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#25 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

The best brawler on the Super Nintendo? It certainly appears thatís the shot Iím calling.

Some people are gonna balk at that. Theyíre gonna point out games like Ninja Warriors, Final Fight, and anything else they fancy. They might try to explain why this Turtles game is ďoverrated,Ē and how those games offer more depth, more challenge, or more... whatever. And I donít blame them. Those games all rule, so I would never fault anyone for preferring any of them. Hell, once upon a time I myself had Turtles in Time a bit lower in these rankings. In fact, I definitely had it below a couple of its peers in the fairly recent pastÖ

But I changed my tune. This is the order I stand by. Because, as I was playing through Turtles IV again, just recently - in the name of refreshing myself on some of its finer details - I had a revelation. See, Iíve been playing this game for over thirty years at this point. Iíve completed it at least thirty times. It has long ceased to hold any surprises for me. And yet, here we are in 2022, and I just played through it two consecutive times earlier tonight. Not only that, I actually had to refrain from doing it a third time. That almost never happens with me. I donít jump back into games I just beat. I move on to something else. I compulsively move on to something else. I have thousands of games on my shelf, and I got shit to get to!

But I did. That just happened, right before I wrote this. Back-to-back playthroughs. And I realize why, too. Itís because this game never gets old. Its charm is completely timeless.

Now, donít get me wrong, I LOVE Battletoads Double Dragon. Itís one of the very first games I ever owned, and itís one of the few games that Iíve played through at least a hundred times. Arguing that particular gameís merits is a hill Iím willing to die on.

I also love Ninja Warriors. Thatís more of a recent love, dating back a mere decade at this point, but itís another game I can endlessly play through without ever getting sick of it. Itís a true gem in the Super Nintendo library.

Oh, and my respect for Knights of the Round? Through the roof. That game kicks my ass, and makes me feel good about it. How often can that be said? A testament to its razor-sharp gameplay.

But when push came to shove, and I had to solidify these rankings, and I had to do one last look back at all of my decadesí worth of gaming memories, and I think about what games Iím going to be playing with my three sons in the near future, Turtles in Time jumps to the top of the list.

This is the game my friends and I played at birthday parties when we were growing up. Without fail.

This is the (arcade) game that I played with my dad at the top of the Space Needle, when we drove out to Seattle to watch Michael Jordan play the Sonics. Think about that, I got to see Michael Jordan play basketball at the height of his career, and yet I still retained a beloved memory of playing an arcade game with my dad for ten minutes.

This is the game I once convinced my wife to play through to completion with me, which is very much a rarity for her. Getting her to stick it out to the end with any kind of game is like pulling teeth. Yet she happily did it this time around.

In other words, this game is always there when happy memories are being formed, and for good reason.

So, I stand by my earlier claim. It is the best brawler on the Super Nintendo. I love everything about it. The controls, the graphics, the music, the levels, the boss fights, all of it. I never get tired of it. And by all accounts, neither do most of you. All hail the king.

Did I beat it?
A billion times.


#24 - Mega Man X2

Iíve played through the entirety of Mega Man X2 three different times over the course of my adult life.

The first time was back in college, when I worked my way through the entire X series with the compilation that was released for the PS2 (and Gamecube, and whatever else). I was knee-deep in ďbetterĒ (newer) stuff at the time, but I was willing to pause all of that for the Blue Bomber.

The second time I played through it was shortly after finally tracking down the expensive-ass cart that had eluded me as a child. I paid a premium for it too, which is not something I usually do. But when I saw that cart in the glass display case, I knew I had to do it. I had to lay claim to the elusive prize. Collectors like to use the term ďwhite whaleĒ when discussing the hunt. Iím not gonna go quite that far, but it had definitely been near the top of my list for many, many years. Playing through it was completing a victory lap of sorts.

Finally, my third (and most recent) playthrough just happened shortly before writing this. Iíve been replaying a lot of the games Iíve been writing about recently, and re-visiting each of the Mega Man games is something of a no-brainer. Iíll happily come up with an excuse to do it. So I said to hell with work, burned the midnight oil a few times - despite it being the middle of the week - and struck down Sigma one last time.

And you know what? It was totally worth it. Because one thing Iíve noticed with this particular game, is that every time Iíve played through it, my love for the franchise has been completely reaffirmed. Playing this game makes me want to dive back into the series and explore all of the games I missed. It makes me want to bust out my copies of X4 and X5. It makes me want to track down a copy of X7, and finally play it, bad reputation be damned.

I donít need to go over the core Mega Man formula. I also donít need to review the Mega Man X-specific version of the formula. If youíre reading this, you no doubt already know what this series is all about. You know what makes these games tick, you know why they are still so feverishly worshipped all these decades later, and you know why people still covet and play them. None of those things would be news to anyone.

So, the only thing I feel I need to speak to, is just what exactly sets X2 apart? What is it that makes this one of the better games in the Blue Bomberís storied history? What makes this better than most (if not all) of the X sequels? Most important of all, what makes it so much better than Mega Man X3 and Mega Man 7, the two games I already covered?

Thereís a lot of answers to those questions. In shortÖ

Better levels. Better bosses. Better secrets. Better music. Better flow. Better challenge. BetterÖ everything, basically. Because everything about it feels tight. Tighter gameplay, a tighter difficulty curve, all of it. You get what Iím saying? Like, the overall design just feels more solid, and less ďrushed,Ē which I think can be a common problem with Mega Man games. Thatís not the case here.

I also love the introduction of the three optional bosses that make off with the remaining pieces of Zero (who was destroyed in the first game, spoiler alert). Youíre free to hunt them down, if youíre up to the challenge, and defeating all of them has several effects on the endgame. Granted, the first time you play through X2, youíll probably unintentionally skip over those boss fights. But thatís okay, because it gives you something new to do in future playthroughs, adding some very nice replay value.

I also love how the hidden suit upgrades actually kinda matter this time around. Or at least they feel better balanced. For as much as I love the original Mega Man X, the head upgrade was pretty lackluster, the arm upgrade was pretty situational, and the body upgrade massively affected the gameís difficulty, and not in the best way in my opinion. Whereas now we have the introduction of a nifty little tracking ability, a new AOE attack thatís useful in a pinch, and the wonderful new air dash, further adding to Xís acrobatic assortment of moves.

Negatives? Thereís not too many, and theyíre pretty mild in general. Really, my main faults are mostly just ways the game slightly falls short of its predecessor. The music is still great, but maybe not quite great as it was in the first game. The levels are all super fun, with lots of great setpieces, but not quite as fun or memorable as they were in the first game. Also, the boss battles in the final levels are tricky, and a blast to finally overcome, but I still prefer the gauntlet in the first game.

Sensing a theme here?

To be fair, that could all just be nostalgia talking, especially since I grew up with Mega Man X, so thereís bound to be some bias at play. But I do honestly feel that this sequel never quite reaches the lofty heights established by the franchiseís inaugural game. Doesnít mean Iím right, or that someone would be wrong for preferring this game. I honestly could see people going either way. But I feel that this is a slight step down from Xís amazing introduction.

