2017 was a hell of a first year for the Nintendo Switch. Launching in early March of 2017, it arrived alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch was off to a hot start as many were dazzled by the ingenuity and freedom of Breath of the Wild. Some 7 months later, Nintendo released Super Mario Odyssey. It was considered by many as yet another home run smash. And since today is March 10, or MAR10 Day, I can’t think of a better time to look back on what made Super Mario Odyssey such a terrific entry in the longstanding Mario series.
A GAMING GENERATION DEFINED
For many kids back in the 1980s, Super Mario Bros. left a lasting imprint on those lucky enough to have grown up with it. Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered one of the best NES video games of all time. When the Super Nintendo launched in North America in the late summer of 1991, Super Mario World carried on the tradition, living up to the lofty standards set by Shigeru Miyamoto and friends. Super Mario 64 brought Mario and company into the 3D realm. Mario 64 is a nostalgic and highly memorable adventure for many who played it back in the summer of 1996 when it first came out. There have been many more Mario entries since but none of them have captured our attention and gaming hearts quite like Super Mario Odyssey.
THE ODYSSEY BEGINS
Bowser has captured Princess Peach once again, and intends to marry her against her own will. Mario meets his newest ally, Cappy, and the two are off to all sorts of Kingdoms to procure enough moons to power their airship.
Whether you play it docked or in handheld mode, Super Mario Odyssey is a beautiful looking game. With plenty of diverse locales, each Kingdom is unique and a world of its own. Cascade Kingdom lives up to its name — you can almost feel the raw power of the water!
Who could forget seeing this for the first time? It was an incredible moment that blended the real world with Mario’s world. Even better? Taking temporary control of the T-Rex by firing Cappy at it, which is the brilliant gimmick of Super Mario Odyssey.
Speaking of blending, there are special old school 2D sections spread throughout the Kingdoms. They’re bite-sized but incredibly fun, evoking warm fuzzy nostalgic memories of yesteryear.
The Sand Kingdom is such a fun little place to explore. It has been said that the director of Super Mario Odyssey, Kenta Motokura, was inspired by his trip to Mexico and his fondness for that country. Traces of that culture can be seen throughout the Sand Kingdom.
The majority of the bosses in Super Mario Odyssey consist of the Broodals — vicious anthropomorphic rabbits who also serve as Bowser’s wedding planners. One of the nice things about the Sand Kingdom is that you get to battle bosses of both varieties: Broodal and non-Broodal.
It blew my mind the first time I saw New Donk City. That’s mainly thanks to the shocking appearance of real human beings. It was only further proof that Super Mario Odyssey wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.
New Donk City was so fun to explore, whether at night or in the daytime. It was unlike any other Mario level or world I had previously explored.
I gotta give props to Nintendo. I was so pleasantly shocked to see this T-Rex cameo. I thought Cascade Kingdom was it as far as T-Rex appearances go. Glad to have been proven wrong!
Seaside Kingdom might just be my favorite Kingdom of the bunch. I tend to not be the biggest fan of water-based levels, but this one totally and completely does it for me. Maybe it’s because a good half of it takes place on the beach, offering some variety and varied nuances in gameplay that make it much more interesting to play than if it were completely underwater. For example, being able to bounce off two walls in an effort to collect coins and reach new heights is remarkably satisfying.
Super Mario Odyssey is everything I wanted in a 3D Mario game and then some. The addition of Cappy added a ton of layers to the gameplay. Whether you were flinging Cappy and then jumping off it as a makeshift platform or using it to take control of the various enemies, this mechanic breathed much needed new life into the Mario formula. I’ll never forget the first time I spotted that T-Rex napping on the hill of Cascade Kingdom. Even more memorable was the first time I became Mario T-Rex, complete with a ridiculously oversized mustache to boot!
All the throwback 2D Mario sections were a blast to navigate. It took me right back to 1987, playing Super Mario Bros. with my uncle, brother and our friends late into the night. These bits always somehow felt organic rather than forced. It was just the right amount of nostalgia rush blended with the newfangled 3D Mario gameplay that is so smooth and easy to pick up, but hard to put down.
