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#125 - Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

A couple years ago, I spent a couple weeks mastering the original Battletoads for the Nintendo Entertainment System. And while the entire experience could be described as punishing, or grueling, I actually had a ball. I love that game, and I loved getting better at it. It was constantly rewarding, and really made me feel like I had accomplished something by the end.

The instant I was done with it, I had the brilliant idea to follow it up with a playthrough of its lesser-known sequel, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs. After all, my skills were still sharp, why not put them to use?

So I did exactly that. I mastered Battlemaniacs immediately afterwards. Though it only took a week in comparison.

Unfortunately, playing them back-to-back like that also laid bare just how halfhearted and phoned-in the sequel felt. Rare literally took an 8-bit game, cut half of it out, and re-released it. While also making it feel sloppier and less tight. I donít know what they were thinking. Maybe they were rushed.

Now, for those of you who have never played through the original game, one thing it is notable for is the extremely varied playstyles it has, with no two levels that really play exactly the same. Those levels are as follows:

Ragnarokís Canyon - A quick battle against some overgrown pigs, ending in a battle against a large mech that occurs from the perspective of the boss (think the first battle against Shredder in Turtles in Time)

Wookie Hole - Fight off crows and carnivorous plants while rappelling down an endless chasm.

Turbo Tunnel - You know what this level is. Everyone does.

Arctic Caverns - A lengthy platforming level that is much longer than the first three stages, with dozens of hazards that need to be memorized.

Surf City - Similar to the Turbo Tunnel, but much more forgiving, and ending in another boss fight.

Karnathís Lair - Ride on top of gigantic snakes that zigzag their way across vertical maps. Memorization, like always, is the name of the game.

Volkmireís Inferno - Kind of like that fast-moving level in Gradius where you need to avoid all of the walls.

Intruder Excluder - Another exercise in platforming, this time working your way up an endless shaft, ending in a particularly annoying boss fight.

Terra Tubes - More platforming, except most of it is underwater, or running away from gigantic gears. This is probably the longest and hardest level in the game.

Rat Race - A race to the bottom of the level, with one of the cheapest glitches in gaming history.

Clinger Winger - A race against a killer buzzsaw, where precise D-Pad movements are required.

The Revolution - More platforming, this time with some tricky rotational effects, and ending with the hardest boss fight.

Now go ahead and remove levels 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 from that list, and replace them with a pointless bonus stage. And make Rat Race easier, while also buggier (if that is even possible). And make the Turbo Tunnel much harder. Thatís Battlemaniacs in a nutshell. Pretty lazy, and lackluster in effort and execution.

Luckily, Iím not judging this game against the original Battletoads. Iím judging it against the rest of the SNES library. And just how good is a second rate Battletoads game when measured against its fellow Super Nintendo games? Still pretty dang good.

Did I beat it?
Yes I did. Not one of the easier completions in the SNES library, but I managed to make it happen.


#124 - Super Bonk

I have a confession to make: Iíve never played any of the Bonk games. I mean, none of the non-SNES Bonk games. Not the original Bonkís Adventure, not Air Zonk, none of them. And I only briefly played the Japan-only sequel, Super Bonk 2. Or whatever itís called... Super Genjin 2? You know what I mean. Maybe.

Anyway, is that a hit to my gamer cred? I honestly have no idea. I feel like this is a series thatís mostly known only to the sort of hardcore gamers that are insane enough to collect for the TurboGrafx-16, or are pursuing full NES sets. Which is gonna represent a tiny portion of the people who are reading this. So I imagine most people are unfamiliar with these games. Or maybe not, who knows.

In any case, I havenít played any of them, so I have no idea how Super Bonk stacks up against the rest of the franchise. Is it a poor Bonk game? A mediocre Bonk game? The best Bonk that ever bonked? No idea. Doesnít matter. Because as a Super Nintendo game, it stacks up very well. Hudson Soft has done good once again.

The overall gameplay and mechanics areÖ well, theyíre so strange that I donít know how Iím going to explain any of this. See, Bonk is a caveman (baby?) with a giant head. And no hair. He uses this giant cue ball to bash (bonk) enemies. He can also turn flips in the air in order to bonk enemies above or below him. Depending on how you time it. That also slows his descent, so that you can get more air time. He can also turn into all sorts of bizarre shit. Ostrich Bonk. Tiny Bonk. Huge Bonk. Huge eyebrows Bonk. Water monstrosity Bonk. Drunk with steaming head appendage (?) BonkÖ Each one more insane than the last, all with vaguely useful powers.

You can also scream the letters ďRAGEĒ onto the screen and then, I guess, use them (the letters) as a travelling platformÖ

Oh, and then at some point youíre eaten by a giant dinosaur, and you travel through his intestines and other organs in order to pulverize his heart.

And later youíre this perpetually spinning space crab that is shooting a bunch of moonsÖ

You follow what Iím getting at? Itís a super fucking weird game, and super Japanese, and most of this is gonna be lost on a lot of people.

But itís great. The levels are fun to explore, the bosses are a thrill to fight, Bonk is a lovable little monster, and itís a game I come back to again and again. Iíve beat it at least four times over the last decade, and I plan on doing it again real soon. It may not be the best Bonk game out there (or maybe it is), and it certainly is strange, but itís one of the best games Hudson put out for the Super Nintendo, and I recommend everyone check it out. I always have a really great time with it.

Did I beat it?
Yep, this is one I go back to quite a bit.


#123 - Final Fight 2

Ever play Streets of Rage? Not Streets of Rage 2, but the OG first game? Itís one of those early seminal Genesis games that was huge in its day, but finds itself incredibly overshadowed by its sequel nowadays. Hell, no one seems to talk about it anymore.