That shouldnít be taken as a slight either. Those are some tough shoes to fill. Most games couldnít do it. But Mega Man X2 gets so much right that it doesnít really matter either. Thereís space for both games in the libraryís upper echelons, and both games should be considered mandatory material for all players and/or collectors.

Did I beat it?
Yep, multiple times and counting.


#23 - Uncharted Waters: New Horizons

Over the course of the multiple decades that it took me to play through the Super Nintendo library, a handful of games proved to be extraordinary challenges. Lord of the Rings Vol. 1 was an extraordinary challenge. Dungeon Master was an extraordinary challenge. Might & Magic III (which I still have yet to beat) is an extraordinary challenge. Those are all games that really make you work for a completion, requiring a number of long sleepless nights, copious note taking, and great heaping gobs of patience.

You can go ahead and add Uncharted Waters: New Horizons to that list. In fact, it was the final game I added to said list.

But first let me back up a little bit. Maybe 3-4 years ago I played through the original Uncharted Waters. Itís an excruciatingly slow game that only the most diehard of SNES players are going to appreciate. A game where you have to be excited at the prospect of getting a great return on your cargo hold full of silk or rifles. A game where you spend most of your time watching a ship slowly move across a vast, featureless ocean. But I was addicted to it. Once I started it, I played it every night until I reached the ending, after which I immediately started up a playthrough of the sequel, New Horizons.

But merely playing New Horizons wasnít enough. No, I needed to truly experience it like it was meant to be played. So I did that playthrough completely blind. No guides, no FAQs, no forum posts, nothing. Just the cart, and a digital version of the manual. I was gonna take my own notes, figure out my own maps and ports, my own trading routes, and my own missions. It was an ambitious undertaking. Perhaps too ambitious.

Well, long story short, I had a great time, but I ended up with a (seemingly) unwinnable campaign. I had gone to painstaking lengths to explore the world, discover the various ports and villages, and carefully take note of trade goods and prices. But there were too many things I didnít know. Too many mistakes I unintentionally made. My fame, a numeric value that is very important for completing the game, was horribly handicapped. My fleet was desperately lacking in both size and combat capabilities. And I had angered the king of Portugal, destroying a lot of the progress I had worked hard to achieve. Realizing that I was better off starting from scratch, I made the hard decision to end my attempt, and shelved the game for the future.

Cut to 2022. Iím wrapping up this project, and there is one single game standing in my way. See, at that point I had completed roughly 430 of the games in the US library. Furthermore, I had marked an additional 283 games as being ďretired.Ē As in, I had tried to beat them, but ended up throwing in the towel, with no hope for a completion. I may return to a handful of them in a decade or two, for one last shot at conquering them, but for all intents and purposes, they are done.

And then there was New Horizons. The single outlier. The final game on my ďto doĒ list. I wasnít satisfied with my earlier defeat, and I had vowed to clear the game before I wrote about it. And by 2022, I had run out of time and could no longer put it off; it was now or never.

Well, on August 7, 2022, it finally happened. I cleared the game, and officially closed the books on the Super Nintendo library. My ďto doĒ list is empty. My backlog is cleared. My childhood console, which has now endured thousands of hours of abuse, suffering through a broken power supply prong, and countless trashed controllers, can finally have a long and well-deserved rest.

New Horizons is a great game. One of the deepest experiences on the Super Nintendo. A big improvement upon what was already a great game. Thereís a reason a large community of dedicated fans still celebrate this game to this day: itís a wonderful RPG, a wonderful sim, and one of the best games on the system. It offers six different playable characters who all have their own unique campaigns to play through. The number of types of ships, weapons, and gear that you can acquire is truly massive. There are new ďdiscoveriesĒ that are hidden around the world, offering vast amounts of cash and prestige for tracking them down. You can duel enemy captains. There are more gambling options. The graphics are better. The world feels bigger, and rewards you for exploring. Itís justÖ bigger and better. Simply put.

So, grab this game. It might feel daunting, and the thought of carefully balancing a shipís ratio of cargo to food and water might not sound like the most enthralling gameplay experience youíve ever heard of, but you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot. Itís one of the best RPGs on the system, and certainly one of the more unique games youíll ever encounter.

And for fun, just like last time, Iíve included a bunch of random footnotes from my playthrough:

Ships in my fleet at one point:


Crew members:
Joao Franco - Commodore of the Dirk
Rocco Alemkel - Chief Navigator
Carmine Ragussa - Captain of the Reed
Fritz Ramsey - Navigator
Roberto Almanzan - Navigator
Omar Kashani - Captain of the Todd
Anthony Morgan - Navigator
Patrick Toman - Captain of the Scott
Someone I forget - Bookkeeper

Total voyage time:
1729 days

Skills acquired:
Cartography
Gunnery
Accounting
Negotiation

My dueling gear for the final battle:
Crusader Sword
Crusader Armor

Stuff I bought:
Tax free permits
Letter of Marque
Sphere of Influence

Discoveries:
Too many to name, but among them, a saber-toothed tiger and the dodo bird.

Number of times my fleet was wrecked by storms off the coast of Japan, requiring a complete reload: 27
Number of times I had to re-attempt the final battle against the fleet of pirates on the Amazon: 9

Disasters I encountered:
A flaming bird that set one of my ships on fire
A Ghost ship
Mysterious blue lights...?
Ships mysteriously disappearing in the South Pacific

Did I beat it?
I did. It was the final completion for this project.


#22 - ActRaiser

I sat down recently to play through ActRaiser again and give myself a refreshed view of its gameplay. Not that it was really necessary, itís such a unique experience that itís almost impossible to forget anything about it. But I needed to revisit it. I needed to assure myself that my feelings were right about it. I needed to know that it really was a stone cold classic, and not something I had inflated in my own mind over the years.

See, on paper, this game shouldnít work. At all. Itís one part very basic strategy/simulation game, and one part very basic action platformer. Itís repetitive. Most of the game has zero challenge. Itís got extremely slow-moving text that youíre forced to watch over and over and over again.

And maybe Enix knew all of this. Maybe thatís why they went in such a different direction with ActRaiser 2. Nixing the elements of strategy gameplay in order to focus on the platformer stages. Adding multiple degrees of challenge and depth. Getting rid of the text.

Yet everyone knows ActRaiser is a far superior game to its sequel. Literally everyone. So how is that even possible? It certainly shouldnít be. And I knew that. When I was playing through ActRaiser 2, I knew that on paper it should be the superior game. Everything about it screamed improvement. But it wasnít. It wasnít as good, or as memorable, or as fun. And I couldnít figure out why that was. Nostalgia? Some sort of groupthink-driven bias? Bad alcohol-ravaged memory?

So I sat back down with my cart for one last rodeo, to put all of those concerns to bed.

And it worked like a charm.

ActRaiser works so well, because it does so many things so well.

Find the strategy stages too repetitive or too basic? Doesnít matter, you can pop back out to the world map whenever you want and go find a different area to explore.

Think the action platformer stages are too repetitive or too basic? Doesnít matter, theyíre all fairly short and youíll be at a boss fight before you know it.