Along with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey helped to make Switch’s first year, 2017, a roaring and smashing success. I can’t wait for a sequel to both games. These two games alone are reason enough to invest in a Nintendo Switch, not to mention the dozens and dozens of great 3rd party titles and Indie hits. I had an absolute blast playing through Super Mario Odyssey, and I feel Nintendo was able to completely capture the magic of what made all those Mario games from so long ago so very damn special indeed. Not only that but they were able to add to the legacy, adding in enough new elements to make this entry stand on its own two feet. Bravo, Nintendo. Bravo! I eagerly await Mario’s next adventure on the Switch. Until then, I think I’ll head back to Mushroom Kingdom yet again for one more romp.
Ah, Dino City. Although I never played it as a kid, it holds something of a special spot in my gaming heart. I remember seeing the ads and previews in magazines and wanting to play it so badly. Alas, I never did. My SNES resurgence in early January 2006 allowed me a chance at gaming redemption.
Did you know Dino City is based off the 1991 made for TV film, Adventures in Dinosaur City? That was news to me not too long ago. So technically, Dino City is a licensed game. And a pretty good one at that (in an era where licensed games were often times more bad than good).
Dinosaurs have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, dating back to when I was but a wee four year old child. It started with Godzilla in 1987. Followed by Dino Riders in 1988. Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs sitcom (TGIF!) in 1991. And of course Jurassic Park in 1993.
In addition, there was a dinosaur game quietly released on the SNES in late 1992 that always caught my eye. Sadly for me, I never got to play it back in the day and so it became one of countless childhood curiosities. I still remember EGM’s preview of Dino City…
REDEMPTION AT THE FLEA MARKET
After returning to the SNES scene on January 17, 2006, I decided to hit the flea market on an innocent chilly Saturday morning of February 4, 2006. It was my first trip to the flea market in four years. Ironically, before heading out that day I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I have a funky feeling I’ll run into a copy of Dino City.” Sure enough, it was meant to be. It was just one of those mornings! Click here for more.
HAPPY 27TH BIRTHDAY!
Yesterday was November 21, 2017. That meant the Super Famicom, and Super Mario World, turned 27 years old. Dino City clearly borrows a bit from Super Mario World — it even incorporates riding on a dinosaur.
THE STORY GOES…
There’s no difficulty option but Timmy is definitely the “hard mode” due to his dino buddy’s short range attack.
Nobody’s surprised when this goes haywire.
Reason all you want — it’s not going to save you from being sucked into an interdimensional warp!
Flexing those beautiful Mode 7 muscles!
Cavemen are no match for your darts. Jump on the Trampos for an added boost, but don’t do it while they show off their spikes.
Princess Peach this ain’t! Meet Crazy Cindy. Shout out to my girlfriend Cindy who thankfully isn’t crazy.
That sounds kinky… Cindy has a problem indeed
Levels end with two doors. Sometimes they lead to a bonus stage. Regardless of which door you select, you still have to go through all the stages. I appreciate Irem giving us a choice, though.
Transitions in video games are one of my favorite small details, and Dino City does it extremely well.
Sometimes you can’t go any farther while riding your dinosaur. In such cases, hop off to solve whatever obstacle blocks your way.
Moments like this make playing Dino City a blast.
Tossing darts at cavemen never gets old. Reappearing tiny ledges are well represented here.
There’s something ultra satisfying about these sliding stone slabs.
Although not mind-blowing or anything, the visuals in Dino City are lush and vibrant. It just screams “late 1992 SNES” era. In fact, when I think of SNES graphics from that era, Dino City is always the first game my mind thinks of.
Watch out for those damn Dino Traps. They’ll swallow you up and spit you out if you get too close, costing you a precious heart.
Rather clever and fun this is.
Shooting or stomping on baby seals is almost too heart-wrenching to do, but it’s your ass if you don’t!
Disable the Skull Munchers by jumping on top of them. This is where you’ll push their jaws down into the frozen ice for good, rendering them harmless. I love the sweet sound effect they make as they buckle under your weight.
Stages that start out a bit unconventional or unique are always pet favorites of mine. Take the opening of this stage f’rinstance. I just love how weird and different it is.
ProTip: Avoid the falling rock.
Another nice transition. It’s the small stuff!
Springer said it best: “I’ve got better things to do tonight than die.” Jamie and Tops couldn’t agree more! The first boss is a weirdo by the name of Crasher.
Crasher operates a block throwing contraption. Nail the blocks to break them apart. The pieces will crash into Crasher, damaging him to the point where his spectacles will momentarily fly off his face. Funny detail. Dino City isn’t a long game but thankfully offers you a password at the end of each stage.
