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December 14, 2017
50 Years Later: What We Can Take From ‘Valley of the Dolls’
December 14, 2017

The Super NES was a stellar step forward for consoles — and arguably the finest machine Nintendo has ever produced — but what many often forget is that while Nintendo was releasing some of the most influential and important video games ever made on that system, they were also still developing games for both the NES and the Game Boy. What follows is the 1990s, a decade that brought us such gems as Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, Earthbound and countless other classics.

Part Two: 1990 – 1995

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SNES30) Pilot Wings
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
Release: JP: December 21, 1990 / NA: August 23, 1991
Genre(s) Amateur flight simulation

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, which 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 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)

31) Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Producer(s) Tokuro Fujiwara
Designer(s) Masayoshi Kurokawa
Platform(s) NES, PlayChoice-10
Release: JP: June 8, 1990 / NA: June 1990
Genre(s) Platforming

Long before they were managing the Gummi ships in Kingdom Hearts, Chip and Dale fought to thwart the evil schemes of Fat Cat in Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. Based on the 1989 Disney animated series of the same name, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is a cooperative side-scrolling platformer developed by Capcom in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Unlike Super Mario Bros, Chip ‘n Dale opted for both players to simultaneously run through each level, with the first player taking control of Chip, while leaving player two to use Dale. This allows for the players to interact with each other and the environment in unique ways. Often when navigating difficult platforming sections, the easiest solution is to have one player pick up the other and ferry them across, but this also allows for hilarious moments when communication between the two players breaks down and you’re left wishing you had more acorns (lives). Chip ‘n Dale features a low-risk friendly-fire mechanic, in which players can accidentally stun each other with thrown objects, providing the game with an added difficulty, as one has to navigate past enemies, obstacles, and not-so-friendly friendly projectiles. While these projectiles won’t actually harm the other player, the two-second stun usually leaves them open to enemy attacks or environmental hazards.

Featuring ten creative levels, each with memorable bosses such as the angry owl or the green spaceship, Chip ‘n Dale attempts to blend Super Mario and Mega Man gameplay into an original Disney masterpiece. With fluid gameplay and a lovely level design, Chip ‘n Dale manages to hold up to the high standard of current games, despite that it is almost 30 years old. No longer exiled to the NES, players can now pick up Chip ‘n Dale on the Xbox and PlayStation as a part of the Disney Afternoon Collection released this year. (Ryan Kapioski)

32) Mega Man 3
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) NES/Famicom
Release: September 28, 1990
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Released less than a year after Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3 is a more ambitious game than it’s predecessors — perhaps to a fault. Certain areas have so much happening on screen that the NES hardware simply couldn’t handle it, and the game would slow to a crawl, making it nearly impossible to complete. But as it turns out, it isn’t the NES hardware; Mega Man 3 has the same issues on the virtual console, proving the game designers rushed the product out too soon. The result is disappointing, since Mega Man 3 is still a great game, albeit a frustrating one. With that small nit out of the way, Keiji Inafune and his team of developers still crafted an evolutionary installment in that it took the foundation of the series and expanded upon it. Adding new characters such as Proto Man and Mega Man’s faithful canine companion Rush — along with new gameplay mechanics such as the excellent and useful slide technique, a greater number of more detailed and challenging levels, and some memorable foes — Mega Man 3 has everything Mega Man 2 has, and more. Fans of the blue bomber can argue which game is the best in the series, but there’s no denying that Mega Man 3 is one of the all-time greats. (Ricky D)

200GreatestNintendoGames33) Super Mario World
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
Release: JP: 21 November 1990 / NA: 13 August 1991
Genre(s) Platforming

If you were one of those kids in the early ’90s who was lucky enough to wake up to a Super Nintendo under your Christmas tree, then you know all about Super Mario World. This was the game that was flashing all over your TV commercials in between episodes of Darkwing Duck and The Ren & Stimpy Show. Bright colors! Loud noises! Holy crap, is that plumber riding a dinosaur!?!

