The Super Nintendo was an incredibly important part of my gaming upbringing. I am fortunate enough to have grown up with games; I was three to four years old when I first played Atari 2600, then grew into the Nintendo Entertainment System a few years later (that seemed like forever as a kid!), and finally the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) which took me through high school. (Yes, I am in my late thirties at the time of this writing, so I am the perfect target audience.) So I was fortunate enough to grow up through one of the most exciting times in gaming, only surpassed by the current renaissance in my opinion.
The SNES was home to some of the best games of all time, and not just then, but now also. Several of them absolutely stand the test of time, and are incredibly enjoyable even with modern sensibilities. Others are definitely a product of their time and did not age quite as well.
The system itself is fairly well made, with a shape that is pretty much exactly like the original, especially in the controllers, where it really counts. The only fault is that the controller wires are approximately half of the length of the originals. The display quality is basically perfect, with a 4:3 mode, a scanline mode, and pixel perfect mode. I prefer the scanline filter in most cases, though 4:3 also looks very good, if a bit pixelated. (Though after playing the system for a while, I am warming up to 4:3 mode too!)
The emulation is pretty much perfect, including slowdowns in some places. There is also a save state feature that's available via the reset button, as well as a rewind feature. Given the challenge involved in some of these games, and that several do not feature a save system of any kind, these features are greatly appreciated. Sadly there are no manuals (digital or otherwise); there are only QR codes to a website that has them listed out. It's better than nothing, but definitely not the same.
The sound is perfect as far as I can tell. Considering how important that is to the SNES experience, that is good to see. That system is host to some of the most iconic soundtracks of all time, and they are well represented given the games included.
I spent a few minutes with each game, and some of them I played for many, many hours decades ago. I can't review each and every one of these, as it would take potentially months, but I can give you an overview of each one, with some gameplay and appropriateness commentary the best I can. There is no way that I can cover everything, but I'll do my best.
Contra III: The Alien Wars
I played this game quite a bit as a kid, and I really look forward to sharing it more with my own son. This was one of the first games that we played together when we first got this system. It's tough as nails, and a ton of fun. It's run and gun, shoot 'em up at its finest. Highly recommended. There is definitely action violence in this title, with lots of fire and explosions.
Donkey Kong Country
I played a fair amount of Donkey Kong Country, though I don't recall ever beating it. It's a very family friendly side scroller, where Donkey or Diddy (you can tag team) jumps on enemies or throws barrels at them. It has a different rhythm to it than, say, Super Mario Bros., and had very advanced graphics for the time, as they were pre-rendered on super computers of the era and inserted as pixel sprites. It's a fun game for sure. Has simple animated violence, and fun for all ages. It is generally more challenging than many platformers, but not but as difficult as games like Contra III or Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.
This is a game I never had the chance to play as a youngster. My thirty minutes or so with the game makes it seem like a pretty quirky game with real character. You and your friends in the neighborhood are trying to determine what happened with a fallen meteor, and find a missing friend. It seems to get stranger from there. I like what I have seen so far, and I hope to be able to come back to this one sometime. From what I can tell, it has a really good sense of humor, simple RPG violence, and the character Ness (and perhaps others) has special magic-like powers.
Final Fantasy III (known as Final Fantasy VI in future releases)
This is frankly one of the best RPGs of all time, though it does have plenty of moral issues, especially with magical/occult content. This is one of the few games that we have a full review of; I recommend you read it here.
This game didn't age quite as well as some of the others, but it's still fun. This is a simple racing game (simple, but not easy!) that has you zooming around the track at speeds well over 400km/h in one of four hovercrafts. Each of them has slightly different movement, acceleration, and top speeds. The more I played this game, the more I enjoyed it; it's definitely fun. But without a two player mode, and only simple racing available, it might seem a bit light on the features. I did not find any moral issues.
Kirby Super Star
This is one of Kirby's best games, and there is almost nothing not to like. There are several Kirby 2D platformer campaign levels, and several minigames. Most of those modes are competitive or cooperative, and while there are a few stinkers among the minigames, there is no reason not to play this game alone or with a friend, as long as you can handle the extreme cuteness. There is simple animated violence, and some fairy tale magic. Highly recommended.