Teamwork, baby! It’s a thing of beauty
Barrel-tossing Rockys and spiny hedgehogs try to put a damper on your day. Don’t get crushed by that moving platform. The Super Mario World influences are clearly evident.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
You’ll occasionally run into the random odd bonus stage. I’m a sucker for whenever a platformer displays an arrow in the form of collectibles. It’s exactly the kind of stuff I would program too if I were in control.
Cutting it awfully close there!
Speaking of cutting it close! Yo Tops, let’s not try to kill Jamie, OK?
Monster Moles look like double trouble, but they’re actually quite a cake walk.
Prepare for the roller coaster ride of your life as Stage 3 opens up with a bang.
Knock off the Rockys and ride into your station.
Slightly reminiscent of the huge swinging chandeliers from Super Castlevania IV, no? The Careless Circus as this level is known is arguably the most infuriating level in the game. Those bees are a bitch!
There are many more levels in Stage 3 not shown here; you’ll have to discover those for yourself. The boss of this stage is the Trampo Bird.
Things get hectic here in a hurry. Thankfully, you’re safe now. Right?
Technically, yes, but only if you keep moving. Crazy Cindy and Retarded Rocky actually go leaping to their doom. Seeing Cindy’s grin as she plummets to her death is a bit disturbing!
There’s no time to waste as a bald beefy barbarian attempts to crush you alive. Survive the terrifying ordeal and you come to a block that is just out of your dinosaur’s reach. Dismount and hop onto the block to activate it so it can move closer to your dino friend. Nice.
Leaps that see you barely landing on the next platform is so damn satisfying.
Influences to Super Mario World are readily apparent.
This is easily the game’s most bizarre boss.
Usually you’re riding your dino but here you have to go at it alone for a bit. Freeze the fish to use them as makeshift platforms.
Sometimes you’re required to jump off of two fish which makes it far dicier.
Nasty enemies are out to get you, sans dinosaur, if you make it this far.
Thankfully you can freeze their asses. Come to the end where your dino buddy is back in play and pick from the two doors.
There are so many levels awaiting you. Play Dino City to discover the rest.
Watch out for the Fire Birds guarding Stage Five. If you can make it all the way to the very end of Stage Six, you’ll face off with the movie villain himself, Mr. Big (no relation to Mr. Big from Art of Fighting fame).
Defeat Mr. Big and get treated to a rather cute, almost anime-esque ending.
PSST, WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
Password systems (or lack thereof) have plagued a many Super Nintendo games. The last two games I reviewed (Jurassic Park and its sequel, Jurassic Park Part 2: The Chaos Continues) could sorely have used a save or password feature. Thankfully, Dino City gives you a password at the end of each level. The 12 character passwords are fairly reasonable and easy enough to decipher; the same can’t be said for some other SNES games with a password system. Way to do it (reasonably) right, Irem!
NOT YOUR TYPICAL KIDDY SNES GAME
Although Dino City upon first glance appears to be a “kiddy” game thanks to its bright and bold graphics not to mention the overall aesthetics, it’s anything but. The game is surprisingly far more difficult than you might first assume. It’s not impossible or anything, but it’ll take some practice and persistence. I also like how you get two different characters to play as. Timmy and Rex make beating the game far more difficult since Rex punches whereas Tops (Jamie’s dinosaur) throws darts. The difference between the two increases slightly the game’s longevity, not to mention it serves as sort of a “normal” and “hard” mode for a game that is already moderately difficult to begin with. So don’t walk into Dino City thinking it’ll be a walk in the park. Some stages start out easy but they can get tough in a hurry!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Dino City fared pretty well with the critics. It was considered a great looking game that played pretty well. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 7and 8. Super Play rated it 83%. It’s not often talked about in retro gaming circles but when it does come up, most people seem to vouch for Dino City. While it isn’t good enough to be considered a full blown hidden gem, it’s a quietly solid and underrated little game.
