“Where’s Chrono Trigger?!”
The NES Classic Edition was a wildly popular console (in the short time it was available), so it comes as no surprise that Nintendo is back with the SNES Classic Edition, a 16-bit throwback console with 21 great games from the ’90s. While the list of games is shorter on the SNES compared to the NES, it’s arguably stronger, with explosive action games, cute Nintendo platformers, and epic-scale RPGs. The big shocker: the final version of the unreleased sequel Star Fox 2 will finally make its public debut.
There are a lot of reasons to get excited about the SNES Classic Edition, but as always, we’re never satisfied: what about our personal favorite games that didn’t make the cut? Not content to stew in silence, we’ve compiled a list of 11 games we wholeheartedly believe should have been included in the package, and the reasons they are not just good games, but classic SNES games.
The SNES Classic’s library is full of amazing titles, but they’re all relatively safe–fan favorites and ongoing franchises that have stood the test of time. Conversely, although the IP is all but dead, ActRaiser is a piece of gaming history that truly represents the experimental innovation that occurred in the SNES’s heyday. While there were plenty of action-platformers and a surprising number of top-down strategy games, ActRaiser was the only one that deftly combined the two genres–and it featured a frame story that positioned you as the creator and protector of the world who needed to appease his followers in order to gain more power.
ActRaiser did get a sequel three years later, though it eschewed the strategy element entirely. And outside of releases on the virtual console and mobile, the entire franchise has lain dormant. But this quirky mishmash deserved a spot on the SNES Classic. – Justin Haywald
The SNES was home to many beloved RPGs, including the charmingly odd Earthbound and, of course, Final Fantasy VI–both of which enjoy a spot on the list of games bundled inside the SNES Classic Edition. While you can’t point a finger at Nintendo for ignoring RPGs with its upcoming mini console, you can at least (politely) begrudge that Chrono Trigger won’t be coming along for the ride.
Chrono Trigger is regarded by many to be one of the best console RPGs ever made. It comprised an unusual (for the time) time-travel mechanic, a complex combat system that allowed you to strategically combine character abilities, and a memorable soundtrack–all of which remain valid reasons to play the game today, 22 years after its release. It also represents an interesting crossroads for Square and Enix, years before the two companies merged. Chrono Trigger was devised by the leaders of two competing RPG behemoths, Yuji Horii of Dragon Quest and Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy, with additional input from the creator of Dragon Ball (Akira Toriyama.) An interesting touchstone, and an all-around lovely game, Chrono Trigger absolutely deserves a spot in the SNES Classic Edition’s library. – Peter Brown
Earthworm Jim may not be as iconic as Mario and Sonic, but the game he hails from combined platforming and 2D gunplay in a fun and uniquely bizarre package. Developed by Shiny Entertainment and released for SNES in 1994, the premise is that a space suit crash lands onto earth and gives a normal earthworm superhuman strength.
Earthworm Jim used a cool art style coupled with excellent hand-drawn animations. Visually, the game has aged relatively well. It also featured some crazy bat-**** levels that brought you to a planet made of mucus and a stage where you’re navigating your way through intestines.
The original game was very challenging and featured particularly devilish boss battles. The gunplay allowed you to shoot in eight different directions, and the platforming allowed you to jump and swing from ledge to ledge using your earthworm head as the lasso. Earthworm Jim also featured some simple but “groovy” voice acting. The game spawned three sequels and a children’s cartoon show, and deserves to be played if you’re a fan of ’90s-style platformers. – Jimmy Thang
Final Fantasy II (IV)
I know, I know, the SNES Classic Edition is already full of genre-defining RPGs. And if there were room for only one Final Fantasy game, it should 100% be Final Fantasy III. But storage is cheap, and Nintendo certainly could have squeezed a few more amazing games into the console’s chassis. So if I could choose another RPG after FFIII (and Earthbound…and Chrono Trigger), it would be Final Fantasy II.
While the original Final Fantasy captured the imagination of gamers on the NES, Final Fantasy II upended the entire genre. The focus on intersecting narratives and human drama elevated RPGs–which had to this point primarily focused on streamlining their combat systems–and made them more about telling interesting, engaging stories. Kain, Cecil, Rosa…FFII was the birthplace of so many iconic characters, and it’s an experience still worth enjoying today (or at least after those other RPGs I mentioned). – Justin Haywald
As incredible as the SNES Classic Edition’s library is, it’s largely devoid of sports games, save for mini-golf (Kirby’s Dream Course) and boxing (Super Punch-Out). While the NES Classic Edition included Tecmo Bowl, the SNES Classic leaves out its platform’s most iconic sports game: NBA Jam. It’s a game that was just plain, old-fashioned fun–2-on-2 basketball where players catch on fire when they’re doing well, knock each other down to steal the ball, and generally ignore NBA rules, making for an incredibly entertaining experience.
