Back in my schooldays, when I was a sprightly young dude as yet unblemished by the future horrors of middle-aged spread and taxes, I had a best friend. We’ll call him Paul, for the sake of the story (though his name was Brian), and Paul loved his Genesis with a serious passion. I was a SNES man and just as dedicated to Nintendo’s cause. Man, was that a great console.
The console wars never came between us, though. Paul/Brian and I had a mutual respect for each other’s gaming habits, and often swapped consoles for a few days to check out the best new releases from the rival publishers. All these assholes raging at each other in the YouTube comment section of Xbox One and PS4 videos could learn a thing or two from my buddy and me. We were like Romeo and Juliet, sans tragic ending and homosexual tendencies.
With all of that said, then, I want to go into this one making it perfectly clear that I’m not ragging on the SNES here. Far from it. A lot of these titles aren’t bad games in any sense, so don’t see Super Metroid or something listed below and have an embolism. To be overrated, you first have to be highly rated and the Super Nintendo had no shortage of that. Let’s just be objective, friends, and remember that nostalgia goggles, like beer goggles, are a powerful, powerful thing.
Off we go then. Let’s hop into The Top 15 Most Overrated Games On SNES.
15 Super Mario RPG
Let’s not kid ourselves here, Super Mario RPG is a highlight of the SNES catalogue. Another successful venture out of the comfort zone for the moustachioed mascot, it’s a bright, colourful and hilariously written RPG. Mario’s quest for the seven star pieces spawned a series all its own, as well as the two Bloodbornes to its Dark Souls: the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi titles.
I can’t help thinking, though, that’s there’s a touch of Baby’s First RPG about it. Mario Kart isn’t a racing experience for Gran Turismo fans and Super Mario RPG isn’t the role-playing experience that a lot of genre fans crave. While undeniably a lot of fun, there’s slim-to-bupkus challenge to be had here. Controversial as it is to say, I think the game would suffer greatly without its famous star.
14 Earthworm Jim
I don’t know about you, but I never quite got behind the idea of a superhero earthworm. I get that we’re being a little quirky, a little out there with this, but the whole plotline of powersuits falling from the sky and Princess Slug-For-A-Butt didn’t do very much for me.
The game is certainly a varied, toilet humor-amundo, surreal adventure (dropping a refrigerator onto a seesaw to launch a cow into the air is something you just have to respect), but it’s way overhyped for my taste. Returning to the game today, you’ll likely pause midway through bungee jumping on strings of snot in the Snot a Problem level. You’ll pause, and you’ll wonder how you and your buddies ever giggled Beavis and Butt-Head style along with this.
13 Donkey Kong Country
For so many gamers, visuals are everything. Many quality 2D pixel art games are passed over because they aren’t flashy looking enough, don’t pack enough teraflops, don’t have a fast enough 0-60 and can’t make your breakfast for you in the morning. I shed a single nerdly little tear whenever I see this happen, like that crying Indian who hates our littering.
I see a little of this in effect with Donkey Kong Country. It’s not a bad platformer by any means, absolutely not, but its reputation is sometimes skewed by how undeniably gorgeous it is. In terms of level design and gameplay, some see the sequels as far superior, with the original not doing anything particularly innovative in the context of the genre at the time.
12 Super Castlevania IV
I’m a huge Castlevania buff. I really am. There’s something about the series’ macabre stylings that tickles my soul in all the right ways, whether we’re talking the original action platformers or the later Metroidvania offerings. But if there’s one thing I can’t quite understand about the series, it’s the reputation that Super Castlevania IV seems to have.
Fellow fans often rate this as among the series’ best and I don’t quite see that. The visuals, while impressive in a Mode-7-out-the-wazzoo early SNES sort of way, are a little shonky in terms of the series’ tone, I always think. The difficulty leaves a lot to be desired too, in my book. Incidentally, if you look in my book, you’ll find a chapter titled ‘8-Way Whip? What the Hell is This Crazy Talk? Not In My Freaking Lifetime You Don’t. Stop That BS Right Now, Castlevania.’