I remember thinking back in the day that Dino City looked like it would be a pretty good game. I never got to play it then but just based off the previews, it looked like a fun platformer. After returning to the SNES scene in early 2006, I found a copy at the local flea market for $5. It’s such a rewarding feeling when you finally fire a game up years and years later only to discover your gut was right on the mark. Dino City is pretty much everything I expected it to be. It’s far from perfect but there’s this sort of charming and whimsical quality backing it. The visuals are lush and scream “Late 1992 SNES Era” if that makes any sense. I love the small details like day to night transitions (even if it only happens once) and the sprites (not to mention the levels themselves) all look pretty great. The music is fairly charming as well — the intro piece actually reminds me a lot of a tune that would have fit perfectly in the Mega Man universe! The game controls pretty well and I rarely found myself blaming the control whenever I died (which happened a lot by the way — your typical easy SNES kiddy game this ain’t). It’s not a long game but Irem was kind enough to give us a password system to deflect possible player fatigue. I will never fault a 16-bit game (especially platformers) for having a (reasonable) password system, and this one thankfully does.
But now for some things that could have been improved. First of all, I loved the idea of dismounting from your dinosaur and playing solely as the child protagonist. I feel this feature was slightly underutilized and could have been further expanded upon and explored. The few instances where you are required to dismount are pretty effective, so it’s a case of there should have been a little more. Secondly, the levels are far too short for their own good. They feel more like bite-sized action zones than actual levels. Although there are a good deal of levels overall in the game, most of them are disappointingly short. Just when you’re beginning to sink your teeth into them, they suddenly end. It kind of takes away from the game and kept it from going to that next level. But all in all, Dino City is a pretty good little platformer that kind of has been forgotten to time. Riding a dinosaur also helps to differentiate it a bit from the rest of the me too pack of which there were plenty on the SNES. I appreciate this game for what it is. Even little things like most stages having two different exits made me smile. Maybe it’s not quite good enough to attain that ever attractive title of “hidden gem,” but it’s certainly an underrated little game that’s well worth playing and can easily occupy you for a weekend or two.
Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theatres tomorrow on July 7, 2017. The masked superhero has a famous saying: “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” It’s a perfect time to share a Nintendo story from my youth. It’s a story that’s going to be featured in Jeffrey Wittenhagen’s upcoming Nintendo book. Thank you Jeff for allowing me the honor to be a small part of another one of your great books. To all my readers here on RVGFanatic, here’s my story in full below!
YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD NINTENDO MAN
I’m instantly bombarded by a tidal wave of memories whenever I think about the 8-bit Nintendo. Like so many others, I grew up on the NES in the late ‘80s. Born in 1983, I was just old enough to appreciate the NES when it started hitting its stride in North America circa 1987. I have fond memories of all those lazy carefree Sunday mornings spent playing the likes of Contra, Mega Man 2 and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! just to name a few. Nintendo help made my childhood fun and memorable. Back then gaming was a brand new experience to me. There were no fancy 3D graphics, no complex controller layouts and no lengthy 10 minute tutorials to sit through. The NES gave you two buttons; all you had to do was press start and you were good to go. Sometimes simplicity can’t be beat. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles — the NES is proof that a game doesn’t have to be overly fancy or complicated in order to be great.
My uncle bought a Nintendo for me and my brother in 1987. I still remember the humble collection we managed to amass through the years…
My childhood is filled with fond memories of myself, Uncle Jimmy and my brother Kevin switching off for hours on end as we sat glued to our television set playing the latest NES titles. Hell, the NES was the ORIGINAL Nintendo “Switch.” After all, those halcyon days were all about switching off with my brother and uncle on Contra as we attempted to save the universe on a nightly basis back in the summer of 1989. Hanging out with my uncle and brother blasting alien scum to Kingdom Come was some of the greatest times of my childhood.
Another fond memory I carry with me were all the rental stores that populated my area. There had to be a good 10 video stores all within a 30 mile radius back in the late ‘80s where I lived. From the established titans of the industry (Blockbuster) to all the little quirky mom and pop shops, it was an entertainment mecca with more goodies than you could watch or play to cover the span of ten lifetimes.
My favorite store of the lot hands down was Evergreen Video. I blame Evergreen Video and its owner, Tom, just a common man working hard for the American dream, as the source that corrupted me. One day in the late ’80s my dad was driving me and my brother around. We spotted Evergreen Video by chance when we made a pit stop in a small plaza to pick up a few items. I had never seen Evergreen Video before but on that day there it stood. Its big bold green letters silently called out to me and my brother, beckoning us over. We found ourselves breaking into a brisk stroll as we made a beeline for the store, our legs suddenly on a mission of their own.
