Graphics have aged very well and are still pleasing to look at and the Turn Based Gameplay is something I still miss to this day.
Weirdly the game also allows a second player to control the other half of your party, but this game is a single player experience for the most part as I doubt you’ll find someone that can sit through the entire 30+ hours experience next to you.
Kirby Super Star
Kirby has been one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises and the pink blob is immediately recognisable by every gamer young and old. It’s a collection of 8 different games packaged into one attractive wrapping. The Spritework in each of them still holds up well today. It’s just such a colourful and upbeat game that one could easily turn this on when they’re feeling down and walk away feeling better and relaxed. The gameplay concept of Kirby consuming enemies and gaining their power never seems to get old and never before have you been able to use as many powers as in this version. What’s more is that you can now spit out a copy of the consumed enemy and have him join you as an AI-controlled helper (if you have a friend or sibling nearby, they can even control this copy which makes the game even easier). All in all it’s a great inclusion in the SNES Mini library and kind of ups the number of games well beyond the proclaimed “21” if you think about it.
Kirby’s Dream Course
Not included in the Super Star collection was this Mini-golf like game also starring Nintendo’s Pink blob. Despite is childish appearance the game is actually pretty hard as you could earn several medals on each course yet it was difficult for me to get anything more than bronze on most of them. Again, the Rewind function of the SNES Mini should help here as you can just take shot over and over again until you land the perfect hole-in-one. I’m not one for these “sport-inspired” games so I’m not likely to spend a lot of time with the single player mode, but it does have a fun competitive mode that is entertaining for a few short rounds. Enjoyable but mostly forgettable.
Super Castlevania IV
While I’m a huge fan of the more recent 2D Castlevania games, the 4th entry didn’t yet have the MetroidVania like exploration for which the series is now so well known. In fact, this is more of a remake of the 1st Castlevania but with better graphics and more bells and whistles. Once again the dark lord Dracula is brought back into the world of the livi.. uh, undead and Simon Belmont has to whip him into submission. While the story remains unchanged the visuals sure havenâ€™t. The spritework is amazing: Simon, the enemies and environments all look very detailed. The Mode 7 chip was even put to good use on this one as there was a room where Simon hung from a chandelier as the room rotated around him and another where the entire castle seems to warp in a tube-shape in the background. The gameplay is also improved upon the original as you can now whip in all directions, making it a lot easier to hit enemies at odd angles. The Rewind function of the SNES Mini should also help with the literal pitfalls in the game, so death shouldn’t be as common. While I enjoyed my time with it, I still prefer the exploration based Castlevanias over this combat-based one.
Now here’s a game that has aged VERY well compared to today’s standards. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a recently released game as many new ones out there still attempt to capture the same look & feel Yoshi’s Island had been going for. The cartoonish, crayon-coloured style looks absolutely giddy and I can’t get enough of it. The Gameplay holds up equally well and it even took a few cues from Kirby as Yoshi is able to swallow and “digest” enemies after which he can lay eggs to use as projectiles (Not a phrase I was expecting to ever have to put into wordsâ€¦). It’s a fun and memorable experience and one of the SNES’s greatest games. I would recommend you to finish this one in its entirety.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Staying into the super Mario world we now look at the first ever RPG in the Mushroom Kingdom. Release near the end of the SNES’s lifespan Nintendo was obviously looking for a new way to milk the Mario franchise for every possible coin, and to that end they collaborated with Square for what they do best: Turn Based RPGs. Never before have we seen as much text in a Mario game as this one and the dialogues especially are noteworthy and downright funny at times. Gameplay wise they also introduced a few new mechanics like timing button presses to increase damage done or decrease the damage you take from enemies. It’s a great predecessor to the equally enjoyable Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario RPG series and still a worthwhile experience in its own right.
Speaking of RPGs, here is another extremely well known one. Our young hero, NES, has to stop the evil giygas and this is achieved by powering up a stone at various locations. This may seem like a simple plot but if you look at the weird locales, enemies (fire hydrants, taxi drivers, floating mouths) and random NPC conversations you’ll soon change your mind. At times it feels like a drug-induced trip and one would be forgiven for wondering what kind of shrooms its developers where munching on. It’s hard to take the game seriously as it doesn’t seem to do so itself. Even the combat is kind of odd as you have to try and manipulate Random Number Generators. It’s a fun experience that feels unlike any other, but one that didn’t manage to strike a chord with me personally.
Mega Man X
This game takes place 100 years after the previous Mega Man games. X is X-cavated (sorry!) from some ruins and the world desperately needs him to fight rogue robots. Just like in the previous games featuring the Blue Bomber he shoots lasers from his arm and has to platform his way through some tough levels to end up fighting an even tougher boss battle. Make no mistake: this is a very difficult game for the un-X-perienced (again, sorry!) so prepare to face some frustration as you probably won’t be able to finish this is one sitting. If you do end up beating the game though, you’ll feel very accomplished!
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
So, how about those difficult games, huh? Following up Mega Man X on this list is Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, a game infamous for its extremely hard difficulty level. This is 2D Dark souls before that was even a thing. You play as Arthur, a heartprint-boxer touting knight, whom is tasked with saving the princess. If it weren’t for the monsters and the two-hits and you die gameplay, you could think you’re playing a Super Mario game. Wait, didn’t Mario also die in 2 hits? Damn, that plumber is hardcore! Moving on: I’m looking forward to testing this game on the SNES Mini, not only because of the Rewind function I’ve mentioned so often by now, but also because it could fix the game itself. I played this game on the SNES and there was so much slowdown and lag, on an already difficult game, that I never actually managed to beat it.
Secret of Mana
The last of the Square RPGs on this list (which is strangely devoid of Chrono Cross, to me personally the biggest suprise when I saw the list) but not one to pass over lightly. The game mixes typical RPG elements like leveling up and getting more powerful with the action gameplay you’d expect from a Zelda title. It also borrows the “new weapon = new way to traverse” methods of the young elf in a green tunic as here you’ll be able to get a large arsenal of weapons and you’ll have to master most of them if you want to see the end of the 15-20h adventure. The spritework is colourful and easy on the eyes and the music also needs a special mention as the soundtrack fits the mood of the game perfectly. It’s one of my favourite games on the SNES and I’m glad it got included.
The Secret of Mana also has a multiplayer mode, originally it supported up to three players (but it required the additional multi-tab peripheral) but on the SNES Mini you’ll be able to play with only two players max. It’s a big improvement over having the AI control you characters (they often got stuck behind walls) but it has the same problem as FF6: it’s probably too big of a game to play in co-op in its entirety.
NOTE: A 3D remake of the game has JUST been announced by Square Enix and inexplicably: it’s not coming to a Nintendo console (Read more)
Star Fox 2
The SNES Classic Mini is a fantastic bargain at its asking price. Not only are you getting a great mix of 20 games, you’ll also get to play a previously unreleased game in Star Fox 2. The added benefit of being able to rewind your game at any time will prove to be immensely useful in some of the harder games on this list. I can think of only one gripe I have with it and that is the small length of the controller’s cord (150cm), while double the size of the laughably short NES Classic Mini’s, it’s still a long shot of being lengthy enough to play from the comfort of your couch! Ignoring that, any Nintendo fan owes it to themselves to try and get their hands on this console.