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#50 - Tetris & Dr. Mario

Alright, confession time.

A year or two ago, when a number of the top games in this project were still, uhÖ ďfluidĒ in their finalized rankings, I realized I had a problem. A big one. One that I had no idea how I was gonna solve.

You see, I had carefully defined the guardrails for this project. The criteria for every ranking were set in stone: everything would be ordered based on how much fun I can have with that particular game, strictly compared against other SNES games. Not by how good of a port it was. Not by how historically significant it was. Not by how much fun I had playing it 30 years ago. No exceptions.

Öwell, there were some exceptions, sort of. Like when I grouped all of the fishing games together. And all of the board game adaptations. Mostly because I (still) have no idea how to do a great job of breaking those down and sprinkling them throughout this project. Or at least I just wasnít capable of doing it in a way I was happy with.

Now, here I found myself with the exact same problem one last time: NES compilations. Where in the holy hell was I gonna rank Tetris & Dr. Mario, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, and Super Mario All-Stars? I had no idea, and realized I had a dilemma on my hands. How in God's name was I going to compare a collection of multiple NES games against individual original SNES releases, in a way that made any sort of lucid sense?

Should I try and group those compilations up again, and just write them off as their own special little thing? Take the easy way out? Maybe lock them in at the #50-48 spots, come up with some sort of explanation for why they are a unique consideration, and be done with it? Could I live with that?

I realized I couldnít. Super Mario All-Stars is one of the most beloved games on the system, so in what way could I possibly justify such a move? Hell, I absolutely love the game myself. Artificially dropping it in the rankings for any reason would have made no sense.

So then, I had to ask myself: does All-Stars have a serious claim for the number one overall spot, and could I be okay with that? Because thereís a serious argument to be made that it does. After all, Super Mario Bros. is the most influential game of all time. It redefined the entire medium. It also made Nintendo a household name overnight. And it is the number one reason I got into video games in the first place. And Super Mario Bros. 3? Many people call that the greatest game of all time. Or, at the very least itís almost overwhelmingly considered the greatest NES game of all time. Two powerhouses, bundled together in one cartridge. And thatís not even considering Super Mario Bros. 2 or The Lost Levels. Hardly two slouches themselves. All of those games remain an absolute joy to play to this day. Historical impact and all that aside, I love them myself.

And then what about Tetris? Possibly the other most influential game of all time. One that I have been playing (in various forms) for over 30 years at this point. The gameplay has barely evolved in all that time because it was already considered perfect upon release. How in the world am I supposed to quantify that sort of ďfunĒ for the purposes of this project? How am I supposed to condense those 30 years of playing Tetris, and put that condensed sentiment up for direct comparison against something likeÖ I dunno, Secret of Evermore? Or up against Metal Marines? How are any of those experiences even remotely similar? How can I possibly rank my 10 hours with Axelay against my 30 years of playing Tetris?

Well, I donít have a perfect answer to any of those questions. I donít have a perfect way to rank these games that will 100% satisfy everyone, or not be controversial in some manner, or even leave me without at least a tiny amount of lingering doubt. There is no bulletproof solution.

But thatís okay. When in doubt, stick to your guns, so I resolved to adhere to my own rules as closely as I can. I did the only thing that makes sense to me and placed the games in the spots that align with my own feelings. Treated them in the exact same way I treated all of the other games.

So, after several years' worth of waffling, Tetris & Dr. Mario lands here. In the top 50. Not anywhere close to the top 10. Perhaps that seems low. Perhaps it seems high. But itís the honest truth about how much I enjoy it.

Tetris may be considered one of the greatest games of all time, across the entire history of the medium, beloved by millions upon millions of gamers. Itís a game Iíve probably sunk at least 500 hours into. Itís a great game. Dr. Marioís pretty great too. But Iíd rather play Demonís Crest. Thatís just who I am. And these rankings reflect that. Tetris & Dr. Mario is my 50th favorite game to play on the Super Nintendo, so thatís where it landed.

Did I beat it?
Uh... I'm gonna go with yes. I've played both games to death, and can muster up respectable enough performances.


#49 - Metal Marines

Of all of the games in my top 50, I could see this being the one people take the most exception to. And that would be completely understandable; itís an odd game, itís an uneven game, and itís the sort of experience that absolutely screams for a sequel that polishes up all of its rough edges and expands upon some of its big ideas.

But let's step back a bit, and first talk about what Metal Marines is all about, because it's a very strange little package. It's an experimental mixture of strategy and tactics unlike any other game Iíve ever played. One that feels like, in an alternate universe, it could have been quite influential, inspiring a wave of tactical clones in the later half of the 1990s.

Obviously, that never happened. Instead, it disappeared into the depths of obscurity. A forgotten game, and a dead franchise. Other titles carried the strategy genreís torch instead. Alas.

Anyway, the gameplay is something of a mix between real-time and turn-based strategy games. As in, you take turns, but it all happens in real-time. Confused? You should be.

The central goal of the game is to overwhelm your opponent, invade his island, destroy his base, and claim his headquarters, all while protecting your own. To accomplish this task, you have an array of weapons and tools at your disposal. From tactical cruise missile strikes to invading platoons of ďmetalĒ marines.

Each scenario begins with a construction phase where you build resource generators, defense systems, missile turrets, and your marine infantry. When your forces are ready you can then initiate the attack phase, where your rockets are launched, and your transport planes full of troops are sent to invade your opponentís island. When the attacks are completed, you return to your base construction.

Thatís it. Build, attack, defend, repeat. Itís rather simple, and endlessly repetitive. A lot of it is even automated. Also, the AI is rather stupid, and easily exploited.

But dammit if Iím not obsessed with this game. I was hopelessly addicted for my entire playthrough, and I still think about it regularly. The gameplay loop is so enjoyable that I never get tired of it. And that feeling when your invasion works flawlessly, letting you needle through the enemyís defenses, straight to the heart of their base? Pure gaming ecstasy.

Itís not a perfect game. Far from it. It desperately needs a sequel that expands upon all its ideas, adds more units, adds more strategies, and smooths things out.

But this is all weíve got to work with. And thatís good enough for me. I love this game, and it deserves every bit of its cult praise. Itís not for everyone - itís probably not for most people - but it is absolutely worth trying out. Perhaps youíll join our cult.

Did I beat it?
I did. And I'd do it again.


#48 - Pocky & Rocky

I have no idea what to call this genre of game. Itís overhead. Itís vertical (mostly). You run. You shoot. Itís like aÖ run and gunÖ Ďem up. Iím claiming that. Trademarked. You heard it here first. Nevermind the fact that Iím sure a thousand other nerds on the internet have already made similar observations.

Pocky & Rocky IS a run and gun. That just happens to look kind of like a shmup. Thatís a good thing. In fact, itís two good things, because there are not a ton of games like this.

Well, wait, thatís probably not true. Thereís tens of thousands of games, and most of the games that are similar to this never left Japan, and God knows Iíve never heard of a lot of them. So there probably are lots of games like this. Maybe thereís an entire cult of gamers dedicated to the stuff.

But thereís nothing like it on the Super Nintendo.

Öwell, except Pocky & Rocky 2Ö

Ok, Iím kinda just flapping in the wind here. I guess thatís what happens when you approach these writeups with no predetermined plan, and completely wing it, spur-of-the-moment. So letís try this againÖ

Pocky & Rocky is a hardcore game. Make no mistake. Donít be fooled by the charming, cutesy graphics, or the adorable little girl and her raccoon (tanuki?) pal. This is a game for people who want to be brutalized, and want to enjoy every minute of it.

Things start out innocently enough. You have free reign to run wherever you want. You have an unlimited supply of projectiles that fan out in whatever direction youíre facing. Enemies are mostly harmless in the beginning, and wither under your deadly rain of fire. Upgrades are plentiful.

Then, level by level, the entire thing gets meaner and tougher. Bosses no longer joke around. Enemies start hitting you from every direction. The upgrades become hard to hold on to. You start to replay levels over from the beginning. Before you know it, youíre replaying them a dozen times.

In short, itís a hard game. The good type of hard game. The kind of hard that pushes your skills (or memorization) to the limit. One that never gives you a moment to breathe, or rest.