I can still hear the little chime that rung each time someone entered the store. It was a quaint shop with lots of family videos. You were immediately greeted upon entry by four tall wooden shelves that began near the entrance and ended close to the register counter, which sat roughly 60-70 feet straight ahead. Two columns of towering tan shelves rested on each side of the store, freeing the middle aisle for a clear walk to the counter and a good look at the man who owned the store, Tom. Rocking brown rimmed spectacles and a beard like it was 2014, Tom became something of an uncle figure to me and Kevin. You would often find Tom invariably sporting a flannel shirt of one kind or another. In fact, he was the spitting image of Al Borland (played by Richard Karn) from the ‘90s TV sitcom, Home Improvement, only with glasses.
Up front and to the right sat a small wooden shelf. There Tom kept his collection of 30-40 NES games. Tucked away in a corner, it was this little heavenly nook that my brother and I always made a mad scramble for every Saturday afternoon. The smell of the oak wood shelves permeates to this day. If there was ever a quintessential mom and pop rental store, Evergreen Video surely was it.
Tom worked there every Saturday afternoon, rain or shine. And no matter what, we could always count on seeing his big smile greeting us behind the register counter whenever he saw us trampling in. I still remember some of the games I rented from Evergreen Video…
… just to name some. Back then there was no YouTube or anything to really scope these games out. You basically rented them on a whim based on the cover art and how cool the back of the box looked. It made for hit and miss rentals and some crazy times. You just never knew what you were going to get. In some regard it was almost like the Wild Wild West back then!
There was a certain purity to those days that I miss. The same can be said for the purity that courses through the 8-bit veins of the NES itself. Timing is everything in life — the Nintendo and the late ’80s simply went hand in hand and everything else that came along with it, including mom and pop shops.
Tom was so good to us; he even held games for me and Kevin. My brother would call and ask for a game and if Tom had said game then he would hold it for us. I remember him telling us once, with a big smile, “Only for you guys.” Maybe he said that to every kid customer of his, but damnit I like to think he meant what he said. And I don’t doubt that he did because that’s just the kind of guy Tom was.
There’s one story in particular that I’ll never forget. One time we came in to pick up TMNT II: The Arcade Game. We met Tom’s son that day. He was playing the game on the small TV that sat behind the register counter. I felt so bad when he was forced to turn the game off just so we could rent it. He was on the snowfield level battling the wolf boss, Tora. I remember Tora flashing and blinking red as Tom told his very own flesh and blood, “Sorry but these boys need to rent the game now.” I’ll never forget the poor kid looking absolutely crushed, wanting to carry on like any TMNT loving kid would, but he respected his dad far too much to disobey. I always felt guilty about that! Tom had this incredible knack of making me and Kevin feel like we were part of his family. It was top-notch service the likes of which you can’t buy. The kind of genuine service you can only find at a mom and pop shop.
Being huge fans of Double Dragon II, Kevin and I couldn’t wait for Double Dragon III. When it finally arrived in early 1991, my dad took us to Evergreen Video to rent a copy. The drive home was filled with visions of spinning roundhouse kicks and crazy throws galore, but alas, when we popped the game in it refused to play for some reason. My dad promptly called Evergreen Video to inform Tom about the situation and Tom told us to come back for a no-frills exchange. We ended up picking Battletoads as a replacement rental. While we were disappointed that we couldn’t play the eagerly anticipated Double Dragon III, we made the most out of that weekend. More importantly, Tom’s great customer service and integrity once again shined like a thousand stars shimmering in the night sky.
But here’s the part that blows my mind. A few weeks later we made our usual Saturday afternoon trek to Evergreen Video. Tom surprised us when he revealed a brand new copy of Double Dragon III — reserved just for us! He said he was waiting on us to come by because he knew how disappointed we were that his previous copy didn’t work. He wanted to make things right, but he already did that with the Battletoads exchange. It exemplifies the kind of upstanding man Tom was. He always went above and beyond the call of duty. If Yelp existed back in 1991, Evergreen Video would have gotten 5 stars all day! As for Double Dragon III, let’s just say some sequels disappoint.
Early 1992 was an interesting time. There was a changing of the guard. You could feel the shift in the winds, and you could see the writing on the wall. The 8-bit NES was being phased out for the brand new 16-bit Super Nintendo. And with it, Evergreen Video. Business wasn’t booming for Tom in early 1992 as it was in the late ’80s. When the Super Nintendo came to the US in late 1991, Tom bought some SNES games to keep up with the times. I rented Ultraman and sadly that was the last game I would ever rent from Evergreen Video. The beginning of one era (the SNES) marked the ending for another (Evergreen Video).
