You might not believe it, but it’s absolutely true: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or the SNES, for short, is now old enough to have serious regrets about its life, and if you’re old enough to have had one of these wee grey boxes in your living room, then you’re probably even older.
Inspiring stuff right? In all seriousness, though, the SNES is certainly one of the all-time greats in the console department and now that Nintendo is starting to add SNES games to the online Switch library, what better way to celebrate than to list our top 50 SNES games.
We gathered together some of our best and brightest to help us celebrate, and we hope you’ll join us too!
Best SNES Games #50. Super Mario All-Stars
While there’s little argument that the red plumber’s SNES debut, Super Mario World, is certainly his finest moment on the console, this little retro package certainly gives that dinosaur filled classic a run for its money.
While there’s little argument that the red plumber’s SNES debut, Super Mario World, is certainly his finest moment on the console, this little retro package certainly gives that dinosaur filled classic a run for its money. Comprising not only the original classic Super Mario Bros, but also its oddball sequel Super Mario Bros 2, and the untouchable cornerstone of any quality childhood, Super Mario Bros 3. As if these games weren’t enough to justify the price tag, this package also includes the infamous Lost Levels from the original game as well, previously only playable in Japan.
Comprising not only the original classic Super Mario Bros, but also its oddball sequel Super Mario Bros 2, and the untouchable cornerstone of any quality childhood, Super Mario Bros 3. As if these games weren’t enough to justify the price tag, this package also includes the infamous Lost Levels from the original game as well, previously only playable in Japan.
It’s a rather robust quartet and one of the best purchases a parent could make for their wee ones back in the 90s. Literally, dozens of hours of entertainment can be found in these four games, and if you were too young to have experienced them on the NES, then the deal was all the sweeter. (Mike Worby)
Best SNES Games #49. Harvest Moon
Harvest Moon is the original farming sim, with a legacy that goes back all the way to 1996 on the SNES. On paper, the game doesn’t sound very exciting and yet, surprisingly, Natsume’s smash hit managed to make farm simulation fresh and interesting. Working through the seasons planting goods, meeting new characters, attending festivals, finding hidden treasures and getting married all paid off at the very end. It spawned an entire franchise, and some would argue a sub-genre, and it remains a shining example of the RPG genre done right. With all the secrets available in this game, there is more than enough reason to revisit this gem in the present day. If you’re a fan of simulation and RPG elements, this is definitely worth a try! (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #48. Super Star Wars
Following the tradition of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, the SNES was home to huge amounts of licensed video games. Unlike its NES predecessor, however, the SNES delivered a fantastic series of Star Wars games that deserves to be counted among the consoles best run and gun platformers. Super Star Wars began the adaptations of the popular films for SNES owners, who were treated to labors of love that brought the world of Star Wars to life (or as well as they could be for a 16-bit system).
The platforming elements themselves were addicting and interspersed with other levels in which the player could control a land speeder or X-wing. But it was the different levels of difficulty that kept people coming back. The hardest levels of Super Star Wars approach Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts territory in terms of frustration, but SNES users were probably already used to masochistic tendencies when picking up a Nintendo controller. Later generations of gamers who grew up on things like Knights of the Old Republic might balk at the Super Star Wars franchise were they to play it now, but all the successful Star Wars games of different genres that came after Super Star Wars owe a debt to its huge popularity. (Sean Colletti)
Best SNES Games #47. Mega Man X3
The Mega Man X series was just the breath of fresh air that the franchise needed after so many similar titles having been released on the NES in such rapid-fire succession, and Mega Man X3 might be the best game the spin-off series ever produced.
In addition to refining the mechanics from the first two Mega Man X titles, X3 also let players step into the boots of X’s badass, plasma-sword wielding partner, Zero. Easily the coolest character in the X series, it was particularly thrilling to play as Zero this time around, even if it was only for a short time.
With a great selection of bosses, carefully hidden upgrades, and fantastic music, Mega Man X3 is one of the best Mega Man games ever released and is still worth replaying even today. (Mike Worby)
Best SNES Games #46. The Death and Return of Superman
Easily one of the biggest cultural moments of the 90s was the death of perhaps the most iconic character in American history, Superman. Though he would eventually be resurrected, this was before the cavalcade of me-too superhero death stories that followed, so at the time it was believable that the Man of Steel could truly be gone for good.
The story of his death and eventual return is retold in the aptly titled brawler, The Death and Return of Superman. The game tells the tale as well as can be expected for any game from the time period, giving ample screen time to all of the Man of Tomorrow’s would-be successors, before making way for the eventual reveal that Superman is alive after all.
It’s a classic tale retold wonderfully well in its new medium, and a whole lot of fun to play. There was nothing quite like being put in control of some of the coolest comic book characters of the 90s during one of the best stories ever told about Superman. The Death and Return of Superman still stand as one of the best brawlers on the SNES, and it isn’t hard to see why. (Mike Worby)
Best SNES Games #45. SimCity
Before The Sims gave us death by swimming pool, SimCity threw $10,000 our way and told us to get building. Released as a launch title for the SNES, SimCity feels different even to this day. Its mood is contemplative. The soundtrack is oddly soothing. Nurturing a city takes time, but the gameplay can be picked up in minutes.