Sometimes those are the best types of games.

Did I beat it?
A number of times.


#47 - Secret of Evermore

When it comes to the Super Nintendo, there are two types of people: those who champion Secret of Evermore, and those who champion Secret of Mana. Itís a bitter divide, marked by decades of resentment, petty name-calling, and lots of hurt feelings.

Nah, Iím kidding. Everyone knows Secret of Evermore is better.

No, but seriously, thereís no correct answer as to which is better. Both games have different strengths, both have different weaknesses. Mana is the more well-known and popular title, but Evermore certainly has its fans, myself included. Both are among the best action RPGs on the platform.

Initially assumed to be a direct sequel to Mana (or maybe that was just me), Evermore was actually an American teamís attempt at creating a big bad Japanese-style action RPG. And they obviously had done their homework, because they knocked it out of the park. This is a big bad game with lots of content, a great story, a ton of great setpieces, a killer gimmick in the form of your AI dog companion, and a lot of expansive locations to explore.

Now, Iím gonna do a lot of comparisons to Mana in this write-up. Like, a lot of them. And I think that makes sense, because the two games have always been kinda tied at the hip, in a way. Which makes sense because they share so many similarities. For instance, they share the same graphic engine, they both feature the infamous ďitem ringsĒ, they both let you swap between your main characters, and so forth.

The biggest change, and Iím kinda speaking in broad terms here, is that the gameplay has been tightened up nearly across the board. What does that even mean? It means I had a lot of problems with Manaís combat system, with its world travel, with its AI pathfinding, with its boss fights, with its weapon upgrades, with its hit detection, with itsÖ well, everything. On and on and on and on. Itís a game that has a lot of problems. Too many problems. But Evermore works to correct most of them. Boss fights, for example, are massively improved. Theyíre still not great, but theyíre - at worst - average. Passable for sure. Far from the trainwrecks that inhabited Mana. And the hit detection - one of my absolute biggest gripes with Mana - has been made far less annoying and finicky.

Now for the downsides.

The alchemy (magic) system isÖ well, I guess the word Iíll use is ďpolarizing.Ē And even that is probably being kind. Scrapping the magic system from Mana entirely, you instead have to manage expendable resources in order to cast spells. The more you use them, the more they power up. And you can only have a certain number of them ďequippedĒ at any given moment, with any swaps requiring you visit certain merchants spread throughout the game. It'sÖ uneven, I guess. I am not a fan of Manaís magic system, and I can barely bring myself to call this an improvement. In fact, I barely used magic throughout my run, because itís not even worth the bother.

Worse, cooperative play is MIA. Completely. There is no cooperative play. The dog cannot be controlled by a teammate, even though it seems like such a no-brainer. Was that because it was cut from the final product? Who knows. But itís a pretty big disappointment. Manaís absolute best feature - and the feature that did a lot of the heavy lifting as far as earning it the ranking it got - is the three-player cooperative mode. Itís the only way to play that game. But itís mysteriously left out of Evermore. I have no idea why, and unfortunately it cost Evermore at least 10 spots just by itself. This could have challenged for the top 25! All it needed to do was allow two people to buddy up and go at it together.

Still, complaining aside, this is a wonderful game. Another Square hit, and one of the best RPGs on the system. If you are a fan of Mana, you absolutely have to try this.

Did I beat it?
Yep.


#46 - Ninja Gaiden Trilogy

This is gonna be another popular selectionÖ

ďThese ports are garbage!Ē
ďThis should be in the bottom 100!Ē
ďThey switched the buttons around!Ē
ďThey messed up the music!Ē
ďThat one stage doesnít get dark any more!Ē
ďRabble!Ē

You may be one of those people. Supremely outraged when something we love is altered in any way, emotions all akimbo. Many of us in the world of nerd-dom are. Iím guilty of it myself at times. For instance, I have a very hard time forcing myself to watch any modified versions of the original Star Wars trilogy. Those are some of my favorite movies of all time, and I shun them because of changes that the average casual fan would probably dismiss as insubstantial. I shun because a silly little song was changed.

So I get it. I get that they changed your beloved Ninja Gaiden, and that youíre not happy with it, and that you have a really hard time playing it. Itís perfectly understandable. We all cherish our sacred cows, and we donít like it when something is fixed that was never broken in the first place.

But the Ninja Gaiden games are not sacred cows to me. Even though I do own all three original carts for the NES. And even if they were, it wouldnít matter in the context of this project. Iím comparing Ninja Gaiden Trilogy against Ninja Warriors and The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Not against Ninja Gaiden for NES. Or against Ninja Gaiden in the arcades.

And the end result is three powerhouse games that were some of the best of their era. All three are competing for top-25 spots in the NES library (I assume, Iíve only played about half of it at this point). All three have aged wonderfully, with tight controls, sharp and charming sprites, a deviously addictive challenge, and those wonderfully amazing cutscenes. All three would have a claim at being among the best games in the Super Nintendo library as well.

Öwhich begs the question: is there an argument for putting this compilation in the Super Nintendo top 25? If not higher? It was certainly something to consider. I mean, three games is three games. I like Turtles in Time more than I like Ninja Gaiden. But do I like it more than Ninja Gaiden AND Ninja Gaiden 2? AND Ninja Gaiden 3?

Itís the sort of question that makes your head hurt.

But after a lot of deliberation, I landed here. And Iím happy with it. I love these games. I love playing through them. Theyíre the epitome of great old school design, and they will never age. Everyone should play them and experience them. This may not be the optimal way to do that, but itís not a half-bad alternative. And even in a slightly neutered form, they still hold their own.

Did I beat it?
Yes. Even if NGIII gives you unlimited continues. I'm counting it.


#45 - Metal Warriors

I adore the game Cybernator. In case that wasnít already clear considering I just wrote it up a few entries ago, where I praised pretty much every part of the game.

Metal Warriors lets me scratch that Cybernator itch. Not only that, it scratches that itch while kicking my ass. And giving me multiplayer. And some killer cutscenes. And a nice variety of different mech suits I can pop in and out of.

Iím not gonna say this is Cybernator on steroids, because itís not, and it brings its own unique weaknesses and drawbacks to the table. But it absolutely is a worthy successor that raises the bar in enough ways to call it the superior video game.

The story is absolutely top notch. Well, top notch for a Super Nintendo action game anyway. Itís mostly told via between-mission cutscenes, but they are simply magnificent. Probably the best on the system. LucasArts had some very talented animators and artists.

The controls are similar to Cybernator. Or, I should say they are for the default starting mech. It has a main weapon, a melee attack, a shield, a secondary shield, jet propulsion, and a slot for a secondary attack/ability (all of which must be discovered during the course of play and all of which are temporary). Overall itís a very nice spread of moves and abilities that lets you approach every situation and every enemy type with a variety of possible strategies.

But whatís even better, is that additional mechs can be found throughout the nine missions, each of which expand upon these strategies even further. Some of the mechs are similar, including the mech with the heavy caliber gun, and the one that morphs into a ball when you travel, but thereís also a tank-like mech which has limited mobility, and no jump or jet propulsion, but does offer thick armor and an extremely powerful main cannon, as well as one mech that can fly and fire in any fixed direction.

Which feeds directly into another thing I love about this game: the multiplayer. It takes the form of 1v1 deathmatches (thereís no cooperative play), and pits you and a friend in a battle to the death in a series of small arenas. Itís not perfect, and certainly cannot hold a candle to more modern deathmatch options, but Iíve had a hell of a lot of fun with it. Trying to track each other down and finish each other off is a hoot, and always a hit when I bust it out at game night.

If there are downsides to be found, itís the rather daunting challenge. While the game starts out manageable, things escalate pretty quickly. And the limited number of continues, and lack of passwords, mean only the most dedicated and skilled gamers will ever reach the end.

In fact, this is unfortunately the only game in my top 50 that I havenít cleared. Iíve made it to the final level a number of times, and faced off with the final boss quite a few times as well, but never did manage to seal the deal.

Oh well, easy come, easy go.

So, if youíre not scared off by games that will mercilessly destroy you, and you want to shoot your buddies, this is the game for you. The best game LucasArts ever released for the system, and a worthy spiritual successor to Cybernator.

