Fancy graphics are fine, but all gamers know in their hearts that nothing will ever top the drama of Final Fantasy VII or the pure physicality of Super Mario Bros. 3. Playboy’s Retro Gaming articles look at why we love the classics and give you your nostalgia fix.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is my favorite console I have ever owned, and the one I still collect for the most. This foray into the 16-bit era was not only huge for Nintendo, but significant in the industry’s history as well.
The 1991 North American release could be seen as what properly kick started the greatest console war to date, between Nintendo and Sega, and would be remembered by many as the golden age of gaming. Games from the biggest developers at the time, as well as iconic entries from Nintendo themselves, helped to crown the SNES as the best-selling console of its generation.
Superior graphic effects and sounds caused the system to stand out above the competition and make it a mainstay for most collectors, but rising prices of the games and availability of rare titles will cause new collectors some pain starting out. A ton of great games are available for this system, and these are some moderately affordable must-haves that will be the cornerstone of any collection.
10. ‘SUPER GHOULS ‘N GHOSTS’
The Ghosts ‘n Goblins series is almost synonymous with the word ‘hard,’ but I never had more fun dying in my underwear than in this game. The noble knight Arthur is back and must rescue his princess once again from a horde of demons led by the evil Sardius. The game excels in graphics and music, creating the ambiance of a truly engaging and unsettling world and stages and enemies that feel alive and out to murder everything. Tight gameplay along with varied weapons and upgrades will keep players coming back to it, which is good, because the game must be beaten twice for the true ending, and all of this has to be done in one sitting.
This is the kind of challenge that is not only frustrating, but makes me want to pick up the controller again and again to get better at it, even if it forces me to use certain weapons and makes Arthur feel like a rock when jumping. Capcom had many great titles on the SNES that made them a lot of money, but this is one that could use a little more love these days.
9. ‘SUPER MARIO WORLD’ ET AL
After three strong installments (four if we count Lost Levels) into a monster franchise on their last console, Nintendo focused on a new entry in the series and wanted it to make an impact. They succeeded with Super Mario World, which came packaged with the system and sold well even on its own, and was the first game most remember playing on the console. The 1990 classic is remembered as one of gaming’s best and introduced the beloved character of Yoshi to fans
There was a second installment five years later that garnered less of a response, featuring a new art style and much different mechanics. Though not as appreciated, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is a great solid game that put the dinosaur in the forefront and made the plumber a secondary character. The most notable spin-off after that was Mario Kart. It rests as one of the greatest games in the library, as the third best-selling even, and holds hours of entertainment while remaining the ender of many friendships.
8. ‘TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES IV: TURTLES IN TIME’
A title that is in the running for the best beat ‘em up of all time, but will certainly always be number one in my heart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time takes one of the best franchises and makes it even more awesome. For me it started in the arcades, but this may be one of my favorite console ports done—even though it wasn’t a direct port—back in 1992 when “Konami” wasn’t a dirty word (it’s a long story) and I would just run through this game time and time again.
This is unfortunately going to be one of the more expensive games on the list and the price is probably only going to continue to rise, but I think it is so worth it.
7. ‘MEGA MAN X’
Known as Rockman X in Japan, this is the first entry in one of my favorite series throughout all of video games. This was an off-shoot of the original Mega Man series that held onto everything that worked but made its own path in a new world for the upgraded Blue Bomber with all of the familiar formulas and the right buttons being pressed to keep the previous fans enthralled.
The themes and tones were changed to appeal to older audiences, with the jumping and shooting aspect receiving a needed overhaul. Plus I would argue that this is the best soundtrack on the console—glad you all agree! The replay value is off the chart here—I’m still satisfied every time I beat Sigma—and I don’t speak lightly when I say Mega Man X may be near-perfect and would still appeal to those who have yet to ever try it. Two sequels were made for the system, but they are just frankly too damn expensive to collect physically, so start here.
6. ‘NBA JAM TOURNAMENT EDITION’
I don’t really do sports and have often thought basketball was boring, but I can’t say that about NBA Jam, and here I offer up the installment many would call the definitive edition of the game. This one took what worked from the original version and made some simple fixes as well as added to the mechanics, rosters, and Easter eggs. After the phenomenal success NBA Jam had at the arcade, it was only a matter of time before that awesomeness was brought to consoles, but the momentum wouldn’t stop at this game, as the title inspired many other sports franchises to up their pacing and forget the boundaries of realism in favor of fun.