Yes, unsurprisingly, Super Mario World was a pretty big deal back in 1991. What is surprising, however, is just how big of a deal this game still is today. Over 25 years later, you can still pop in your SMW cartridge and have a blast. That’s the kind of staying power that cannot be overstated. You can really just break it down to some utterly impeccable game design. The way Mario moves and the timing of the jumps in Super Mario World creates a perfect balance of a rising challenge that meets the player’s growing repertoire of skills again and again as the game progresses. The introduction of elements like ghost houses (with multiple exits), a map that grew and expanded all the time, and of course everyone’s favorite over-eating dinosaur, made Super Mario World truly feel different than everything which had come before it.

Looking back, even all of these years later, it’s no stretch to say that this is maybe the best game in the entire series. Not only that, but you’ll get no argument if you bring Super Mario World up in a conversation about the best games of all time. (Mike Worby)

BestNintendoGames34) F-Zero
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
Release: JP: November 21, 1990 / NA: August 23, 1991
Genre(s) Racing

F-Zero was one of the original North American launch titles for the SNES. Set in the year 2560, the game revolves around a racing circuit known as F-Zero, which is financed by multi-billionaires who profit from human civilization’s expansion into the cosmos.

Even after all these years, it remains remarkably impressive from a purely visual standpoint. Critics lauded F-Zero for its fast and challenging gameplay, variety of tracks, and the Mode 7 rotational and scaling effects — which were relatively new back in 1990. Although the N64 sequel would add more racers and the ability to use a spin attack on your rivals, the SNES original set a standard for the racing genre, and laid down the blueprint for Super Mario Kart, which would emerge from Nintendo’s labs not long after.

From the tight controls and perfect sound effects to the fantastic music and the impeccable course design, F-Zero reinvigorated the genre and inspired the future creation of numerous racing games — not to mention, the game also introduced Captain Falcon/The Blue Falcon, Dr. Stuart/The Golden Fox, Pico/Wild Goose, and Samurai Goroh/Fire Stingray. (Ricky D)

Street Fighter II SNES35) Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Arcade / SNES
Release: February 1991
Genre(s) Fighting

Though people will often cite other games as kicking off the popularity of the fighting game genre, the impact of Street Fighter II cannot be overlooked. Sure, there were other fighting games that came first, but Street Fighter II was the first game that executed it well. Capcom’s groundbreaking game became a cultural phenomenon, and single-handedly sparked a resurgence in the arcade in the early 90s. Street Fighter II set up the blueprint of the modern fighting games, and opened the doors for a spate of competitors such as Mortal Kombat and Tekken to follow in its wake. It was a massive success for Capcom, selling more than 60,000 cabinets worldwide (a record for the time), and it completely changed the video game industry.

Like most popular arcade games of the time, Street Fighter II inevitably made its way to home consoles. Given Capcom’s publishing history and relationship with Nintendo, it was first ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The SNES adaptation is probably one of the best arcade-to-console ports in history, and despite some minor changes to the graphics and audio (in order to fit into the cartridge), the port is extremely faithful to the original. It became one of the console’s best sellers, and was so successful that Capcom just kept releasing more versions of it. From 1991 to 1994, there were five adaptations of Street Fighter II, and by 1995 the game had been played by at least 25 million Americans in homes and arcades, while the gross revenues of the console and arcade versions had exceeded $2.312 billion, making it Capcom’s best-selling single consumer game software at the time.

Street Fighter II set a standard, popularized the genre, and set off a renaissance for the arcade game industry in the early 1990s. At the time it was groundbreaking, and decades later it stands the test of time that any gamer, no matter what age, can enjoy. (Ricky D)

36) Actraiser
Developer(s) Quintet
Publisher(s) Enix
Platform(s) Super NES, mobile phone, Wii Virtual Console
Release: JP: December 16, 1990 / NA: November 1991
Genre(s) Platforming, City-building, Simulation

ActRaiser was one of the first games to hit store shelves following the launch of the SNES in North America, and it was also one of the first games to really show off the capabilities of the console. The graphics demonstrated the system’s ability to push rich 16-bit colors and multi-layered backgrounds, while Yuzo Koshiro’s emotionally evocative musical score is often regarded as one of the best of the era.