Did I beat it?
I haven't! This is the only title in the top 50 that I haven't cleared (yet). That keeps me up at night.


#44 - Knights of the Round

I donít know if Iíve ever had a game kick my ass like Knights of the Round has. Well, does. Itís an ongoing relationship.

The gist of the game is simple. Itís like Final Fight, but with King Arthur and his knights (of the round)! Or likeÖ Golden Axe or King of Dragons or those Dungeons & Dragons games, probably!

But itís not. Itís better than those games. Harder. Less forgiving. A little more prone to spit in your face and call you a baby. Itís hardcore like that.

Iím serious though, itís hard. Very hard. Iíve played this game like a thousand times, and Iíve never beat it on Normal. Not because itís one of the hardest games on the system, I think, but because I seem to be incapable of getting any better at it. Iíve made it to the final level many, many times. Made it to the final boss quite a few times.

But I can never seal the deal. And Iíve had some heartbreakers too, let me tell you. You know that feeling when you can sense that everything is coming together on a run and you just know youíre gonna break on through? You just know that momentum is on your side, and youíre gonna be in the zone long enough to finally overcome what initially seemed like an insurmountable obstacle? Iíve had that happen to me many times with KotR. And I choke every time. Every. Single. Time.

In fact, I think thatís why I have so much trouble with it. Iím in my own head. Iím so convinced I canít clear it, that I get rattled at the end of the game and immediately start pressing buttons, and doing dumb things, and completely melt down, ending in disaster. Itís basically a ritual for me at this point.

And yet, I never stop trying. I never stop playing it. At this point I donít even really seem to care that I canít beat it on anything other than Easy, and likely never will. Itís almost like some strange sort of agreement I have with the game. Iíll keep playing it, it will never let me get the best of it, but weíre both having fun so we leave it at that.

And I guess it never gets boring because thereís just enough depth to keep you consistently engaged. The parry/block systems rewards skilled play while making the stiff challenge much more manageable. The three characters all play quite a bit differently from one another, with differing skills that make them all feel useful and powerful, yet unique from one another. And all of the enemy types keep you on your toes, never letting you retreat into the same patterns or exploits.

So if you're into beatemups (or good games in general), this is absolutely one of the very best on the system. Just an absolute pleasure to play. So grab a buddy, get your teeth kicked in, and enjoy your ass off.

Did I beat it?
Well, I did on Easy... I feel shame in saying that.


#43 - Axelay

Axelay is a candidate for the best-looking game on the system. I mean, I know people are gonna balk at that, and point to the usual suspects such as the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Kirbyís Dream Land 3, Yoshiís Island, or maybe even Chrono Trigger. But for action titles with wonderful sprite design, great looking levels, and wonderful technical trickery, this is the game that has a mean claim for the throne.

Luckily, itís not just a looker; it's damn fun as well. Easily in the running for best shmup on the system. I personally have it in the number four spot, but I absolutely would not blame anyone calling it their favorite.

The first little detail that has to be called out is the way the game switches between vertical and horizontal scrolling. Similar to games like Legendary Wings or Lifeforce on NES, among others. Which I never have a problem with. I know some people have strong preferences as far as vertical vs. horizontal, but Iím easy either way as long as the gameplay remains strong between the two types of levels. And with Axelay, it most certainly does.

The next detail that needs to be pointed out is the unique way the level scrolling is handled in those vertical levels. Itís probably the one thing this game is most known for, and Iíll see if I can do it justice with my attempt at an explanationÖ

You see, instead of just scrolling past a background sprite layer, said background is actually coming at you from an angled perspective. Almost like youíre moving over a tilted conveyor belt. The effect is rather cool in motion, and is presumably due to one of the Super Nintendoís unique graphic ďmodes.Ē The only game I can think of that does something similar is Super Turrican 2, presumably because Factor 5 drew inspiration from Axelay for their trick.

The gameplay systems are great too. You have a choice of three different weapons at any moment. If you are hit by enemy fire the current weapon will be disabled for the rest of that current life, and youíll be forced to make do with any remaining weapons. Once all weapons are lost, you die with the next hit. Colliding with anything is an instant death. This system works extremely well because it forces you to grow proficient with all of the different weapons. As you get further into the game, you gain access to even more weapon systems which can be assigned to your 3 spots. So you get ample opportunity to master a lot of different types of attacks. It works great.

The game also strikes a perfect balance with its challenge. Make no mistake, this is a hard game, with a brutal final level, but it never feels unfair. Every pattern can be memorized, and every situation can be handled with one of your weapons. You just have to be on top of your game at all times. Playing on hard mode is fiendlishly difficult, but absolutely a must-play experience for all hardcore shmup fans.

Beyond that, it's all superlatives. The levels all look great, the bosses are all masterful designs. The only real nitpick I can come up with is the game's relative brevity. It could have used another level or two. But thatís just because you donít want the experience to end.

Did I beat it?
Totally.


#42 - Kirby Super Star

Kirby returns with a compilation of 8(!) different games, all in one jam-packed cartridge. What an absurd value.

Well, sort of.

First off, Kirby Super Star isnít really 8 complete games. Donít even begin to be fooled by that main selling point. Itís more like 8 different pieces of a Kirby game, or in 3 cases, small minigames. Which, looked at in total, add up to maybe the equivalent of, like, 1-2 normal Kirby games. Super Mario All-Stars this ainít.

Second, Iím very aware that people adore this game. And for good reason, itís very charming, and full of Kirby's whimsical cuteness. And itís absolutely perfect for kids. Especially with two players. Itís a great game, I mean, I have it in my top 50. Itís just not quite as great as most people seem to think it is. In my sole opinion of course. So letís just get that out of the way up front.

Third, it goes without saying that I should probably do a quick rundown of the different ďgamesĒ offered here. So, without further delay, they are:

Spring Breeze - As the name implies, this is a traditional, and ultra easy, Kirby romp, similar to any of his classic early games. Work through a handful of short levels, absorb foes and gain their powers, and conquer a handful of pushover bosses. The noteworthy addition (?) is the ďhelperĒ buddy you can spawn with the power-ups you swallow. This serves to make the game even easier.

Dynablade - Another traditional Kirby romp. Pretty much exactly the same as Spring Breeze. The difference? Uh.. itís a bit easy, instead of absurdly easy? The option for adding a helper buddy is on offer here. In fact, it is for all of the traditional games in Super Star.

Gourmet Race - A foot race against King Dedede Deedee, across three ďlevels.Ē The goal? Be the fastest. And I guess get more food? Honestly, Iím not entirely sure. The winner is decided by who has the most points, and you get points for going fast and eating food, so I guess you have to manage both. Not that it really matters, because I feel youíd have to go out of your way to try and lose. Also, the entire thing lasts about 2:30 two and a half minutes.

The Great Cave Offensive - A treasure hunt for 60 different chests that are scattered throughout a massive level, many of which hold Nintendo-themed surprises. This is probably one of the more popular ďgamesĒ in the collection, and for good reason: itís fun, and I (and many others) are suckers for fan service. That being said, itís probably also not nearly as cool as I just made it sound.

Revenge of Meta Knight - The most ďcinematicĒ game of the bunch. I guess thatís the word Iím going to use. In this one Kirby has to dash across the Meta Knightís ďHalberdĒ airship, in a race against the clock. This is by far the most fast-paced game since there is an ever-present countdown that you have to be mindful of. Itís also the only game with text or any real attempt at a storyline. For that reason itís probably my favorite of the bunch.

Milky Way Wishes - The last game to be unlocked, this one has a backstory about the the sun and the moon at war with one another, and so you have to travel the solar system and blah blah blah. The biggest change is that instead of absorbing powers from your foes, you instead ďunlockĒ them by finding key items scattered throughout the levels. Any unlocked powers can be freely used by selecting them from a sub-menu. Itís a nifty little upgrade since you no longer have to micromanage your abilities, or stress about losing them.

Samurai - A minigame that tests your dexterity and reflexes. Heavy emphasis on the reflexes. Thereís no margin for error. You canít hesitate, you canít get distracted. Hell, you canít even blink if you hope to succeed. This one is great with friends.