It doesn’t really matter that SimCity starts in 1900 and yet there are nuclear power plants and planes crashing all over the place. The little inconsistencies hardly detract from a game that rejects an in-your-face storytelling experience and instead sits back and gives the player room to ruin or create as they see fit. Plus all those pollution warnings probably did more for environmental awareness in the 90s than the Clinton administration.
The player-as-God scenario isn’t what makes SimCity great. It’s that we actually get time to care. Our tiny palette of icons may be the functional mechanic that allows us to paint our city however we imagine it, but time is our main currency outside of, you know, actual money. Seasons change from winter to spring, and we can take a breather to sit back and admire our city before letting Bowser reduce it to ashes. Moving a cursor around with the D-pad never felt so satisfying.
That doesn’t mean the controls aren’t clunky as hell. And the game’s looping soundtrack, despite being tied into city level and changing as you advance, does sometimes make you want to self-harm.
SimCity is simply too addictive for it to matter. When the intro screen loads and the music plays over a scene of skyscrapers at night, we have to push start.
No other SimCity has come close. (Luke Geraghty)
Best SNES Games #44. Kirby Super Star
Kirby Superstar is one of the best values on the system. Instead of one linear traditional adventure, gamers get to choose from eight different experiences on one cartridge. This is also one of the few instances in which players get the best of both worlds, quantity, and quality. Each game can easily stand on its own and provide plenty of fun and replay value, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few standouts among the group. Gamers looking for a more traditional Kirby experience will likely have a blast with Spring Breeze or Milky Way Wishes, whereas those looking for a challenge can have a go at The Arena. Gourmet Race is probably the most unique title on the cartridge, as Kirby must race King De-de-de to the end of the stage while collecting as much food as possible. It offers a nice distraction between playing the other games and can become quite addictive when doing the time trial modes.
When Kirby Superstar was released back in 1996, there was nothing else like it at the time. The amount of content in the game put it head and shoulders above the competition, leaving very few players bored. While a superior sequel was released for the DS years later called Kirby Superstar Ultra, the original must still be appreciated for its innovation within the platforming genre that was excelling on the SNES at the time. It’s one of Kirby’s finest and most diverse outings. (Zack Rezak)
Best SNES Games #43. Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
The last of the three installments released in the Super Nintendo’s groundbreaking Super Star Wars series, Super Return of the Jedi promised more of the same great experience offered as its two forerunners, and boy did LucasArts deliver.
Like the previous two outings, Super Return of the Jedi is a 2D platformer in which you take on the Star Wars universe, only this time around the roster of playable characters grew to five (Luke, Chewie, Han, Wicket and Princess Leia, who wears her bounty hunter disguise and Endor forest survival gear at the various points in the game). With its toned-down difficulty, depth and polished presentation, Super Return of the Jedi is considered by many to be the best of the three games in the series. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #42. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Lufia II, a prequel to the original Lufia, has the incredible distinction of being one of the best RPGs on a console with quite possibly the best library of RPGs ever. While Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (VI) are appropriately in another tier of gaming altogether, Lufia II is one of the few games that has a legitimate claim to being the best of the rest.
A huge part of its strength comes from being a classic, traditional RPG on the surface but exhibiting non-traditional RPG (at least for the Japanese-developed RPGs that populated the console library) elements in its gameplay. Lufia II has a much greater emphasis on puzzle solving than, say, a Final Fantasy game. It borrows elements from The Legend of Zelda series, incorporating vast dungeons that require as much thinking as they do grinding. There are also several side quests that pad the already sizable main narrative, making Lufia II one of the longer RPG experiences on the console for completionists.
And even though the main story and conflict surrounding Lufia II’s characters aren’t as classic or memorable as many of the other well-written RPGs for the SNES, its ultimately Lufia II’s commitment to gameplay that makes it such a powerhouse. Little tweaks, such as the IP gauge that gives you different abilities to perform based on equipment or Capsule Monsters (a Pokemon-lite kind of monster collecting and leveling system that allows you to bring a buddy into battles), give Lufia II a unique personality that separates itself from so many of its peers.
A much-loved, little-played series in general, Lufia games are hard to come by, making Lufia II an expensive cartridge to pick up (and it is not available on the Virtual Console). DS owners, though, may be able to find a remake, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, which is completely revamped into an action-RPG instead of the turn-based system the SNES original uses. In any way it can be experienced, Lufia II is a genuinely must-play RPG. (Sean Colletti)
Best SNES Games #41. R-Type III: The Third Lightning
Nintendo certainly has a storied history of classic shmups. Among the strongest games on the original NES were Life Force, Gradius and The Guardian Legend, each a perfect example of how simultaneously addicting and frustrating the sub-genre of shooters can be at its best. In the case of R-Type III, more of the same goes a long way with the added sound and graphical capabilities of the system.