The same canít really be said for Final Fight 2. There was no dramatic step up with this sequel. No vastly improved graphics, or addition of an iconic soundtrack, or massive gameplay changes. JustÖ refinements. Slight refinements. And Iím not even sure that theyíre for the better.

You see, Final Fight is a great game. One of the better brawlers on the Super Nintendo. Is it perfect? No. Can it touch Streets of Rage 2? Not really. Do I like it as much as Capcomís own Knights of the Round or King of Dragons? No. But it still gets the job done. If there is any caveat(s) holding it back, itís the rather punishing difficulty level, something that is only exacerbated by some overly long levels, and some maddeningly cheap boss battles.

Final Fight 2, on the other hand, goes hard in the other direction. It basically removes the frustration. All of it. This game is so much easier than the first game itís ridiculous. Possibly the biggest slide in challenge from one game to another across the entire Super Nintendo library. I mean, I canít beat the first game without resorting to trickery, regardless of how much I try, whereas this one is so easy I achieved a 1CC on the first try. That is no exaggeration.

And thatís the problem. Capcom overcorrected. Iíll even admit that part of the appeal of the first game is that gargantuan challenge. You want to overcome it. You want to get better. If you die, it was your fault, and that makes you want to hop back in and give it another go.

No such thing happens here. You blow through it, have a good time, and move on. It makes the whole experience less... noteworthy, maybe. Less satisfying for sure.

Still, it is great fun. And the graphics are still glorious, and controls are as tight as ever. The gameplay is also slightly sped up from the original. Is that better or worse? I guess it depends on your perspective. I felt it was different, but not in any way that noticeably affected my experience.

Finally, I have to mention that cooperative play is no longer missing. But that makes the game even easier. Youíre basically sleepwalking at that point, and I can barely suggest you even bother with it.

So, like with all of the Capcom brawlers on the system, I heartily recommend Final Fight 2. Itís not perfect, or among their better efforts, and itís not gonna give you more than a few hours worth of gameplay. But anytime you can slam fools into the ground with Mike Haggar is a time worth having.

Did I beat it?
Yep, this is one of the easier brawlers on the system.


#122 - Firepower 2000

Firepower 2000 aka Super SWIV (I canít tell which name is dumber) is one of the few Western-developed shmups on the system. Or, maybe itís the only oneÖ

D-ForceÖ Raiden TradÖ AxelayÖtheyíre all Japanese, arenít they? This truly is the only one. Huh.

In any case, youíd almost never be able to tell, because all of the things I associate with most (not all) of the Western games on the SNES (bad controls, bad hit detection, terrible art design) are not present here. In fact, everything looks and feels great. Bravo, developers. Bravo.

The main gimmick here is that you can take control of either a helicopter or some sort of Jeep. The helicopter plays like any ship found in a traditional shmup: move around while always pointing/firing in the direction the screen is scrolling. The Jeep, however, plays more like the vehicles in Jackal for NES. As in, it drives in whatever direction you want, and they always fire forwards.

Itís a super cool idea, and makes cooperative play really interesting because one of you must play as the Jeep. It also introduces an extra level of strategy since some targets are on the ground and some are in the air, and only the corresponding vehicle has to worry about colliding with them.

Unfortunately, I find the Jeep significantly harder to actually find any success with. Maybe thatís due to my personal playstyle, or maybe Iím just too used to playing shmups in a traditional manner, but I have a feeling many players are gonna share my experience. And thatís too bad because it makes me want to always play as the chopper. Itís the only way I can succeed at this game. And thatís becauseÖ

This game is hard as shit.

Seriously. I donít know if I made any bold claims about the systemís hardest entry in the genre, or if I said anything in my Super R-Type or Imperium reviews. And the upcoming R-Type III is extremely hard in its own right. But this game might take the cake. It is absolutely brutal from beginning to end. Or at least I assume it is, because Iíve never actually made it anywhere near the end.

And what is it that makes some shmups so hard? Demanding patterns like those made famous by the R-Types? Constant bullshit being flung at you a la Imperium? In this case, itís neither, because Firepower 2000 is hard for more insidious reasons.

You know Gradius syndrome? Where death strips you of all of your powerups, leaving you in a weakened position, which, late in the game, might mean youíre totally screwed? Well this game takes that idea to another level.

You see, each death ďde-levelsĒ each of your weapons. You wouldnít think that would be a big problem, because you have so very few lives in the first place that losing any of them should already put you deep up shit creek as it is. But therein lies the rub. For the fact is, you are almost never able to level up your weapons. Thereís just a few to be found in each level, and they can easily be missed due to the ability to ďhorizontally scrollĒ the screen, which makes it very easy to bypass stuff without ever knowing. So if you die a couple times and lose your powered up laser, you may NEVER get it back. And you absolutely do not want to be weak in the second half of the game because things get FRANTIC.

So there you have it. A game where you get a few lives, no continues, tough action, and dying practically means game over. So, in order to beat this game you need to get through it with very few deaths. Realistically, somewhere around zero. And for someone of my meager skillset, that has yet to happen.

But donít let that scare you away, because itís still a great time. Everything about it is well done, and I continue to happily pour attempts into it. I may never beat it, but Iím having a blast trying.

Did I beat it?
Nope! This might be the hardest game in this batch.


#121 - Star Fox

This game has not aged well.

Have I covered that ďcontroversyĒ yet? I donít mean about Star Fox specifically, but in regards to the general idea of games ďaging.Ē That the general amount of fun that can be extracted from a video game, as time passes, can decrease faster for some games than others.

Evidently thatís a hot take on some corners of the internet. Seems pretty straightforward to me. Game X bursts onto the scene, sets the gaming world on fire, and then is incrementally improved upon by five million clones and successors. Then you take a look at it 25 years later, and the dated mechanics have left you with something that is much less playable than some of its peers. It happens.