Karate - Another minigame, and another test of timing. Can you hit the button when the power gauge is full and the indicator is in the middle of your crosshairs? Fun, but not as good as the other minigame.

Arena - A boss rush. Choose a power, and donít die against a gauntlet of the usual suspects.

It all sounds great, right? Kirby, Kirby, and more Kirby. A bona fide Kirby smorgasbord. Whatís to complain about?

Well, I guess that depends on just how much you're into Kirbyís core gameplay. Thereís a lot of basic, vanilla Kirby here, even if it is gussied up and presented as a big fancy collection of unique standalone games. Because theyíre not. They all play very similarly to one another, and they all follow the standard Kirby MO pretty closely. Individual gimmicks aside.

Thatís not necessarily a bad thing. If you like Kirby games, you're getting a whole lot of game here. Itís just all a bit misleading. And if youíre meh on Kirby gamesÖ well, you might find this one a tad disappointing, and itís probably not the game thatís gonna convert you into a true believer.

Kirby Super Star carries with it a decent amount of hype, which one could argue is a bit overblown, and it has a whole lot of content, though not as much as it initially appears. So I donít feel itís quite the stone cold classic many claim it is. But that doesnít mean it isnít a great game. It is. One of Kirbyís proudest moments. And one that all Super Nintendo fans should check out.

Did I beat it?
Every single part of it.


#41 - Pocky & Rocky 2

So, I really lumped the two Pocky & Rocky games kind of close together here, didnít I? I mean, just several spots away? Out of 714 total Super Nintendo games? Why did I even bother? Why didnít I just combine them into one entry and call it a day?

Well, I did, smart guy (or girl). Thanks for asking. In fact, at various points I considered a lot of things. At one point I had the first game in the top 25. Initially, I had Pocky & Rocky 2 back near the #75 mark. Iíve flip-flopped on which one should be higher at least a dozen times. Every time I play the two games I seem to switch them around. Theyíre joined up, theyíre split up, theyíre joined up, theyíre split up.

This whole thing has been going on for at least three years.

I guess that tells me that theyíre both great games, and that itís entirely subjective as to which one is better. They both feature the same rock-solid, ultra-fun, and deeply-challenging gameplay that I described back in my P&R write-up, but they have enough differences that they can stand apart. Differences that seem minor at a glance, but do make a big, uh, ďdifferenceĒ in defining each experience.

What are those differences? Lots of things. The way you manage health, the way you select characters, your charactersí movesets, and so forth. Iím not going to get into it because It doesnít matter. Play both of the games if you want to know more, because the changes will be immediately apparent. And for the purposes of selling you on both games with these write-ups, Iím not gonna bog us down with those sorts of details.

So if you like the original Pocky & Rocky, youíre gonna like this. You simply will. Itís more of a good thing. And if you havenít played either one of these games, but you like run n guns and shmups and whatnot, then I can assure you, youíll like these games. I canít tell you which one youíll prefer - that answer will differ per person - but youíll have an awesome time figuring that out.

Did I beat it?
Definitely.


#40 - Super Bomberman

If youíve ever played a Bomberman game before, I probably donít have to work too hard here to sell you on this game. The series sells itself. It always has. The multiplayer modes are blissful chaos with endlessly addictive gameplay that hasnít aged a single day. It is a must-play experience. Which means every single person who owns a Super Nintendo has to own a Super Bomberman game. At least one. End of story. There are no arguments to be made otherwise.

Of course, the Super Nintendo just happens to have five of the damn things, two of which were released out West. And each and every one of the sequels offers a more essential experience than this one. Humble beginning and all that. Which isnít to say that Super Bomberman isnít a spectacularly fun game in its own right. Itís just that it has been outdone by all of those successors.

Even Super Bomberman 2 represents a fairly large step up from the first game in my opinion, with a vastly improved (or at least, more challenging) single player mode. You can blow through Super Bomberman in under an hour, probably on one credit. Thatís not the case with the sequels.

But thatís fine, because even the most barebones of the ďSuperĒ installments of this franchise is a joyous gaming experience. Super Bomberman is one of the absolute best party games on the system, and some of the most fun you can have with your buddies. I mean, thereís a reason this thing was sold with a multi-tap included in the box. Even with the meager multiplayer offerings, the core experience is intact and fun as ever. The addictive gameplay was already in place right from the get go.

In fact, Iím ending the review right here. Right now. Stop reading this, and head over to eBay, and buy a multi-tap. And one of the Super Bomberman games. Even if itís this one; you canít go wrong with any of them. Then you need to call up a bunch of your friends, and invite them over for a marathon gaming session. You can come back and thank me later.

Did I beat it?
Yeah. It's possible I did it without dying a single time. But you don't play this to beat it. You play it to beat up on your friends.


#39 - Sparkster

Sparkster, sequel to Rocket Knight Adventures on the Sega Genesis (sort of), is a prototypical Konami action game. Every single box is checked.

Great controls? Check. Wrestling control of the titular rocket pack has a bit of a learning curve, but once you do youíll be flying around like an opossum possessed.

Great graphics? Double check. Iím pretty confident the screenshots speak for themselves.

Great animation? Hell yeah.

Great music? You know it.

Great character designs? Konami has made a rodent wearing a jetpack and swinging a broadsword as cool as one possibly could. Thatís high praise considering how trashy most of the Sonic wannabes were during this era.

Great setpieces? Some of the greatest. I love the rush through the airship, and dodging hyper laser blasts inside the space station. The entire game is one never-ending setpiece.

Great boss fights? Multiple final boss fights. Multiple boss fights against your arch rival. Boss fights against gigantic mecha. Check and check.

GreatÖ everything? Pretty much. This game is an absolute joy to play.

And you know what? I donít even really want to dissect the game much more than I have already. I donít think itís necessary, because I think itís enough to tell you this is a great Konami action game, and you can fill in most of the blanks. The best thing to do is just go take it for a spin yourself.




Öoh, actually, there's one last thing. I have to call out one big, glaring drawback in this game. One thing that tries its best to drag down the entire experience. The thing I specifically mentioned in my Drunk Friend interview where someone asked me about a bad moment in a good game.

I of course am referring to the ďboxing matchĒ that occurs near the end of the game. The one where Sparkster and his arch rival, Captain What's His Face, both get ahold of large space-faring robots, and begin duking it out with their fists.

I fucking hate this fight. On the Easy difficulty itís passable. On the harder difficulties it is madness. Red, hot, rage-inducing madness. You have been warned.

Did I beat it?
I did. Well, I did on Normal. To get the best ending you have to do it on Very Hard, and I am way too scared of the boxing match to take that on.


#38 - Space Megaforce

Iím not going to profess to be any sort of expert when it comes to Compile games. Iím not going to pretend that I can sit here and carefully explain to you all of the minute differences between the likes of MUSHA, Robo Aleste, Gun-Nac, and Zanac. I wonít be able to make a compelling case for where this game sits in the seriesí hierarchy. But thatís okay, because I donít feel like I need to.

Space Megaforce aka Super Aleste is a hell of a good time. Itís fast, itís furious, it rewards twitch reflexes, and itís never, ever, boring. If youíve ever played any of the games mentioned up above you probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Thereís nothing especially exotic here. No crazy scoring systems, no complicated control schemes, no overly elaborate gimmicky gameplay features. Just old-fashioned dodging and shooting. A shit-ton of shooting.

Technically, the game is something of a marvel. Easily one of the fastest and most graphically-intensive shooters on the system. And yet there is nary a technical issue to be found. No sprites popping, no lag, little slowdown, nothing. It performs like a champ.

The controls are perfect too. As tight as you could possibly need.

The weapon system is straightforward, but satisfying. Pick a weapon type, keep it upgraded, and keep the fire button hammered. Easy peasy.

If thereís any complaint, itís that the game is a tad too easy. While most shooters on the Super Nintendo (or in general) seem to pride themselves on a fiendishly difficult (if not downright sadistic) challenge, SMF is a relatively easy completion. None of the impressive-looking bosses present any sort of extreme challenge, and none of the levels act as any sort of real roadblock. Granted, things can get hectic on occasion, but you have so much firepower at your disposal that things never become unmanageable.