Like any shmup worth its salt, R-Type III is teeth-grindingly difficult. It is a speedrunner’s kind of game in the sense that memorization is absolutely essential to success. Each of its six stages is huge and has an array of details to new settings and enemies, including memorable and thrilling boss battles. But in the process of beating each level, players will undoubtedly become familiar by way of death after death after death.
This, though, is the kind of challenge that gives R-Type III and other shmups longevity and replayability (there is also a two-player mode, which makes for even more sensory chaos), because there is nothing unfair or cheap about the difficulty level. Unfortunately, the game and series are nowhere to be seen on the Virtual Console, but a watered-down GBA port is available if you can’t find a copy of the SNES cartridge. (Sean Colletti)
Best SNES Games #40. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble
This third installment was one of the Super Nintendo’s last hurrahs. Released in 1996, it immediately seemed archaic against the new three-dimensional Mario title, released two months before on Nintendo’s next-generation 64-bit machine. It was also the weakest entry in the Donkey Kong Country franchise, marred by the inexcusable introduction of the sluggish, babyish Kiddy Kong, and by needless updates that sacrifice usability for visual splendor, like the lovingly-designed vehicles that awkwardly transport players between worlds.
Nevertheless, Donkey Kong Country 3 features on this list because the franchises core values remain intact: fast-paced gameplay, sublime graphics, bountiful secrets, varied level design, and spectacular music. Level in and level out, composers David Wise and Eveline Fischer (who would go on to provide Joanna Dark’s voice) produce melancholy, funky, and industrial sounds to accompany the player’s quest. More than other platforming series, Donkey Kong Country always placed an accent on atmosphere, which has allowed the series to remain fresh and relevant in this age of arty, side-scrolling, indie platformers. (Guido Pellegrini)
Best SNES Games #39. Illusion of Gaia
Genre(s) Action RPG Illusion of Gaia was something of a spiritual sequel to Soul Blazer, with very loosely linked gameplay and story elements. Named Illusion of Time in Europe, the game put you in command of Will, a young adventurer with latent psychic abilities and the power to morph himself into the fully-grown adult body of a knight and also the alien-like lifeform named Shadow. Saving the world required using each version of the hero at the appropriate time. As an action-RPG, Illusion of Gaia fails in the RPG section but shines well in its action. Although not as close to perfection as its predecessor, it still manages to be one of the most entertaining action RPGs available on the SNES, and a fitting second game in a trilogy. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #38. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Unlike the 8-bit generation, there were only a few games released on the SNES that became infamous for their vicious and unrelenting difficulty – Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts might be the hardest of the bunch. This SNES sequel to the NES rage-inducing Ghosts ‘N Goblins was just as likely to have players throwing their controllers across the room. On the surface, the game looks like any other side-scrolling platformer, but tackling the game’s challenging and unrelenting levels is no easy feat. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is a hard game to beat and I do mean hard, but that is also why Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is such a great game. It’s challenging design philosophy, atmosphere and story helped pave the way for contemporary classics such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and mastering Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts gave an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. For those of you have finished the game, you most likely agree this should be higher up on our list. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #37. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
This run and gun game developed by LucasArts and originally published by Konami for the Super NES wasn’t exactly a commercial success, but it was well received and praised for its graphical style, warped humor, and deep gameplay. Back when local couch multiplayer was the lifeblood that kept games forever replayable, Zombies Ate My Neighbors offered kids countless hours of ridiculous non-stop fun while navigating through the game’s 48 main levels and 7 bonus levels in order to rescue the titular neighbors from monsters often seen in horror movies.
Aiding the protagonists Zeke and Julie are a variety of weapons such as tomatoes, weed whackers, bazookas, holy crucifixes and more, along with various power-ups that can be used to battle the numerous enemies scattered throughout. Meanwhile, assorted elements and aspects of popular horror movies are referenced in the game with some of its more violent content being censored in various territories such as Europe and Australia, where it is known only as Zombies. This love letter to B-grade horror films is a rare gem and a cult classic that absolutely deserves all of its praise. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #36. Breath of Fire II
Unlike the original Breath of Fire, the SNES sequel in Capcom’s overlooked RPG series is an in-house production (Square Soft, a god amongst third parties at the time, helped localize the first game). The result is a love letter of a project that is a little rough around the edges. Though similar to its predecessor, it is ultimately a better game than Breath of Fire and a fine addition to the SNES library of RPGs that would set the series on a course for true greatness.
Different versions of the characters Ryu and Nina return in Breath of Fire II and would become series staples. The rest of the cast is full of lively personalities and poignant archetypes that add to a wider scope and much-improved storyline of redemption. In the same way that the PlayStation’s Suikoden II is essentially the same game as Suikoden—just a lot better—Breath of Fire II builds on every layer of the foundation built by Breath of Fire (the only exception possibly being that the music lacks some of the charm).
