Say what you will about Nintendo, but they know how to do one thing very well: Play on the childhood nostalgia of their beloved franchises. Whether it's drudging up old characters for a Super Smash Bros. game, re-releasing a classic for the Nintendo Virtual Console, or remaking an oldie for a new generation, I can't think of any other game company that banks on nostalgia quite so hard and manages to pull it off.
Last year, they went further with the NES Classic, a mini console that included 30 classic NES games (they then proceeded to only produce a handful of consoles, causing the price skyrocket on reseller sites). Now the SNES Classic Edition is in the immediate future, and though Nintendo has promised to produce 'significantly' greater numbers of the console, with preorders selling out (in the countries in which they opened up) it remains to be seen just how difficult getting your hands on the console will be.
Will it be worth the struggle? The short answer is yes, at least if you are a fan of the classics. Between absolute gems like Donkey Kong Country (one of the greatest Nintendo platformers of all time) and the first ever chance to own Star Fox 2, it is worth getting excited about.
That's not to say the lineup is perfect. There are some notably absent titles from the catalog that gives us pause, and few titles that did make it we could certainly do without. Not that any of the games are necessarily bad, just that with a limited amount of space on the console, why would they choose these titles over a much more important one?
Here are eight games that are unfortunately absent from the SNES Classic, and seven that we could have done without.
15 Missing – Earthworm Jim
The days of mascot platformers left us with quite a few oddities, not all of which were due for the immortality of Mario or Sonic. Among the more endearing of these forgotten mascots is Earthworm Jim, a unique and bizarre earthworm given superhuman strength by a space suit.
The original game for the SNES was fun and oh so challenging, particularly certain boss battles. But the real tragedy of this exclusion is that the SNES Classic misses out a a truly unique platforming experience. While we do have a few other solid platformers to spend some time with (*cough* Donkey Kong Country) none are like Earthworm Jim… because nothing is like Earthworm Jim.
His game features a combination of platforming, swinging around using your head as a lasso, and 2D gunplay. Plus it was stylish and just plain weird. Mucus planet anyone?
14 Not Needed – Kirby's Dream Course
Kirby's Dream Course is the remnant of a time in which developers really liked experimenting with isometric design to try and create 3D experiences. Usually, this did not turn out well, or, at the very least, these games have not aged particularly well.
Dream Course features the adorable little puffball Kirby playing mini-golf. Well, less 'playing' and more 'being used as the ball'. It feels a bit like a Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball clone, with Kirby rolling into a ball and bouncing off obstacles around the course. As far as isometric games go it is not bad, but hardly at the top of our SNES wish lists.
Oh, and if you're worried that removing it would not leave enough Kirby, the console also comes with the Kirby Super Star collection, featuring eight Kirby games. I think that's enough of the pink ball for anyone.
13 Missing – NBA Jam
If there's one major weakness to the SNES Classic's library, it's sports games. No football games, basketball games, or baseball games. While the NES Classic came with Tecmo Bowl, the SNES Classic is missing out the console's most iconic sports game, NBA Jam.
This two-on-two basketball game appealed to basketball fans and gamers alike as it was off the walls nuts at times, with players literally catching on fire when they are doing well, knocking each other over to take the ball, and performing super aerial flips, all the while getting some ridiculous commentary. It was the perfect game for you and a buddy to each grab a controller and practice some unsportsmanlike conduct.
This classic multiplayer game is sore exclusion from the SNES Classic's library.
12 Not Needed – Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts
If you needed a poster child for the era of 'Nintendo Hard' games, you could do worse than the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. In the third game in the Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise, Arthur returns to yet again save the princess … if he can keep his clothes on.
If you're unfamiliar with the series, Arthur has the unfortunate weakness that a single hit from any enemy will knock all of his armor off (however upgraded it may be) and leave him defenseless in only his underwear. Take another hit and he his dead. Two hits, that's all you get in this super difficult platformer.
Players who already own the NES Classic already have a version of Ghosts 'n Goblins to test themselves against, and while Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts improves upon the original with improved visuals and the addition of the vital double jump, I can't see players vying for this title compared some of SNES's other classics.
11 Missing – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4: Turtles In Time
The SNES Classic's library is notably lacking in arcade style beat-em-ups. If only for that reason alone it feels like the addition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game would have rounded out the collection nicely.
Technically a direct sequel to the original arcade game (despite the numbering), Turtles in Time featured the TMNT going through a wide variety of set pieces and time periods, all while offering some of the best arcade brawling available. The port added new levels (including the one with the now infamous elevator fight sequence), new bosses, and the rad ability to throw enemies directly at the screen.
It's a total bummer that this radical co-op game didn't find its way into the SNES Classic Edition.
10 Not Needed – Super Castlevania IV
Despite its confusing title, Super Castlevania IV is actually a remake of the very first Castlevania title, already available on the NES classic edition. Like Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, it features updated visuals, enhanced physics, and more responsive controls. It was (and still is) a solid entry point for fans new to Simon Belmont's quest to slay Dracula.
The problem is the SNES Classic is already crammed full of the greatest platformers of the generation (*cough* Donkey Kong Country) and while Super Castlevania IV has its own spin on platformer mechanics, some of it hasn't aged particularly well (at least, compared to other games on the console) and its selling point of being a more 'mature' game almost seems quaint by today's standards.
Great soundtrack, though.
9 Missing – Super Bomberman
Bomberman is one of those classic franchises that doesn't get the kind of love these days that it deserves. I mean, sure, the premise is simple: you try to blow up your friends with bombs while avoiding getting blown up in return. But sometimes that's all you need. Super Bomberman featured what was perhaps the most fun Battle Mode out of the entire SNES library.