Is that lack of brutal difficulty a good or bad thing? You be the judge.

Honestly, I donít really have much else to say here. Itís a relatively by-the-book shmup, but itís executed so damn well that itís a pure pleasure to play. And itís commonly cited as one of the systemís best entries in the genre for good reason. If you like Compile, get this. If you like shooters, get this. If you like good Super Nintendo games, get this.

Did I beat it?
Many, many, many times. Like, a lot of times.


#37 - Super Turrican 2

I love this game. Love, love, love it. Thatís gonna be a running theme with my top 50 here, but in this case I really, really mean it. Itís an infatuation.

Is this a sleeper pick? Probably. I doubt most people have this in their top 50. Maybe not even in their top 100. Probably because theyíve never played it. Or they prefer the gameplay found in earlier Turrican games. Or maybe they simply prefer Contra III. Or, most likely of all, they simply find the entire experience too disjointed, too difficult, or too outlandish. There could be many reasons, all valid.

But I like outlandish. I like difficult. And I love Turrican games. As this is the cream of the crop.

Right off the bat, I have to warn you that this thing plays almost nothing like its predecessors. The usual elements are all present and accounted for: you can still switch between different weapon types, you still upgrade them via floating platform box thingies, you can still roll around and drop bombs. But the framework upon which all of those elements sit has been completely changed. Gone are the long, open-ended(ish) levels. Instead itís all Contra-esque setpieces. Weíre talking buggy rides across the desert. Bug rides throughout the skies. Ben Hur-styled mechanical chariot duels. Axelay-styled shoot em ups. Vertical rocket rides. Stuff along those lines. Itís one big outlandish idea after another, and I love it all. Every single level is a blast, and a never-ending thrill ride.

In fact, thatís exactly what Factor 5 appeared to be going for here. Trying to out-do Contra at its own game by making everything bigger and badder. Some might call that outright thievery. I say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Granted, they didnít quite reach the lofty heights established by Contra III, which may just happen to be the genreís single biggest highlight, but Factor 5 did a more than commendable job in the attempt.

But enough superlatives, if I havenít sold you on trying the game by now, nothing else I can say is gonna change the matter. So seek this game out, one way or another, and give it a shot. It may kick your ass the first time or ten, and it may not play like any other Turrican game, but itís worth some dedicated effort. Trust me on that one.

Did I beat it?
Yes. I play through this at least once a year.


#36 - Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble

Donkey Kong Country 3 is another game I have a history with. So prepare for another trip down nostalgia lane. Iíll try not to be too long-winded about it this time.

I received DKC3 from my father as a Christmas present in 1996. It was the last SNES game he ever bought me. In fact, a few PC titles aside, it was the last video game he ever bought me. Period.

I played the living hell out of it over the next few months, beating every level and finding every bonus and collectable. Didnít stop until I got the full 103%. It was a good time. Most people at the time were running wild with Super Mario 64, but my family didnít have any money, so I was mostly tuned out to newer consoles at that point.

At the time, it would have been under consideration for ďbest of the trilogyĒ for me. It was clearly a ďbiggerĒ experience than the first game, with way more doo-dads to collect (whether thatís a good thing or not is certainly debatable). And I was convinced it was a better game than DKC2. Though I think that had more to do with the fact that I didnít actually own DKC2 at the time and therefore had to think my games were better. Kids are weird like thatÖ

Anyway, long story short, I didnít play it again for a long time. 26 years in fact. I just recently played through it for old timeís sake, and it wasnít until I had started that I realized I hadnít touched it since that initial playthrough.

And thatís really a damn shame, because DKC3 is a great game. I guess it kinda got lost in the crowd when I began to move on from platformers, instead dedicating all of my time to ďdeeperĒ experiences like RPGs and strategy games and whatnot. I didnít need to replay through some silly 2D kidís game when I could be replaying Final Fantasy III or Chrono Trigger instead.

But sometimes a platformer is just what you need. And all these years later, I really had a blast going through it again, dusting off so many ancient memories.

I had forgotten about the gigantic barrel boss. Or the Simon Says-styled minigames. Or the free-roaming vehicles you can use on the overworld. Or the way you can skip Kiddy Kong off the surface of the water if you time it right. I had forgotten many of the later worlds, and how much variety there is to their playstyles.

DKC3 may be the weak link in the trilogy. I think most people are in agreement on that. But itís absolutely a strong game in its own right. It would be tough for any game to follow in DKC2ís footsteps, and its little brother doesnít manage to reach those gaming peaks. But itís still an essential game in any SNES library.

Did I beat it?
Once as a kid, and once shortly before writing this.


#35 - Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

This is another one I have a long history with. Even if some of the details are starting to get pretty hazy in my head. Iíll do my best to recollect.

I first played this, I think, at an after-school childcare place, way back in the first grade. So, not long after the Super Nintendoís launch. Which means it had to have been one of the very first SNES games I ever played. The daycare - called Kidís Stuff - didnít have any video games on hand, so they must have rented the console and a few games one afternoon.

Now, letís just enjoy the fact that a bunch of young children were treated to a surprise gaming rental, but the clueless employees selected freaking Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts of all games to go with it. You couldnít write a more miserable script if you wanted to.

So, it goes without saying that we kids never got past the first section of the first level. Itís possible we never got past the first couple of screens. But I didnít care. I was used to doing bad at games - I never expected to get anywhere. The imagination of a child can do a great job filling in the blanks for all of the game they donít see. No, the only thing I cared about was that I got to play this bizarre, wonderful, terrifying game. And I was more than impressed with what I witnessed. Giant flaming skulls, relentless zombies, leaping wolves, knights running around in their underwear! It was a total hoot.

Years later, I was lucky enough to borrow the game from a friend, and spent an entire evening brute-forcing my way through it. With persistence I was able to overcome the unforgiving controls, the endless enemies, and the screen-filling bosses. It was, again, a hoot.

Öthat is, it was until I got to the end of the game and was promptly told that I needed to do it again. Flabbergasted, I turned the console off.

See, in my mind, the game had told me that I had missed acquiring some sort of secret item, and without it I would have to start over and try again. Shocked, I figured Iíd have to regroup and try some other day, and turned the console off. After all, these were the days before guides for every video game were readily available via the internet, so I really had no idea what was going on. So, my game was lost, and I was none the wiser.

Of course years later I learned the truth, a truth that every game in the series shares: you have to play through the game twice by design. Whoops.

Anyway, to cut this short, I did finally play through the entire thing, twice, and conquer those earlier demons. I defeated Satan, rescued the princess, and finally got the credits. It was immensely satisfying, and probably one of my proudest clears.

Since then I have also played through my copies of Ghosts 'n Goblins, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins. Each experience has only further cemented my love for this franchise. Ghosts 'n Goblins was one of the absolute first NES cartridges I bought when I started that collection. Ultimate was the second PSP game I bought. Ghouls 'n Ghosts was the first Genesis game I bought. And the instant a physical release for Resurrection is announced, I'll be all over it. Iím all in on this series, today and forever.

Which kind of makes me want to guess as to why that is. Why do I pursue these games with such abandon? What is it about the punishing gameplay that always draws me in? Do I have a thing for grown bearded men in their skivvies? What is it about all of those things that makes SGnG deserve a spot just outside the top 25?

And the short answer is these games are simply fun to play. Tons of fun. It starts and ends there, because thatís the bottom line. The borderline-unfair challenge never beats you down because youíre always having too much fun to want to stop and because you know your persistence will eventually pay off. You want to overcome each challenge. You want to clear each level. You want to beat down each boss. You want to see the credits roll. And you donít want the experience to end.

Plus it doesnít hurt to have such a killer medieval horror motif.

Did I beat it?
It took a false start or two (and several decades), but I did.


#34 - Super Smash TV

Who doesnít love this game? Who doesnít have fond memories of playing it in the arcades or on home consoles? And why the hell hasnít there been a reboot or remake or another one of those much-belated sequels? Er, besides Total Carnage. Because Super Smash TV honestly might be the greatest twin stick shooter of all time. Is that hyperbole? It really doesnít feel like it.