11 Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Compared to a lot of entries on this list, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is in a bit of an odd position. It wasn’t a big commercial success, but it has a hugely dedicated cult following. These guys would follow it into the gates of Hell armed only with a pocket knife and a particularly sharp toenail if the game asked, such is their fanaticism. As such, you could rate ZAMN as underrated or overrated, depending on your point of view.
As for myself, I’m very much in the latter camp. A run and gun title seeing you eviscerate waves of the undead with weed whackers and explosive soda cans sounds like a winner, and I do appreciate the humor, but hot damn is the game frustrating. Later enemies are cheaper than penny chews (when they used to cost a penny, you understand, not nowadays when you have to sell both kidneys and sacrifice your firstborn child to Beelzebub for a pack), and it’s completely chock-full of cheesy clichés. Nostalgia is a huge factor in this one’s popularity, I’d say.
10 Super Mario Kart
I know, friends. I can feel the heat emanating from that bulging vein on your temple. It feels almost blasphemous to say this, but I can’t live a lie any longer. I, a dedicated retro gamer, find Super Mario Kart awful to play today.
Sure, this was the game that launched a spangly new genre all its own, and inspired everyone from Crash Bandicoot to the Crazy freaking Frog to star in their own kart racer. It demands respect. The sad fact is, though, it feels quite primitive in the context of the series today, primitive in more ways than just it’s-a-25-year-old-game-so-you-can’t-rag-on-it-for-that. The vicious difficulty of those CPU rivals (Bowser really does want to smash into your kart and send your entrails splattering across the asphalt, you can see it in his eyes), the awkward handling… It’s a hugely important title, there’s no denying, but it’s one that can be a little disappointing to revisit. Oh, nostalgia.
These days, Earthbound is nothing short of iconic, mythical. To hear some gamers tell it, a sighting of an Earthbound cartridge is as rare and celebrated an event as taking a walk in the woods and happening across a yeti, a unicorn and Jimmy Hoffa having a threesome.
The rarity of the game, the years of petitions and internet bitching for its release in other territories, only contributed to its legend. A reputation like that is a double-edged sword whichever way you slice it. How can you possibly live up to hype of that magnitude? It’s a unique, interesting and often batcrap crazy RPG, but is it objectively worthy of its pedestal among true genre greats? I’d think twice about that. The hype train is a powerful, powerful force.
8 Demon's Crest
Demon’s Crest protagonist Firebrand (Red Arremer in the Japanese version) was first seen in Ghosts n’ Goblins, beating on Sir Arthur and leaving him running about in his undercrackers like a terrifying ginger streaker. At some point, the little red demon outgrew that sort of thing and got his own little series of titles.
Gargoyle’s Quest for the original chunky-ass Game Boy was definitely my jam. When it came to Demon’s Quest in 1994, though, I wasn’t so convinced. Something about the game didn’t sit right with me and still doesn’t. It’s the flying mechanic that detracts from the experience; being able to bypass much of the level’s enemies and such makes Jack a dull boy. Revisiting the same crop of stages repeatedly didn’t do much for the experience either.
7 Secret of Mana
The Mana games have an impressive pedigree behind them. Square-developed Final Fantasy spin-offs, you say? Sure, don’t freaking mind if I do. Genre fans are likely to eat that up like obscure optional superbosses with seventeen trillion HP.
1993’s Secret of Mana was the first of the series (or the second, really, depending on how much of a pernickety smartass you want to be today). While well regarded, and rightly so, it seems –like Earthbound-- to be rated right up there with the best of the best, punching just a little above its weight. It is a flawed title, with inconsistent difficulty and a plot as easy to follow as a Romanian soap opera with no subtitles. While you’re drunk. And the TV’s off. It starts out in a standard RPG sort of way, with three heroes fighting to save the world from the forces of a tyrannical empire, but soon gets all kinds of shonky.