ActRaiser received a considerable amount of praise for successfully blending two genres seamlessly, being both an action-platformer and a city builder. The mix of the two was not always a success, but the contrasting differences between the two genres added to the appeal of the game. Twenty-five years later and I still have yet to see a game similar to it, and even today ActRaiser holds up extremely well. (Ricky D)

Zelda37) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Game Boy Advance
Release November 21, 1991
Genre(s) Action-adventure

How many tales have been told about players popping in A Link to the Past only to be blown away by the game’s opening, an ominous start that begins with a psychic warning of danger, continues through a nighttime thunderstorm, and ends with the death of Link’s uncle and the rescue of Princess Zelda (so soon!) from her imprisonment? Younger gamers may get sick of hearing it, but the reason these moments and something as simple as rain stand out in the minds of those who experienced it at the time is because they were revolutionary, the start of a powerful new kind of storytelling in both Zelda and video games in general. Never before had we seen something set such a cinematic mood as those streaking droplets illuminated by flashes of lightning, and from then on a standard was set that would see games, for better or for worse, pay more attention to narrative.

But those atmospheric and still-gorgeous 16-bit visuals would have meant nothing if the game wasn’t backed up with an outstanding adventure at its core, and A Link to the Past‘s gameplay and puzzle-solving is where this turning point in the series still really shines. Swinging the sword felt infinitely better than the unsatisfying butter knife that Link wielded in his prior quest, and the various items and weapons acquired throughout were used far more frequently and cleverly. And while the previous entries in the franchise had certainly made their mark with different sorts of takes on exploring the land and battling enemies, it wasn’t until A Link to the Past that the formula and feel that would define the series henceforth would finally come together. Puzzle-solving became the way to progress through dungeons, the idea of dual worlds or parallel dimensions came into play, and suddenly there were tons of empty bottles to be discovered, including from a guy under a bridge who has an abnormal friendship with birds.

Out of the entire franchise, I’ve easily played A Link to the Past as much as all the others combined, as its efficient pacing and beautiful world are a comfortable joy to return to, where I (unbelievably) keep noticing new surprises each time I take up the Master Sword. (Patrick Murphy)

38) Final Fantasy Adventure
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release: JP: June 28, 1991 / NA: November 1991
Genre(s) Action, Role-playing

At the time, Final Fantasy Adventure was not a typical example of the series, which was just beginning its eventual skyrocket in popularity. Its battles are real-time instead of turn-based, there’s a singular protagonist instead of a party system (though some NPCs do sometimes temporarily join up), and enemies appear on screen — not through those often annoying random encounters. Outwardly it seems more like a Zelda title, and that may have been the thought, but its sense of the tragic as a motivating force for storytelling is SquareSoft all the way, and this aspect it what makes it truly excel. The Hero (named by the player, providing instant connection and eliminating the need for heavy backstory) is a classic cosmic punching bag; he starts out in a bad way, endures loss after loss, only to be told that every sacrifice forced upon him is necessary for the good of all mankind. Not good for him, mind you, but in service of everyone else. No, the Hero’s role is that of a reluctant martyr, someone for whom friendship is impossible because everyone he likes dies a horrible death. Despite his incredibly awesome hair, happiness is never meant to be, because this stupid thing called “fate” says so.

The simple sword-swinging, spell-casting action works well (and would serve as inspiration for Secret of Mana), and the land is vast for a Gameboy title, but it’s the brutal world and themes that make this title stand out to those who played it. There’s a melancholy air permeating every quest, one that ensures no completely happy ending awaits. Final Fantasy Adventure keeps things real, so if you’re not being attacked by any number of beasts inhabiting the forest, frozen in place by a sorceress monster, mocked by ageist kids because you can’t swing a sword like you used to, or turned into a parrot because of your wonderful singing voice, then your town is probably under attack by the evil Glaive Empire, who have no problem razing everything you care about to the ground. So, you know, have a nice life. It’s an epic adventure on a small scale, still memorable to this day. (Patrick Murphy)