Capcom’s most successful traditional RPG series, Breath of Fire would make the jump to the Sony consoles and produce three more main series games. And while the third and fourth installments are the most rich experiences overall, the first two make up an of-the-era pair that is deeply nostalgic and indicative of how simplicity of design and vision isn’t necessarily a drawback if tone and atmosphere are done right. Both games are available in Game Boy Advance ports and on the Wii U Virtual Console. (Sean Colletti)
Best SNES Games #35. Final Fight
Final Fight — which was originally titled Street Fighter ’89 but had its name changed just before release — was a massive arcade hit across the globe and given Capcom’s close relationship with Nintendo, it became a launch exclusive for Nintendo’s 16-bit console. However, what fans got wasn’t all that it was hyped up to be. Final Fight is one of the earliest titles for the system, and due to the hardware limitations of the Super Nintendo, Capcom was forced to make some changes from the port of the original 1989 arcade game. The removal of co-op, for example, eliminated one of the most appealing features present in most beat ’em ups and Nintendo’s censorship policies ultimately replaced several characters including the iconic boss, Rolento.
Despite all of this, many of the core factors that make Final Fight so appealing are still intact, and the SNES version helped define what 16-bit home console brawlers would be. Capcom’s classic does not stand the test of time but it was evolutionary, taking the beat-’em-up structure of games like Double Dragon to the next level. And for that, it deserves a spot on our list! (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #34. Earthworm Jim 2
The SNES certainly had its fair share of weird titles, however, few can come close to EarthWorm Jim 2 when it comes to strangeness. Jim’s second outing is vastly different from his first. What was once a consistent side-scrolling shooter is now a varied assortment of odd genres? Each level shakes up the gameplay in some pretty interesting ways, so much so that it would be hard to tell they were all part of the same game. In fact, some of these stage descriptions sound more like a drug trip than an actual video game level. One stage has Jim disguise himself as a blind cave salamander in order to swim through a series of intestines. At the end of the stage, the player is thrown into a game show that could result in the loss of the mealworms they collected throughout the stage. Another has Jim dodging falling grandmas while riding a stair-lift. Normal stuff.
What makes this title special is how the unique gameplay structure complements the game’s personality. Every level is so odd and different from the last; it’s impossible to tell what’s coming next. A funky synth-filled soundtrack and beautiful environments bring the whole package together to form one of the strangest yet most fun titles on the SNES. As Jim would say, it’s GROOVY! (Zack Rezak)
Best SNES Games #33. Pilot Wings
One of only three different launch titles available to own alongside your newly-purchased SNES back in 1991, Pilotwings was a basically a tech demo for the Super NES’ Mode 7 that created the illusion of depth by taking flat surfaces and presenting them from any angle. But as much as it was a graphical showcase, it was surprisingly enjoyable as well.
Pilotwings was an odd title and while it may not be fondly remembered by most, those who chose to delve deep into its depths swear by how great it is. Regardless of how you feel about the game, it spawned a new Nintendo franchise and gave gamers a glimpse of what would later come with the N64. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #32. Earthworm Jim
Earthworm Jim is a run and gun 2D platformer that stars Jim, an earthworm who obtains an ultra-high-tech-indestructible robotic suite to defeat his foes. It’s up to Jim to save the princess from the likes of Psy-Crow, Professor Monkey-for-a-Head, Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed and the final boss, Slug-for-a-Butt.
At the time of its release, Earthworm Jim was praised for its unique cartoon style animation, refined gameplay, mind-bending soundtrack, and strange characters. They honestly, rarely make games like this anymore, and though subsequent generations have tried to revive the series, it has never been met with success. Earthworm Jim is part of the grand tradition of balls-to-the-wall games in the vein of Psychonauts and Monkey Island and comes highly recommended for those who prefer a unique brand of oddball charm. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #31. Mega Man X
Following up the critical and commercial success of Mega Man X was no small task, but Mega Man X2 did an admirable job. The plot follows the android protagonist, X, who has saved humanity only six months prior. Now a trio of Mavericks calling themselves the X-Hunters have arisen, intent on destroying X by luring him with body parts of his colleague Zero, who sacrificed himself during the conflict with Sigma in the first X game.
This second installment gives the android protagonist X, five new cyborg sub-bosses to battle, and seventeen bosses, both new and old, including Bubble Crab, Crystal Snail, Wheel Gator, and Overdrive Ostrich. Just like the games before it, Mega Man X2 doesn’t really do much in the way of innovation. It features much of the same action-platforming elements dating back to the original Mega Man series. While it isn’t groundbreaking in any way, X2 comes highly recommended to anybody that enjoys the previous title. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #30. Mario Paint
In 1993, according to the US Census Bureau, only 31.9 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 had access to a computer at home, while 60.6 used one at school. Now that we’re all surrounded by monitors and devices, it can be difficult to imagine a time when most youngsters were not born into a menagerie of desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and e-readers. As William Gibson once said: “It’s harder to imagine the past that went away than it is to imagine the future.”