Feel the boss fights are either too easy or too frustratingly difficult and cheap? Donít worry, thereís plenty more where that came from, and most of them are great.

Gameís too easy? Donít track down all of the upgrades. Or donít use magic. Find ways to handicap yourself.

Gameís too hard? Find all of the upgrades. Some are extremely hard to track down.

Donít like the soundtrack? Thatís impossible. Itís one of the systemís very best. You should feel bad for thinking that.

Controls? Impossible to complain about. None of the ridiculous convolution and complexity that cursed ActRaiser 2. Instead itís basic, and to the point.

Graphics? Everything looks great, especially for a title that was released relatively early in the Super Nintendo's life. The world maps, the boss sprites, the levels. All of it.

Fun factor? Through the roof. Every time Iíve played this Iíve been addicted until I got to the end. Every single time. Including this recent playthrough, where I had initially tricked myself into having concerns. But they were short lived.

So, get a copy of this game, track it down if you have to, play it, and love it. Donít bother with the sequel unless youíre extremely patient (or skilled), but no such qualms exist here. Because this first game is a joy that everyone needs to experience.

Did I beat it?
A handful of times, including shortly before I wrote this.


#21 - U.N. Squadron

Edging out the mighty trifecta of Axelay, Space Megaforce, and R-Type III, is U.N. Squadron, my pick for the best shoot Ďem up on the Super Nintendo. I have no idea how this pick is going to be received by my readers.

Is it the most technically sound shooter on the system? The fastest? The hardest? The rarest? The craziest?

No, no, no, no, and no. Itís none of those things. But it sure is a hell of a lot of fun.

Originally released in Japan as Area 88 (and presumably adapted from an anime), Capcomís shooter is actually one of the very first games they released for the SNES. As such, it suffers from a few of the problems that tended to plague early titles. First and foremost, slowdown. Itís a thing. It can be pervasive. And certain people are gonna have a problem with it. Thatís just a reality.

Second, thereís no multiplayer. None. Much like what we saw with fellow Capcom game Final Fight, it has been completely omitted, for whatever reason. No doubt another casualty of being one of the early titles on the SNES, released before developers had had a chance to fully figure out the hardware. It is what it is.

But the great news is, even with those blemishes, this game is a rock star. Hell, itís a super star. Even the lack of a two-player mode canít hold it down. Because every level is a thrill to learn, every plane is a blast to master, and the level of challenge is near-perfect throughout the entire runtime.

When you start the game you have a choice of three different unique pilots, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, one of them can quickly gain levels (thatís a thing here), while another has more sub-weapon options, and the last pilot is a die-hard beast who refuses to be shot down. I always choose the latter dude. More on that later.

You also have a choice of 6 different planes, though only the first is initially available. More on that later too.

Finally, you have the option of purchasing 11 different sub-weapons with your hard earned cash, though only certain weapons are available with certain planes. And some of them are expensive as hell and must be saved for the runs where youíre confident in your chances of success.

ďCash? Gaining levels? I thought this was a shmup. What the hell are you talking about?Ē

Yeah, see, the thing is you have to purchase everything you want to use. New planes cost extravagant amounts of cash, and every single stock of ammo for any of the secondary weapons costs you as well. You have to fight for and earn everything in this game.

Luckily, everything you destroy awards you money, there are small bonus stages that will give you a boost if your reserves are exhausted, and you have a huge stockpile of lives and continues to work with. So thereís always an option to play around with new strategies if you hit a snag. Better yet, a new plane is always attainable if you get stuck or need to shift strategies.

And why would you want new planes? So you have access to different main attack types, and different types of sub-weapons. The starting plane only has a forward firing main cannon and access to a few basic missiles and bombs. Whereas the A-10, for example, gives you a vulcan cannon that fires in multiple directions, but also caps out at a low level. The final plane, the F200, gives you access to everything.

The game is also nonlinear, which is great. You earn new levels in batches, and can attempt them in any order that you want. Incoming enemy bombers and warships can also be engaged as they approach your base. There are also some mini-missions where you strafe enemy supply convoys, if you want to earn some extra cash. All in all, itís a great variety of land, sea, and air missions that youíre free to tackle in the order youíre comfortable with, which I love.

If I had to list my biggest complaint, which I think is a minor one, it would have to be the rather stiff climb in difficulty that one of the bosses near the end of the game presents. Itís not a huge deal, and once you know how to handle it, the whole thing becomes trivial. But it is rather annoying that you have to fight this boss in a very specific way to overcome it. Or at least itís the only way Iíve ever managed to overcome it. Either way, it seems like Capcom kinda dropped the ball when they were fine-tuning the gameplay there.

Anyway, the point is that I love this game. Iíve always loved it. Some buddies of mine had it way back in the 1st grade, and I was positively thrilled to learn it was an arcade-style action game (the cover art made me think it was a flight sim). When I got back into playing a lot of Super Nintendo, this is one of the very first games I sought out. I was delighted then to see it hadnít aged a day. And it still hasnít.

Did I beat it?
Yep, I've played through it with every pilot and every plane.


#20 - Super Mario Kart

Iím sitting here at my dining room table, at a loss as to what Iím gonna write about this game. Meanwhile, my wife is working on tiling our kitchen, and is not offering a lot of help eitherÖ or very pleased that Iím doing this while trying to get her input instead of, you know, helping her. Iím also saying all of this out loud as I write it, and sheís now getting super pi-

Just kidding. I worked all day staining the mile-long fence in our backyard, so I earned some down time. Also, Iíd be a dead man if I really did do any of that! Sheís shown more than enough patience with this project to this point!

Actually, I know what to write about, it just came to me. Hereís one long take that comes straight from my brain, stream of consciousness style.

Did I mention that Iíve been drinking?

I remember when Super Mario Kart came out. Everyone does. It was a big deal, because not only did it release relatively early in the SNESís lifespan when there was arguably a dearth of notable games to play, but it was really also the first Mario spin-off that was kind of a big deal. Certainly the first one to cause major waves.

See, racing games were relatively pedestrian offers once upon a time, before this came out. People are gonna balk at that, and I love Rad Racer as much as the next guy, but Iím going to grossly generalize and say that.

I feel that racing games of the era generally fell into one of two buckets: they were either hard-core ďsimulationĒ types, or they were ďarcadeĒ affairs. You either worried about what gear you were in and how close your body was to the ground, or you spent a lot of time skidding around corners at high speeds. Again, Iím grossly generalizing here, but I feel this is at least 99% accurate for racing games at the time.

But when SMK came out, there was nothing on the market that was even remotely like it. Suddenly we had items we could attack our opponents with and a separate battle mode where we tried to pop each other's balloons. But then we also had this hard-core time attack mode where we could produce endlessly improved track times by mastering the surprisingly deep drifting strategies. It was the best of both worlds!

Anyway, my friends and I spent a lot of time with this game. Everyone did. It was the game to play back in 1992, and you couldnít escape it.

