Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Super Nintendo Games

Usually I do an honorable mention on these lists, which is basically a cheap way for me to include the game that barely missed the cut and give it some recognition, but this was, so far, the hardest list for me to narrow down. This easily could have been a top 10 (or top 20, for that matter) blog, so instead of writing in depth about an honorable mention, here's some of the games that just barely missed the cut:

Actraiser

WWF Royal Rumble

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Super Metroid

Three of those games are titles that appeared on Weekly Top 5: Games I Can Finally Remove From My Backlog, and that's kind of the reason I felt weird putting them on the official list. Whenever I do a list based around retro games, my nostalgia plays a great part in determining what makes the cut and what doesn't, and since those three were games that I've played within the last year, I felt the need to keep them as honorable mentions. That doesn't take away from the fact that they are not only three great SNES games, but they're three of the best games I've ever played. That being said, let's continue with my top 5 Super Nintendo games.

5. Mega Man X

The Blue Bomber was so beloved on the NES that it was hard to imagine how they could improve upon the formula, but improve it they did. X controls so well and has many more options at his disposal than the original Mega Man, like the ability to wall jump and dash while in the air. There's also an added incentive of exploration, as you can find secret areas that hold permanent upgrades for X outside of the new weapons you get from defeating bosses.

Speaking of bosses, I've always preferred the Mavericks to the Robot Masters. I just think they're cooler. Not that Wood Man and Guts Man aren't without their merits, but I'd rather battle enemies with more intimidating designs and names like Storm Eagle and...Boomer Kuwanger? Whatever that is.

I still prefer the original Mega Man series on NES, but I didn't play any games in the X series other than the original, but I've heard they vary in quality.

4. Contra III: Alien Wars

I hope the future that my distant descendants experience is more akin to that of Contra III: Alien Wars than to something like Fallout 3 or Rage. The latter future seems drab and depressing, while the former future seems exhilarating/terrifing. I imagine that in the Contra future, Slayer's "Raining Blood" has become the new national anthem.

If you're looking for run 'n gun mayhem on the Super Nintendo, then look no further. It took everything that was great about Contra and Super C and cranked it to 11. There are more things to do in this game than just run to the right and shoot, as Konami placed a greater emphasis on platforming with the use of poles and ladders to traverse the hostile terrain. And they revamped the weapon system, enabling you to now carry two weapons at a time and switch to them on the fly, as well as the inclusion of bombs that can be used to take out every enemy on the screen.

The level design is also improved and more over-the-top than before, including a level where you ride on missiles. But I can't mention the levels without talking about the two top-down stages. Being an early SNES title, they had to find a way to include some Mode 7 sections, and these two levels almost ruin the game. Okay, that's not necessarily true, but they slow down the action and take you out of your rhythm, and the controls always take some getting used to no matter how many times I play it.

3. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

Before I fell in love with videogames, I fell in love with baseball, and that has never changed. I'm still an avid fan of the sport, even though the Reds continually break my heart, year after year. There were tons of baseball games on the NES, and I played almost all of them. So when I got my Super Nintendo, I knew I had to find a good baseball game to play. Every year for my birthday, rather than getting presents, I would acquire a whole bunch of money and my parents would take me anywhere I wanted to spend it. I usually had a videogame in mind that I wanted, so the local K-Mart was where I usually asked to go. After seeing commercials for Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball (which is how it's usually referred to), I knew I had to have it, and to this day is one of the best purchasing decisions I've ever made.

I still play this game. I'm not kidding, I'm in the middle of a season as we speak. It's cartoony and colorful, but is still a solid baseball simulation for the time. You don't have the options that you would with the current MLB series, but that's the reason I love it. I don't need different pitches and different swing types. I also don't need a single game lasting an hour, because I can knock a game of Ken Griffey out in 10 minutes. My only complaint is that the game had the MLB license, but not the license to the Player's Association, so even though I knew who most of the players were, with the exception of the player the game is named after, they were all given fake names, and each team had it's own theme for player names (the Reds got famous authors).

The game is so good that even though there was a second game with Griffey's likeness on the SNES, this is the one that everyone refers to as "Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball" like I mentioned earlier.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

Turtles in Time is one of those games whose quality hasn't diminished one iota over time. It's just as fun today as it was when it was released, and is arguably the greatest licensed game of all-time. The Turtles are timeless, although I don't think anyone is going to argue with me if I say that the cartoon I grew up with was the best incarnation our shelled heroes. It's safe to assume that if you had an NES, you probably owned the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and possibly TMNT 2: The Arcade Game (complete with free Pizza Hut coupon if you bought the game new). The third title, The Manhattan Project, was a little more obscure and is more difficult to find for a good price these days, but it's essentially a somewhat better looking version of the NES arcade port with a few extras thrown in.

Say what you will about those games, but I still love all of them. Sure, the original game on the NES is not necessarily a good game, and although it has very little to do with the cartoon that I loved, I still enjoy the heck out of the game to this day. But nothing could have prepared me for just how great Turtles in Time turned out to be. To this day, it remains my favorite beat 'em up, and I still pop it in from time to time. If I had to be nitpicky, the game is pretty short. While there are a lot of (awesome) levels, playing this game with a buddy means we finish it in under 30 minutes. But to the its credit, this is the kind of game that you can restart as soon as you finish it because it's just so much darn fun.

Lastly, I can't overstate just how much I enjoy the music. It's possibly my favorite game soundtrack ever, and I can immediately pick out any theme as soon as I hear it. It's also unanimously heralded as superior to its arcade version, which is not something that you hear very often.

1. Super Mario All Stars + Super Mario World

One of the community blog topics on Destructoida few months back was for us to write about our all-time favorite games, and I went with Super Mario World, because it's scientifically perfect based on the research that I've conducted with 7-year-old me. This was a no-brainer, but then I remembered that a semi-rare SNES cartridge took Super Mario World and coupled it with updated versions of three other great Mario games (Lost Levels is also included, but it's not great...or good...or worth playing) in Super Mario All Stars.

Yeah, I'm kind of cheating by including what's basically a predecessor to the HD collections that are so prevalent today. It's like me saying the best game on the PS3 is the Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection. Actually, that wouldn't be a bad idea. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Super Mario All Stars often gets overlooked in the pantheon of Super Nintendo games, and it's easy to do so. Most don't look at it as a brand new game, but I feel that thanks to the superior power the SNES had over its predecessor, the updated graphics make it look and feel fresh.

It also doesn't hurt that it was later put on the same cart with the greatest game ever made. Science!

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-Dustin

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