SNES Games That Still Hold up in 2021

The Super Nintendo is often seen as one of the best retro consoles of all time and there are some absolute classic games on the system. I have been thinking a lot about the Super Nintendo recently as decided I would make a list of the SNES games that still hold up today. These are games that I believe to be classics, not affected by time. If I’m right, these games should be a lot of fun to play far into the future!

Super Mario All-Stars

snes games that hold up today

Super Mario All-Stars is fantastic and if you haven’t played it you seriously need to fix that. All-Stars takes four classic Mario games and reimagines them for the 16-bit era. Music, visuals, sprites are all remade and gameplay tweaks such as checkpoints and battery-backed saves go a long way to improve these classics.

On the cartridge, we get remade version of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3 & A remake of the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 known as the Lost Levels on this collection.

Why does Super Mario All-Stars hold up today?

Each game in this collection features great mechanics and masterful level design. There’s no doubt that these are some of the best platformers ever made and their influence is pretty much felt in almost every platformer that has come since. The quality of life improvements such as the enhanced visuals, music and most importantly checkpoint and save features are very welcome, especially in harder parts of the Lost Levels. The only negative thing I will mention about the collection is that the physics of the games have been tweaked a little and is most noticeable in SMB 1 & The Lost Levels.

How to play Super Mario All-Stars today?

A rereleased version came out about 16 months after the original game for the SNES which included Super Mario World, this edition was referred to as Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World. If you have the option, it’s worth picking this version up as it changes a few things in Super Mario World such as Luigi’s sprite.

In 2010 Nintendo released a version of Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii. Critics at the time panned the game as it added nothing new with some even suggesting to just pick up the Virtual Console releases.

The Wii version was essentially a Super Mario All-Stars SNES ROM bundled with an emulator, no tweaks were made to the game and they even display the SNES controller in menus with Nintendo opting to use the original version of All-Stars, which sadly did not include Super Mario World. This release is more for collectors and was only available for a limited time, However, Nintendo decided to anger collectors by re-releasing the game yet again in 2016 as part of its budget range. Overall, I would highly recommend sticking with the original SNES version.

Super Mario All-Stars can be played on original hardware and was recently released on the Nintendo Switch Online SNES app as part of Mario’s 35th anniversary. I would say the best current way to play Super Mario All-Stars is either an original SNES with an upscaler like the OSSC or using MiSTer FPGA with a good quality controller.

Pocky and Rocky 2

Pocky and Rocky 2 is a top-down shoot ‘em up and part of the Kiki Kaikai series of games, in Japan the game is known as Kiki Kaikai: Tsukiyo Soushi (Mysterious Ghost World: A Moonlit Night).

The game might look like your standard Zelda style game but Pocky and Rocky is a true shoot ‘em up featuring waves after waves of enemies with a hard as nails end-level boss. Each boss usually has a massive health bar and each character has a standard attack, a special attack and a throw attack which allows you to launch your poor CPU (or Player2!) directly at the enemy.

The game has many features one would expect from a shoot ‘em up including power-ups for your main weapon allowing you to ‘fire’ more projectiles at once, a shield and others that replenish your health etc.

Throughout the game, you assume control of Pocky, a Shinto Shrine maiden who attacks enemies with cards while player two, or the CPU, controls Rocky a racoon who throw leaves as their main weapon. Across your playthrough, you will recruit an additional six different characters to play with and each of them has different methods of attacking and special moves.

How does Pocky and Rocky 2 hold up today?

Pocky and Rocky 2 is the kind of game you can just pick up and play. You’ll find yourself losing hours playing this game and it’s a really great example of classic couch co-op gameplay.

The art style is very nice, and the music is great. The bosses are something truly special and the game does not hold your hand, Pocky and Rocky 2 is tough! You really feel a sense of accomplishment upon clearing a stage.

How to play Pocky and Rocky 2 Today?

Sadly, Pocky and Rocky 2 has not been re-released in any other form. As the game was slightly more obscure, this game has become quite rare (If only I knew where my childhood copy went?). Finding a copy can be tricky but I would recommend picking it up. To play it I would recommend using the original console, good quality cables and an upscaler. MiSTer is also a great option to experience Pocky and Rocky 2.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past

Possibly the best Zelda game? Zelda: A Link to the Past is in my opinion, the gold standard for top-down action-adventure games and one of the best games on the console. This is actually the game that usually ‘lives’ inside my Super Nintendo and is the first I try out when I ever need to test new equipment etc. After the disappointment and fan backlash of Zelda II on the NES, Nintendo decided to take the series back to its top-down roots.

