Still recognised by gamers worldwide as one of the most revolutionary consoles of the era, the 90s were transformed by the 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo, titled the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). Released in 1990 across Japan/South Korea, and 1991 (USA)/1992 (Europe), the console introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared with other systems at the time. For every swish of Link‘s dagger in ‘Zelda’ or ‘Hadouken’ from Ryu & co in Street Fighter, competition for the title of ‘Best SNES Game‘ was always a hugely competitive field, which is still hotly debated to this day. Here’s our rundown of the Top 10 Super Nintendo cartridges of all time….
10. JIMMY CONNORS PRO TENNIS TOUR
Back in those pixelated days of 2D graphics, something as fun as lobbing a ball over one side of a net to the other could take up many hours of your free-time, as the hugely addictive Gameboy version later proved. Lending his name to proceedings in one of the first sportstar/video game mash-ups was Grand Slam winner, Jimmy Connors, and the high-speed intensity with which the ball would fly around the 8-bit screen was certainly a lifelike representation of the American’s career.
9. YOSHI’S ISLAND
The first of three outings in this list for our favourite Italian plumber (sorry, Luigi) and his long-tongued pal, Yoshi’s Island focused more on – yep, you guessed it, Yoshi – as we got to an experience a Super Mario style outing, but from the POV of the scoffathon 3000 himself. Carting the moustached hero around on his back throughout, the pair teamed up to bring us endless hours of platform-gaming fun through this light-hearted and family-friendly production.
8. KILLER INSTINCT
‘Family friendly’ is certainly not a term which applies to our next selection, the gruesome ‘Killer Instinct’ which featured a truly haunting soundtrack filled with darkly sinister beats, and gore-induced fight scenes from a series of supernatural beings. Cinder, Sabrewulf, and Spinal were all firm fan favourites, with the latter – a skeleton corpse warrior clad with shield and giant sword – posing as the most selected battler throughout the series.
7. INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR SOCCER
The origin of what later provided an empire for Konami with the ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’ series, ISS was a fun-to-play arcade favourite which later made the move to the small screen, offering football fans a chance to represent their favourite nation and take them to glory. Released shortly after the 1994 World Cup tournament in the USA, the game built on several of the kits and players seen in real-life, but due to commercial rights, couldn’t feature true names… Though we could all figure out who the ponytailed striker in the Italy shirt was meant to be!
6. DONKEY KONG COUNTRY
Another massive platforming success which later spawned sequel titles such as ‘Donkey (and Diddy) Kong Racing’, if there’s one thing the Super Nintendo Entertainment System did well in the 90s, it was family-friendly titles like this. The animations of both Kong and his tag-team pals were sparked into life by a brilliant gameplay engine and graphic system, and the soundtrack – much like the game – was bouncy, colourful, and playful.
5. CONTRA III: THE ALIEN WARS
Arguarbly the starting point for the success of modern day shoot-’em-ups like Call of Duty, the unique gun-and-run gameplay of this title proved a huge triumph from the off and has since been categorised in the ‘legendary‘ folder. Giving a more polished feel than the earlier titled in the ‘Contra’ series, characters were asked to jump, crawl and blast their way through an alien invasion which threatens the face of mankind. An absolute drama-packed adrenaline-fest.
4. SUPER MARIO KART
You’ve since (probably) played the N64 version, the arcade adaptation in your local bowplex/fun-fair, and almost certainly the Wii version which dominated the latter part of the early noughties and ‘teenies’. Perhaps you’ve even got it on Nintendo Switch, or iPhone. But long before the younger siblings, came the O.G. This fast-packed wacky adventure was a crazy delight of vibrant colours (Rainbow Road, anyone?), giving gamers the chance to race around as their heroes.
3. STREET FIGHTER II
In all honesty, any of this final trilogy could have quite easily taken the top spot in this list, such is their eternal brilliance. Mention the term ‘Hadouken’ to even the most ‘Zoomer’ of Gen Z, and they (should) form a rye smile based on the enjoyment experienced by their Millennial and Boomer parents, who would have button-bashed this one to death in the early 90s. From the martial arts inspired duo of Ryu and Ken, to the crazy demonic green grin of Blanka, SFII is still truly timeless to this day.
2. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
Whether side-swiping that famous dagger through hedges in pixelated woodland, or stealthily crawling past guards in castles, 1991 was a fine year for gaming, as it was the year we were introduced to Link. One of the most iconic characters in video game history, clad in those brown boots and long green hood, gave us hours of gameplay in what soon blossomed to become one of the best action-adventure titles ever created.
1. SUPER MARIO WORLD
“It’s-a-me… Mario!” – Well it had to be, didn’t it? Giving us as close to an ‘open world’ concept as we ever could have imagined during this era, readers of Retro Gamer magazine declared Nintendo‘s side-scrolling platformer as number one in their ‘150 Greatest Games Ever’ list… It’s almost impossible to argue with. Released seven months before SEGA‘s comparably impactful Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario World instantly stood out with the ambitious gameworld map, and is still to this day, adored and enjoyed by numerous generations.
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