Mario Paint, released in 1992, was a bizarre concoction and, for many children, this writer included, an introduction to personal computer literacy. A spruced up Microsoft Paint, it came with a mouse and a pad, which made the title as expensive as it was irresistibly novel. Along with basic music generation and animation tools, to produce short and crude videos, it also offered a ridiculous fly-swatting mini-game, a throwback to simple arcade gameplay before retro gaming turned into a millennial cliché.
This kind of compartmentalized experience was not common on the Super Nintendo. There was usually the one game included in the cartridge, and that was it. Games within games would be more prevalent in later years. But Mario Paint incorporated the windowed logic of an operating system and allowed users to engage in different kinds of activities, save their work, and combine it.
This merging of the personal computer and console interfaces anticipated the gaming future, when consoles would behave like low-end, web-ready desktops with home screens, as comfortable with YouTube videos as with The Last of Us. And it also reflected the immediate past, when a personal computer like the Commodore 64 could compete with consoles (and is now often, albeit erroneously, equated with them); and the Nintendo Entertainment System, even as it popularized the concept of simplified, kid-friendly, plug-in-and-play gaming, was compatible with specialized modems, disk systems, and the Family BASIC, a cartridge-and-keyboard bundle for game programming. Mario Paint, then, taught many children an obvious but easily forgotten fact: consoles are computers, too. (Guido Pellegrini)
Best SNES Games #29. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Though not as influential as its predecessor, this sequel is nevertheless a summation of everything that is enjoyable and exciting about the franchise. Like its prequel, it eschews the impossible and abstract architecture of other platformers, like Mario and Sonic, and instead settles for, not precisely real-world locations, but at least recognizable environments–twisted versions of jungles and factories, frozen mountains and carnival fun-houses, distorted visions of places we might conceivably visit in real life (save for some notable, honeycombed exceptions).
Diddy’s Kong Quest places the lumbering Donkey Kong in an uncharacteristic Princess Peach role: as the captured person (well, primate) of interest, who must be rescued from the villain. In his absence, Diddy Kong becomes the protagonist, while his girlfriend – the lithe, ponytail-twirling, hovering Dixie Kong – tags along as his partner. Both are quick and nimble, and together, they make this into the most frantic, agile installment of Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. (Guido Pellegrini)
Best SNES Games #28. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island has a bit of a strange twin in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Both followed widely acclaimed and genre-defining games, and somehow both chose to do somewhat similar yet insanely different things with their respective sequels.
In the case of Yoshi’s Island, it was casting Yoshi as the hero, rather than Mario, and relegating the latter to a screeching infantile annoyance instead of the protagonist. Baby Mario’s recurring cry is probably the number one reason not to enjoy this game but luckily there’s a host of new ideas that more than make up for it. For one thing Yoshi plays dramatically differently from Mario, and the fact that he is constantly hampered by having to keep everyone’s favorite plumber safe gives the game a puzzle-lite element that no one saw coming.
The gorgeous animation and trademark level design only further raise SMW2’s status as an instant cult classic, and another great example of how going a different direction for a sequel, rather than retreading the original, can work wonders in the long run. (Mike Worby)
Best SNES Games #27. NBA JAM
NBA Jam was an absolute blast and perhaps the game I played the most as a young teen. It tore up the arcades from the day Midway released it, and drained every quarter from my wallet.
So when it was finally announced for release on Nintendo’s home console, I started saving my quarters instead, in order to ensure I had enough money to pick it up the day it came out. Whereas nowadays, sports games insist on realism, Midway delivered a frantic and oftentimes gravity-defying sports experience that gave us countless hours of fast-paced basketball action.
Reduced to two-on-two match-ups and featuring a super-powered roster (not to mention tons of unlockable characters), NBA Jam was the number one jam in my household. (Ricky D)
Best SNES Games #26. Demon’s Crest
Of the many incredible platformers for the SNES, Demon’s Crest remains one of the most underrated an overlooked (even if more and more retrospectives have been kind to it, it deserves to be considered alongside the Mega Man X, Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario World franchises). The third installment in the Gargoyle’s Quest series that began on the Game Boy, Demon’s Crest is also—unfortunately—the final game in the Ghosts ’n Goblins spin-off trilogy that follows Firebrand, that frustratingly hard-to-hit enemy from the main series.
While game mechanics and a balance between challenge and reward typically bolster a platformer like this into ranks of the elite, Demon’s Crest is so memorable for its tone and atmosphere. Like Super Castlevania IV and Super Metroid, Demon’s Crest is a moody piece with a dark color palette that is as immersive as many of the great RPGs for the console without the benefit of a carefully-constructed story. And although it is less an RPG-hybrid that the original Gargoyle’s Quest, its free-roam overworld and Crest scheme, which allows you to gain and use different abilities to complete the platforming challenges, separate the game from more streamlined platformers, such as the aforementioned Donkey Kong Country games.
A relatively short game to complete, Demon’s Crest remains immensely replayable because of its ability to give the gamer such an engrossing experience, helped by yet another incredible OST (this is very much a common thread of the SNES greats). At a time when it seemed like Capcom could do no wrong, Demon’s Crest is an example of true creativity, crafting a whole world around a throwaway enemy from a completely different series and delivering the third part of one of the most underrated series of all time. (Sean Colletti)
15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter
On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3 was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.