39) Final Fantasy IV
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: July 19, 1991
Genre(s) Role-playing

Final Fantasy is a series with a long and storied history among both gamers and fantasy fans, and while every game in the mainline series has its proponents and detractors, Final Fantasy IV is the first game in the series to be truly hailed as a classic. With a vast and diverse cast of characters, a sprawling narrative, an epic quest, and a number of series firsts (including the legendary Active Time Battle system), FFIV is one of the games that is regularly brought up in both the conversation for the best Final Fantasy title, as well as one of the best RPGs of all time.

Though it would later be one-upped in almost every conceivable way by Final Fantasy VI, the story of a dark knight finding the light and leading a rebellion against his own homeland still holds up remarkably well all of these many years later. Whether played in the form of the original SNES cartridge or in the fully fledged Nintendo DS remake, Final Fantasy IV is well worth the price of admission, and is truly an unforgettable adventure. (Mike Worby)

40) Super Castlevania IV
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: October 31, 1991 / NA: December 4, 1991
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

It’s hard to talk about the Castlevania franchise without bringing up Super Castlevania lV. Taking everything that worked from the NES titles and throwing out everything that didn’t, this 1991 masterpiece’s challenging gameplay and gorgeous visuals easily earn it a spot on this list. The soundtrack is also one of the best in the series, with tunes ranging from haunting melodies to catchy rock-influenced tracks.

lV also represents the first huge gameplay change in the series. Simon could now lash his whip in eight directions, which made for much better platforming and combat. Deaths were much less frustrating than in previous titles because of the amount of control the player had over Simon. Graphically, there aren’t many prettier games on the console. Sprites are large, detailed, and gruesome looking, with huge bosses looking especially impressive on the new hardware. Fan favorites like Death and Dracula make their return along with a host of new monsters that are bound to offer up a fierce challenge.

What’s more impressive about this SNES classic is that it’s still just as fun to play today as it was in 1991. The gameplay enhancements prevent it from feeling old and stiff like the first entry in the series. Super Castlevania lV really is an improvement in every sense of the term, and it certainly set the bar high for future titles in the series. (Zack Rezak)

41) Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Platform(s) Super NES, Game Boy Advance
Release: JP: October 04, 1991 / NA: November 28, 1991
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Unlike the 8-bit generation, there were only a few games released on the SNES that became infamous for their vicious and unrelenting difficulty, and 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 it is such a great game. Its 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)

42) Contra III: The Alien Wars
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: February 28, 1992
Genre(s) Action

Set in the year 2636, the alien invaders that were defeated during the previous Contra installments have returned and launched a full-scale attack against mankind. The Alien Wars was the fourth Contra game to come to the States, after Contra and Super C on the NES, and Operation C on the Game Boy. While previous Contra games drew inspiration from action movies like Rambo, Contra III features a host of Hollywood blockbuster references, including enemies who appear straight out of an early James Cameron film (Terminator, Aliens). Replacing the jungle-themed levels is a post-apocalyptic metropolis overrun by alien invaders, and the identities of Bill and Lance (the original Contra heroes), were swapped with their descendants Jimbo and Sully. The power of the Super NES allowed for better graphics, enhanced sound, and unique new spins on the classic run-and-gun gameplay, bringing it closer to the quality of their arcade counterparts.

The level design is more complex and the players are more flexible — able to grab on to poles or ceilings, climb walls and ladders, grapple up walls and somersault through the air. The player can also shoot in eight possible directions without. In addition, the levels in The Alien Wars involve two Mode 7-enabled top-view stages. The Contra series has always been known for its difficulty, begging even the most practiced of gamers to cheat, but Konami used every trick up its sleeve to make Contra III: The Alien Wars the ultimate SNES shooter. Contra III is arguably the best installment in the series, a game which plays like an 80s big budget Hollywood film, with action that is just as fast and furious. (Ricky D)

43) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Platform(s) Arcade, Super NES
Release: JP: July 24, 1992 / NA: August 1992
Genre(s) Beat ’em up

Based on the original 1987 TNMT animated series, Turtles in Time is a side-scrolling beat’em up for the SNES. The game takes you (as the name implies) back through time, as you battle Shredder’s foot army and get back the Statue of Liberty, which Krang stole. The game produced so many fun moments, such as surfing in a sewer while battling reptiles, fighting our favorite classic Saturday mornings cartoon villains like Bebop and Rocksteady, and ultimately facing Krang himself in the Technodrome.