How does Zelda: A Link to the Past hold up today?

It’s almost hard to explain what makes A Link to the Past so good, it’s a mix of many elements that are all executed flawlessly. The game is paced very well, from the moment the game starts to the end you have a clear goal in mind and it’s very rare to get stumped in A Link to the Past, This can be an issue for other games with an ‘open-world’ design. The story is pretty straight forward but still pulls you in and the world design is great, Hyrule really feels like a real, living, breathing place with plenty of going on around you at all times. Dungeon design is something I must mention, and I commend the level designers who put them together each one feels well-paced with great boss designs at the end of each. The music and sound design of the game are phenomenal and something that has stuck with me until this day.

How to play A Link to the Past Today?

Luckily, this title is available in quite a few places, first of all, I prefer to play this title on my SNES using my OSSC to upscale it to my 55” QLED display. Other options include the SNES Classic, MiSTer FPGA or Nintendo Switch Online as part of the SNES collection.

There was also a good port of A Link to the Past released for Game Boy Advance, however, this version suffers from a little screen crunch but is still an excellent way to play this classic title.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World is one of the best platformers in existence. It takes elements from Super Mario Bros. 3 and goes wild with them. Much like its predecessor SMB3, World uses an overworld map which lets you tackle levels non-sequentially at points, this also allows for some backtracking. Known as Super Mario World: Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan, the game starts with Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach each going on vacation to Dinosaur land. As you can probably guess, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser who is also in Dinosaur land. Later in the game, there is a sunken ship level which is confirmed to be one of Bowsers defeated airships from SMB3. Perhaps this is how he and his children the koopalings have ended up here?

Why does Super Mario World hold up today?

In a single word: Gameplay. Super Mario World has some of the best gameplay in any game on the SNES. You have all the good stuff from Super Mario 3; the Overworld, a lot of powerups, end of world bosses while adding so much more like Yoshi, a ton of enemies and more importantly a lot of colour. Super Mario World really is a great showcase for the Super Nintendo’s large colour pallete and also how great the systems sound chip is.

Super Mario World has 72 levels to get lost in, a ton of secrets and is just overall a great time from start to finish.

How to play Super Mario World Today?

Super Mario World is one of Nintendo’s best games and they sure have made it pretty easy to play. You can play Super Mario World on the original hardware with an upscaler, the SNES Classic console, Nintendo Switch’s online SNES collection and using FPGA based systems such as the MiSTer. Making Super Mario World one of the most accessible games on this list.

There’s a great port of the game for the GameBoy Advance, Super Mario Advance 2. This is a great way to play the game and adds a few cosmetic tweaks and changes up some of the gameplay mechanics (slightly). The only two problems I would say the GBA version has is the resolution has been slightly screen crunched and the colour pallete Nintendo chose is a little light to compensate for the original GBA’s dark screen.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Super Mario World 2 was not like a traditional Mario game at all. Technically, Yoshi’s Island should have been Super Mario 5 but we ended up with something quite different even from its predecessor Super Mario World.

Yoshi’s Island is a colourful game with a cute, hand-drawn aesthetic. You play as Yoshi this time around, carrying Baby Mario on your back. You aim is to reunite with your brother baby Luigi who was kidnapped by the evil magikoopa Kamek.  

Why does Yoshi’s Island hold up today?

Yoshi’s Island had some unique gameplay elements and the game is full of Nintendo charm as you’d expect from a game carrying the Super Mario name. You are tasked with carrying baby Mario across each level to get him closer to his younger sibling. Platforming it tight, with plenty of room for correction due to Yoshi’s ability to flutter jump, which has since become a staple of the character. Yoshi can eat enemies and turn them into eggs, these can then be fired at enemies or blocks which means the pace is slowed down a little from your typical Mario game and adds a slight puzzle element to the gameplay.

