Remember – switching on your Super Nintendo is always faster than loading screens


Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

Every army needs its mainstay, that ever-present soldier who you can trust your life to, or that ultra-reliable piece of equipment that will never fail on you. You don’t bring undertakers out there on the battlefield – even if it would be a busman’s holiday for them, they’re the type of people who’ll always let you down. And if you had to trust your life to a machine, you’d be absolutely buggered if it was a printer, wouldn’t you?

If you happen to be a naval commander and you’re reading this, you’ll know that you don’t want to come up agains thte dreaded USS Constitution – a frigate that’s been afloat since 1797, and had more than its fair share of scrapes. Now that’s longevity. Or what about the AK-47 – invented in 1947, if you didn’t guess already, and there are some from back then that still fire to this day. No point getting caught up in fancy weaponry that’ll jam on you at the worst possible time – if you’re a freedom fighter leading an insurrection, a Kalashnikov is your only man.

It’s why the Super Nintendo will simply never die – it’s fun, no-nonsense, it’s got mass appeal and it never lets you down. Seriously, you can drop it on the wooden floor God knows how many tims and it’ll still work for you. You might have a DS Lite with broken hinges, or a Switch with JoyCon drift, but believe it or not Nintendo gear in the old days used to harder than diamond.

The old consoles sometimes show these battle scars as well. Our SNES went severely yellow with age. We were certain that the poor old girl got soured by the literal tons of cigarette smoke that used to abound in our house but surprisingly, fags had nothing to do with it – sometimes the plastic just oxidises over time and, like Daniel Craig’s hair in recent years, our Super Nintendo gradually went from clean grey to unsubtle yellow.

One is able to fix this discoloration by getting a bath of methylated spirits, the type that you might coax seagulls or local feral children into drinking, unscrewing the Super Nintendo’s chassis and giving it a dip. But why would I want to do that? Not only do I lose out on some classic, genuine ageing, but I might end up stuffing it up and leaving myself without a SNES. 

And that, by God, would be an absolute disaster. You see, even to this day, there are no shortage of wonderful games to play on this console – whether that’s replaying Secret of Mana, or finding some new slice of fried gold in the 700 odd library of games. That’s the US tally – naturally, it gets a lot lower in Europe, where we have about 170 languages to translate text-heavy games into. And you can imagine that the Japanese market got about 3,000 games, right the way into the new millennium. 

They can get bloody expensive in Europe as well, if you want to stick strictly to PAL rules – you can get yourself a European, English text copy of Mega Man X3, Harvest Moon, Soul Blazer, Hagane and Demon’s Crest if you really want to, but that’ll definitely cut into the old house deposit. Or if you already have a house (perhaps funded by an earlier sale of your childhood SNES and a bundle of other games, on the insistence of your missus), then it’s the kids’ college funds. But listen, which is gonna give you more enjoyment?

I’m all over retro gaming, as a lot of us are. It’s reflected in the prices, after all. But let’s be honest, the original NES barely holds up. You do have a particular library of games, mostly released by Nintendo it has to be said, that you could play now without those modern conveniences of save states, rewinds, and the game working the first time you put it in without needing to go lightheaded blowing into it. But who, apart from the die-hards, are playing their NES Classics now? 

The Super Nintendo is a different story, however – these games hold up, because the graphics and sound have reached that benchmark quality where they looks and sounds timeless. Like a well-drilled farm cricket team, the SNES has a potential GOAT in every position: for platforming, there’s Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, and I’ll cheat a bit by including Mario All Stars.

That’s not to forget the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, with some Mega Man X for good measure. Mega Man X could also qualify as action-adventure games, a category which Super Metroid belongs to. Or, if you want to go back to swordplay, try Link to the Past, alongside Illusion of Time and Soul Blazer.

JRPGS, don’t even talk to me – three Final Fantasys, Super Mario RPG, and Chrono Trigger at the top of the pile. Or, if you have a bit more flair, try EarthBound, translated Dragon Quest – or some more actiony RPGs in Terranigma, Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore. 

Beat your mates up on many iterations of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct, or have a co-op blast with them on Contra III, Turtles in Time and Final Fight. There are even first-person shooters, for God’s sake, with Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, although I don’t recommend those. Maybe try Starwing for shooting suckers instead, if you can handle the polygons – that gives you your first sneak-peek into the world of 3D.

We could keep going. F-Zero, Super Mario Kart and Top Gear for racing. Sim City, Populous and Pilotwings for simulation. There’s strategy RPGs, puzzle games, shoot’em ups – the lot, Dave. You can play all this and more using one of the classic controllers, a controller design that’s still being imitated to this day, right up to the PlayStation 5.

You’ll have probably encountered some truly terrible third party controllers as well, although they probably all handle better than the Super Scope. We had a joystick in our house, bought for God knows what reason, and all I can say is that if real life plane yokes are as stiff as our one then it’s a wonder they don’t all smash into each other. 

Yes, it all comes down, yet again, to having the proper equipment. You can set your watch to the SNES, an absolute icon of the 1990s, and you can pick ten games from its library almost at radom and have fun with it. No 100 hour quests with pages upon pages of text that just puts you to sleep.

Instead, it’s some of Nintendo’s best ever offerings from the worlds of Mario, Metroid, Zelda, Yoshi, Kirby and old Donkey Kong. It’s the ancient Toyota that still runs, the beer that’s been around since the Dark Ages. It is the quintessence of classic gaming. And as you’ll soon see, it’s got plenty of great games, more than enough in its trousers to make it the best console ever made.

11 September 2020

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