Another memorable aspect would have to be the soundtrack. The music is so upbeat that it lent itself well to the action, and even had the “Pizza Power” song from the TMNT live concert! (It could be just me that realized that fact or even remembered that there was a time where there was a live concert tour.) Anyhow, Turtles in Time is probably the best game the series ever produced, and a classic to anyone, certainly everyone who grew up as a kid in the 90’s. (Aaron Santos)

44) Kirby’s Dream Land
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release:  JP: April 27, 1992 / NA: August 1, 1992
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Kirby’s debut, though he’s changed a lot as time has gone on. This black and white version on the Game Boy doesn’t really show how much, but on the boxart Kirby is white, as opposed to the pink complexion he is today. That said, Kirby’s Dream Land started the franchise in such an adorable manner that it’s impossible to dislike Kirby.

Before King Dedede became an ally in the more recent Kirby games, he was quite the gluttonous villain, stealing food from Dream Land, as well the as sparking stars to obtain more food. Kirby decides to go forth and defeat King Dedede to retrieve the food and stars — quite the standard storyline, but implemented so effectively that it remains one of the best games on the Game Boy.

Kirby’s Dream Land consists of five levels, each one made up up of a series of rooms connected by large doors, some doors leading to secret areas. Kirby’s main method of attack is to inhale enemies, which he then can exhale as a projectile missile. Kirby can also fly indefinitely, but is vulnerable to attack. The ability to fly really opens up each room and turns the side-scrolling into not just left and right, but also up and down. The formula for Kirby’s Dream Land was ultimately simple, and the game is typically easy, which made it a fantastic title for those new to Nintendo. The franchise would ultimately become more complex, but its origins should never be forgotten. (James Baker)

45) Mario Paint
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1 / Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: July 14, 1992 / NA: August 1, 1992
Genre(s) Art tool

In an age where so much of the gaming world now exists online, it’s hard to believe that the idea of applying a computer interface to console gaming began more than 25 years ago with Mario Paint. Played primarily with an included mouse peripheral, Mario Paint challenged kids to create their own fun by giving them access to a simple suite of artistic tools, as well as a couple of mini-games.

Though in this day and age, where everyone has a computer with Microsoft Paint pre-installed, a game like this might sound like a bit of a rip-off, back in 1992 computers were very expensive, and were not necessarily affordable for many households. For kids in those families (of which this writer was one), a game like Mario Paint allowed for endless creativity and fun. From coloring book-esque fill-in pages to a pallet which could be cleansed and re-made whenever the player got bored, Mario Paint is a game where the only limit is the depth of your imagination, and for a kid that is a truly powerful feeling. (Mike Worby)

GreatestNintendoGames46) Super Mario Kart
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: JP: August 27, 1992 / NA: September 1, 1992
Genre(s) Kart racing

In 1992 there weren’t a lot of choices for racing fans on consoles. The best racing games were in arcade cabinets or relegated to the PC, with a few exceptions that weren’t very good. As they often did back in those days, Nintendo sought to remedy this by deciding to put their entire weight on the project when they made it a Mario-branded title. As a result, not only is Super Mario Kart one of the best SNES games, but one of the best and most important racing games of all time.

First was it’s (for the time) impressive graphics, making use of the graphics model known as Mode 7. This used a variety of scaling methods to give the game a faux-3D look, which is perfect for a racing game. Even more impressive was that Super Mario Kart allowed for two-player split-screen gameplay, something that was still in its infancy at the time, which meant that you and a friend could go head-to-head against the game’s AI.

