Considering that the SNES Classic has officially hit the streets, we figured we had a pretty good excuse to ask a few friends to talk about their favorite Super Nintendo game, just like we did when we heard that the Sega Genesis was going back into production. Considering that there are so many great SNES games, narrowing it down for everyone was admittedly more difficult than expected, but I feel we collectively came up with a pretty fuckin’ stellar list.
Geek out with us below.
AMY YABOA (Dick Titty Blood Punch)
Earthworm Jim 2
I trust that this little throwback get-down write-up is anything but tangerines, because it’s all about Earthworm Jim 2, a bitchin’ game released in the mid-90s starring everyone’s favorite earthworm turned superhero after a power suit inexplicably fell from space and even more inexplicably landed directly on him. His suit allowed him to do all the cool stuff earthworms should do, like sprout eyeballs and turn their own weird worm bodies into weapons by flinging them violently against obstacles like some sort of slippery meat whip. You can enjoy all of these bizarre things and more from the cartoon, but the game itself is such a worthwhile experience.
It was one of the earliest games that annoyed the piss out of me, because the puzzles were too confusing for my very young brain, yet I still couldn’t put it down because of the incredibly entertaining gameplay (and also because I was 8 years old when I played it for the first time and I certainly didn’t have a job, so why the fuck would I put down a video game for any reason ever??). The whole game is brilliant from start to finish, even the parts my older brother had to play for me when I got stuck, but the real gem is the Villi People chapter of the game. Earthworm Jim disguises himself as a blind cave salamander and bobs around inside some particularly grotesque intestinal tunnels. This level left quite an impression on me as I’ve now grown up into – you guessed it – a particularly grotesque intestinal woman.
The music throughout the entire game is largely unremarkable, save for the Villi People chapter where Moonlight Sonata, arguably the saddest song ever composed, plays lazily in the background beneath the chipper bleeps and bloops and whatever other sounds earthworms dressed like cave salamanders make. When I would near the end of the intestinal portion of this chapter, I’d start it over again just to relive the oddly satisfying experience of watching an incognito earthworm swim through a digestive tract to the tune of a dumbed-down version of a musical masterpiece. If that isn’t something that every 8-year-old girl ought to obsess over, then I don’t know what is. And by the way, his red gun is green.
There are few things that shaped my life more than Super Metroid for the SNES. From a musical perspective, outside of the theme to Unsolved Mysteries or the moon stage of Ducktales, there are few things that cued me in to the importance of music to set the mood in an environment, digital or otherwise. Super Metroid is dark and brooding, an entirely alien planet with the kind of unknown mythology that prompted Ridley Scott to make Prometheus (for better or worse); you want to know more about this world and what happened to its inhabitants. And the game play is top notch, with a seemingly endless labyrinth to traverse on your path to resolve the central premise of the game, which itself is haunting and weird. This game showed you what 16 bits could do, if utilized by a clever mind and it’s haunted me ever since.
JAKE HELLMAN (Frederick the Younger, Never Nervous)
Super Mario World
Of course there is endless debate on the best game of all time, and more so the best game on SNES. For me, they are one and the same. Super Mario World is the apex of video games, and the only games that come close are GTA5 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo knows they will never top it, and that’s why it keeps getting re-released on every console they have. Why is it the best? The art. The sound fx. The music. It’s the first Mario to leave Mushroom Kingdom, instead taking place at Dinosaur Island and you know what that means? It’s the first Mario to feature Yoshi. I’ve never been so pumped about a plumber riding a dinosaur. The game is also an incredible puzzle, with rules that only make sense in the world of Mario. For example, ghosts don’t move when you face their direction. None of these rules are written out for you though, so you have to figure it out on your own; that’s where the brilliance in Super Mario World lies, and I find it hard to believe that anyone will ever top it.