“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”
On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.
The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.
Taking the Narrative Back
Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Snake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.
Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.
Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.
A Whole New Meaning to Survival
When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.
Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.
On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.
The Beginning of Product Placement
The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.
The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”
When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.
A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank
At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.
Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.
2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, a compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.
‘Castlevania Bloodlines’: The Official Sega Genesis Sequel to Bram Stoker’s Hit Novel, Dracula
Castlevania isn’t a dialogue-heavy series by any means, but it’s still home to one of gaming’s most compelling narratives. Equipped with only their ancestral weapon, the legendary Vampire Killer, descendants of the Belmont clan face off against Count Dracula every 100 years like clockwork (give or take). His resurrection is inevitable. Just as good will always triumph over evil, evil will rise again. Castlevania was about the cyclical nature of good and evil long before Dracula mused about the nature of humanity in Symphony of the Night. Castlevania chronicled the Belmont family’s centuries-long struggle to keep Count Dracula at bay, game after game. Of course, he wasn’t the Count Dracula– more a representation of evil– but that was as much a given as a Belmont rising up to wield Vampire Killer. Then Castlevania Bloodlines happened.
Released in 1995 exclusively for the Sega Genesis, Bloodlines may have looked like any other Castlevania game, but it marked a series of eclectic firsts for the franchise. Gone are the Belmonts and the game neither takes place inside of or involves getting to Dracula’s Castle. Bloodlines is even titled Vampire Killer in Japan, creating a bigger divide between it and previous entries, but that hardly compares to Bloodlines’ strangest contribution to the series: making Bram Stoker’s Dracula canon.
The nature of how Dracula fits into the Castlevania mythos isn’t as plain and simple as just taking the book as writ as canon, but it fits much cleaner than one would expect. Although Bloodlines may lift elements from the novel with its own embellishments, its changes are ultimately inconsequential. Quincey Morris doesn’t have a son in the novel, but he’s the only major character alongside Dracula not to keep a journal, keeping his background relatively obscured. Quincey also doesn’t sport his signature bowie knife in Bloodlines’ backstory, finishing Dracula off with a stake (instead of the Vampire Killer for whatever reason.)
There’s no mention of Jonathan Harker, Mina, or Abraham Van Helsing– and Dracula’s motives aren’t at all in-line with his novel counterpart’s– but Konami’s references to the novel make it clear that audiences are intended to consider the novel canon even if the details don’t quite match up. It seems a strange choice, especially for a franchise that was pushing its tenth anniversary by the time Bloodlines released in 1995, but it’s not a totally random decision on Konami’s part. Much like how Super Castlevania IV’s tonal maturity gave it a greater layer of depth, Bloodlines thrives off its connection to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
If there’s one immediate benefit to tying Dracula to Castlevania: Bloodlines, it’s grounding the latter in some semblance of reality. Set in 1917, Vampire Killer was the most modern Castlevania to date– not just at its release, but until Aria of Sorrow was released in 2003. The games were never period pieces, but they were set far enough in the past where literal Universal Monsters wouldn’t keep the series from staying narratively grounded. More importantly, the series’ settings were always consistently gothic, creating a unique sense of style around Dracula himself rather than the time period.
Bloodlines opts for a wildly different approach altogether when it comes to setting, doubling down on the series’ historical elements while keeping Super Castlevania IV’s darker tone intact. Dracula feels a part of the world, rather than the world of Castlevania feeling a part of Dracula. At the same time, Bram Stoker’s Dracula helps ground the very minimal plot by giving John and Eric’s trek across Europe greater scope. John and Eric even have a personal stake in the plot, having witnessed Quincey’s death. It’s all window dressing, but Bloodlines’ assimilation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula gives the series some narrative legitimacy to rub shoulders with its high quality gameplay.
The connections to Bram Stoker’s Dracula are admittedly loose, but they’re loose enough to work in the game’s benefit. Dracula is structured as an epistolary novel with chapters divided in letters, journal entries, articles, and logs. The story is told coherently, but this approach often results in the point of view & setting changing. While uncertainly a direct reference to the novel, Bloodlines similarly allows players to switch between John & Eric whenever they use a continue on Easy mode, and each stage takes place in a different country rather than just Transylvania.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula may give Bloodlines its foundation, but it’s that globetrotting that gives the game its identity. Stage 1 opens in Romania, the ruins of Dracula’s Castle left to time after his previous defeat. Where other games would immediately transition into the depths of Castle Dracula, Bloodlines’ Stage 2 instead takes players to the lost city of Atlantis in Greece, while Stage 3 involves scaling the Leaning Tower of Pisa in order to slay a demon at the top. There’s a grandiosity to the stage design simply not present in previous entries. Not just in terms of scope, but in actual structure.