While all of this was impressive, it’s not what made Super Mario Kart fun. That came from the wacky nature of the game, a complete tonal shift from any other racing game. The levels were based on the Mushroom Kingdom, and featured things like piranha plants, goombas, and thwomps blocking your path. Then there’s the famous items, consumable power-ups you could use to slow down your opponents and give you an edge. All of this added up to a seriously enjoyable experience, and one that really managed to withstand the test of time. (Andrew Vandersteen)

47) Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins
Developer(s) Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release: JP: October 21, 1992 / NA: November 2, 1992
Genre(s) Platforming

Does the introduction of Mario’s crude, demented nemesis need any more reason to be on this list? Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins gave Nintendo fans their first sour taste of the crookedly-mustached Wario, something for which we shall always be thankful, but it also succeeds magnificently at standing out among the franchise’s platforming greatness. Though a straight-up sequel, this Gameboy classic takes more inspiration from Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, with the more familiar cartoonish visuals, the ability to move both left and right, an overworld, and multiple paths to and through each level. The look and feel is so stark from its predecessor that it’s hard to relate the two, but a semblance of plot involves Wario having usurped Mario’s throne (?) while Sarasaland was being saved, brainwashing the loyal subjects of the Mushroom Kingdom’s hero in the process.

This bit of wackiness is only the start. For whatever reason, it seems like Nintendo’s development teams felt freed up by the Game Boy, reserving some of their strangest ideas for the portable versions of their popular series. Like with Link’s Awakening, the people working on Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins must have been a little loopy, somehow cool with devising a powerup that sees Mario grow a pair of rabbit ears that flap like wings, allowing for slower descents. There’s also an entire zone that takes place inside pumpkin, as well as another whose boss level occurs inside a sleeping whale, which is in turn located inside a giant turtle. It doesn’t get less bizarre. These sorts of left-field oddities, along with an abundance of nice touches showcasing an incredible attention to detail, makes the world extremely entertaining, all the way to that fight against Mario’s greasy, greedy foe. In a franchise known for its outlandish creativity, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins holds its own — more than just an ugly face. (Patrick Murphy)

48) Star Fox
Developer(s) Argonaut Software / Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) SNES
Release: JP: 21 February 1993 / NA: 26 March 1993
Genre(s) Rail shooter, Shoot ’em up

Known as Starwing in Europe, Star Fox was the first Nintendo title to feature three-dimensional graphics, thanks to the inclusion of the FX Chip — a small addition that allowed for 3D rendering. While Star Fox‘s graphics haven’t aged well (as is the case with most games with early 3D polygons) the game was, and perhaps still is, incredibly entertaining from start to finish.

The action unfolds across numerous stages, each taking place on different planet or sector of the Lylat solar system, as you pilot the now-iconic Arwing, battling Andross and his army. Along with the cast of memorable characters (Falco, Slippy, and Peppy) and tight controls, this rail shooter became a critical and commercial success, and jump-started a long-running Nintendo franchise. (Ricky D)

SecretofMana49) Secret of Mana
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: August 6, 1993
Genre(s) Action, Role-playing

As action-RPGs started to gain in popularity in the mid-90s, many game companies began cashing in on this new trend. Square (now Square Enix) developed and produced possibly the 2nd best of the 16-bit era: Secret of Mana, the sequel to the 1991 game Seiken Densetsu (released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure).

Although the storyline isn’t quite as epic as Square’s Final Fantasy series of games, the result is a visually stunning, highly original, action-packed role-playing title that’s become one of the most beloved RPGs ever created. Unlike its 16-bit contemporaries Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana is an active-time RPG — in other words, its battles take place in real time. This unique battle system is just one of the many reasons Mana is still recognized today as one of the best games ever made. It also offered another major breakthrough for the genre: Secret of Mana allows for up to three players to control your party members if you have the proper setup (the game cartridge, the system, three controllers and the SNES Super Multitap accessory).