Star Fox is one of those games.

When this originally came out, Iím not gonna say it set the gaming world on fire (it didnít). But it was heralded as a pretty sweet addition to the SNES library. Killer polygonal graphics that, up to that point, had mostly been seen only in the PC scene. Relentless action, with constantly swarming enemies, and massive bosses. And even multiple pathways through the game, giving it a relatively high amount of replay value.

Of course, that was before stuff like Star Fox 64 existed. And that was before we got used to having actual textures on our polygons. And that was before we expected 3D games to run faster than 3 frames per second.

ďBut guy, the game always played like that, the code didnít change! It is impossible for a game to literally age!Ē

Yeah, no shit. No one said it did. But it did figuratively age. Probably because nobody had the clairvoyance to play this thing back in 1993 while images of the future Star Fox 64 were dancing through their heads.

And I realize that thatís not super fair to Star Fox. Iím only supposed to be ranking every Super Nintendo game. Star Fox 64ís infinitely more refined gameplay shouldnít be a factor in this writeup.

But it kinda is. Because I canít play Star Fox in 2021, and have as much fun with it as I did once upon a time. I just canít. It may not be totally fair, but thatís what the emphasis with this project is: how much fun are these games now. And Star Fox is fun. But not as fun as it once was.

Did I beat it?
Yes, but not all of the paths.


#121.1 - Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2 was of course one of the many cancelled titles on the system, one which was resurrected by Nintendo a few years ago, and released out of the blue, included on the Super Nintendo Classic console. Seeing as how I was already well into this writing project, I was left with a bit of a conundrum. Since SF2 could technically be considered an official licensed addition to the Super Nintendo library, how was I supposed to retroactively handle it? Did I ignore it? Did I try to find a spot for it in the rankings and then go back and shift everything above it back one space in order to accommodate it?

Or I could do this: Tack it onto the Star Fox review as something of a bonus game. No shift, no headache. It seemed like the path of least resistance so I went for it.

So I did play through it on my SNES Classic (once), which I felt like was enough to give a quick and dirty writeup. And my final thoughts are: itís alright. Nothing super special. It clearly brought a bunch of new ideas to the table, many of which were used in Star Fox 64 and Star Fox Command (and possibly Star Fox Assault). But I wouldnít say they were particularly well implemented here. The free range missions barely feel like a step up from Vortex, which was a terribly mediocre game, and the additional vehicles are honestly just not very fun to play with. At all. And even the tactical map, the mainstay of Star Fox Command, is not something I find to be very compelling in practice. Tedious if anything. Not that it isnít a good idea, I just donít think it was fully explored, or designed well.

But the core gameplay is still solid. Blasting shit is fun and winning dogfights is fun. It was of course all improved upon immensely with SF64, but it is interesting to see some of the ideas that worked so well there ďprototypedĒ here.

I guess if push came to shove, and I had been forced to do a genuine ranking for it, Star Fox 2 probably would have been in the low 200s somewhere. Quite a bit higher than the similar Vortex, but still a far cry from the systemís best. Good, not great. And a step back from its predecessor.

Did I beat it?
Just once.


#120 - NHL '94
...so continuing from where I left off with my previous write-ups of all of the other NHL games, THIS is the definitive entry. This is the year where EA was completely in the zone, and knocked it out of the park. Er, rink.

Controls? Sublime.
Mixture of simulation and arcade gameplay? On point.
Fun? Oh, itís the most fun.

Seriously, put this game in front of any gamer, hockey fan or no, and theyíll have a blast. Regardless of age, regardless of genre preferences, regardless of what generation of consoles they grew up with. Everyone likes this game. Iíve never met anyone who didnít.

And I donít say that lightly, because I have been around this game in many different social situations (including the hockey game night I hosted, and another regular game night), and everyone always has fun. Without exception. I canít say that about many (if any) other games. I remember when we rented it at my 1st grade after-school daycare. Yes, for real, I remember it vividly. And itís all that anyone wanted to play. In a part of the state where no one knows how to skate, much less actually plays the sport. They couldnít get enough of this game.

In fact, I donít even know why Iím trying to sell it, because you already know. Youíve already played it. Everyone has. So quit reading this, call up your buddies, and have an NHL Ď94 game night.

Did I beat it?
I haven't.


#119 - Super Baseball 2020

Suck it Griffey, THIS is the most fun baseball game on the system! I mean, according to me at least. Most people probably disagree. Hell, for all I know, this isnít even considered a very good port of Super Baseball 2020. Is this a far inferior version of the original Neo Geo MVS game? I dunno, probably it is. But we donít care about that! We only care about how it stacks up in regards to the rest of the SNES ranks. And it ranks pretty damn good.

First you select a team, each with different strengths and weaknesses. I always opt for the teams that can slug. Something about the best defense being a good offense. Going with the whole future motif, youíll immediately notice that the players are either cyborgs, or robots. Pretty damn cool.

The next thing youíll notice is the unusual playing field. How unusual? Well, large chunks of the field that are traditionally foul territory are considered to be fair, and most of the bleachers out in the outfield are actually covered in large sheets of glass that will bounce the ball back into play. Confused yet?

It gets better. One very important mechanic at play is earning and spending cash. With each ďpositiveĒ play you make in the game, you earn cash. And I mean every positive play. Throwing a strike and hitting a single give small payouts, whereas something like a home run or strikeout pays out significantly more. This leads to a really interesting metagame where you and your opponent are constantly jockeying to earn the most cash.

Now, herein lies the secret to this game being so great. With that cash, you can upgrade the players on your team. You can give your pitchers unstoppable cannon arms, you can give your batters extreme slugging power, or you can even convert them into robot super players. This drains your cash, but gives a significant boost to your offensive or defensive capabilities.