The game also caught a lot of eyes because it was one of the first to feature real NBA-licensed teams as well as athletes and their likenesses with digitized images. The lack of fouls and alternate modes kept the gameplay going, especially with a buddy, making each experience feel a little different. For me though, win or lose the game was fun, and it’s all about that awesome announcer—“He’s on fire!!!”
5. ‘STREET FIGHTER’/’KILLER INSTINCT’/’MORTAL KOMBAT’
Is this entry a copout? Maybe, but the truth is there was only so much room on the list and the SNES had three amazing fighting titles that still resonate to this day, with franchises that are all burning strong currently. Both Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter had multiple quality entries on the system with two totally different looks and fighting systems that each found their home in the hearts of many gamers. Mortal Kombat II stood out with its intriguing otherworldly characters and gruesome fatalities across three games and one Ultimate edition while Street Fighter II and the Alpha series made for some of the best colorful action and technical fighting any fan could ask for. Both franchises sold well and cemented their places in the history books as giants, even outside their genre.
They were not alone though. Killer Instinct may have only had one entry for this console, but it was no slouch. The massive beatdown of an ultra-combo was undeniable and it’s a game I spent hours trying to perfect, not just for the fluid combat, but its killer soundtrack as well. Each of these games is well worth picking up still to this day and although I play each one regularly, I will play favorites just a bit here and say that Mortal Kombat will always be number one out of the three in my book.
This isn’t just my favorite Disney movie, but one of the more memorable games from my childhood as well. With impressive animations and backgrounds that get even better as the game goes on and some seriously catchy tunes that will remind everyone of the movie, I was inspired to fight through each death and make sure I was eventually victorious.
For what the game sells for these days it may be one of the best deals available at present. It sends the player through some of the most fun platform jumping and interactive stages—like the carpet sections—while staying just close enough to the movie to make fans giddy. Collectors will often argue over whether the Genesis version—which was much different from this one—was better or not. They’re wrong though, as this is the definitive Aladdin.
3. ‘SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV’
In 1991 someone decided the best way to bring this great franchise to the new console generation was to retell the first game entirely, having Simon Belmont once again try and defeat his lifelong nemesis, Dracula. That is the only thing that is old about this title though, because the music was completely remixed into some of my favorite game tunes and the visuals are spectacular, being the first game to truly make me respect the SNES’s innovative “Mode 7” effects.
Castlevania had a bit of a reputation for clunky controls in the past, but this game impressed with its versatility, especially the whip, allowing players to swing it in eight different directions, upgrade it, and use the weapon to swing on objects. Fun secondary objects, different enemy types, and excellent boss encounters had me playing this game multiple times, and in my eyes it is still the best in the series next to the later Symphony of the Night. This isn’t a cheap find, but it’s a perfect example on how to improve on an already great series, and one that is certainly worth the price for anyone wanting a great addition to their collection.
2. ‘DONKEY KONG COUNTRY’
There was so much hype surrounding the first installment of Donkey Kong Country. I remember wearing out the VHS preview tape and analyzing the backgrounds and details in every shot. The graphics were considered ground-breaking at the time, and for good reason, as they are still nice to look at today. The co-operative play is one of my favorite features, but I still play these a ton on my own and even have multiple copies.
There were three entries into the series, all coming out a year after one another and remaining quite solid, with slightly changing characters and mechanics, but feeling new enough to keep me hooked. Each monkey escapade hit the spot with incredible design, fun gameplay, and some of the best music in gaming. Grab these while they are still on the cheap side and find out why the first entry was the second best-selling game on the SNES console, and one of my personal favorites of all time.
1. ‘SUPER METROID’
The third game in the Metroid series is in my opinion the best one hands down. Its gameplay focuses on action and exploration with an intricate mapping system and multitude of power-ups to navigate Zebes and defeat Ridley as well as the evil Mother Brain. The look and feel sucks the player into what comes across as a truly alien and isolated world. This was the first game to teach me about atmosphere and what could be accomplished with negative space and incredible audio, or perhaps more importantly in some cases, the absence of those things.
Sadly this is the most expensive game I’ve mentioned, but there is a reason why it’s so high on the list and can be seen as a necessity and jewel in many collections.
Writing in the dirty South, recovering internet addict Stephen Wilds wakes up every night wrestling with nightmares of Silent Hill and stray commas. You may follow his exploits on Twitter @StephenWilds.
RELATED: Gamer Next Door Amelia Talon Learned a Lot from ‘Pokémon’ Red and Blue