Each character is distinctly individual, and all three of the characters must work together in order for the party to succeed. The game received considerable acclaim for its bright colorful graphics, expansive plot, its Ring Command menu system, and the incredible soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta. Squaresoft proved yet again that it is indeed one of the world’s master RPG makers. Following the releases of Sword of Mana on GBA, plus spin-offs Children of Mana and Heroes of Mana on DS, be sure to go back to the series’ roots and find out why Secret of Mana is so wonderful and charming. (Ricky D)

50) Super Bomberman
Developer(s) Produce!
Publisher(s) Hudson Soft
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: April 28, 1993 / NA: September 1993
Genre(s) Action, Maze

By now the Super Bomberman series is a franchise that every gamer has at least heard of, even if they’ve never played any of the many installments in the series. This classic multiplayer game features simple game mechanics, simple graphics, and a simple soundtrack, but it is arguably one of the best party titles ever released, creating a deeply addictive and competitive experience for everyone to enjoy. It was the first SNES game to feature a four-player option, and while most people say Super Bomberman 2 is the best of the bunch, my personal favorite resides in the original. Easy to pick up and play, and hard to put down, Super Bomberman stands the test of time. (Ricky D)

51) Kirby’s Adventure
Developer(s) HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) NES, Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: March 23, 1993 / NA: May 1, 1993
Genre(s) Action, Platforming

Though Kirby made his debut a year prior on the Game Boy, it was 1993’s Kirby’s Adventure on the NES that turned everybody’s favorite pink ball of love into a super-star. Kirby’s Adventure did more than expand on the simple charm of Kirby’s Dream Land; it was a groundbreaking platformer that famously introduced Kirby’s power-stealing ability, as well as vast environments full of hidden secrets. On its surface it seems like a relatively straight-forward platformer, but if you dig deeper, you”ll discover a brilliantly layered game with an abundance of hidden rooms, secret exits, and numerous side quests outside of the main platforming stages.

Kirby’s Adventure is one of those rare late-generation games that’s actually good. In fact, it’s better than good — it’s a late-NES masterpiece that earned Kirby a place as one of Nintendo’s gaming icons. At 6 Megabits, it is one of the largest games ever released for the NES, boasting fantastic audio design (every track being memorable), pseudo-3D backgrounds, and parallax scrolling. HAL Laboratory really went out of their way to create the visuals in this game, and the hard work paid off. It was awarded Best NES Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly, and earned a reputation for having the most impressive graphics on the system. Also noteworthy is the story: The Dream Spring, the source of all dreams, has dried up and now, everyone is subjected to their worst nightmares every time they go to sleep. It’s up to you to save the day! (Ricky D)

52) Shadowrun
Developer(s) Beam Software
Publisher(s) Data East
Platform(s) SNES
Release: NA: May 1993
Genre(s) Action, Role-playing

Based on a tabletop roleplaying game of the same name, Shadowrun was a hidden gem that stood out from its contemporaries thanks to its unique setting and real-time action gameplay. The world of Shadowrun borrows heavily from cyberpunk lore (think Neuromancer), and the atmosphere is heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic film Blade Runner. Set in a cyberpunk metropolis (a futuristic version of Seattle) during the year 2050, the story follows a crime-noir plot loosely based on the novel Never Deal With a Dragon, written by game creator Robert N. Charrette.

For a 16-bit game released in 1991, the plot is so thick that there’s enough here for a Netflix series. Mega-corporations rule over practically everything, hackers take over the planet, and magic spells, dragons, samurai, wizards, dwarves, elves, orcs, and trolls all coexist in the same city. You play as a man named Jake Armitage who has been gunned down in the game’s opening moments, only to awake somehow in a morgue — with amnesia. From there you fight vampires and zombies and anything else that stands in your way.