So while the games start slow, things gradually escalate as the upgrade arms war slowly plays out. Generally, the team that jumps out ahead with upgrades will end up crushing their opponent.

And that formula works. It never gets boring, and it leads to a lot of different ways to play. Do you try and load up the bases with small ball so that you can upgrade your cleanup hitter and bring them all home with a dinger? Or do you upgrade your pitchers and try to squash your opponentís ability to earn money? All approaches are equally satisfying.

Itís not all perfect, of course. The fielding controls do feel a tad unresponsive, which can lead to some frustrating plays (or, I should say, a lack of plays). And I wish it was a bit easier to pitch on upgraded players. They tend to crush the ball regardless of what you throw their way.

Either way, itís a load of fun. One of my absolute favorite sports games on the system, and one of my absolute favorite baseball games of all time. Someday Iíll seek out the arcade original and see how this version stacks up.

Did I beat it?
Almost!


#118 - Choplifter III

For the record, I have never played Choplifter or Choplifter II. In fact, I don't know anything about either one of them. I think the first game was ported to the Sega Master System. I feel like thatís a thing Iíve come across at some point in my life. But Choplifter II? Stranded in the arcades or left in Japan for all I know.

But it doesnít matter, because diving blind into the third entry in the series is more than worth your time. This game is great. Itís part shmup, part adventure, and partÖ uh, rescue... sim. What I mean by all of that is, while the game takes place from a side perspective, and your chopper fires bullets and bombs like you would expect to see in something like UN Squadron, there is no forced scrolling. Instead you are free to move about the (largeish) levels at your own pace. Like a 2D Desert Strike.

Each level begins with your chopper at your home base. The mission is always the same: go out and discover x amount of friendly POWs, liberate them, and bring them home alive. Itís often easier said than done.

While the first stage is rather conventional in design, with a spread out jungle you need to explore, later levels have you moving deep underground and navigating through enemy-filled tunnels and bunkers in order to find your captured allies. Other levels feature crowded urban environments or even large capital ships out at sea. If nothing else, C3 has a great variety of stages to explore.

The boss fights are also a treat. All of them bring a different challenge to the table, and none of them ever resort to cheap tactics, or frustrating bullshit. Yes, they are a bit easy once you get the patterns down, but the same can be said for most shmups.

Going hand-in-hand with that, if there is any real complaint I have about the game, itís that itís a bit too easy overall. Since you have unlimited continues to work with, and the layouts never change, you can pretty easily brute force your way through the game once you have everything memorized. And with just a bit of practice, a 1CC is more than doable. Is that a bad thing? No. But the game would have been better off if the challenge was taken up a notch.

All in all, itís a game I have greatly enjoyed every time I have played through it. The fact that I put it above my own beloved Urban Strike should say a lot, and hopefully not just about me and my taste in games. Any fan of the Strike series should check it out, and any fan of shmups thatís looking for something different should also check it out. You wonít be disappointed.

Did I beat it?
A couple different times.


#117 - Run Saber

I have a major admission to make. And I hope this doesnít come off as pompous or make me sound like a douchebag. But for all of my gaming experience and acumen (thousands of games worth), I have, as of this writing, never played the arcade classic Strider. Ever. Sacrilege, I know.

I donít really have an explanation for it either, other than Itís just one of those things that never managed to fall into my lap. Probably because it never got a great port for the SNES or Sega Genesis. I mean, yeah, I do actually own the port for NES. But Iíve never played it, and I never hear it talked about, so I can only assume it doesnít do the real game much justice.

Nevertheless, I know for a fact that Run Saber is considered to be something of a Strider derivative. Why is that? Because the controls are so similar? Because the animations are so similar? Is gameplay super similar?

I have no idea. Canít comment on it.

What I do know is that Run Saber is a great action platformer. One of the systemís unheralded games that most people have never heard of, but is easily worth most peopleís time.

The gameplay is very basic and very easy to describe: slash the hell out of everything you come across with the help of your titular ďsaber.Ē While also jumping, climbing and hanging your way through some crazy twisting vertical levels.

Part of what makes this game work so well is that it checks all of the important action platformer boxes:

The controls are rock solid, with perfect responsiveness and a scheme that is straightforward and intuitive. I have absolutely zero complaints here.

The graphics and animation are also great, with everything looking super sharp, and some truly impressive-looking bosses. Maybe some of the best on the system.

The game is also loaded with ďaction.Ē What do I mean by that? I donít know, just that youíre always encountering new stuff, and it never slows down. As opposed to something like X-Kalibur, where levels tend to drag as you fight the same enemies again and again. This game doesnít have that problem. At all.

Shortcomings? Well, it is super short. Maybe 30-45 minutes once you know what youíre doing. And the challenge is rather low. And I wish it had a few more levels that were as crazy as the early ride on top of a fighter jet. But nothing crippling, or especially egregious.

So overall, I absolutely recommend this game for action platformer junkies. I canít say if itís any better or worse than Strider, and I should probably get to playing that sooner rather than later, but I know itís a good game, and worth every SNES fanís time.

Did I beat it?
Yes, this is one I like to go back to a lot.


#116 - Biker Mice From Mars

Want to know what Biker Mice From Mars is all about? Easy, take everything I just said about Rock n Roll Racing, and apply it here. Except, take out the rock and roll. By that I mean licensed rock n roll. And replace all of the alien grotesques withÖ well, different alien grotesques. But otherwise these games may as well be spiritual brothers.

Is that a good thing? I think it is. The Rock n Roll Racing and RPM Racing formula - itself derived from (I assume) RC Pro AM on NES - works well enough. Itís fun to learn the short twisty arcade tracks, and itís fun to blast the shit out of the competition. More of a good thing is a good thing, right?