And though the series has gone on to produce 8 different mainline games, in addition to the phone game, and whatever Home Circuit is (I have 2 sitting in a closet, waiting for a future Christmas), I think the first game still maintains a very unique identity. The many sequels have added tons of new features, fancy 3D graphics, and billions upon billions of tracks, racers, and karts. But none of them play like this first game. None of them have the same iconic handling, or Mode 7 graphics. I think thatís why it still holds such a special place in so many peopleís hearts, when so many of the follow-ups have been forgotten, lost in the crowd of similar games.

So if you love the Mario Kart series, and are eager to see where it all began, check this bad boy out. It still plays wonderfully today. And if you were an original fan like myself, and perhaps have not had a chance to play this recently, go dig up a copy, and revisit it. Itís just as good as you remember it being. That I can promise.



ÖI also just realized at this very moment that I had already started this write-up previously, and completely forgotten about it. Here are the notes I just (re)discoveredÖ



Did I mention that Iíve been drinking?

Did I beat it?
Indeed.


#19 - Final Fantasy II

Note: Iím going to refer to this game as Final Fantasy II and not Final Fantasy IV, just to simplify things.

I have to be super forthcoming, and admit that Iíve always had Final Fantasy II at something of a disadvantage, through no fault of its own. See, I didnít own a copy of this game back in the Ď90s. I had a chance to own it, but went with Secret of Mana instead. What I did have were copies of most of the other big name RPGs, including Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III, all of which were played to death. So I didnít end up playing FF2 until well after the SNESí heyday, when it was reissued as a part of Final Fantasy Chronicles on the original Playstation. And if you havenít played that version of the game, Iíll spoil it for you in just two words: load times.

Unfortunately that release ended up doing a huge disservice to FF2. See, I was absolutely pumped for Chronicles. Brand new cutscenes and bonus content for critic-and-fan-darling Chrono Trigger? A new fancy translation for a beloved Super Nintendo Final Fantasy game that I had never gotten around to? Yes please. I was frickiní psyched. I read and reread the announcement article in EGM, and even went so far as to pre-order the game from a local retailer, something I almost never do.

On the day of the release, when I finally got my hands on it, I took one look at the FF2 discÖ and promptly replayed through Chrono Trigger again. I couldnít help it. I love that game too much. But as soon as I was done I started up FF2.

Well, as I already said, both games in Final Fantasy Chronicles suffer from some pretty horrific load times. Theyíre bad enough that Iíd go so far as to say it's the absolute worst way to play either one of them. But I did my best to grit my teeth and tough it out for both of them. I got all the way through CT, and got about halfway through FF2.

Then, I lost momentum. Perhaps something else came out and I got distracted. Perhaps I started up another playthrough of Symphony of the Night. Who knows. But whatever the case was, I never went back to that playthrough of FF2. Never opened the case again.

Flash forward to the early 2010s, and I had another chance. I had finally acquired a copy of the original SNES cartridge, and I was ready to close out some unfinished business. Even better however, were the shiny new sealed copies of Final Fantasy IV that I had purchased for the PSP and Nintendo DS. See, I will almost always prefer to play a JRPG on a handheld if I can get away with it. Thatís just a reality for a modern adult life when time in front of a television is a luxury thatís not always available.

Since the PSP version was closer to the original version, thatís what I ended up going with. I finally played through the entire game, and got closure on a chapter of my gaming life that had started decades earlier.

So when I say that Final Fantasy II is an inferior game to stuff like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger, we all have to take that perspective with a grain of salt. After all, itís coming from a person who didnít get to play through it during his formative years, which means I didnít get a chance to imprint the experience with a ton of nostalgia, like I did with those other games. So there was never any chance I was going to enjoy it as much. Hell, not only that, but in the meantime I had also played through Final Fantasy 7-10, and most of 3 (on DS) and 5. So the formula was practically old hat by the time I got around to FF2.

I guess what Iím getting at is that there is absolutely room to call FF2 possibly the best JRPG on the Super Nintendo. I wonít deny that it was a huge evolutionary step forward for the franchise. Or that it had a bigger impact on the genre than the other games I've mentioned. I completely respect the opinions of people who did grow up with it, and do prefer it over those other games. It truly is a wonderful game full of wonderful things. I think Kain and Cecil are some of the seriesí absolute best characters. The world-building is absolutely top notch, and represents a massive leap over the games that came before it. And the fantastic soundtrack featuring the iconic ďTheme of Love,Ē has seen a million different versions and remixes for very good reason. This is a fantastic game, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Itís just not my absolute favorite. Those will be coming up soon enough.

Did I beat it?
Yeah, though I have to admit that my only complete playthrough was with the PSP version.


#18 - Super Bomberman 2

Iíve written many times about the game nights I like to try and regularly host. There's a good reason for that: those nights mean a lot to me. When youíre a father of three small children, work a 40+ hour a week job, have a house to maintain, a wife to lavish attention on, and a million errands you need to run, opportunities to hang out with friends become more and more scarce. Itís the sort of thing you take for granted when youíre young. When I was in my 20s, I was out doing stuff 5-7 nights a week. House parties, downtown bars, restaurants, sports leagues and events, road trips, you name it. Free time was the name of the game.

Nowadays, things are completely different, and you have to make the most of what little time you have. Or at least I do. So when I get people together at my house, I have definite purposes in mind: barbeque, beer, and some type of game. Occasionally board games, or fantasy football drafts or whatever. But, optimally, itís gonna be video games. Those nights are always the clear winners, and draw the most enthusiasm.

We play a lot of different things. Lots of Switch, where we tackle the usual suspects like Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and some lesser-known stuff such as Duck Game or Niddhogg.

Sometimes I do retro nights, and bust out the NES or N64. Sometimes I even do ďbad gamesĒ night, and host crap like Dark Castle or Superman.

But there is one single game that weíve played more than any other. And by ďmore,Ē I mean by a significant margin. Like, super significant. Weíve played this game at least ten times more than anything else. More than most other games combined.

As youíve probably already guessed, that game is Super Bomberman 2.

Itís not a revolutionary title; Hudson Soft played things safely, and didnít deviate too far from the winning formula of the original Super Bomberman. The core gameplay and mechanics are exactly the same, justÖ tightened up. The multiplayer has a few new wrinkles, some devious new levels, and some other minor changes, but itís otherwise the same game you already know and love.

The single player is significantly improved, with a far lengthier and more challenging campaign. But letís be honest: 95% of your time with SB2 isnít gonna be spent in single player.

And thatís okay. Incremental improvement can work. When the original game is as great as SB1 was, I can accept that. Would it have been awesome to get entirely new modes, or crazy new power-ups, or some really outside-the-box thinking? Sure, Iíd have been game. But Iím not gonna call this a missed opportunity. Itís just too fun to play; when thatís the case it makes it impossible to get hung up on such details.

Now, granted, I will admit that Super Bomberman 2 has partially ceded the throne for my game nights. At one point I brought in the Super Famicom sequels, mostly because they support 5-player play. If I have more than 4 people on hand for game night, it goes without saying that my hand is forced and we play one of those instead. But that shouldnít take anything away from this game, or its spot in the US library. It absolutely deserves a top-20 ranking, and is the runaway choice for best party game on the system. Itís not even close. If you have anyone to play Super Nintendo with, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. If you have three or more people, itís the biggest no-brainer in the world. Go get it, right now, and call them up.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but that's not why you play this game.