Kirby’s Dream Course
I... don't like this game. I don't get it. You are trying to play golf with Kirby, which makes sense as he rolls into a ball, but if you make a mistake and get outside of the putting area of the course, I couldn't figure out how to get back in. Whatever the case, I am going to call this game the one stinker of the collection. One stinker out of twenty one… could be worse, right? No moral concerns. Who knows – maybe a young child would enjoy this without any preconceived notions of what a game is supposed to play like.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
One of the best games of all time, and certainly one of the best Zelda games. I love this game to death with its fantastic gameplay, engaging graphics, good boss fights, and absolutely top tier soundtrack. Seriously, if you get a SNES classic and you don't play this game, you kind of are missing the point here. It has action RPG violence typical of any Zelda game, and there is magic use both by enemies and the player.
Mega Man X
Mega Man X is such a fantastic game. Oh, where to start. The Mega Man series has been very long running, even by this point, with six NES games preceding it. They then decided to make a newer, more hard edged series called Mega Man X, which takes place thirty years after the final Mega Man game. It began a most excellent series of games, and this one brings back many wonderful memories, including the iconic intro level. It is a blast to play this run and gun shooter, with advanced dash moves, charge shots, and of course many boss powers that you collect from various bosses. There is common animated robot on robot violence. Highly recommended.
Secret of Mana
This game was one of the era defining RPGs from the SNES era, with the others being Final Fantasy III (included in this collection!) and the other being Chrono Trigger (sadly not included). It was the one action RPG from Squaresoft on the SNES, and quite an excellent one at that. In a few ways it is less accessible than the other included RPGs like Final Fantasy and Zelda, but it's still a ton of fun and an absolutely killer soundtrack. There is animated violence, and magic use by both enemies and players. There is also an all knowing Mana tree that powers the world.
Ahh, Star Fox. When this game came out in 1993, it was simply amazing. And it is still fun to play, if you can tolerate the terrible graphics and frame rate by modern standards. Ten frames per second is a tough pill to swallow... but it's still fun if you are willing to give it a fair shake. It's a 3D rendered third person spaceship shooter. The style is really neat if a bit old school, and the music is great and very iconic. Morally, you are shooting down other ships, so people/anthropomorphic animals presumably die, but otherwise there is not too much to be concerned about.
Star Fox 2 (Brand new release!)
Star Fox 2 is a game that was basically ready for release back in 1996, but it was pulled last minute because Nintendo did not want it to conflict with the soon to be released Star Fox 64 on their new system at the time, the Nintendo 64. This is an amazing relic of history, because we have a fully complete, in the era release, that never made it to the public, but is playable for the first time in its complete form here.
I need to spend more time with Star Fox 2, but it doesn't seem too bad. It is an interesting combination of the older technology from Star Fox (though you can tell things did indeed progress), and the much later Nintendo DS entry Star Fox Command. They did acknowledge that much of Star Fox Command came from this game, and I certainly see that. Much of the combat in Star Fox 2 is reactionary rather than linear, as you have to protect planets from invasion, including missiles and other enemy fighters. It's fairly challenging based on my short time with it, and definitely worth a second look.
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
This is one of the true classics of the fighting game genre. Some wonder why Nintendo didn't include Super Street Fighter 2 rather than this one, but that's okay with me – this game is probably the most 'pure' of all of the version of Street Fighter 2 for SNES in that it includes both the full Championship Edition, via 'Normal' mode, and Hyper Fighting, via the Turbo mode. You can select the speed there as well. There is animated one on one violence, and some blood in the defeat portraits. There are also girls wearing bikinis shown.
Super Castlevania IV
This is a tough as nails remake of the original Castlevania for the NES, with lots of expanded content. It's challenging, with the old controls that feel stiff and unforgiving, but that's part of what made Castlevania what it was at the time. This was one of the last level based Castlevanias, before they switched to the free roaming format. The graphics are good from a pixel art perspective, and the music is very good. There is magic, undead characters, and Dracula, which is the personification of evil. Most games in this series have topless medusas, and I believe this one does as well. It's fun but very difficult; if you don't develop the skill, there is no amount of perseverance that will allow you to see this game's later chapters.
Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
We are fortunate that they don't make games quite like this one anymore. It's fun, the music is great, the graphics fit the time, but the incredible punishing difficulty is (mostly) a thing of the past. Even if you go into the options and set your lived to the maximum (nine), there is absolutely no guarantee, no matter how many decades of gaming you may have behind you, to even make it past the first level. And there are limited continues, so again, like Castlevania, there is no amount of perseverance that will allow you to see all there is here; you must 'git gud'. There are lots of undead enemies present.