I was a Sega kid growing up, but I always loved going over to my best friend’s house to play his SNES. Donkey Kong Country was always my go to game. I don’t know if it was my affinity towards apes as a kid or maybe my love of bananas, but DK Country was fun every time we popped the cartridge into the system. The game followed that familiar side-scroller format of Mario & Sonic with the collecting of bananas for coins, squashing minor enemies by jumping on them, and hidden secrets in each stage, but had a feeling of newness to me that never wore off. Not to mention, Diddy Kong might be the greatest sidekick in video game history. Maybe my Kentucky roots subconsciously kicked in, but the various use of barrels throughout the game always intrigued me. Since I never actually owned a SNES, I never completed the game, but still felt that same excitement every time I turned the system on.
PHILLIP OLYMPIA (Never Nervous)
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Like Corey (above), I too grew up with the Sega Genesis, but a friend that lived a few doors over had a Super Nintendo and I’d often force myself in to his house, if only to play Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Previously I’d spent hours and hours playing the first two Zelda games for the NES, so naturally I wanted to continue the adventure on this badass new console. I remember venturing through Hyrule for the first time (thankful for that sweet, sweet top-down angle) feeling like it was truly fucking massive, a sensation I hadn’t felt in a video game before.
There’s not much I can say about A Link to the Past that hasn’t been said a million times before, so I’ll stick to what I especially appreciate. I love how simple and accessible this game is. I never was much of an RPG gu,y because turn based games always confused me and seemed boring, so the fact that this game really focuses on exploration (like all Zelda games) really keeps me invested. You never know what’s going to be down those steps or behind that wall, and when you do actually find something it is genuinely rewarding.
I also really, really love the soundtrack and am unashamed to admit that I listen to it often. My favorite themes include the tense Dark World theme, the eerie Lost Woods theme and the theme for the Sanctuary Dungeon. So damned good. While not listening to the actual original soundtrack, I really dig the iterations from Bit Brigade and The Greatest Bits.
Look, I know there are a lot of really, really good games in the Legend of Zelda franchise. But is there one better than A Link to the Past? Hmm. No, I don’t think so. As the years have gone by, I feel that while the games have remained steadily awesome, none have come close to capturing the feelings I’ve manifested playing this classic repeatedly over the years.
If you already know about Earthbound, I don’t need to say anything more than the title before we nod knowingly at each other.
From the oversized box it originally came in (in order to house the scratch and sniff players guide that came with it) to the sampled bits of music that prevented it from being re-released for almost 20 years, Earthbound is strange only in ways that serve what it’s trying to do. Weird by way of necessity, not design or desperation.
Like a very excited child trying to tell you an amazing story (that is VERY IMPORTANT), you already know that if you try to explain it to anyone else, they just won’t get it. It’s not that Earthbound requires a certain type of (cough*indoor kids*cough) person to like it, more that it seems like a fever dream of random nonsense that doesn’t seem to go together; The stream-of-consciousness ramblings of an over-caffeinated yet half-asleep mind. Saying it out loud to the uninitiated is trying to explain an inside joke to someone that wasn’t there. The harder you try to explain things the stranger it sounds, frustrating you and your struggling-to-be-patient audience. They won’t understand the appeal, and honestly, you won’t either. None of it sounds particularly appealing on paper, but if given the chance, you’ll try to explain it for hours. Context is key, and it starts the second you name your characters. Earthbound is charming in a way that is incredibly difficult to pin down; The illusive honesty and purity of any art form that transcends it’s given medium.
I’m not going to be able to explain why you’ll tear up over a dead bee from space. The phrase “fuzzy pickles” will be nonsense. The names Pokey, Mr Saturn, Lier X Agerate and the religion Happy Happyism will mean nothing to you. You cannot dip your toes into or just read a Wikipedia article about Earthbound; The context is important and the only way to understand it without rolling your eyes.
You’ll love the game and you won’t know why. You’ll think about it often, and it will become a part of you, almost as if the things you experience on a television screen are not pixels, but a vague childhood memory.
You just have to be there.