#17 - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Do we really need a history lesson with Yoshiís Island? Probably not. I think most people who are reading this site will have at least some passing familiarity with the game. Perhaps a handful will not. For them, I can probably cover the gist of it pretty quickly:

  • It was released as Super Mario World 2: Yoshiís Island. Not because it looks or plays anything like Super Mario World, but because Nintendo needed to try and give it a boost by referencing a well-known and popular title.
  • You play as Yoshi, tasked with protecting baby Mario from harm. And shooting eggs at collectables. Lots and lots of collectables.
  • Baby Mario cries when he is separated from Yoshi. Some people really do not like this.
  • The game has an extremely distinctive art style, reminiscent of a childís crayon drawings. It works extremely well, with the game often considered to one of the most beautiful on the system.

Got all that? Cool, letís move on.

What I want to talk about is the gameís legacy, and its place in the Super Nintendo library in 2022. Two very important things, I think.

Actually, what I really want to talk about first, is collect-a-thons. Know what Iím talking about? Games like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. Games where you wander around large areas, trying to track down a hundred different key items (stars, moons, puzzle pieces, etc.), and thousands upon thousands of smaller, secondary items (coins, notes, bananas, whatever those things in Jak & Daxter are, and so forth). It was a style of gameplay that was all the rage in the second half of the 1990s.

At some point though, this style of game lost favor, and gamers turned on it. Hard. At least, thatís how I saw it. ďCollect-a-thonĒ became a derogatory term. One used to denigrate or marginalize a game. Having to find things was now bad. Progress being locked behind various items counters was cause for frustration and anger. The genre died out.

But I never felt those negative feelings. I didnít share the publicís sentiment. I like hunting things down. I like thoroughly clearing an area, combing it for every little secret it holds. Super Mario Odyssey, a revival of the style, in a sense (alongside stuff like Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time), is one of my absolute favorite games of the last decade. A huge breath of fresh air, and I hope Nintendo continues to release games in that style.

And, as far as Iím concerned, it all started with Yoshiís Island. Thatís the game that more or less invented that style of gameplay. Or, at least, itís the game that brought it to the masses. And Iím thankful for that. Truly I am. Iíve played through Yoshiís Island on three separate occasions, and I always have a blast with it. I love the unique gameplay. It doesnít play anything like any of the previous Mario games. I love the epic boss fights that truly showcase the wonderful sprite and art design. And I actually love hunting down the millions of doodads that are fiendishly hidden in every level. That may not be a popular opinion anymore, but I stand by it.

So, if you have fond memories of playing stuff like Banjo-Kazooie, and you somehow never managed to experience Yoshiís Island, I strongly recommend that you immediately rectify that, as soon as possible. Youíll get a big sizable quest, phenomenal visuals, dozens of great setpieces, and a hell of a lot of replay value. I call that a pretty good deal.

Did I beat it?
Many times, including one completionist run.


#16 - The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

I remember the first time I came across this game. It was at my favorite local haunt, Showcase Video, sometime early in 1992, shortly after the SNES had been released. I did not own the console yet, but for whatever reason on that day my dad had offered to rent me one. To this day, I still have no idea what compelled him to do that. We had no money, and he hated video games, yet he spent the 20-odd bucks to get me the system for a single night, with a pair of games. A fatherís love, no doubt. In any case, I didnít question it, and I didnít look my gift horse in the mouth, instead I made the most of it. I spent the entire trip to the video store studying the entire selection of Super Nintendo games, working hard to ensure I made the absolute best possible choices with my picks.

Game number one? Tom & Jerry... *cough*... I donít have a great explanation for that one. I mean, other than that it was 1992 and I was a little kid. I didnít know any better.

But game number two? The Legend of the Frickiní Mystical Ninja. Can you blame me? Look at that incredible box art, just crawling with crazy characters and fun little details. Did anyone back in the day do cover art better than Konami? Not in my book. I absolutely love the stuff they put out. And then look at the screenshots I posted above. In fact, Iíll do us one better and also include the actual images that are shown on the back of the box, the very ones I would have been looking at back on that day so long ago:



I didn't know what I was looking at, I just knew I loved it. Bright colorful graphics, bizarre-looking enemies, a frickiní yoyoÖ I was immediately sold.

That night I did my best to play both games as much as I could, but I was under strict time limits, so I wasnít able to get very far. With Mystical Ninja, Iím pretty sure I never made it past the first boss fight. Which was about par for the course - again, I just was a little kid, and doing well at video games wasnít really a thing that happened yet.

Fast forward a year or two, and I or someone else I knew rented Mystical Ninja again. Iím assuming it was me, but cannot recall for sure. Whatever the case was, at that point I knew the game was a winner, and I knew I needed to play it again. And with a little more time and (video game) experience under my belt, I was able to make it quite a bit further. In fact, I made it all the way to the boss gauntlet at the end of level four. Unfortunately, still being under those strict time limits, I didnít get a ton of chances to overcome those bosses, and came up short. Still no completion. I had no choice but to bide my time once again.

Fast forward several decades this time, all the way to my adult life where I got my first real job and finally had some disposable income to speak of. One of the first orders of business was to finally get my own personal copy of this game. And, loving the game like I do, I immediately sat down and played through it once I had it in hand. All of it. I didnít stop until it was completed.

Even more amazing, a short time later I played through it with my wife. Kinda. Her participation dipped in and out. But itís still pretty amazing that I got her to engage with it in the first place.

And those playthroughs only reinforced my love for the game. And the series. See, I had actually purchased Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon for the Nintendo 64 back during that systemís heyday, and played through it a number of times, loving every second of it. Iím a big fan of Goemon and companyís goofball humor. I also love all of the absurd little touches. I love the seriesí action RPG(ish) gameplay. And with this first SNES game, I love the cooperative play, I love the tough (but fair) boss fights, I love the detailed sprites and overall art design, and I loveÖ well, everything about it.

Make no mistake, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is one of Konamiís finest moments on the Super Nintendo, itís one of the systemís best early titles, and itís one of the absolute best multiplayer experiences youíre likely to ever have. A bold statement, I know. But I cannot rave about it enough, and if you get me going I'll never shut up about it. So letís just end it here with this: grab this game, grab a friend, and plan a game night together. ASAP.

Did I beat it?
Yep, and this is one of the very few games that I've played through with my wife.


#15 - Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen

In case it hasnít become super obvious by now, I adore deep, hardcore games. Stuff like Might and Magic III and Uncharted Waters. The sorta games that the vast majority of Super Nintendo players arenít going to wanna touch with a 10-foot pole. Hell, with a 50-foot pole. These are very niche games, for very niche (and disturbed) people. You probably already know if that applies to you.

If you do happen to be a member of our ďspecialĒ little club, I have good news for you. We're going to talk about one of the absolute best of the niche games on the system. One of the ďcultĒ games I recommend above all others. Iím talking about the one and only Ogre Battle.