Only six stages long, Bloodlines is the shortest of the mainline Castlevania games, but it makes up for its lack of length with longer stages overall. The main story falls on the shorter side, but the stage to stage pacing ensures that Bloodlines neither outstays its welcome or goes too soon. While a Stage 7 may have done the game some good, Bloodlines’ six stages offer some of the tightest action-platforming in the franchise. Enemies are by no means infrequent, and Bloodlines requires players to understand both John & Eric’s unique platforming skills by Stage 3, outright preventing progress should players fail to adapt.
John’s unique platforming ability will be familiar to all those who played Super Castlevania IV as, predictably, he can use the Vampire Killer to hang. This time around, however, John can whip onto just about any ceiling. Eric, on the other hand, has a charged jump that thrusts him into the air when released. Eric’s jump ignores platforms entirely, allowing him a degree of verticality Castlevania typically doesn’t give to players. Stage 3 even features a room that’s a bottomless pit for Eric, but easy platforming for John thanks to its whip. Subsequently, there’s a room where John can’t make progress due to the ceiling, but Eric can jump right through.
John and Eric’s abilities are natural extensions & evolutions of Simon’s from Super CV IV, just split between the both of them, but it’s also worth noting how Bloodlines’ more involved platforming helps to further flesh out Castlevania’s world. Bram Stoker’s Dracula coupled with the European setting did more for the series’ world-building at the time than any of its predecessors, save for Rondo of Blood. It’s not often that a video game series absorbs a literary classic into its main plot, but Castlevania handles it surprisingly well.
It’s fitting that Castlevania Bloodlines is titled Vampire Killer in Japan. At its core, Vampire Killer is a recontextualization of Castlevania. The story is still framed through the Belmonts’ struggle against Dracula, but the scope is wider, extending mediums in the process. Vampire Killer is about the legacy of the Vampire Killer and the vampire killers whose fates are sealed by the whip. Symphony of the Night may be a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood, but Bloodlines set the stage for Symphony to tell a traditional and intimate story.
More important than anything, though, Castlevania taking Bram Stoker’s Dracula and making it a part of its canon is just so outlandish that it makes perfect sense. The series that regularly featured Universal Monsters as bosses was never going to ignore the novel forever. That Bloodlines uses the novel tactfully and in a game where its presence is appropriate– intentional or otherwise– weirdly elevates Castlevania as a franchise. Castlevania isn’t just a Dracula story, it’s the Dracula story. And of all the games to make that declaration with, Bloodlines is a damn good choice.
XO19: Top 10 Best Announcements of the Show
Xbox just had their best XO presentation ever, and it wasn’t even close. Here’s a rundown of the best announcements from XO19.
Microsoft had a lot to prove going into its fifth annual XO showcase. Console launches are on the horizon, cloud competitor Google Stadia is about to ship to early adopters, and Game Pass subscribers are as hungry as ever for new additions to the lineup. Then there’s the fact that XO has always been looked down upon by the gaming community in general as a lackluster, padded presentation.
All of that changed with XO19. This was, by far, the best XO in the event’s history. In fact, it featured more shocking reveals and genuinely impressive announcements than a good deal of Microsoft’s recent E3 press conferences. From new IP reveals, to first-time looks at gameplay, to a couple “I never would’ve believed you a week ago” shockers, it’s clear that Xbox stepped up its game from years past. Here’s our list of the best announcements of the show.
10. Everwild Reveal
It’s not too often that we get to experience a new IP from Rare. Their last attempt, Sea of Thieves, was a fully multiplayer, always-online affair that gradually garnered a cult following thanks to some of the best community engagement and most consistent content updates in the industry.
We don’t know what type of game Everwild is yet, but it’s certainly oozing that same colorful, ambient charm that made players fall in love with Sea of Thieves all those years ago. Seeing as how we only got a cinematic teaser, though, it might be quite some time before we’re running around these gorgeous environments.
9. ID@Xbox Lineup
The ID@Xbox team has pulled it off again. Despite being stuck with an almost insultingly poor time slot in the presentation, several of the indies shown off in this short montage rivaled some of the show’s AAA spotlights. It had everything from high-profile indies like Streets of Rage 4, Touhou Luna Nights, and the Yacht Club Games-published Cyber Shadow, to more modest beauties like SkateBIRD, Haven, Cris Tales, and she dreams elsewhere.
The best part? All of these are launching on Game Pass day and date. The worst part? No actual dates were announced for anything shown. Regardless, it’s encouraging that so many high quality indies are continuing to come to Xbox (and that relationships with Devolver Digital and Yacht Club are rock-solid).
8. West of Dead Reveal/Open Beta
Raw Fury has one of the better eyes in the indie publishing scene. Gems like GoNNER, Dandara, and Bad North have all released under their watch, and West of Dead might be their best acquisition yet. It’s a heavily-stylized twin stick shooter that switches things up by making tactical cover a core part of the experience.
The trailer hinted at roguelike elements being present, and the ever-popular procedurally generated levels should significantly up replayability. How it plays, however, remains to be seen…unless you have an Xbox, in which case you can play the exclusive open beta now before the full game comes to all platforms next year.