One innocuous Saturday afternoon in early 1992 my dad took me and Kevin to Evergreen Video to return Ultraman. Unfortunately, that trip proved to be our last. Tom told us he and the family were moving on. But because I was so young I didn’t really grasp his heartfelt admission. I just assumed he would still be there next Saturday and the Saturday after that. Because it’s Tom. And that’s what Tom does. After all, he’s your friendly neighborhood Nintendo man.
But reality crushed me when my mom took me shopping in that same plaza a week later. I stole a glance inside the remains of Evergreen Video. What was once a simple but lovely store that provided me with so many good memories was now a broken, fragmented shell of its former glory. A part of me expected to still see the wooden shelves and Tom’s friendly mug situated behind the register counter. Instead, what I found that day was an empty store torn down in shambles, the floor littered with debris. I felt like crying as I peered in through the glass pane. I lost a little bit of innocence that day. From that moment on I forever realized that things don’t last forever, no matter how much you want them to.
The last time I visited that plaza was June 2008. I had just graduated from college with a teaching credential. My cousins wanted to celebrate the occasion by eating at a Chinese restaurant. Of all the places they could have chosen, of course it had to be at a restaurant in that small plaza near the defunct remains of Evergreen Video. But of course. It was a surreal night. I just graduated from college and was looking forward to the future. But returning to that childhood plaza for the first time in what had to be over a decade got me far more emotional than I thought possible. After dinner my cousins declared a movie night at their place. But having unfinished business, I told them I would drop by later. As they drove off I stood outside the restaurant all by my lonesome. I slowly turned my gaze to the classic spot where Evergreen Video once proudly stood ages ago. My heart started racing as I knew what stood before me: I was on the verge of facing a huge part of my childhood for quite possibly the last time ever. I knew what I had to do…
The building was vacant. I peered inside as memories came flooding back. I saw a montage in my own mind playing. Rushing in, pushing the door open, hearing the chime of the bell and being greeted by Tom’s friendly smile. Making a beeline for the NES games, admiring the art on the boxes and hoping you would pick a good game to play for that weekend. All those images flashed in my mind one after the other. And then I was snapped back to reality. I said a quick silent thank you to Tom. Turning my back to the store, I stood there for a minute to take in the cool early evening air.
I reminisced about the past while also eagerly anticipating the future. I had just graduated and was on my way to achieving my childhood dream of having my own classroom, my own students to teach and to be a positive male influence in their lives. Not unlike how Tom was to me all those years ago in his own unique way. Alas, as the final shards of sunlight pierced the storefront, I decided that was enough reflection for one night. Placing my childhood memories back in the box, I texted my cousins that I was heading over and made my way to my car. I stole one last glance at the place where Evergreen Video once stood tall and proud. I gave Evergreen Video one final knowing nod as the engine roared. The night was still young… and so was I.
That fateful June evening of 2008 was the last time I visited that small plaza where Evergreen Video once stood. It’s crazy that it’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve been back to that area. I’ve since gone on to fulfill my dreams of becoming a teacher. I like to think Tom, wherever he is, would be proud of me. To this day I have no idea where he is or even what he’s up to. I never knew his last name. It’s been over 25 years since I last saw the man. It’s sad to think there’s even a chance he may no longer be alive. But wherever he is, in whatever state or space, I hope he’s doing well and at peace.
Tom was a uncle figure to me and Kevin growing up, and Evergreen Video became much more than a mom and pop video store. It was a connection and bond held between strangers turned family. A bond that formed much like the bond that video games can help forge between people from different walks of life. And the NES certainly did that. Whenever I think back to my childhood, I invariably think about the NES, Tom and Evergreen Video. It was a different era. A simpler time. I’m grateful that I got to experience gaming’s golden age growing up. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Long live Nintendo, and long live the memories of Tom and Evergreen Video.
It’s January 7, 2017. RVGFanatic launched on January 7, 2007. Wow, where has the time gone? I celebrate 10 years today. 10 years later my Super Nintendo passion still burns as brightly as it did a decade ago when I first started RVGFanatic. What was the world like 10 years ago?