The basketball game’s appeal extended even to non-basketball fans–its arcade-style gameplay is approachable and doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of the real-world sport. Add in the over-the-top commentary (boomshakalaka!) and multiplayer-friendly nature of the game, and NBA Jam was seemingly tailor-made for inclusion as an SNES Classic release. Licensing issues may be to blame, but whatever the reason, its absence is an especially notable and disappointing one. – Chris Pereira
Pilotwings isn’t a Nintendo property that gets a lot of love these days, but when the SNES debuted, the original Pilotwings was an impressive game that offered a lot of variety in a single package. Under the guise of earning various pilot’s licenses, you were thrust into the cockpits of planes, into the harness of a skydiving parachute, and even buckled into a jetpack. Each scenario presented unique controls and objectives, but it was the intuitive and thoughtful controls that made the experience a pleasure, even when you failed repeatedly while perfecting your piloting techniques.
A game about learning how to pilot various contraptions doesn’t sound exciting, but the use of the SNES’s Mode 7 feature gave Pilotwings’ environments a sense of depth that was unparalleled in console gaming at the time. It was easy to respect the work Pilotwings did to differentiate the SNES from the competition, and it’s disappointing to hear that it won’t be a part of the SNES Classic Edition. – Peter Brown
The SNES was one of many consoles that brought an arcade experience to the living room. These ports were seldom ever “arcade perfect,” but SNES games like Super R-Type had selling points beyond its similarities to their arcade counterparts. Part port, part remix, Super R-Type took four stages from R-Type II and introduced three new areas. As a result, it has managed to stand the test of time even with the availability of arcade-perfect ports of R-Type II on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.
Much of Super R-Type’s appeal is how well it retains the original game’s engaging weapon system. Some weapon pick-ups are more useful than others in specific situations and environments, and one way of mastering an R-Type game is knowing when to use a specific armament and where to obtain it. This also speaks to Super R-Type’s high difficulty, which would have complemented the equally challenging Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, a game that has been confirmed for the SNES Classic. – Miguel Concepcion
The Legend of Mystical Ninja
Is there a more quintessentially Japanese game than The Legend of the Mystical Ninja? Set in a medieval-inspired Japan and starring a hero based loosely on the hero/outlaw Goemon (though localized as Kid Ying here in America), Mystical Ninja was a genuinely fun beat-em-up with RPG elements.
The game is included in the Japanese version of the SNES Classic Edition, which includes a few other different games western version of the console. But Mystical Ninja would’ve been a great choice for the US just to show how prevalent (and excellent) Japanese game development was in the early days of Nintendo’s system. – Justin Haywald
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4: Turtles in Time
The biggest omissions from the SNES Classic’s library are arcade-style beat-em-ups, and few games embody that genre more perfectly than the Turtles games. With the advent of the SNES, kids could feel like they had arcade-quality graphics right in their home, and they could play through punishing brawlers without fear of losing an embarrassing number of quarters. And TMNT 4: Turtles in Time was the epitome of that arcade experience.
Although it’s listed as the fourth game, this was the direct follow-up to the original TMNT arcade game from 1987 (there just happened to be a load of other TMNT games that came out for the original NES in the preceding years). The simple cartoony graphics still hold up today, but the thing that makes the game a standout are the wide array of settings and time periods–a big upgrade from the previous game. With iconic enemies, great music, and, of course, plenty of pizza power-ups, Turtles in Time is the kind of nostalgia trip that belongs on a console like the SNES Classic. – Justin Haywald
By the time U.N. Squadron was released, the Super NES had been out for less than a month in the US. It was already the third side-scrolling shooter in a console library that–by that point–only had 11 games. If one of the goals of the Nintendo Classic consoles is to impart some sense of historical significance, the impact of side-scrolling shooters during the SNES’s first year is a glaring omission. The closest thing the Super NES Classic has is Contra III, which is a run-and-gun shooter.
A horizontal-scrolling shooter, U.N. Squadron was a significant design departure for Capcom, which had been known for its vertical-scrolling shooters set during World War II. It also offered a level of gameplay depth not found in many prior shooters. Not only could you select one of three fighter planes, you could make minor weapon customizations, driven by an in-game economy based on how many planes you shot down. The remarkable thing about this feature is how it perfectly ties in with the gun-for-hire premise of Area 88, the manga series U.N. Squadron is based on. – Miguel Concepcion
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
While many people consider Street Fighter the pinnacle of fighting games on Super Nintendo, it was the Mortal Kombat series–and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in particular–that first pulled me into the genre. It was undoubtedly the violence that caught my attention as an adolescent, but what kept me playing was the large, varied roster and stellar mechanics, which felt approachable even to me as a fighting game novice. Yes, the SNES version was neutered in several ways, with elements cut in favor of toning down the violence, but its core experience is still among the best on the platform.
Even with the toned-down violence, the intrinsically violent nature of the game likely precluded its inclusion on the SNES Classic. Nintendo has shied away from Mature-rated games for its Classic Edition consoles, so it’s not terribly surprising to see UMK3 left out of this package, which can now be safely marketed as a gift for the whole family. Still, it is a missed opportunity to round out the fighting game portion of the SNES Classic’s library, which will now have to make do with only Street Fighter and Punch-Out. – Chris Pereira