In fact, I actually prefer this over Blizzardís seminal game. I mean, obviously itís ranked higher, isnít it? But it was a close race. A very close one. This game doesnít have Highway Star after all.

What it does have is a shorter, more challenging and cohesive playthrough. For better or worse, both of the Blizzard racers were far too long for their own good. Does anybody reading this want to commit to hundreds upon hundreds of races? Because I donít. BMFM condenses that down to a far more manageable length.

In true Konami fashion, this is also a much more challenging game. Or at least it is on the higher difficulties, which is the only way to see the full game and have the credits roll (again, in true Konami fashion). Very few people will see those credits.

Itís also got a number of little, incremental improvements. Better graphics? Got Ďem. A better variety of racers to choose from? Got Ďem. A better soundtrack? Well, no. But what we have here isnít too shabby. If youíre into butt rock (which I am).

And yeah, what else do I need to say? The controls are perfect, the cooperative play is fun, the goofy license is a perfect fit. Itís a good game. One that all racing fans should check out.

Did I beat it?
Yes, and this game is no joke.


#115 - Batman Returns

Hey, remember a million years ago when I wrote up Batman Forever? That stupid Mortal Kombat-y beat-em-up based on the Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher vehicle? It was pretty wretched, and one of the few entries in the genre that I was forced to give up on. Maybe even the only one.

Well, this is the other Batman beat-em-up. The difference being that this one was made by Konami, not Acclaim. Which kinda says it all. And it doesnít have those ridiculous character sprites that were rendered from photographs of real nerds people, and it doesnít have the glaring problems with hit detection, or the horrendous control scheme, or the horrible levels, or the wildly uneven difficulty curve, or any of the other problems. Itís just a perfectly serviceable Final Fight rip-off. Thatís good enough for me.

Actually, another game I have to mention is The Death and Return of Superman. Remember that one? Courtesy of Blizzard, it was a serviceable attempt, it just didnít end up being as fun as Iíd hoped it would be. I mention it, because if you have played that game, then you need to know that it is basically a sequel to Batman Returns. An unofficial one. I have no idea if any of the same people were involved in its development (probably not). But the two games are so similar that it almost seems like borderline theft.

Anyway, enough about other games. What makes this game tick? Well hereís a short list:
  • Great graphics and animation.
  • Silky smooth controls.
  • A mostly good difficulty curve. Thereís a few boss fights that could have used some extra tuning, but I think itís a good job overall.
  • An above-average vehicle level.
  • Some okayish action platformer stages.
  • A perfect length.
It all adds up to being one of the best movie adaptations on the system. Or is it the bestÖ? Shit, Iíd have to go scan the list to figure out if thatís the caseÖ

In any case, it's either the best, or one of the best. And one of the best beat-em-ups on the system. And one of the best Batman games in gaming history. Check it out.

Did I beat it?
Many times.


#114 - Blackthorne

Here we have yet another ďcinematic platformerĒ for the Super Nintendo. I put quite a few of them in the 200-100 ranks, didnít I? I suppose that would imply that I really like most of them. Even if I donít love them enough to crack the top 100. That seems about right.

Blackthorne, from our legendary friends over at Blizzard, is a bloody good time. Thatís a thing people used to say, right? But itís absolutely true here. You take the titular hero, Kyle Blackthorne, and warp to some sort of alien planet, where you must free enslaved humans from the clutches of a demonic overlord. All with the help of your trusty shotgun. Seriously, most of this game is spent popping in and out of cover, trying to blow away enemy grunts. Itís awesome.

Unfortunately, there is basically zero story. You arrive on the planet, some sort of mystical wizard (what the fuck?) occasionally pops in to cheerlead your efforts, and the Demon Lord Sarlac sits on his throne and curses you. Thatís it. Flashback it ainít.

But thatís okay, because the core gameplay is so great. Iím not exaggerating when I say Blackthorne has by far the most responsive controls for any game of this genre on the system. Itís not even close. And thatís a godsend, because the biggest drawback for both Flashback and Out of this World will be the tiny bit of input lag that they seem to suffer from. Blackthorne has no such issue.

Thereís a decent-sized quest here as well. Sixteen levels, most of which will take several hours (and repeated continues) to overcome. Especially towards the end, where the difficulty really starts to ramp up. There are passwords between levels, but no in-level checkpoints. Which means you can expect to replay many sections over and over and over again.

The gameplay loop is also very basic. Shoot enemies, use any bombs you find on enemies that are scuttling along the floors, below the range of your gun, find keys, find passcards, find mechanical ďliftsĒ, and make your way to the exit. Thatís it. Thatís the loop in every level. By the end I did wish there was some more variety to it, but it does work, so I couldnít complain too much.

The graphics and animation are also super sharp. Iím not sure who drew the cover art, probably someone from Image Comics, but it looks great. There are no in-game cinematics drawn in that style though, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Overall, I did have a really good time with Blackthorne. If it had had a little more meat to its storyline, or some more varied puzzles and enemies, I probably would have promoted it to the top 100. But this is still a lofty position for a very good game.

Did I beat it?
I did, with a playthrough that lasted several years.


#113 - NBA Live 95

#112 - NBA Live 96

#111 - NBA Live 97

#110 - NBA Live 98

Here we are, the last of the basketball games that I will be covering for the Super Nintendo. Which means some of my newer readers are now gonna realize that Iíve already covered the NBA Jam games. Iím sure thatís going to go down well.

What can I say, the Live series is better. Way better. It was then, and it is now. Iíve always owned both and Iíve always felt that way. Sue me.