I don't know how to explain this game. I also donít know of any other games that are comparable to it. As far as I can tell, itís not like anything else out there. Or at least, itís not like anything Iíve ever played. And Iíve played a lot of games. Iíve played a lot of strategy games. Iíve played a lot of tactical strategy games. Iíve played them on console, and on PCs. I played them in the 90s, and Iíve played them in the last couple weeks. My favorite game of all time is Bungieís tactical masterpiece, Myth: The Fallen Lords. I like to think I know the genre at least somewhat well.

But Iíve never played anything like this.

If you are at all familiar with the spin-off series of Tactics Ogre gamesÖ well, forget it, because that means absolutely nothing here. Other than their shared high-fantasy world, some overlapping character classes, and the same general art style, the two series have no real similarities.

See, while Tactics Ogre is a turn-based tactical affair with gameplay that is extremely similar to its spiritual successor, Final Fantasy Tactics, the original Ogre Battle is more of a real-time strategy game. One that features dozens of armies marching across massive maps, with a unique type of automated turn-based combat. And yes, I said real-time and turn-based. Donít worry about trying to understand that just yet. And even though both series offer completely different flavors of strategy/tactical action, they both showcase exceedingly deep gameplay that can swallow dozens of hours of your life.

Actually, perhaps some visual aids would assist with this explanation. They certainly canít hurt.

When you begin Ogre Battle, you have control of your main character hero type, and the small army he commands. They are free to move across the world map, selecting maps and scenarios, or ďscenesĒ as this game calls them:



These units can also be managed via various menus (and sub menus) that let you edit their layout, change their formation, and even upgrade your charactersí classes:



Once a ďsceneĒ begins, the game switches over to a new map, where you will need to direct your armies and engage in battle:



The general goal in each of these stages is to conquer the enemyís stronghold while defending your own. Usually this means splitting your forces between units that stay back on defense, units that work to expand your territory, conquering nearby towns and forts, and faster units that will intercept any enemy armies that are marching across the map. You may also want to use some of your faster (or flying) armies to further scout the map, hoping to uncover any hidden treasures or secrets.

When an enemy is engaged, the game switches over to the battle mode. Here, the combatants take turns using their abilities, all fully automated, where they will attack, heal, enchant, and enspell, until everyoneís turns are exhausted or someone is destroyed.



And thatís it. Thatís the entire game. Build up your armies, conquer your foes, reap the rewards, rinse and repeat. What you see in the first hour is what you see for the rest of the game.

Granted, there are a million little wrinkles to the formula that I could write about. I could dive further into explaining the millions of different units you can hire or recruit, and the dozens of heroes that will fight either for or against you. I could elaborate on the ďkarmaĒ and ďreputationĒ systems which decide which of the dozens of endings youíll receive. I could lay out the various super units available to you, but only if you discover the secrets to unlocking them. I could speak about the wonderful story, which puts the stake of the world on your shoulders. I could also discuss the tarot cards and how they can be used to shift momentum against the enemy, or permanently buff your soldiers.

But Iím not gonna bother diving too deeply into any of that. Thatís for the player to discover. And itís why I advise that people play this game without any outside help. Trust me on that one: it makes the experience all the richer. Things may feel overwhelming, and in the beginning it will be, but the payoff is worth it.

So there you go. If this sounds like the kind of game you can get into, don't waste any time, go grab a copy and start playing. Youíll love it, and youíll lose yourself for hours.

If it doesnít sound like your sort of game, and you donít like the idea of spending 50 hours fine-tuning the formations of your armies, donít even bother. Donít even begin to consider playing this. Just move on down to the next game on my list. As I said right up front, only the most deranged strategy fanatics such as myself need apply.

Did I beat it?
I have! But just once. This is a very long and demanding game.


#14 - Wild Guns

I love that cover art. I feel like I had to call that out.

Wild Guns is one of the rare games that belongs to the genre Iíve occasionally seen referred to as ďgallery shooter.Ē What does that mean? I donít know. Someone, somewhere, at some point obviously thought it fit though. When I hear those words I picture this ancient PC game I owned as a kid where you had to hit moving targets with a rifle crosshair. Ducks, bottles, stuff like that. Similar to something youíd play at the fairground. I can't for the life of me remember what it was called. We had hundreds of old programs that my grandfather would send us on floppy discs, and many of the names are starting to escape me as the years go by.

Maybe I should google itÖ



Öwell that would make sense.

Anyway, to understand the gameplay of Wild Guns, you have to imagine something of a cross between a light gun shooter, and the bonus stages in the first Contra on NES. If you havenít played that stage (or you donít remember), think of something like Cabal. Also on NES. If you havenít played that, well, Iíll do my best to explain it.

The crux of it is that you kinda have to do two things at once. By that I mean you are controlling your character on the screen, moving them left and right, and executing evasive maneuvers, including jumps, double jumps, and dodge rolls. However, as soon as you start firing your weapon, your movement is locked, and the D-pad changes to control over your targeting reticle, which can be moved anywhere on the screen. Enemies are primarily found in the ďbackgroundĒ, but occasionally charge your character and have to be fought off with a well-timed melee attack. You also have access to an AOE attack to bail you out of tough situations, and a special lasso attack that can be used to stun enemies.

Thatís the gameplay. A mixture of Contra or Metal Slug, and a light gun game. Shoot and move. Move and shoot. It never gets any more complicated than that.

But, like Contra, it doesnít need to be any more complicated. There is no flaw with the gameplay. Thereís nothing that feels like a missing element. When the action is this tight, and the controls are this smooth, and the gameplay is this sublimely exciting, thatís really all you need. Plus, the difficulty is so finely tuned, striking that perfect balance where the game is always challenging, yet every death is also completely your fault. Thatís the dream, right? A tough action game that wants to make you scream when youíre defeated, yet never ever feels cheap or unfair. At least, for me it is.

Oh, and the multiplayer? Just wonderful. One of my favorite cooperative games in the 16-bit generation. The sort of game that I insist on busting out for game night.

But enough gushing, because I think you get the point. This is one of the absolute best action games on the system. Hell, one of my favorite action games for any system. One that everyone will have a fun time with. Granted, I could see mileage varying just a tiny bit. Not everyone will have it in their top 20. I could see people placing this a smidge below other similarly-awesome games such as Sunset Riders or Super Smash TV. But thatís some damn good company to keep.

Also, I heartily recommend the ďremakeĒ that came out a few years ago. Itís basically the same game, with remastered graphics, a higher resolution, and a bunch of new features, including new playable characters. But the core gameplay is exactly the same, and it still shines decades later. Proof positive of the strength of Wild Gunsí design.

Did I beat it?
A million times. Including the remaster.


#13 - Super Punch-Out!!

Iím going to go ahead and get this out in the open right up front. Consider it an admission of sorts.

I have not played through all of Mike Tysonís Punch-Out.

Thatís not to say that I havenít played it quite a bit, or that Iím not familiar with the game. But I havenít ever managed to actually beat it. In fact, Iíve never actually experienced the famed fight with Iron Mike himself, either. Itís one of my gaming secret shames.