During the 16-bit era there were three Shadowrun games published for the SNES, Genesis, and Mega CD platforms. Each of them was made by completely separate developers and offer entirely different takes on the story, but the SNES version is often regarded as the very best of the bunch. The title’s unique setting and gameplay earned it critical success, but sadly it actually flopped commercially. Thankfully, after years of calls for remakes and sequels, a successful Kickstarter campaign resurrected the franchise with Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun Dragonfall. (Ricky D)

53) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Developer(s) Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy
Release: JP: June 6, 1993 / NA: August 1993
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the first portable title in the series, and is easily one of my personal favorites. It was the first Zelda title to make an attempt at exploring Link’s character beyond that of the boy called to action. For once, Link is not seeking to stop Ganon and save the princess, kingdom, or Triforce. Instead, his is a journey of self-discovery, led by a desire to leave the island of Koholint that he has been shipwrecked on. Much of Koholint is full of life, especially when compared to the desolate wasteland from the original Legend of Zelda and the horribly mangled Dark World of A Link to the Past. It’s a breath of fresh air, with plenty of different-looking areas and regions. Overall, the game’s aesthetics’ are great, and the story they present is something that was only ever (theoretically) tackled again once.

Link’s Awakening was also the first top-down Zelda to make use of jumping. While The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past both used pitfalls as ways to impede progress, they never had a clear answer to them. This time Link is granted the gift of jumping from an item called the Roc’s Feather, the very first dungeon item in the game. By combining Roc’s Feather with the Pegasus Boots, Link could clear even bigger gaps and jump over large obstacles. Link’s Awakening is an amazing Zelda title not only for its plethora of new ideas, but for also setting new benchmarks for later games in the series. (Taylor Smith)

54) Final Fantasy VI
Developer(s) Square
Publisher(s) Square
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: April 2, 1994
Genre(s) Role-playing

Though Final Fantasy VII is often cited as the game which changed Final Fantasy forever, a strong argument can be made for Final Fantasy VI as the proper bearer of such a title. Up to this point in the series, each of the installments had been placed in a decidedly medieval setting. From the jaw-dropping, pseudo-3D, opening moments of FFVI, it’s clear that all of that has changed. Mechs, firearms, and a variety of technologies that ride the line between science-fiction and steampunk all make their Final Fantasy debuts here.

This is also one of the series’ darkest entries, with characters who contemplate suicide, several major deaths, and an insanely malicious villain who actually succeeds completely in his horrifying plan by the game’s halfway point. With the largest and most diverse cast of the entire franchise, some haunting and emotional music from longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu, the best set of side-quests ever delivered, and a wildly intense final battle, Final Fantasy VI is without question a series standout. (Mike Worby)

55) Super Bomberman 2
Developer(s) Produce
Publisher(s) Hudson Soft
Platform(s) Super NES
Release: JP: April 28, 1994 /  NA: September 1994
Genre(s) Action, Puzzle
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

The Bomberman series is one of gaming’s quintessential examples of a simple premise done to perfection having lasting appeal. Playing Bomberman with friends requires such a low barrier of entry to the fun; the game can be played with just one button, after all, and the constant threat of accidentally causing as much harm to yourself as you can to other players means multiplayer is a consistently frantic and riotous experience.

The SNES’s Super Bomberman 2 was a big improvement over its predecessor, particularly in the game’s single player Adventure Mode. Levels were larger, and subsequently made use of screen scrolling to pack in even more puzzles and environmental hazards, like magnets, furnaces, and trampoline pads. The level design was complimented by a sizeable increase in enemy variety, forcing players to learn new behaviours and abilities for a number of new foes.

At the end of each themed world, Bomberman faces off against the game’s main antagonists — the Five Dastardly Bombers. Each boss has their own unique bomb type, and each showdown plays out as a tense bomber vs. bomber affar…that is until the defeated villain wheels out a screen-filling robot for a slightly-less-fair round two.

Even with an improved single player mode, multiplayer is naturally still the main event. A SNES multi tap meant up to four players could have a go at blowing each other up in a variety of different arenas — each with its own bespoke features and mechanics that help to keep the action from becoming stale or predictable. There have been an astonishing number of Bomberman titles released over the years — many on Nintendo hardware — yet Super Bomberman 2 deservedly remains one of the series’ highlights. (Alex Aldridge)

****

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice.

Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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