I can remember what the basketball gaming scene was like before this series sprung up. My friends and I were huge fans of the sport, and lived off of a steady diet of Tecmo Super Basketball, NCAA Basketball, and NBA Showdown rentals. One of my poor buddies was even stuck with a lone copy of Bulls vs Blazers to keep his Super Mario World cart company. Everyone did. It was the era of Michael Jordan, and the NBA was king, with the United States gripped by basketball fever. And to be fair, I think we knew that those were all pretty poor games. We knew they werenít that fun. But we soldiered on because you made the best of what was available to you. Of course, thereís a reason that when NBA Jam came along, it was immediately a mega hit: the basketball video game scene was starved for a winner.

Enter NBA Live Ď95. I donít specifically remember how I initially found out about the existence of this game (probably from a magazine in the supermarket), or how I knew it would be any good (probably something in that same magazine), but it was on the short list I gave my father for my birthday back in 1994. Keep in mind that at the time my collection consisted of Super Mario World, Super Mario All-Stars, Battletoads Double Dragon, and Madden NFL Ď94. So whatever wishlist I came up with would have been jam packed full of classic SNES games from the era. But something convinced me that this NBA Live game was gonna be special. So it made the cut. It was the only time I asked for a sports game my entire life.

When the special day rolled around, I was spoiled with not one but TWO games. I was shocked, since my father did not have much in the way of money, and expecting to receive a single game was almost too much to hope for (I never did get two games like that from him again).

One of the games I got was Donkey Kong Country. No shocker there, because it was a gargantuan game that was promoted out the wazoo, and Iím sure the clerk sold my dad on it. Hell, I had even received that promotional VHS tape for the game from Nintendo, and itís possible my dad watched it with me. Either way, the game was a massive hit and a month later every single kid that was at my party received DKC for Christmas. The hype was real.

The other game I received was indeed NBA Live Ď95. And I am not exaggerating when I say it was immediately my favorite of the two. Which is mind-blowing to me when I think about it nowadays. One of the most earth-shattering platformers of all time, DKC, was the game that almost single-handedly let Nintendo regain the edge over Sega (gross generalization, I know). Everyone was all over that gameís nuts when it came out. Even today, in my SNES subreddit, practically half of the damn posts that pop up every day are about people playing the DKC games, collecting the DKC games, or asking about the DKC games. They are Super Nintendo royalty.

But it didnít matter. I just wanted to play basketball. NBA Live Ď95 was such a quantum leap forward from all of those other b-ball games, that it practically defied explanation. How could we have possibly wasted so much time with crap like NBA Showdown? How could I have memorized nearly an entire damn code wheel in order to play my PC copy of Jordan vs Bird?

By the end of the Super Nintendoís run, it had cemented its place in my heart as my favorite sports game on the system, and it was decades before anything else was really able to give it any serious competition.

Decades later, Iíve let a few select other games slip past it, but itís still held relatively steady. Many other gamers swear by NHL Ď94, but this is my pick for the best old school EA sports game(s). And yeah, the three follow-ups didnít really add anything to the table, but they left the marvelous gameplay intact. So theyíre allowed to tag along with their big brother.

And for the record, it is still my favorite basketball game in the history of the medium.

Did I beat 95?
Many, many times.
Did I beat 96?
Once.
Did I beat 97?
Once.
Did I beat 98?
Once.


#109 - The Adventures of Batman & Robin

More Konami! Pretty soon itís gonna look like I have a major hard-on for the company and their output on the Super Nintendo. Probably because I do. This was them in their prime, cranking out hit after hit after hit. A third party powerhouse that has many claims for being the best there was. Maybe even the best there ever was. All before they becameÖ well, we all know what happened to them in the 2010sÖ

The Adventures of Batman & Robin is an interesting title. Kind of a mix between action platformer and beat-em-up, but veering into many different genres along the way. In fact, one of the biggest strengths of this game is that every single level has its own identity. So much so that I feel the need to go over each of them individually:

Amused to Death - The introductory carnival stage that pits you against The Joker and Harley Quinn (and one gigantic toy soldier miniboss). Most of the stage is conventional action platformer stuff, but the fight against the Joker takes place on two roller coaster cars, and involves multiple phases.

No Green Peace - Another action platformer stage with a heavier vertical (climbing trees) element. The final boss is Poison Ivy and a large carnivorous plant.

Fowl Play - A bank heist perpetuated by the Penguin. This is a more open-ended level, and involves searching through various rooms and hallways, and lots of backtracking.

Tale of the Cat - Batman chases Cat Woman across a run-down section of Gotham, ending in a boss fight that is about a thousand times less annoying than similar fights in Batman Returns.

Trouble in Transit - An overhead vehicle level that is reminiscent of a vertical shmup. Your goal here is to chase down and destroy Two Face. While short and relatively painless, I would say this is probably amongst the worst levels.

Perchance to Scream - Another straightforward action platformer level, this stage ends with Batman boarding the Scarecrowís blimp, and fighting his way onboard before one of the games trickiest boss fights aboard the wings of a plane.

Riddle Me This - Part 3D maze, part riddle, and part cheap trap, this is probably the hardest stage in the game, with many insta-death sections that can only be figured out via trial and error. Lots of cool ideas though.

The Gauntlet - A boss rush of new and returning bosses from previous stages. The new fights range from tedious (Clayface) to frustrating (Man-Bat) to fun (Joker).

As usual, thereís some drawbacks to having so many varying playstyles in the game. An uneven difficulty curve among them. Namely, this is the sort of game where youíre going to be repeating every single one of the levels quite a bit before you can master them. Cheap hits/deaths, boss fights that rely on specific patterns, and a very unforgiving life/continue system mean youíre gonna have to work for a completion.

On the other hand, the game does offer passwords, which means you can practice each and every level to your heartís content. Thatís a big deal, because this would be a very tough game for many of the wrong reasons without it.