Part of the appeal is the wonderful theme: death match game show. Basically a mixture of The Running Man and the television adverts that were on display throughout RoboCop.

ďBIG MONEY, BIG PRIZES.Ē

ďI LOVE IT.Ē

ďIíD BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR.Ē

Unforgettable.

Graphics? Full of charm, havenít aged a day, and still hilarious. And who doesnít love the gruesome destruction and mutilation of the ridiculous bosses?

Controls? Airtight. And a match made in Heaven for the SNES controller. No more dealing with dual NES pads, or the Genesisí awkward ass A/B/C buttons.

Cooperative play? Some of the absolute very best on the system. You are doing yourself a disservice if you try to tackle this without a buddy. Not only because it makes the brutal challenge much more conquerable, but because itís such a thrill to experience with someone else.

Iíd even go so far as to say that SSTV was one of my absolute favorite rentals of all time. I can think of very few games that I was as feverishly addicted to as I was with this. And this happened well after the Super Nintendoís heyday. Long after such games should have sucked up my attention like it did. But age doesnít matter when the gameplay grabs hold of you like that.

But enough with the gushing praise, because I donít need to sell Super Smash TV any more than I already have. You just need to go get it and play it. It doesnít matter if this isnít your type of game. Or if youíre bad at video games and are afraid you wonít get very far (you probably wonít). Just play it. Thatís all I can say. Just. Play it.

Did I beat it?
Hell yes.


#33 - Ninja Warriors

Have you noticed that Natsume has been unearthing some of their classic games in recent years? Giving them shiny new remasters, with extra content, snazzy new high-definition sprites, and touched-up gameplay?

Because I sure as hell have. Theyíre not just bringing back any old games, either. No, theyíre giving us the best stuff in their catalog. Pocky & Rocky. Wild Guns. And Ninja Warriors. Three of the absolute top games in the Super Nintendo library. Because they know what they have. They know how good these games are. All three positively exude quality.

Ninja Warriors, on the surface, appears to be a pretty basic and by-the-numbers brawler. Thatís not a bad thing; the entire genre is an exercise in tapping into simple pleasures. Thereís nothing wrong with bashing dudes in the face, throwing them into their teammates, and busting up giant boss characters. Thereís a reason that type of game litters the upper tiers of my rankings.

However, this game beats out most of its peers in one important aspect: incredibly tight gameplay. Thatís the difference. Thatís what separates it from almost everyone else. You see, all of the action is constrained to a single plane - thereís no free-roaming movement. But instead of making things feel limited, it works to keep the action tightly paced. Thereís no breaks, no relenting. Enemies are constantly coming at you from both directions, and they all present different challenges that need to be overcome.

Luckily, your ninja robots have a nice selection of moves and attacks. Iím not gonna say it's similar to the depth of a fighting game, but itís not too much of a stretch to say itís halfway there. And there is a wonderful mechanic that requires you to avoid hits for prolonged periods of time in order to build up your special attack meter. Skilled play is rewarded.

Speaking of the robots, you have three of them to select from. One is the prototypical slow, heavy bruiser, one is the small, quick and lithe speedster, and the other isÖ well I guess heís also smaller and quicker. But he also trades most of his throws for a set of melee attacks with longer reach and quicker attack speed. Personally, heís my favorite.

But the great thing is all three characters have their own strengths and weaknesses. While I normally stick to one, and only one, character for most of my brawler completions, with Ninja Warriors, I like to switch it up every few levels, since the different movesets can favor different situations. In some levels, youíre better off with the bruiser. In others, you want quickness. Again, itís wonderfully balanced.

Anyway, beyond that most of the typical brawler things are present here. The game only has eight levels, which means a completion only takes 1-2 hours. While the challenge is moderately high (at least in the second half of the game), unlimited continues means anyone should be able to clear it with a little persistence. Thereís also no cooperative play, which is a major shame. The remaster eventually added a 2-player mode, and itís a ton of fun, but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity here.

So to wrap things up, I just want to say how much fun this game is to play. I know Iíve been saying that a lot recently, because every one of the games that are this high in the rankings truly is a ton of fun to play. But in this case, I really want to emphasize how much I recommend that everyone play this game. Itís impossible not to enjoy.

Did I beat it?
Many times. Including the night I wrote this. And a couple times with the remaster.


#32 - Demon's Crest

I remember the first time I ever heard of Demonís Crest. It was way back in the day when the 100th issue of Nintendo Power was released. NP did this whole thing where they listed the 100 best Nintendo "tricks" of all time, the 100 best Nintendo games, showed off all 100 covers of the magazine, etc. Of course I naturally gravitated to the top games list (real shocker there), where I learned of a great number of titles that I had previously been unaware of. DC was one of those games. In fact, not only had Capcomís game made it onto the list, but it had a very interesting blurb written for itÖ



Even as a kid, I was pretty confused. Why was NP claiming the game was good enough to make the list, and yet insulting the voters for putting it in the list in the first place? Like, what the hell? Is it a good game or isnít it, NP? Make up your damn mind.

And negative sales? Yeah, fucking right. I very much doubt most of the worst games in history ever managed such a feat, much less some under-the-radar Capcom game. Plus, how the hell would that data be available to NP? So Iím calling bullshit. I called it then, and I'm calling it now.

Years later, I finally tracked down a copy of the game for myself and was able to draw my own conclusions. Turns out Nintendo Power had it right. Itís a damn good game. A great game. A game well ahead of its time. Who the hell knows why someone felt like they had to take a swipe at it in that list, but suffice it to say that personís an idiot.

First off, Demonís Crest is a Metroidvania. Or I guess I should say itís a straight up Metroid-like, seeing as how Castlevania Symphony of the Night didnít exist yet. I know people hate that term, I know they think itís overused, I know thereís a lot of pushback on it, blah blah blah. But itís absolutely fitting here. This is the most Metroid-like game on the Super Nintendo, aside from Super Metroid itself. Our dear friend Firebrand has to backtrack over a hub-based set of levels, using an ever-growing arsenal of skills and upgrades, all in order to discover his true enemy, and earn some better endings.

Oh, I should also mention that this is actually the follow-up to the two different Gargoyleís Quest games that were released for the Game Boy and NES. For those who may not know, the whole trilogy is a spin-off of Capcomís own Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise, placing you in the role of Firebrand, one of those damnable Red Arremers that just loves to harass the living hell out of poor Arthur. What actual connection do any of Firebrandís games have with the GnG series? Pretty much nothing. They play absolutely nothing alike.

Anyway, I havenít managed to get ahold of a copy of Gargoyleís Quest II, but I have played through my copy of the original game, and can attest that this is a more than worthy successor. Gargoyleís Quest is a great game, but Demon's Crest improves upon it in every way. The tedious random battles and overworld navigation are gone. Instead you merely fly (in a nifty Mode 7 overworld) to the area of your choice.

The levels are also much more open-ended now, with branching paths and lots of secrets to uncover. Not to say that this is as open or nonlinear as an actual Metroid game - itís not, not even close - but itís no longer on rails.

Thereís also more meat to the bones. Multiple endings, tons of upgrades and different forms/skills to acquire, mini-games to master, secret bossesÖ thereís a lot on offer here. A 100% clear still only takes 10 hours or so, but thatís a big improvement over the 2-3 hours we got with the first game in the trilogy.

But enough about the details. The only thing that matters is how fun it is to play. And the answer is a lot. A lot of fun. Iíve played through this game a number of times, and I always get sucked in, unable to leave it behind until Iíve done everything. Even when returning to the game to refresh myself on a few of the details for the purpose of writing this entry, I couldnít help but play through it yet again. Itís too fun not to. Itís a challenging game, but the super-forgiving nature of the checkpoints and continues means you want to push through. You want to uncover all of the secrets. You want to knock out all of the bosses. You want to get to the big bad secret boss in order to earn the true ending.

And thatís the hallmark of a great game. I waffled a bit on where it should land in the rankings, sometimes having it as high as the teens, something I ultimately decided against. But the fact I was even considering it should tell you everything you need to know about its quality.

Itís not Super Metroid. Not even close. And some people may prefer the sadistic action of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. And not everyone will like it as much as I do. But I dare you to start it up and not feel compelled to see it through to the end.