6 The 7th Saga
Next up, an RPG from the other side of the Square Enix collaboration. Enix’s The 7th Saga hit the console in 1993 and was among the most innovative titles the genre had seen at the time. The USP here is that the player chooses from seven playable characters, and sets off on a quest to acquire seven magical runes. Nothing too special there, you’d think, except for the Dan Brown style crap-your-undercrackers-twist: The remaining six possible characters are simultaneously on separate quests for them too. You meet them along the way, team up with them in certain battles and must even fight the traitor among them when they betray you.
For all of these unique aspects, The 7th Saga has itself quite a following in the community. It’s tough for any, but the most hardcore RPG fan to forgive its INCESSANT GODDAMN BATTLES and bizarre mind-mangling puzzles, though.
5 Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat is another unique sort of case where this list’s concerned. The core spine-rippin,’ pancreas-pummelin’ gameplay of the series is pretty darn great, I think we can all agree on that. If you’ve never shredded your enemies’ bodies into spam using your creepy spike-arms, you’ve never lived, my friend. Mortal Kombat isn’t overrated, per se, it’s rated exactly as it should be.
The SNES port specifically, however, is worthy of precisely none of that praise. Nintendo, being the family friendly sun-shines-out-of-everyone’s-butts sort of guys that they are, tend to heavily censor certain aspects of games that are ported to their systems. As such, the Mortal Kombat that hit the SNES was a sorry shadow of its former glory, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career. Sad, sad times. Also, the controls were horrendous.
4 Kirby's Dream Land 3
By 1997, Kirby had built himself quite a reputation in the platforming business. The NES’s Kirby’s Adventure was a debut that rivalled true greats like the original Sonic the Hedgehog and the two Dream Land titles that hit the Game Boy get seventeen thumbs up from me for sure. I wasn’t so sure about the third in the series, though.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 arrived late in the SNES’s lifespan and was a perfectly functional and enjoyable title for the manplum-mimicking mascot’s many fans. My issue with the game was that it seemed very sluggishly-paced, and dare I say kind of uninspired. Nintendo do have a reputation for recycling and rebranding what works and. in that sense, I can’t help but feel that Kirby’s SNES swansong could have been a little more creative.
Now, once again, I have so many fond memories of Pilotwings. In the wild, super hardcore, check-me-out-I-need-a-specialized-joystick-controller-because-I’m-impenetrable-as-hell genre that is the flight sim, Pilotwings was comforting, friendly and familiar. It’s the video game equivalent of visits to grandma’s house, just without the cookies and general stench of old person.
While a lot of fun, and so very Nintendo, Pilotwings struggles with a lack of content. You work your way up through increasingly difficult stages as you earn pilot licenses and try out a range of vehicles, but it’s just not enough. There’s a real waft of tech demo about it, which is the exact same issue I had with the 3DS’s Pilotwings Resort. It didn’t quite live up to its potential in my eyes, which is a real shame.
2 Mega Man X3
Now, you wouldn’t think that you could ever draw parallels between the Kirby and Mega Man titles, but that’s what I’m about to do in front of your faces right now. Buckle up, ladies and gents, because Mega Man X3 has made the list for much of the same damn reasons that Kirby’s Dream Land 3 did.
Much as I enjoy both titles, I see them as kind of uninspired compared to what came before. Every pixel of a Mega Man stage is supposed to be trying to kill you, to crush your hopes and dreams into the muddy, muddy ground and bring shame onto your entire family. It’s a Mega Man game, that’s just how things work around here. X3’s levels, by contrast, were really long and quite plodding, with lots of empty spaces. I found this one quite a slog as a result.
1 Star Fox
I know, I feel your pain too. A lot of these entries have been tough as hell to write, but this one? This really smarts. It’s that special kind of agony you get from stepping on Lego barefoot, only the Lego is made from my own disappointed childhood self wondering what in the name of hell I’m doing with my life.
Star Fox hit the console in 1993, the rail shooter that introduced Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi and the rest of the much-acclaimed gang. I’m sorry, Star Fox, I really am, but we need to talk, man to game cartridge. I know I’m blaspheming, but in my view, you’ve aged worse than most big iconic releases. I feel the weight of a million Slippy Toad slurs and barrel roll-related memes raining down upon me, but I find you virtually unplayable in the wake of Star Fox 64.