I also just realized that this is the third and final Batman game for the Super Nintendo (fourth if you count Justice League). While some people might balk at my having this higher than Batman Returns (or at the fact that I didnít put either one of them in my top 100), I still feel this is a very lofty position that does the game justice. Itís not one of Konamiís absolute very best releases on the SNES, but itís still a very good game that should be checked out by any fans of the genre or the property.

Did I beat it?
Yes, after many late nights.


#108 - Top Gear

Piggybacking off of what I already said back in my write-up of its sequel, Top Gear is a fantastic game, and a Super Nintendo classic. Not only was it the very first racing game I ever played through, and the very first racing game I ever rented, but it was the first one I sought out when I truly set my SNES collecting into overdrive. Hell, itís the game that launched a franchise that saw over a dozen releases. Any way you put it, itís a stone cold classic, and one of the best racing games on the SNES.

Now, I could go on about the tight controls, or the immaculate balancing to the difficulty, or even the wonderful sense of speed. Thereís a lot of great things I could talk about. But instead I just want to cut this short and have you listen to this instead. One of the best soundtracks on the console:



If you grew up with this game, tell me that OST doesnít hit you right in the feels (as the kids like to say).

Did I beat it?
Once back in the '90s, and once 20 years later.


#107 - Flashback

Once upon a time, when I was just diving into the wider Super Nintendo library, my first attempt at getting through Flashback didnít go so smoothly. I donít know if I was feeling impatient because I wanted to get to another game, or if I had other distractions in my life at the time, but after a few hours of floundering in the first area of the game, I gave up, shelved the cart, and gave it a placeholder rank up near the 200 mark. I could see it was clearly a good game and I knew it was gonna be very similar to many other ďcinematic platformersĒ I had enjoyed in the past. And I knew Iíd have a good time with it if I just dedicated myself to it. But for whatever reason I just didnít want to make the time for it at the moment.

Years later, I came back renewed, refreshed, and - honestly - not afraid to use a guide to help keep me pointed in the right direction. Itís not uncommon that I lean on outside help from time to time. After all, getting through (the majority of) 714 games is one hell of a time sink, and weíre talking a cumulative difference of years I can shave off the effort with those things. So I dove back in with FAQ in hand.

That second time around, I had a ball.

If youíve ever played something like Out of this World or Prince of Persia, you know what to expect here. Help guide your deliberately unresponsive gangly dude across a series of levels consisting of increasingly difficult jumps, tense gunfights, and lots and lots of backtracking. Seriously, thereís one level whereÖ well, letís just say itís an obscene amount of back and forth.

What this game has that those other games donít is a rather engaging storyline. Probably one of the most engaging on the system. Very cyberpunk (think Shadowrun or Neuromancer) and very cool. I wonít get into the details, but it involves some pretty big concepts. At least, as far as Super Nintendo platformers go.

Now, as much as I just praised the game (and I praised it a lot), I do have to admit that I still prefer several aspects of other similar games on the system. Out of this World for example, has such perfect atmosphere and setpieces, that I donít think Flashback quite reaches the same heights (both games were made by the same teams). I also think Blackthorne has much more satisfying gunplay. LikeÖ a hundred times more satisfying. Flashbackís combat is pretty crappy in comparison. And Nosferatu has you jump kicking werewolves in the face. Thatís just an automatic win. But Flashback is killer too, and is greater than the sum of its parts. Thatís why I have it higher than both Nosferatu and Blackthorne, barely. Out of this World still nudges it out a bit.

So if youíre into this type of game, or youíre into stuff like Snow Crash or The Matrix, or you want to complete the cyberpunk SNES trilogy alongside Shadowrun and Syndicate, pick this bad boy up. You may want to consult a guide as you do, but itís worth it.

Did I beat it?
I did, in another playthrough that spanned years.


#106 - Brandish

My time on the internet has taught me that there are two (and only two) types of people when it comes to Brandish.

First off, thereís the majority of gamers who try it. Theyíre the guys (and girls) who start up a new game, immediately notice how unusual/unorthodox the camera controls are, get disoriented, and give up. In the span of about three minutes.

And then thereís the minority. Theyíre the people who power through that initial confusion and/or nausea, adjust, and find a great game underneath all of the rotating camera hoopla. Iím obviously in that latter crowd.

Unlike virtually every other old school Koei game in existence, Brandish is a dungeon crawler. Nothing else, just dungeon crawling. No crops to raise, no armies to train, no commodities to trade, no territories to invade, nothing. Just dungeons. And crawling.

And thatís a great thing. As much as I appreciate most of the Koei SNES library, I didnít spend any of my playthrough here wishing I was spending my time making alliances with neighboring dungeon explorers, or hoping I could engage a large number of foes in turn-based combat on a large grid-based map.

The story (what little there is) involves your adventurer on the run from the local Kingís sorceress because heÖ did something... bad to the king. Honestly, I donít remember. It doesnít matter anyway. But during that chase he falls into a pit, and then spends the next twenty hours trying to crawl out of it. Furthermore, that same sorceress continues to hunt him down throughout the game, popping up on occasion for a boss fight, or just to chew him out.

Thatís the storyline. Itís pretty slim.

But thatís okay, none of the other dungeon crawlers on SNES have much of a storyline to speak of either, so I give it a pass.

Gameplay can best be described as a mix of Brain Lord, and any of those Western-developed first-person games such as Eye of the Beholder or Dungeon Master. Lots of puzzles, lots of combat, and lots of confusion. But in a good way (if that makes sense). And also much less infuriating than any of those games.

One notable (or perhaps, aggravating) mechanic is limited weapon durability. Yep, the dreaded ďbreaking weaponsĒ syndrome. You swing your sword a couple dozen times, it shatters, and you move on to the next one. I have never once seen anybody claim that they love this gameplay feature, and I donít necessarily blame them either. Usually itís something you do your best to tolerate.

