Today, we come to another installment of my Favorite Games List. And I'll give you fair warning up front: this is the biggest post yet for none other than the...
Many of my favorite games of all time were on this system and I still have one hooked up in my house to play (the only reason my original Nintendo isn't hooked up is because I don't have any TVs old enough to work with its original adapters and I haven't gotten around to picking up a Retron 5 yet). I still have upwards of 50 games that I'll occasionally boot up from time to time when I'm feeling nostalgic. Here are a mere 10 of my favorites, in no particular order, save the ending. And I don't even touch on classics like Super Mario World, Star Fox, or Donkey Kong Country. Hell if I were to include an 11th game here, it would have been Zombies Ate My Neighbors of all things. Anyway, here we go...
Pilotwings - I come from a family of pilots. My parents have flown (and my father inspects and maintains planes here in Phoenix). My grandparents on my mom's side of the family flew. My grandfather still flies his Mooney aircraft out of that same airport where my father works. He taught me to fly it for my 10th birthday. I never went ahead and got my license but I enjoyed logging some hours with him in my youth. A game like Pilotwings was a great unifier for my family to play - mostly my dad and I, but my mom and sister would watch us take turns flying through rings, parachuting onto platforms (or missing and splashing into the water) or jetpacking around the 16-bit maps.
Super Mario Kart - Another game my family could enjoy together. As I mentioned in the Atari list, my dad enjoys his NASCAR racing so a game that blended racing with the Mario characters was a fun fit for us to play. And I showed no mercy with those shells in the battle modes.
Actraiser - This was a great game that enjoyable mixed two vastly different genres: city-building and action platforming. You played as a god who was working to rebuild the world and every so often, you'd have to come down to the planet in your hero form and fight some baddies. Sadly, the sequel failed to recapture this magic and the only other games I can think of that came close were the Dark Cloud games for the PS2. I would love to see either one of these series rebooted for a modern era.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Eagle-eyed readers may have gotten through my write-ups on Nintendo and the Game Boy and thought, "no Legend of Zelda games?! Blasphemer!!!" The Nintendo games were fine, as was Link's Awakening on the Game Boy, but none of them really created any kind of lasting memories save the music. For me, that changed with A Link to the Past on SNES. More heresy: I prefer this one to Ocarina of Time. It just feels too much like a retread of this one with its "collect three things, now collect seven things, now fight Ganon" gameplay but with newer graphics. And in my opinion, the 2D design of games like this still holds up while the 3D look of something like Ocarina of Time has not aged particularly well, even through the 3DS remasters.
Harvest Moon - I was introduced to the Harvest Moon series at my friend Luke's house. The basic premise of these games was that you inherit your grandfather's run-down farm and have three years to fix it up, make it profitable, and build relationships with the people in the nearby town. And that experience became greatly addictive and a lot of fun. Constantly trying to harvest as many crops as possible, upgrading the power of my tools, raising cows and chickens, and wooing one of the village girls made for a surprisingly enjoyable game.
Secret of Evermore - The Super Nintendo was the system that cemented my love of Role-Playing Games so the last five games I'm featuring are all of that ilk. This one was a quirky, somewhat-overlooked game on the system but I had a great time with it. You and your dog get sucked into a series of fantasy worlds that takes you through prehistoric, Egyptian-esque, medieval, and futuristic settings. In each world your dog changes breed to match the setting and you gain new powers. Like many of my favorite RPGs of this era, the game was made by Squaresoft. And this game in particular was very tongue-in-cheek, playing with the RPG tropes and having characters going so far as to point out that they were just characters in a video game.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars - When Nintendo gave Squaresoft their Mario brand for an RPG, I was pretty sure I was in for a treat and I was not disappointed. This was the game that brought Mario, Princess Toadstool, and Bowser together to fight a common enemy. Sure, they'd been go-karting together for a few years at this point but this was the first time I can remember them really teaming up. When I dug out my SNES and revisited some games a couple years back, this was the first one I fell back into. The spirit of this game has continued on in the Paper Mario games among some others but this first one still lives with me fondly.
Earthbound - The only non-Squaresoft game of these RPGs, Earthbound was soooo out that that I'm sure I didn't even realize how funny half the game is when I was playing it when it first came out. It's another one that I've grown to appreciate far more with time as I've grown up. I've never met someone who has played this game and didn't love it. There are a ton of great characters, a fun story, and great gameplay. Growing up, I loved the off-beat style of the game. In the first city alone you fight wild animals, a gang of punk teenagers, and a bunch of corrupt cops trying to stop you from continuing on in your journey. Later, you're battling hippies and UFOs, zombies and a pile of puke. It was really one of the craziest games I've ever played. Now that I'm wiser to the game industry, I can truly appreciate how it took all of the elements of the great Japanese RPG games and through a masterful coat of Americana paint all over it. I'm still sad we in North America never got the follow-up games but at least Nintendo release Earthbound Beginnings (aka the original Mother).
Final Fantasy II (IV) - As I mentioned in my Nintendo list, I traded away my original copy of the game to a friend who moved away before I ever got it back. I think I've purchased Final Fantasy II/IV on every system it has been released on since with the exception of a mobile device like my cell phone (I just haven't heard good things about those versions of the games). FFII/IV was one of the earliest games I remember playing where I was blown away by the story of the game. I don't read nearly as many books as I should but I always point out that playing through a Final Fantasy game (or other story-driven games) is probably the equivalent to reading through a couple hundred-page novel. And I loved that this particular story gave you incredible stakes. There's love, betrayal, redemption, and sacrifice. About half of the characters that join your party throughout the course of the game sacrifice themselves to save the other team members or buy you time to escape an impossible situation. At least that's how I originally remember the story. Replaying it over the years, I've realized than many of these members do in fact recover but they almost never return to your party so it's still like losing your friends. And it still stands out and my second favorite game in the series, only behind...
Final Fantasy III (VI) - Arguably my favorite game of all time. This one took pretty much everything I loved about FFII/IV and made it bigger and better. I love this colorful cast of characters even more than the last. Kefka is probably my favorite Final Fantasy villain as he, much like Batman's Joker just embodies "chaos." "Aria Di Mezzo Carattere" (the Opera Theme) is probably my all-time favorite piece of video game music. And I utterly love the audacity of a game in which, halfway through the story, the villain succeeds in destroying the world, forcing you regather your party in the World of Ruin for the second half of the game. You don't lose nearly as many of your party members as FFII/IV. Well, actually, you can. If you chose to, you could skip finding your other party members and try to fight through the final tower with a bare bones team and the credits would role with all of the characters you didn't find lost to the world. But I always loved these characters too much to do that. The next game in the series, Final Fantasy VII is at the top of a lot of people's lists because it brought the series to new graphical heights with the PlayStation and don't get me wrong, it's a great game that I'll highlight when I get there, but the characters, story, and overall experience of this one blew me away and they keep me coming back time and again.
So those are a handful of my favorite games from the Super Nintendo era. What are yours?