Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Best Super Nintendo Games: The Final Three

So who's number one? We'll find out today.

3. Super Mario World

A great console doesn't always need a great launch title, but it helps. The NES had Super Mario Bros., the Game Boy had Tetris, and Nintendo put out Super Mario World as the launch title for the Super Nintendo. Is it the best launch title in gaming history? Probably.

Let's remember where platform games were before Super Mario World. Mario 3 didn't let you go back and beat levels you've already beaten. Other games, like Adventure Island 2, had animal buddies to help you, but they weren't the norm. Most of the platformers at the time had one entrance and one exit per level. They were meant to challenge to a point, and suprises were rare.

In Super Mario World, we had a few amazing leaps forward. You could go back and replay any level you had beaten, and you were actually encouraged to do so in order to find new levels and open up new secrets. Yoshi was a game-changer, and you could change the way he behaved by eating different shells. There were multiple exits for many of the levels, and the special world was an exercise in extreme difficulty.

The music was wonderful, and the bongos that would kick in when you would get on and off of Yoshi were awesome. The levels were so varied, and the castles were incredible. I'm running out of adjectives to describe Super Mario World, but it deserves all of them.

2. Chrono Trigger

It's very rare that you get three industry luminaries to collaborate on a project. It's even rarer that the project turns out exceeding all expectations. That's exactly what happened when Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama combined to create one of the best RPGs ever made in Chrono Trigger.

In a rarity for a JRPG, Chrono Trigger's plot makes perfect sense and doesn't get wrapped up in minutiae. It has twists and unexpected turns, revealing villains to be reluctant heroes and giving every character their own chance to shine.

That's not even getting into the gameplay. I'm on my fourth playthrough of Chrono Trigger, and while I would expect to be finding cracks in the game that bother me, I simply can't point out any really annoying parts of the game. There aren't any. In most RPGs, the battle system gets tedious after a fashion. Chrono Trigger's doesn't. It gets more satisfying as it wears on.

And the music is incredible too. I can't tell you how many times I didn't leave a building or a world just so I could hear the music track again. It's one of those rare games for which there are no legitimate complaints that can be raised about it. It's just good.

1. Super Metroid

The original Metroid laid down an awesome template: A lone bounty hunter, all by herself on a hostile planet, attempts to destroy the Metroids and the Space Pirates, controlled by Mother Brain and led by Ridley. It was really good, but it was a little sloppy in some areas. The maps weren't very tight, it was easy to get lost, and it didn't control as tightly as it could have.

Super Metroid was an amazing leap forward. It revisited the locations in Metroid, ramped up the tension and feeling of solitude, dialed up the bosses to 11, and gave you an emotional connection to the events in the game. It's no surprise that every subsequent Metroid game tries to remind the players in some way of Super Metroid.

It's also impressive that the designers didn't point you in any direction. They gave you a map and a few obstacles and let you do all the exploration. There's no explanation of, well, anything in the game world, but because of the tight design, you barely ever feel lost. It's a tremendous amount of faith in the player, which was rare even then.

Here's my personal Super Metroid story: I beat Crocomire, a giant lizard that you have to shoot in his big, fat, ugly face and drop into a pile of lava. His skin started burning off as he screeched and tried to escape from the lava, which freaked me out. Finally, he disappeared underneath the lava.

After such a tense battle and a weird conclusion, I just wanted to move on. I could't understand why I couldn't advance forward. I went back to the door above the level and couldn't use it. I went back to where I dropped Crocomire into the drink, and there was nothing.

Below the screen, I saw bubbles in the lava moving over to the left. They weren't there before. I followed them over to the left and got to a spiked wall.

Crocomire's skeleton burst through the wall! I nearly peed myself. I had just fought this guy! I didn't want to fight him again!

Then, his skeleton fell harmlessly to the ground. Battle over. I caught my breath and moved on.

That's the story of Super Metroid: Epic battles that lead to a satisfying conclusion. Those who've played it are nodding quietly to themselves. Those that haven't are missing one of the best games ever made.
If you want to read the rest of this list, please look here:

The Final Three

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