Luckily, itís a non-issue here. Youíre never short of weapons, and partway through the game you start coming across unbreakable magic weapons. So it ends up being an entirely moot point anyway.

Now, back to the camera. The mechanic that makes or breaks it for most people within the first few minutes of gameplay. So let me explain it a bit further:

When you turn left, the level graphics shift 90 degrees to the left.
When you turn right, the level graphics shift 90 degrees to the right.

Thatís it. Thatís the thing people canít get over. Or at least itís the thing they think they canít get over.

And yeah, to be fair, I have an unusually high constitution when it comes to video games. I played through the entire damn Lord of the Rings Vol. 1, so I can put up with a lot. But the problem here seems a bit overblown. In fact, I would say it is still a million times easier to stay oriented in Brandish than it is in any of those first-person dungeon crawlers I mentioned earlier.

So, if you can adjust to the camera, thereís a hell of a game to explore here. Virtually everyone I know who has ever stuck with it has had a great time.

But if you canít get over it - or you have some form of ADHD - then thereís nothing here for you.

Did I beat it?
Yep.


#105 - Final Fight

#104 - Final Fight Guy

Final Fight is another game I have a long history with. It was one of the first Super Nintendo games I ever played, dating back to the systemís earliest days. And it is also one of the titles I have played the most in pursuit of a completion. A completion I pursued for nearly 30 damn years.

When I first laid eyes on the game, Iím sure two things immediately came to mind: Double Dragon for NES, and The Simpsons arcade game, those being the only two brawlers I had any sort of experience with at the time. Except, instead of having some tiny little 8-bit sprites, or the goofiness of Homer punching a giant bowling ball, it featured a gigantic muscular man pile-driving people into the asphalt. I was immediately enthralled.

Of course I didnít really get to play it much back then. My buddies had already moved on to the likes of Street Fighter II, and didnít have time for boring olí Final Fight anymore. In a post-SF2 world, traditional brawlers were cast aside. So I squeezed in an attempt or two between their street fighting sessions, and moved on myself.

Years later, it occurred to me to ask my friend Joey if I could borrow his copy of the game. Which I did. And I had a great time with it. The action was intense, the challenge was huge, and the whole experience was a welcome break from my collection of mostly platformer and RPG carts.

I never did make it past ďKatanaĒ though. No matter how much I tried, I couldnít figure out his patterns. Heís the samurai boss of level two.

Many years later, I finally added the cart to my collection, and swore to avenge my previous defeat. Itís something Iím generally pretty good at doing.

I got my ass kicked by Katana again.

But I pressed on. I honed my beat Ďem up skills on the rest of the Super Nintendo library, and got better. One by one the different titles started to fall. I even started throwing NES games into the mix. Battletoads fell, then Double Dragon, then Double Dragon II. Final Fight was as good as mine.

So I came back for round three. And finally got past Katana. And got further into the game. And then Abigail kicked my ass. Over and over again.

So finally, in 2021, I came back for round four. This time Final Fight was GONNA PAY.

...with the help of the dogs on level five. Basically, theyíre almost like an in-game cheat, giving extra lives, extra continues, extra health, etc. I mean, theyíre IN the game, so itís fair game, right? Or is that just the rationalization Iím using to cope with what I did? Probably.

Regardless, I finally ďbeatĒ the damn thing. I threw Mr. WhatsHisName out of that skyscraper window, rescued the damsel in distress, and marked the game ďclearĒ in my backlog.

...even if I do feel pretty bad about it.

Also, thereís this game called Final Fight Guy. Itís basically the exact same thing. I donít know why they even bothered.

Did I beat Final Fight?
Yes, with the help of a few canines.
Did I beat Final Fight Guy?
Yes, with the help of a few canines.


#103 - Tecmo Super Bowl

#102 - Tecmo Super Bowl II: Special Edition

#101 - Tecmo Super Bowl III: Final Edition

Lots of sports games in this batch, right? At least a dozen. Which is pretty impressive considering itís probably one of my least favorite genre(s) of video game. I guess when you have as many of them as the Super Nintendo does, at least a few of them have to accidentally be good. Really good in this franchiseís case.

Do I really need to explain Tecmo Super Bowl to anybody? Everyone knows what these games are all about. Sure, most of you are probably more familiar with the NES version, but theyíre both practically the same game. The teams and players may be slightly different (Bo Jackson is no longer the terror he once was), but the differences are almost indiscernible otherwise.

So instead of rehashing what we already know, Iím gonna once again travel to the past.

My childhood friends loved this game. I, on the other hand, was more of a Madden guy. They loved the arcade action, and I craved something that resembled the real thing.

I was wrong. 25+ years later, I have long grown sick of ďrealistĒ football games. Theyíre just not a natural fit for the video game medium. You can scheme all you want, you can tailor your roster all you want, you can perfect your audibles and your formations, and you can set up all of your own custom plays. Regardless of what you do, football games have never resembled the real thing. Ever. Not the blocking, not the route running, not the passing, not the running. None of it. Presumably because itís just too complicated to have 22 guys, all on the field, acting in ways, with fine detail, that mimic the real deal. Itís impossible. I donít know if that is a hot take or not, but Iíve played enough video games in my life, and watched and played enough football, to feel like I know what Iím talking about.

Tecmo Super Bowl doesnít give one shit about being realistic. It doesnít care about playbooks, or formations. It doesnít care about route running. It only cares about arcade fun. And it still delivers, all these years later.

So, I was wrong. The Tecmo Super Bowl games are the best football games on the Super Nintendo. And it isnít even particularly close in my mind, either.

Did I beat Tecmo Super Bowl?
No! I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of 0-45 against the Bills in the Super Bowl. How ironic.
Did I beat Tecmo Super Bowl II?
I have not.
Did I beat Tecmo Super Bowl III?
I have not.