Level design is top-notch and you get rated on three different factors after each level; How many of each levels 5 Sunflowers you have collected, How many of the level’s 20 hidden red coins you have found and how many stars out of 30 you manage to keep in each level. This will be tallied up at the end of each level and you’ll be scored out 100. As a 10-year-old, 100 percenting each level became somewhat of an obsession to me and it makes Yoshi’s Island one of the first instances I can remember that nagging feeling to attain all the collectables, something which has sadly stuck with me to this day, for better or for worse. You are rewarded for completing each level with a score of 100 in each of Yoshi’s Island’s six worlds which unlocks a secret challenge level and bonus mini-game that can be played from the world’s map screen.

The End of world Bosses are a lot of fun and make good use of the scaling abilities and extra power provided by Yoshi’s Island Super-FX chip. It’s also worth mentioning the fantastic soundtrack composed by Koji Kondo, I still regularly find myself humming certain tracks from this game 25 years later!

How to play Yoshi’s Island Today?

Yoshi’s Island was a bit of tricking on to play for a while, but recently it has become a little more accessible. Currently, Yoshi’s Island is available to play as part of the SNES Nintendo Switch Online games and included as a title on the SNES classic.

Other options would be to play on original hardware with a good upscaler or use an FPGA device such as the Analogue Super NT or MiSTer.

Yoshi’s Island was also ported to the GBA as Super Mario Advance 4: Yoshi’s Island and featured an additional Bonus level for each world and is generally a really good port worth picking up, although the SNES version has slightly superior music and SFX.

Street Fighter 2: Turbo

Out of the versions of Street Fighter on the Super Nintendo Street Fighter 2: Turbo is hands down the most popular. To say this game was popular is somewhat of an understatement, this game was everywhere. After playing Turbo, the original feels so sluggish, there was another version released after Super Street Fighter 2 but I advise against playing this version, Capcom tried to be too ambitious with what they could fit on the games cart and a lot of content ended up being cut in the process.

Why does Street Fighter 2: Turbo hold up today?

Most people I knew back in the 90s either had Street Fighter 2: Turbo or preferred to play this version. This was especially true in the UK and I can see why. It could be argued that this version is more popular because of its inclusion as a pack-in with the console later one.

Turbo was created as a response to unofficial bootleg versions of Street Fighter 2 turning up in arcades including additional characters and features etc. Street Fighter 2: Turbo adds many features like the ability to play any of the four boss characters and of course the star system to control the speed of the game, hence the turbo name. The most important change was the balancing patch they added to the game, this patch has meant that many people still prefer to play this version of the game to this day with people even still holding tournaments.

How to play Street Fighter 2: Turbo Today?

Street Fighter 2: Turbo is available to play on the SNES Classic, original SNES hardware with upscaler (This is quite a common game so should be easy to come across) or play it through an FPGA solution like MiSTer.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid, aka Metroid 3 is a direct sequel to the GameBoy game Metroid II: Return of Samus. This is undoubtedly one of the best games on the Super Nintendo. Super Metroid has an eerie, unsettling atmosphere to it and really feels great to play once you master the controls.

You play as Samus, a bounty hunter who is searching the planet Zebes. She delivered the last known Metroid to a nearby scientific space colony only for it to be attacked by Space Pirates. They Stole the last Metroid and headed to planet Zebes, you chase after the Space Pirates and realize they have set up a base there.

Why does Super Metroid hold up today?

There’s not a lot like Super Metroid recently, at least nothing that has struck the balance between great platforming and item-based progression. Super Metroid, with its large sprawling map, is often compared to Igavania style of Castlevania games hence the term ‘Metroidvania’.

The gameplay loop is great, you go from one area until you cannot progress any further, then you backtrack and head a different way. This in turn leads to a boss fight who may just be guarding an upgrade or ability for Samus that will allow her to pass through the original area. It’s a very rewarding system and makes the game feel a lot more open than it actually is.

How to play Super Metroid Today?

Like Super Mario World, Super Metroid is a SNES staple so luckily, we can experience it in many ways. Original hardware with an upscaler is always my preferred method but you can also play Super Metroid with Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES Collection, The Super Nintendo Classic and FPGA systems like the Super NT or MiSTer.

As the length of this list is becoming quite long, I am splitting this into two parts. Please look out for part two coming soon.

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