So, go ahead and lambast this lofty ranking, and carefully explain why this game is so much worse than its predecessor. Probably because itís not as difficult, or memorable, or whatever you feel the case may be.

And while weíre at it, Iíll mention that Iíve never played the Wii reboot either. What was that one called? Punch-Out? Again? Iím sure itís great, and I know itís considered one of the best games on the system, but I peaced out on Nintendo around that time. The Xbox 360 and PS3 were more my speed. No regrets.

Anyway, the point is, Iím not the worldís foremost expert on the Punch-Out franchise. Far from it. But I do have a long history with this particular game. It was one of the very first cartridges I ever bought with my own money, another one of the cheap games I was able to snag used from my local video rental spot. Which means I owned it back when my collection of video games was rather skimpy, so I had all the time in the world to play and replay it again and again and again. And again. And again and again and again.

Seriously, Iíve probably played through this game at least 100 times. It may just be the one singular game that Iíve completed the most times. It may not even be close. And thatís for a number of reasonsÖ

One, itís awesome. A complete joy to play, with a wonderful roster of grotesque opponents you get to wail on.

Two, the replay value is through the roof. Not only does your profile use a battery save to track your best times against every opponent, it also tracks your best overall ďscoreĒ in each circuit. Besting those times/scores is feverishly addictive. As a kid Iíd stay up late into the night, fighting the same opponent over and over again, trying to cut fractions of seconds off my best times. It got bad enough that I started taking pictures of the screen in order to immortalize them, paranoid that something was going to happen to my save file.

Three, the production value is through the roof. Everything looks and controls and sounds razor sharp. You feel every punch. Revel in every knockdown. And cheer on every victory bell. And the feeling when you perfectly counter an opponent and then slug him in the face with a super move? Oh my god is it gratifying.

But of course, I have a hunch that certain purists may scoff at this game.

ďBut the Ďstarí system is gone!Ē

ďBald Bull and Mr. Sandman are way too easy now!Ē

ďNobody knows or remembers who Nick Bruiser is! Mike Tyson is a video game icon!Ē

Valid points, all of them. I donít care for the original game's star system, but Iím sure others do. And it would be foolish to try and compare the Nick Bruiser fight against the legendary Tyson match.

But thatís okay. The rest of the game does more than enough to carry the weight. I especially love the new expanded moveset, which gives more options for attacking. Not only can you still attack with both your left and right gloves, but you've got a reworked super punch, including a new rapid fire option, which is extremely satisfying to pull off, even if its usage is extremely situational.

The sixteen opponents are also super well designed, and they offer a great variety, requiring different strategies to overcome, and different moves to counter. Theyíre a great bunch. And even better, this time there are no repeats. Every single fight is against a unique opponent.

I also feel that the fights are a lot more ďfairĒ this time around. That probably sounds whiny, and maybe it is. But with MTPO, a lot of the opponents felt rather binary: you either do what the game wants you to do to get the win, or you donít and you lose. That may not be entirely accurate, but thatís the impression Iíve always walked with. Whereas with Super Punch-Out!, you can fight sloppy and scrap your way to a win, or you can work towards perfection in the ring while chasing new personal bests. Or as I like to say, having your cake and eating it too. And I love that. It feels far more flexible to me.

So, whether you're a fan of the original or brand new to the franchise, I think you owe it to yourself to check this game out. Itís not like most other boxing games (thatís a good thing), often resembling a puzzle game more than a sports title (also a good thing). And you may find it either too easy or too hard, depending on your threshold for memorization and the strength of your reflexes. But either way, I canít imagine anyone not having a great time with Super Punch-Out. Itís such an endearing title, with so much of Nintendoís typical charm, that I was instantly smitten as a child. I think the odds are good that you will be too.

Did I beat it?
Many, many, many, many times.


#12 - Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest

Before I just recently sat down to start a new playthrough of Donkey Kong Country 2, my first in nearly 15 years, I realized that I already decided it was the best entry in the DKC trilogy. It was the clear-cut choice, something I had never once wavered on a single time over the course of this entire project.

This is something most Super Nintendo nerds seem to agree upon.

Now, why is that? What did the sequel bring to the table that the first game - a gaming landmark - didnít? What did it get so right that the third game had trouble replicating? What is the core allure at work here? After all, this is a game many gamers consider to be the single best platformer on the system. Even better than the mighty Super Mario World. Maybe even the greatest platformer, period, of all time.

I donít think thereís a simple answer. Certainly there is no single answer. Instead, DKC2 is the sum of a lot of different parts. Great parts, at that. Itís a game that brings a lot to the table, and does a magnificent job doing it.

Mostly, I want to talk about the atmosphere. The dark, grimy, pirate, swampy, evil-carnival atmosphere. Itís easily the best of the trilogy. While the original game had a tropical island motif, straying a bit from that at times in order to visit some snowy peaks and dank, dark underground areas, and the third game was basically all over the map (maybe with a central theme of ďwoodlandĒ?), the middle entry is the one that holds the most appeal for me. Maybe because I like dark, foreboding things. Maybe because it stands out the most from the other two games. Maybe it just feels more cohesive and coherent. Whatever the case, I dig it. A lot. And the castle at the very top of the world map? With a freakiní airship hovering above that? *chefís kiss*

Second, letís talk about the challenge. This is the hardest game in the trilogy. Not to say itís on the level of something like Super Ghouls n Ghosts or Hagane or anything like that, but itís certainly harder than your average Nintendo first-party game. Certainly harder than most anything Marioís ever been in. Thatís a good thing. And this is absolutely the good kind of difficult. The type that has you pulling your hair out, but always wanting to do better.

Third, letís talk about the levels. The wonderful levels. Again, looking at the whole trilogy, this is the best of the bunch. While the first game offered some nice variations on the basic platforming, including the mine cart and water levels, and the third game offered an insane variety of levels that switched things up constantly, I think DKC2 gets the balance just right. There is a lot of variety (though not as much as DKC3), but thereís no duds in the bunch. No annoying gimmicks like the low-gravity sewer pipe levels in DKC3, or boringly straightforward levels like we'd see in stretches of DKC1. Instead, every one of the level types that we have here works really well.

Fourth, I know people like to bitch about Kiddy Kong, and no one seems to especially love Donkey Kong himself, but I guess I count myself among the legions of fans who like Diddy and Dixie the most. The quick speedsters, instead of the lumbering oafs. They just feel better.

Fifth, the soundtrack. Every DKC soundtrack is phenomenal, but DKC2 has a claim for being the best. Maybe even the best on the system. Iím not sure which one I prefer (itís a pretty close race between the first two games), but even putting it in the conversation is a testament to just how good it is. David Wise is a genius.

So, there you have it. The best trilogy on the system. Maybe the best trilogy from the entire 16-bit era (thatís the closest thing youíll get to Sega trash talking from me in this entire project). Truly one of the best platformers youíll ever have the pleasure of playing. And, not only that, Iím going to boldly claim it to be the Donkey Kong franchiseís proudest moment.

Did I beat it?
A handful of times, including one completionist run, and one run back in the day where I got stuck at like 98%.