YouTube was still in its infancy
George W. Bush was US president
Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone
To celebrate this milestone, I figure it’s a good time to finally reveal my Super Nintendo collection in-depth. Most of my 400+ boxed SNES games were acquired from 2006-2008. I was lucky the nostalgia bug bit me several years before it did many others. It’s the only reason I have been fortunate enough to amass the collection that I did.
Each shelf will have certain games highlighted by these categories:
Best Game — What I consider to be the best game on that shelf.
Worst Game — What I consider as the worst game on that shelf.
Guilty Pleasures — Games that I enjoy but aren’t necessarily good.
Unsung Heroes — Overlooked games that I find to be high quality.
Most Disappointing — Games I thought I would like a lot but don’t.
Most Surprising — Games I didn’t expect much from but delivered.
Most Wanted — Games I’ve still yet to play but most excited to play.
Miscellaneous — Random notes on other games not yet highlighted.
ActRaiser is an excellent first generation SNES game that alternates between side scrolling platforming action and build-a-city simulation. The two parts mesh well together like a perfectly constructed puzzle.
Speaking of alternating, Axelay does that masterfully as well, switching level to level between horizontal and vertical shooting nirvana.
WORST GAME AAAHH!!! Real Monsters DISHONORABLE MENTION Adventures of Mighty Max
Incredibly tedious and annoying.
Mighty Max was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. The game? No.
GUILTY PLEASURE An American Tale: Fievel Goes West
Nothing fancy here. Just simple, basic platforming with decent visuals.
Aladdin is often overshadowed by its Genesis counterpart but I love the brilliant animation and colors of the SNES edition. That and its dramatic hanging-on-a-ledge-by-the-tip-of-your-finger gameplay was so satisfying.
Alien³ is a solid movie licensed game in an era where many of these games weren’t very good. Try playing it with all the lights turned off…
Arkanoid: Doh It Again! is an underrated 2 player gem. It’s so simple that even non gamers can jump in and have a blast. Highly recommended!
One of the most atmospheric games on the SNES, Blackthorne proves there’s nothing like blasting goblins and trolls in a desolate mine with a sawed off shotgun. You can even “accidentally” kill innocent prisoners
The box of 3 Ninjas Kick Back alone commands $500+. The game itself surprised me as being a decent (2 player) action platformer with three different characters to choose from. Surprisingly competent!
MOST WANTED Adventures of Batman and Robin
The GameFan previews back in the day made it look BEAST.
The most unique game here, The Adventures of Hourai High, was never officially released in America. It’s a fan translation of a Super Famicom RPG import that captures the spirit of EarthBound. I bought it from Time Walk just mere weeks before they folded.
Adventures of Kid Kleets isn’t half bad. It stands out a bit from the other me-too SNES platformers on account of having to kick a soccer ball at bad guys in order to subdue them. The ball physics made it a quirky, interesting experience.
Aero Fighters is a quality 2 player shooter.
Konami developed many classic SNES games in the ’90s. Animaniacs wasn’t one of them, and probably stands as Konami’s weakest SNES effort.
Ardy Lightfoot is a curious oddity for me in that part of me wanted to put it in the unsung hero class, but there’s another part of me that considered it for most disappointing. Worthwhile, but it’s not great like I had hoped.
Battletoads & Double Dragon wasn’t as good as I hoped, but it gave me some fond memories. One of the earliest crossovers I can remember, it was a huge deal in my gaming circle back in ’93!
Biker Mice From Mars is a nice Rock ‘N Roll Racing clone.
The Blues Brothers may look like a typical platformer on the surface but it’s not without some neat tricks. For example, you can carry and throw one another in the 2 player co-op mode. Oddly enjoyable for what it is…
The Combatribes was the second import game I ever rented back in late 1992. My brother and I loved beating up Martha Splatterhead and her delinquent gangs, all in the name of saving the Big Apple.
I went through all 40+ levels of B.O.B. in the summer of 2007 and had an absolute blast. If someone turned Doom into a 2D side scrolling action platformer, it might be this. Someone once called it “retarded Metroid”
Brawl Brothers has always been a bit underrated in my book. It’s a big improvement over its predecessor, Rival Turf. My brother and I had a lot of fun with it back in the day. Doesn’t really get the props that it should.
There are better versions of Bust-A-Move out there, but that doesn’t take away from the first game still being a competitive 2 player barn burner!