7. Halo Reach Release Date
The Master Chief Collection has long been the one golden goose that endlessly eludes those outside of the Xbox ecosystem. Earlier this year, though, Microsoft made waves when it announced that it was bringing the entire collection over to PC. Reach is the first step in that process, and it’s finally making its way to both PC and Xbox One as part of the MCC on December 3rd.
It’s just a date, but the fact that so many new players get to experience one of Halo‘s most beloved outings at last easily made it one of the highlights of the night.
6. Grounded Reveal
Who woulda thought? Fresh off releasing one of the best RPGs in years with The Outer Worlds, Obsidian decided to show off a passion project from one of its smaller teams: Grounded. The premise? Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Survival Edition.
Players take control of kids the size of ants as they fight off actual bugs, cook, craft armor and weapon upgrades, and build shelter to survive in the wilderness of someone’s backyard. As silly as it sounds and looks, and as unexpected a project it is for Obsidian to undertake, it genuinely looks rather promising. The cheerful color palette is a welcome contrast to the dark, brooding aesthetic so many other survival games have adopted. There are plenty of details left to be uncovered, but if early impressions are anything to go by, this is one to keep on your radar early next year.
5. Age of Empires IV Gameplay Reveal
Age of Empires is one of the most esteemed strategy franchises in history. Despite having this beloved IP in their back pocket, however, Microsoft hasn’t published a new mainline game in the series since 2005. Age of Empires IV was originally announced over two years ago, and after buttering everyone up with the release of Age of Empires II Definitive Edition that afternoon, the first glimpse of gameplay was finally shown at XO19.
Simply put, the game looks gorgeous. Every building is full of detail and the countryside looks surprisingly lush and picturesque. Witnessing hundreds of units charging down the valley towards the stronghold in the trailer was mind-blowing as an old-school fan. They didn’t show off any innovations or moment-to-moment gameplay, but it’s looking more and more like the future of the franchise is safe in Relic’s hands.
4. Final Fantasy Blowout
Xbox’s success in Japanese markets has become something of a running joke over the years. Though inroads were clearly made with Bandai Namco, many more Japanese publishers won’t go within a mile of the platform. Possibly through working with Square Enix’s western division to put the latest Tomb Raider and Just Cause entries on board, it looks like the main branch has finally decided to give Xbox players a chance.
Starting this holiday, Game Pass subscribers will gradually get every single-player Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VII. More shocking still, The Verge reported that the Xbox team is working to get the massively popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV over as well. The sheer value of having every post-Super Nintendo Final Fantasy game included in Game Pass (even XV) is ridiculous. It remains to be seen what the rollout cadence of these ten titles will look like, but considering how long each of these are, one per month wouldn’t shock or disappoint.
3. The Reign of Project xCloud
With Stadia launching just next week, Microsoft had been surprisingly quiet on their cloud gaming front up to this point. The service had gone into preview for those lucky enough to get in and, by most accounts, it had been fairly well-received. The real question came down to what Xbox was going to do to make itself stand out from its competition.
The bombs dropped here felt like the equivalent to the thrashing Sony gave to Microsoft back at E3 2013. Microsoft shadow dropped 40+ new games into Preview for players to test (for free) including Devil May Cry 5, Tekken 7, Bloodstained, and Ace Combat 7. Even better, xCloud will support third-party controllers including the DUALSHOCK 4 and will finally show up on Windows 10 PCs in 2020.
Perhaps the most damning announcement, however, is that xCloud will be integrated with Game Pass starting next year. Only having to pay for a Game Pass subscription to access 100+ games and play them in the cloud (including Halo, Forza, The Outer Worlds, and all those Final Fantasy titles) makes xCloud a far better value than Stadia right out of the gate. If this didn’t force Google to adjust its strategy, we might be looking at a very short cloud gaming war.
2. Square Sharing the Kingdom Hearts Love
Kingdom Hearts 3 releasing on Xbox One was somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, players who had left the PlayStation ecosystem after playing the first games had a chance to see the arc’s conclusion. On the other hand, new players had no options for going back and experiencing the series’ roots.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue finally coming to Xbox next year is a godsend for younger players and new players alike. More important, however, is the tearing down of those over 15+ years old exclusivity walls. Just like with many of the Final Fantasys, the main Kingdom Hearts games had been married to PlayStation systems for years. This shift at Square is an exciting one, and it bodes particularly well for the next generation of Xbox hardware.
1. Yakuza Finally Goes Multi-Console
It seems like Phil Spencer’s trips to Japan finally paid off. In what was arguably the most shocking announcement of XO19 (right next to Kingdom Hearts), it was revealed that SEGA is taking the Yakuza series multi-console at last. Not only are Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 1+2 coming to Xbox, but all three are going to Game Pass next year as well.
Does this mean support from Japanese studios will increase across the board? Of course not. But getting big names like Bandai Namco, Square Enix, and SEGA on board is nothing if not encouraging. Xbox is clearly pulling out all the stops to ensure a diverse suite of third-party support come Scarlett’s launch next year, and it’s the healthiest the platform has looked in a very long time.
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