Super Mario Kart
I love all Mario Kart games... except for this one (and the similar GBA rendition). I know that this is the one that started it all, but I never had this game when I had a SNES, and even at the time the graphics turned me off a bit, so I never gave it a fair shake. All newer entries are a ton of fun – I love all of the N64+ entries, but this game has not aged well at all. Nevertheless, I am sure with some more play time and tenacity I would come to enjoy it, but it's a very different game than what came later. Of course it's perfectly appropriate for any players unless you have a strong thrown banana allergy.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Ah, Super Mario RPG. This was one of those games that I really wanted to pick up as a kid, but I never had the money for it when I had my chance when I found it at a discount. Back in the 1990s, Square could absolutely do no wrong – they had one of the best records in quality perhaps of any game company in history at that time. After incredible blockbusters like Final Fantasy II/III, Secret of Mana, and then the unbelievable Chrono Trigger, they were legendary at the time. So when Nintendo announced a collaboration between Nintendo and Square, there was quite the hype, easily equal to any game announcement today.
This game was the first to establish so many of the game systems that most Mario RPG games like Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi use to this day. It also gave character to the people and world of the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time. And it's the last game before Princess Toadstool got her first name, Peach. I have only played it for a short time, but from what I can tell, it should be a fun RPG for all ages. The graphics are decent, and the music is undoubtedly good from what I heard so far. There is some magic use present, as well as animated cartoon violence, and some ghosts and such present.
Super Mario World
Does this game really need an introduction? As the game that came with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as a pack in, and one of the best games in the Mario series period, it's a fantastic game that has aged perfectly well. For many, this is one of the many reasons to buy a SNES Classic. Go play this – it's great! (There are ghosts and some magical enemies who attack with a wand. And of course lots of things to be stomped on.)
Considered by many to be one of the best games of all time, Super Metroid's influence to the gaming industry even to this day can't really be overstated. There are dozens of games in the modern indie renaissance that owe much to this fantastic title. The controls can be a bit awkward at times, but don't let that stop you from playing a true classic. It's easily in any top ten list of SNES games, and could also easily be top five depending on how much you love RPGs...
We have a review here. (Be warned that this review is quite old and doesn't quite conform to modern standards. But I wrote it, so there's that.)
This is Punch-Out!! for the NES's Super sequel. While the basic mechanics are fairly similar, this is based on the arcade game of the same name, rather than the mostly from scratch NES version. This one also has more modes, much better graphics, and more forgiving timings (though still quite challenging). It's definitely a great game, and worth playing. Moral issues are mostly just sports fighting.
Yoshi's Island is a truly wonderful game that was Nintendo's first attempt at an alternate art style, and it was wildly successful. The art style is wholly in crayon – everything looks hand drawn by a child, as it twitches and wiggles like any child would draw it. Honestly, it looked incredible when it was released, and it still looks wonderful now. The fact that it plays great too is just icing on the cake. It's also not too difficult early on, and is very accessible for new players.
Here, Mario and Luigi are stolen from the stork as babies, and Mario is dropped. Fortunately, he lands on Yoshi Island, where the whole tribe of Yoshis teams up to help Baby Mario find his twin brother. This game is considered a timeless classic for a good reason. Other than simple bopping violence, there is no reason for anyone not to play this game – and chances are you will love it, too.
As a whole, the most of the games included on the SNES Classic are appropriate for most audiences, with more details noted above. According to the ESRB, there is some sexual content that I didn't note. Here is the text they provide: "A handful of games depict suggestive material: a Medusa character that appears topless, though with no discernible details (i.e., no nipples); a 2D, nude sprite-character (no discernible details); a small, pixalated [sic] centerfold of a naked female (no nipples or genitalia depicted)." I am reasonably confident that Castlevania has the medusa in it, but I am not sure which game contains the centerfold. I believe Final Fantasy III has the aforementioned 2D nude sprite, when a character transforms into a magical form; in this case she is a pure white magical creature, with no details per the description above. The other violence mention includes boxing (Super Punch-Out!!), blood and fighting (Street Fighter II Turbo), and other guns and explosives (Contra III).
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition is quite simply a must buy. It contains some of the very best games ever made from one of the very best game consoles ever made from perhaps one of the best eras in gaming. There is no other way to put this: yes, this system is worth the incredible hassle involved in trying to find one. Go ahead and go through the effort; you, your close friends and family, and the children in your life will appreciate it. There are many hundreds of hours of some of the best games of all time contained within.