Did I beat it?
Yep. Several times, including a playthrough right before I wrote this.


#31 - Sunset Riders

Cowboy Contra. Thatís this gameís moniker, and its legacy.

And I mean, there are worse things you could be called. No one is saying that in a negative manner. No one means it as a putdown. You donít get compared to Contra because youíre doing things wrong. Itís done as a compliment. One of the highest compliments you can receive in gaming.

And itís a pretty fair comparison too.

As the screenshots and reputation attest, this is a classic Konami shooter. Run and gun through a half-a-dozen or more stages, blow the hell out of legions of mooks, survive a daunting gauntlet of bosses, and chuck your controller into the wall because you repeatedly get your ass kicked. In other words, this is hardcore Konami, to a tee, in every sense. Itís glorious.

Could it be a little longer? Sure, Iíd have dug another level or ten.

Can the enemy patterns all be memorized, making the game easier and easier every time you play through it? Of course; I imagine thatís the case for almost any game of this ilk.

Does any of that matter? Not really. The gameís simply too fun to get caught up in any nitpicking. The instant you get a game over, you want to start back up again, and try to improve. Itís the exact same sort of addiction I experienced with mastering the original Contra for the NES. You just donít want to stop playing. Thatís the hallmark of great gameplay.

I guess the only thing thatís missing is a 4-player mode. Thereís four selectable characters, and this thing originated in the arcades, so one can only salivate at such prospects on a home console. But alas, this thing came out in the earlier days of the systemís lifespan, and before any multi-taps were released. And who even knows if the hardware could have handled that many players onscreen. Oh well, c'est la vie.

So, there you have it. One of the best action platformers, best shooters, and best Konami games on the system. While not quite on the level of Contra III (a master craft in gameplay) itís not too far off. Every Super Nintendo enthusiast needs to play this. And every Super Nintendo collector needs to own this. Itís mandatory.

Did I beat it?
I have. It's not an easy completion.


#30 - Sid Meier's Civilization

Have you ever played a Civilization game? Or is that a dumb question? Should I just assume everyone has? After all, can anyone really call themselves a gamer if they havenít played at least one of these games before?

Of course it all started with the landmark original game, developed by the one and only Sid Meier:



And while this was the first, and arguably the most influential, game in the series, Iím guessing most people are actually more familiar with any one of the many different sequels. And I mean manyÖ

First, there was Sid Meierís Civilization II:



In my mind, this is the biggest game in the franchise. The one that made the biggest splash, and had the most overall popularity. Maybe thatís not true - maybe itís still the first game, which, like I said, was the most instrumental in changing the gaming landscape. But I feel like II is where the series was firmly established as video game royalty.

That was of course followed up with Conflicts in Civilization - Scenarios, Fantastic Worlds (which uses the "Civ II" monikor), Multiplayer Gold Edition, and Test of Time:



Öand then we got Civilization Call to Power, Activisionís attempt to stay in the market without Meier, who had left for greener pastures. If memory serves, the results were less than stellar.



Meanwhile, Meier went and took his talents to Infogrames, producing Civilization III, Play the World, Conquests, Gold Edition (again), Game of the Year Edition, and Complete.



Activision then struck again with Call to Power 2, which was promptly ignored. Again. Notice the lack of of any sort of reference to "Civilization" in the title.



And then we got Civilization IV, Warlords, Beyond the Sword, and Colonization:



Öand the consolized spin-off series, Civilization Revolution and Civilization Revolution DS:



Öand then Civilization V, Gods & Kings, and Brave New World:



Öand then Civilization Revolution 2:



Öand whatever Civilization Beyond Earth and Civilization Rising Tide are:



Öand finally Civilization VI, Rise & Fall, and Gathering Storm:



Oh, and did I mention Sid Meierís Colonization and Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri? In addition to God knows what else.



Or how about the board game adaptations. I personally own the second one and absolutely adore it. Even if it takes like 9 hours to play, and 3 hours to set up.



Now, where was I going with all of thisÖ hell, I don't know. Iím sure there was a point, but I got stuck on a tangent.

Anyway, I guess I just want to say that this ridiculously prolific and long-running series had humble beginnings once upon a time. And Koei was nice enough to bring it over to the SNES for us. A port that is 100% playable, 100% fun, and very much worth seeking out. If you have played a single one of the games I just listed above, you can safely know that. It may not have all of the fancy features that the bazillion sequels brought, and it may not have the smartest AI, or the most streamlined control scheme, but it's still one of the absolute best strategy games to be found on the Super Nintendo.

Did I beat it?
I completed a couple scenarios. That counts in my book.


#29 - Earthworm Jim 2

I love this game.

I mean, to be fair, I love all of the games Iíve been writing about recently. But this one Iíve always loved. Right from the beginning. Right from release.

Back inÖ well, I donít know, some grade school year, I think, I went to a birthday party with half a dozen other dudes. Each one of us got to pick a game from the rental store, and since it was a slumber party, we all stayed up late into the night playing those games.

I donít exactly remember what those other guys rented, but the only thing they seemed to really play was some football game on the Genesis. I donít recall what - maybe one of those Joe Montana games - but I wasnít really that interested in participating either way. See, I had selected Earthworm Jim 2 for the Super Nintendo, which was hooked up on the other side of the room. And I spent the whole night playing through it.

Now, is that anti-social? Yes. Was I selfishly hogging one of the TVs to play a single player game? I mean, everyone else was otherwise occupied, but yes, I was. Could I have created lifelong memories with those guys by sharing a formative multiplayer experience with them? Almost certainly. Did I care about any of that? No. Because I was having way too much fun.

You see, I had played a lot of the original Earthworm Jim upon that gameís release, but I could never get past that maddening underwater level. So as much as I enjoyed EWJ, playing it was something of a case of blue balls. Pardon my vulgarity. I had no such issues with the sequel; I got through the entire thing. Every level. In that one night. And every single part of it was a joy.

Anything But Tangerines - The easy intro level, with the easiest boss fight of all time. Thatís no exaggeration. Also, 25 years later, I still have no idea what the level name means.

Lorenzoís Soil - Get it, because Lorenzoís Oil? A movie that not one Super Nintendo-owner has ever seen or heard of? Good one Shiny. I find this level strangely cathartic, cutting through all of that dirt, continuously growing the piles below your feet, with that constant feedback of your lightning gun exploding from the speakers. Iím not sure what any of that says about me.

Puppy Love - Save Peter Puppyís children from a violent death by bouncing them off of a giant marshmallow. Otherwise heíll murder you. Iíve heard people complain about these levels, but I enjoy them.

Villi People - The star attraction. Jim is a blind female salamander(!) traveling through some sort ofÖ bodily innards(!!), ending in a nonsensical game show (!!!), all to the haunting melody of a Tommy Tallarico sonata (awesome!!!!). Truly inspired.

Udderly Abducted - One of the more frustrating levels, by design, and also something of a puzzle. You have to track down cows (which may or may not have explosives attached to them), and safely carry them to theirÖ uh, cow homeÖ things, so that they can be milked, and allow you to progress. Have I mentioned how strange this game is?

The Flying King - A shmup, sort of? Jim takes a ride on his pocket rocket, and blasts the living hell out of pirate ships and cave men catapults and mucus creatures, and all other sorts of nonsense.

Inflated Head - See the picture above.

ISO-9000 - Probably the least inspired level, and easily the most frustrating. I guess the theme here is ďOffice Space-esque (or maybe Brazil-esque) fever dreamĒ where youíre surrounded by paperwork and filing cabinets, in a sort of bureaucratic hell. Some of the areas are real rage-inducing.

Level Ate - A bizarre race across a series of hot ovens and meatballs, all while being chased by a murderous salt shaker. When I was a kid this was one of my favorites, but Iíve since cooled on it. Still great though.

See Jim Run, Run Jim Run - Actually, this might be the most frustrating level. A race against Psy-Crow, with lots of trial-and-error and guesswork. Itís fine on easy, but not very enjoyable on the harder difficulties. But itís worth it for the typically absurd ending.

So there you have it. One of the best platformers on the Super Nintendo, one of the best Western-developed games on the Super Nintendo, and one of the best overall games on the Super Nintendo. Worth it for the absurdity alone.

