Nintendo finally unveiled the SNES Classic Edition and its collection of 21 classic games yesterday, and it’s hard to find any weak spots in the system’s lineup. From Donkey Kong Country, to Star Fox 2, to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the games on Nintendo’s new mini console range from good to all-time greats.
But hey, even with a bunch of games as fantastic as this, you can still pick winners and losers. Or, winners and even bigger winners. I mean, people who may not be familiar with the SNES need to know what to play first! So, I’ve divided the SNES Classic Edition’s 21 games into tiers, even though there’s no bad games here. The bottom tier is still a B+, and we go up from there. Nothing but positivity, so I’m sure this list won’t inspire any anger at all!
So, without further ado, let’s get to the nitpicking…
Donkey Kong Country, F-Zero, Kirby's Dream Course, Super Punch-Out!!, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Again, nothing on the SNES Classic Edition is less than good, and you probably loved some of these games when you played them in the early-90s, but they may give you a slight twinge of disappointment today. Donkey Kong Country was a technical marvel in 1994, but those fancy computer-rendered graphics covered for somewhat simplistic level design. F-Zero is still fast and fun, but lacking in features (No multiplayer?!) and Super Punch-Out!! is only fun until about half-way through, at which point its characters get too weird and frustrating. These games are still worth playing, but you probably won’t spend a huge amount of time on them.
Contra III: The Alien Wars, Mega Man X, Super Castlevania IV, Star Fox 2
The titles at this level are very good 16-bit action games, but very of their time. You’ll have to get into a retro mindset to really enjoy them. Most of them -- Contra III, Mega Man X, Super Castlevania – are fairly standard 8 to 16-bit upgrades that bump up the visual quality, but don’t change the underlying gameplay that much. Meanwhile, the never-officially-released Star Fox 2 is maybe a little too ambitious for its own good. It’s an interesting game, but not as fun or groundbreaking as the original.
Kirby Super Star, Secret of Mana, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Mario RPG, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island
Okay, I have nothing even remotely negative to say about any of these games. The harshest thing I could say about any of these titles is I probably wouldn’t consider them for a “10 Best Games of All Time” list. These are very, very good games, but not the best in their series in most cases – Kirby Super Star isn’t as good as Kirby’s Adventure, Street Fighter II Turbo isn’t as good as Super Street Fighter II, Super Mario World isn’t as good as Super Mario Bros. 3, and so on. Still, by all means, play the hell out of these.
Earthbound, Final Fantasy III, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Star Fox, Super Mario Kart, Super Metroid
And now we reach the true elite tier. These games aren’t just the best of the SNES, they’re some of the best ever. You aren’t complete as a gamer if you haven’t played them. We have probably the two best titles of the golden age of JRPGs in Earthbound and Final Fantasy III, the first game to show the true potential of 3D graphics in Star Fox, the best multiplayer experience ever in Super Mario Kart, and the most perfectly-crafted world of all time in Super Metroid. And then, towering over even those giants, we have The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. If you’ve missed even one of these games, you need to remedy that as soon as possible.
So, there you are. Feel free to curse my name for my picks. The SNES Classic Edition launches on September 29 at a price of $80.