Of course, with the SNES Classic, a multitap would not be available, making 4-player Battle Mode impossible, but even with just 2-players there's plenty of fun to be found. And considering two controllers come standard in every box, it feels like this is more of an oversight of the Bomberman franchise than anything else.
8 Not Needed – Super Punch Out
No, this isn't the one you're probably thinking of, where you get to knock out Mike Tyson. That was a NES title in the series, which just so happens to have come with the NES Classic (though the NES Classic Edition came with a later version of the game, where Mike Tyson was replaced with Mr. Dream).
Super Punch Out was nonetheless a fairly amusing (if embarrassingly difficult) boxing game where you got to pit yourself against cartoonish characters called 'Bear Hugger' and 'Dragon Chan.' Once again, though, I'm left wondering if it offers enough to warrant its inclusion in the too-small list compared to other classic SNES titles, or if its inclusion has more to do with Little Mac's popularity in Smash Bros.
7 Missing – Mortal Kombat II
The SNES Classic has 'family friendly' written all over it (as a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if the words 'family friendly' made an appearance somewhere on the packaging) so it's no big surprise that Mortal Kombat II, a game that practically invented the 'violence in video games' controversy (or, at the very least, poured significant fuel into the fire) would be excluded.
And that's a shame, because what we end up missing out on what is a damn good fighter that is both engaging, full of intense combos and increased speed, and at times completely silly, with it's Babalities and Friendship finishers.
Instead, the SNES Classic comes with…
6 Not Needed – Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Okay, I know I've rustled some jammies just putting a Street Fighter II game on this list (particularly after I just lamented the exclusion of a Mortal Kombat), but just give me a second to explain before you take off my head in the comments.
This has nothing to do with the quality of Street Fighter II as a game. I recognize it's a great fighter that set new standards for the genre and is still beloved and played today. Great. My problem is Street Fighter II saturation. There are what feels like 100 different version of Street Fighter II, with at least one version available on every console through the sixth generation. And while that's great for the fans of the series, it does mean that for anyone who wants to play the game, you probably own something to play it on.
The SNES Classic offers the unique chance to play older games that would be harder to find today, and it seems almost a waste to use a spot for the ubiquitous fighter.
5 Missing – ActRaiser
Though it never spawned a massive franchise, ActRaiser was one of the most ambitious games ever developed for the SNES. It was one part action-adventure game, a classic side scrolling adventure where you kill things via platforming and then fight a boss, and one part civilization build game, where you play as a god protecting and guiding a burgeoning human population.
It was a game that was popular in its time, but kind of faded into obscurity for no discernible reason. A release on the SNES Classic could have gone a long way to reminding people about this classic.
And truly it is a surprise that Nintendo did not feel ActRaiser warranted a spot in the SNES Classic, given that it had been first in line for release from the Wii's Virtual Console service.
4 Not Needed – Contra III: Alien Wars
Another sequel to a game available on the NES Classic (1990's Super C) Contra III is a run and gun shooter much like every other game in the franchise, this time with 16-bit graphics. In addition to upgraded graphics, it utilized the power of the SNES to improve upon its predecessors with destructible environments, the ability to climb walls and ladder and to grab on the ceilings, and commandeering tanks.
However, it is fairly short (like many Nintendo Hard games relying on difficulty to keep the players from finishing it in short time) and, like other series with games already on the NES Classic, I wonder if it brings enough new things to the table to be worth its inclusion here when there are other greats vying for a spot.
3 Missing – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
I've made a pretty big deal thus far about the inclusion of one of my favorite games, Donkey Kong Country. I've also been giving franchises a pretty tough time regarding what their sequels bring to the table to warrant one of the precious few slots on the SNES Classic. So you're going to have to forgive my slight hypocrisy as I make the case for Diddy's Kong Quest.
Pretty much everything Donkey Kong Country does, Diddy's Kong Quest does better. More detailed models, better animation, and great co-op play between the agile Diddy and Dixie's twirling hair really brings a new level to the mechanics introduced by its predecessor.
I have said already that Donkey Kong Country is one of the greatest platformers ever from Nintendo, but it may be that Diddy's Kong Quest IS the greatest.
2 Not Needed – Earthbound
As primarily an RPG fan, I was was practically drooling when I saw the SNES Classic Edition lineup. Final Fantasy III (VI). Secret of Mana. Super Mario RPG. And then there's Earthbound (aka Mother 2). Kind of an oddity, Earthbound received very little attention in the western market until Ness became a recurring character in the Super Smash Bros. series.
As far as gameplay goes, it's fairly simple by JRPG standards: understated graphics, an easy to pick up combat system, and a whimsical plot that parodies much of the genre. It's a solid JPRG, particularly for players who have been unsure or confused by JRPGs before and need a gentler introduction, but there isn't anything too special about the game.
Especially not when compared against another JRG that was passed over…
1 Missing – Chrono Trigger
What can I say about Chrono Trigger that has not been said a thousand times before? The time-traveling RPG is regularly considered one of the best (or the best) RPGs of all time, and its gameplay innovations and storytelling set industry standards for many years.
What's particularly sad about its exclusion is that this alone would have made the console worth buying. Original SNES copies of the game can go for hundreds of dollars, with many fans resorting to purchasing ROMs just to get the experience. Sure, there's a version for PlayStation and a couple of ports, but for anyone wanting the original experience, SNES controller in hand as they play the original version, this would have been a perfect solution.
Oh well, back to my DS port…