Did I beat it?
A billion times.


#28 - Donkey Kong Country

Every couple of years or so, I feel like gaming has a zeitgeist moment. A moment where everyone everywhere is suddenly on the same page. Theyíre all hyped about the same new game, and all everyone wants to talk about is how much fun they're having with it, or what new things theyíre discovering within it.

As of this writing, I feel like Elden Ring is the newest gaming zeitgeist moment. Everyone is talking about it, everyone is having a great time with it, and people like myself who arenít included are suddenly wishing they were, wanting to see what all the fuss is about.

Other zeitgeist moments I have personally experienced include Breath of the Wild, Dark Souls, Grand Theft Auto III, and Ocarina of Time.

The very first gaming zeitgeist I ever experienced was Donkey Kong Country.

Since my dad had registered our SNES console (in order to receive that free copy of Super Mario All-Stars), I was one of the lucky recipients of the Donkey Kong Country promotional VHS that made the rounds once upon a time. Iím sure many of you know what Iím talking about.

I canít recall for sure if I was aware of DKC before that VHS tape arrived, but I was certainly swept up in the hype afterwards. The tape featured a short (maybe 10 minutes?) montage of clips from the game, with no real context, or narration or anything (warning: very old recollections at play here), but it absolutely did its job: showing off amazing graphics and fast-paced action. It went straight to the top of my birthday/Christmas list.

Lo and behold, a few months later my dad actually bought me the game for my birthday. I had four or five friends staying the night as part of the celebration, and we played DKC long past our usual bedtimes.

Every single one of those kids got Donkey Kong Country for Christmas. Every one. For some of them, it was the only non-sports/non-Super Mario World cart they owned. As in, even casual gamers needed this game.

And thatís all we talked about for the next few months.

Nowadays, I think the hype around DKC has cooled a bit. Not a ton, but a bit. Itís still a title that - if no longer revered - is at least still fondly remembered. It may no longer have the wow factor it did upon launch, but itís still a hell of a good time, with tight gameplay that has barely aged a day in my humble opinion. The variety of level types keeps things fresh, and the different worlds all have a unique feel to them.

Sure, the bosses are pushovers for the most part. And yeah, the sequels added tons of additional content that can make the original game feel a tad barebones. But those are minor gripes.

And it goes without saying that the David Wise soundtrack is absolutely to die for.

Did I beat it?
At least a dozen times. This is one of the first games I ever owned.


#27 - R-Type III: The Third Lightning

The greatest installment of one of the greatest shooter franchises of all time. Thatís no mean feat.

Well, technically I donít actually know if this is the greatest R-Type of all time. I havenít played my copy of R-Type Final 2 yet. And, now that I think about it, I havenít really played much of R-Type Delta eitherÖ and Iíve never played the Japanese-only R-Type Command sequelÖ Operation Bitter Chocolate (yes really). And I really, really love the first Command game.

Anyway, the point is that R-Type III is a great game. Maybe the best shooter on the system. Certainly one that deserves that consideration. And thatís no small matter considering how lukewarm my feelings are about Super R-Type, one of the systemís earliest games.

Itís partially because Irem (irem?) cleaned up all of the technical issues that plagued the earlier SNES title. No more rampant (and I mean rampant) slowdown. No more lurching through the levels.

Also, checkpoints. Thatís a thing now. And it makes the experience immeasurably more enjoyable and less frustrating. Which isnít to say that this isnít a difficult game. If anything, itís even harder. But itís harder in a good way. The good, fair type of challenge that you want to overcome, as opposed to the type of cheap difficulty that makes you want to slam your face into a wall.

The game is also beautiful, with some of my favorite spritework on the system. Iíll be sure to host a few examples up above for all to partake in.

Thereís also new force pods to choose from this time around, instead of being stuck with one basic default choice. I donít want to spoil the details, but all three are a hell of a lot of fun.

Finally, the levels are fantastic. Each and every one has its own unique visual identity, each one has great setpieces and perfectly placed checkpoints, and every single one is very satisfying to finally overcome. Again, a massive improvement over Super R-Type.

All in all, itís a pretty perfect package. They took a powerhouse series, and improved everything across the board. And the fun factor is through the roof. While I have one more shooter coming up in the rankings that I personally find slightly better than this one here, it was a very close race, and really, I could probably go either way. So find a copy of R-Type III, play it, enjoy it, and love it.

Did I beat it?
Yep. I've only ever done a single loop at a time, but that's good enough for me.


#26 - Kirby's Dream Course

Hidden gem!

Iím only partially kidding. I mean, the idea is ridiculous, right? No big budget Nintendo game that features one of their tentpole franchises could possibly be called ďhidden,Ē right? Especially not a game that sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and is even featured in Nintendoís Switch online library.

But for whatever reason, Kirbyís Dream Course is a game that most Super Nintendo enthusiasts are completely unfamiliar with. That was true years ago when I selected it as a monthly contest game on the defunct website Nintendo Age, and it was still true just recently when I selected it as the ďGame of the MonthĒ for the Super Nintendo subreddit. People in general hadnít played it, or they hadnít heard of it, and they expressed doubts about even trying to get into it.

Hell, before I first played it back in the 90s, borrowing it from a family friend, I had never heard of it. Had no idea what a ďdream courseĒ might even be, for that matter...

But the end result is always the same. People give in and play it. People are surprised to learn itís a golf game. And theyíre surprised by how much fun it is.

The main campaign is split into eight different ďcoursesĒ (with remixed versions of each course that can be unlocked). Each course consists of eight holes, and the total number of strokes it takes to collectively clear all of those holes is tracked as your final score. Score well enough and you can earn bronze, silver, and gold medals.

Each hole has a simple goal: destroy all of the enemies, and then drop the ball (Kirby) into the hole that is left behind by the final enemy. All in as few shots (strokes) as possible.

Now, how does one ďshootĒ Kirby, exactly? Itís simple. You select the direction you want him to travel, select whether or not itís going to be a high bouncing shot or a low fast shot, and then you let rip. Any enemy you touch is destroyed, and any hazards you run into damage you. Going out of bounds means losing a life.

ďDamage? Lives? I thought this was a golf game.Ē

It is a golf game, but it just has a few Kirby-esque wrinkles to it. You see, not only are you tracking the number of strokes it takes to complete a hole, but you also have to manage your supply of tomatoes (health points). Each stroke exhausts a tomato, and touching a hazard exhausts an additional tomato. Run out of tomatoes and you lose a life. Run out of lives and you game over, and have to start the course over from scratch.

How do you gain tomatoes and lives? By doing well, in short. Tomatoes are earned by destroying enemies and landing in the hole, but cap out at a count of four. So if you clear all of the enemies super quickly, but then have trouble dropping in the hole, you can easily run into trouble. But extra lives are always reset back to two when you start a new course, with an additional life earned with each hole-in-one.

Sounds straightforward, right? Well, there are even more wrinkles. In true Kirby fashion, certain enemies, when destroyed, will allow Kirby to gain their power. For example, if you destroy the stone dude, you have the ability to (once per shot) turn to stone, which immediately halts all of your momentum, regardless of how fast youíre going, or how much slope there is to the terrain. Very useful for staying in bounds, or dropping directly down into the hole when itís in a tough spot.

You also have the ability to toggle the angle of Kirbyís movement, and the ability to give him topspin or backspin. Which means you have total control over everything that happens, giving the game a lot of depth, and a lot of room for skilled play. The difference between limping through a course with sloppy play that just barely makes it to the end, and a run where you complete every hole in one or two shots, is massive.

And thatís part of what makes this game so great. Itís got a lot of replay value, and a lot to master.

Even better, thereís an incredibly fun 2-player mode. Very similar to the solo campaign - you are trying to ďoutscoreĒ your opponent - but different enough to stand apart as its own thing. I absolutely recommend checking it out with a friend.

So there you have it. The best Kirby game on the system, and very possibly the best Kirby game thatís ever existed. Certainly one of the most unique. So go take it for a spin. Right now. You wonít regret it.

Did I beat it?
Yes. I even got all of the gold medals once upon a time.