#11 - Tetris Attack

My first encounter with Tetris Attack happened all the way back in the summer before the 7th grade. I was invited to a birthday party for a kid in my neighborhood, and though we werenít the closest of friends, we were both big Super Nintendo fans. That shared love of gaming had led to me to be able to play through games like Earthbound and Final Fantasy III, so when it came time to get him a present, I was eager to repay the favor and get him an ďamazingĒ used game from our local game store.

That didnít happen, because their selection that week turned out to be pretty weak, so I ended up grabbing Killer Instinct, even though I wasnít a fan of fighters. Other people were, so I figured it would be a hit with everyone else at least.

The birthday boy barely acknowledged my gift. In fact, Iím not even sure if he thanked me. No, instead all of his attention was lavished on the prize gift from his parents: a shiny, brand new, mint copy of one Tetris Attack. I had never heard of it.

Also, the second most popular gift at that party? The Men in Black soundtrack. Jesus wept.

I didnít play Tetris Attack, but I did watch everyone else play it. And I had to admit I was pretty intrigued. I didnít care about puzzle games, and dropping blocks, or anything like that. I hadnít really bothered with them since playing my copy of Tetris on my dadís old IBM. But I had to admit there was some allure to the big fancy production value that Nintendo had lathered onto the game. And the Yoshiís Island tie-ins didnít hurt.

A couple years later, I finally got around to playing the game, sinking dozens of hours into it with an SNES emulator. Which, in hindsight, is really strange to me. I had the entire SNES library available to me, a bunch of 32-bit consoles and games, fancy new late Ď90s PC games, and yet I was playing a dusty old puzzle game for my ancient Super Nintendo.

I have no idea what prompted that. Maybe something all those years ago had stuck in my brain.

Regardless, I was addicted. The action was so fast-paced, and frantic (in a good way), and the satisfaction of overcoming a challenging level, or devious opponentÖ it was simply unmatched. No doubt the best puzzle game I had ever played. I finished every single-player mode, and somehow convinced my little sister to play hours and hours of competitive multiplayer with me. Both of us hunched around a keyboard. She must have been as addicted as I was.

Later in life, when I visited some friends of mine in Seattle in 2007, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were addicted to Tetris Attack. Their entire household would hold tournaments that went late into the night. We didnít play his PS3. We didnít play his Wii. We didnít play games on Steam. We played Tetris Attack on Super Nintendo. And it wasnít as if I had introduced it to all of these guys, or suggested it to them at any point. Their own love of the same game had developed completely organically, separate from myself.

Finally, in 2011 I met my wife. She is not a gamer, at all. She couldnít tell you what a Playstation is, or what the name of Marioís brother is, or what a Pokeman [sic? - editor] is. But she does on occasion humor me. In rare instances, she gets sucked into a game, and begs me to play it with her. It doesnít happen often, and certainly hasnít happened much at all since we had kids and our free time together evaporated.

But she was absolutely addicted to Tetris Attack. Of all of the games weíve played, and all of the ones that sheís actually enjoyed, this is the one that comes out on top. This is the one we have played the most by far. This is the one that she gets the most competitive about. Itís the only game she asked to play with me on the Nintendo Switch when I showed her the library of old games.

All of those testimonies, they mean something. They speak to this gameís allure. And itís timeless gameplay. Newer puzzle games may have refined or expanded upon this sort of match-three gameplay. And puzzle games are never the sexiest of choices for lists like these. But it is absolutely one of the greatest games to ever grace the console. And itís one that always stands the test of time.

My editors are also debating the accuracy of calling this a ďmatch-threeĒ game. Iím keeping that in there, dammit!

Did I beat it?
Every mode, many times.


#10 - Earthbound

Iím sure I donít have to tell all of you that Earthbound is something of a big deal. But it is. Look across the interwebz, and youíll find millions of references to it. Itís one of the most popular games on the system. One of the most coveted games for collectors and gamers alike. And itís often considered one of the foremost ďcultĒ games across all of gaming history.

It may even be the cult game. As in numero uno. Just think about that. Think about how many tens of thousands of video games that have been released in the last 50 years. So itís no understatement to say thatís a big, big deal.

Itís all for good reason too; this is a very good game. Hell, a great game. A classic game that everyone needs to play through, at least once. And it was a very impactful game for myself as it was literally the first true JRPG I ever played. My friend Adam and I rented it back in grade school, and spent the entire night losing the very first battle. We didnít know that you needed to equip the bat. We didnít even have a concept of ďequippingĒ things. But it didnít matter, because we were enthralled by the rich, mysterious world that lay in front of us. And it didnít hurt that the rental came with the pack-in strategy guide as well, which only further piqued that interest. I read the entire thing, cover to cover.

A year or two later, I was able to borrow the cart from a friend and actually play through the whole thing. I was a bit more wise to the genre by that point, and thus could figure out how to do basic things like defeat the crows in the beginning of the first area. Over the course of several weeks I obsessed over the game, hunting for every secret, seeking out every line of dialogue, and memorizing every square inch of the guide. So much so that I actually played through it twice, back to back. Something I very rarely do with the genre.

Decades later, I dusted off my cartridge for a long overdue revisit. And I have to admit that part of me was a bit anxious about it. I knew Earthbound was a massively popular game with a huge cult of admirers. But I also knew that it had its token detractors who felt it was maybe just a teensy tiny bit overrated. Whatever that means. But, what if I agreed with them? What if the gameplay had aged so poorly that I didnít have the patience to play through all of it again? What if the random combat made it something of a slog to get through? What if the charming dialogue wasnít so funny to a bitter jaded old adult? What if I *gasp* actually got bored playing it?

I acknowledged that they were all very real possibilities, and jumped into it.

The good news is, the game has aged like fine wine. Granted, Iím just about the most accepting, open-minded, easy-to-please guy in the world, so that shouldnít be a great shock. I mean, if I can play through a number of the classic Dragon Quest games in the 2010s, I should have known that Iíd have no problem with Earthbound.

And it truly is a great game. The dialogue is consistently funny. The sound and music are absolutely perfect. Making progress is surprisingly straightforward, even without the guide. I actually have to admit that I was rather afraid that Iíd have a really hard time getting through the game without the guide on hand, since I had leaned on it so heavily with all of those playthroughs back in the day. But that fear was completely without base. I never got stuck for more than a minute or two, and the puzzles, while often hilariously non-sequitur, are never exceedingly obtuse.

When the credits rolled, decades after the first time I witnessed them, I sat back and collected my thoughts. All of those fears that ran through my head before starting? Completely baseless and totally extinguished. My respect for the game? I think it grew, if anything. My overall enjoyment of the entire experience? Through the roof.

So, there you go. Consider me a member of the Earthbound cult. Someone who laughs at the ridiculous humor, revels in the sound of Nessí baseball bat cracking out a critical hit, and feels a slight twinge in his heart when, spoiler alert, Giygas is defeated through the power of friendship. If youíve always been curious about the game, give it a go. If you found it wasnít for you, soften your stance and give it another shot. If you love it and cherish your copy of it, go plug it in for another go-round. Itís always worth it.

Did I beat it?
You know it.