Captain Commando was a late port job — it came out in the arcades in 1991 but didn’t make it over to the SNES until August 1995. It was odd to see that large a gap, but I’m glad Capcom did it. Captain Commando is far from perfect but something I’ve enjoyed revisiting over the years.
I went into Brandish with low expectations in 2006. I ended up loving the atmosphere, music and a more cerebral style of play. The underground labyrinths are crawling with monsters galore, from T-Rex to Death itself!
A ghoulish atmosphere, detailed visuals and a slick Super Metroid-esque style of play makes Demon’s Crest one sublime adventure.
Colorful visuals in some highly bizarre worlds with masterful sound by the one and only Tim Follin make Equinox worth checking out. A “save-almost-anywhere-you-go” system helps keep the difficulty in check as well as encourage repeated attempts to finally snag that elusive key.
Fatal Fury 2 certainly redeemed Takara in my eyes. Fatal Fury on the SNES was the absolute pits. But this one hit the mark with much better control, gameplay and even an option that lets you play as the bosses.
Some would say Final Fantasy II gets plenty of love. But there are times where it seems to get lost in the shuffle especially when people are quick to bring up the “big three” of Chrono Trigger, EarthBound and Final Fantasy III. Don’t forsake this amazing early RPG!
MOST DISAPPOINTING Fatal Fury Special
Whereas Fatal Fury 2 excelled in smooth control, Fatal Fury Special did not. It’s a shame because otherwise it holds up fine for a 32-MEG port.
Many view Donkey Kong Country 2 as the best DKC game.
Donkey Kong Country 3 is sometimes overlooked because it came out late in the SNES’ lifespan (November 1996) and wasn’t quite as epic as the first two DKC games. It’s still very, very good in its own right though.
My copy of Gunman’s Proof comes courtesy of Time Walk just mere weeks before they closed their doors. Gunman’s Proof is criminally underrated. Think a combination of Zelda, EarthBound and the wild west. It’s a Zelda clone with guns and bazookas! ‘Nuff said, really.
A spiritual sequel to Soul Blazer (which some fans prefer), I love the improved visuals and shape shifting shenanigans of Illusion of Gaia.
Not your typical SNES game filled with bright and bold colors, First Samurai is something of a quirky guilty pleasure for me. I kind of like the foreboding visuals and atmosphere. And the sound effect “OH NO! MY SWORD!” is typical of its cheesy goodness, er, mediocrity.
Final Fight 3 is the best of the SNES Final Fight trilogy. Special moves, multiple branching paths and super specials make it a treat to play. It was roasted back in early 1996 when it came out, but became one of those games people grew to appreciate only after the passage of time.
With such a lame generic name, I didn’t expect much from Fire Power 2000 back in the day. A 2 player co-op mode helped for sure, but it was the overall smooth gameplay that made this an absolute winner.
FireStriker takes the classic Pong/Arkanoid style of play and infuses it with heroes and monsters. Quite an interesting mix.
It even sports a spiffy 4 player battle mode!
Goof Troop is a fun 2 player overhead action puzzle game. Goofy and Max complement each other extremely well — Goofy is stronger while Max is faster. One of the better 2 player titles from the 16-bit generation.
Hook plays a bit on the slow side, but I love its visuals and haunting soundtrack. A whimsical atmosphere adds to its overall appeal.
The idea of playing a shrunken protagonist navigating everyday objects and environments has greatly appealed to me ever since I saw Honey, I Shrunk The Kids in 1989. Harley’s Humongous Adventure may not have the most appealing aesthetic but it is rather surprisingly decent.
MOST WANTED Hagane
It’s been over 10 years since I bought it and sadly I’ve still yet to play it. The only thing more mind blowing? I bought it back in 2006 for $5!
Just as how it was nice that shelf three ended with the three Final Fantasy games, I love how shelf four begins with the Final Fight trilogy.
A classic early SNES shooter, Gradius III is plagued by bouts of slowdown but it’s got an amazing soundtrack and that vintage Gradius gameplay.
Few companies did bosses like Konami!
Konami also makes a mean soccer game — International Superstar Soccer Deluxe is arguably the best 16-bit soccer game ever crafted.
Well, that was easy. Not only is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past considered arguably the best Super Nintendo game of all time, but it’s also widely regarded as quite possibly the best video game ever created. It’s a timeless, quintessential adventure that never fails to leave a mark.
My all-time favorite baseball game.
WORST GAME Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings DISHONORABLE MENTION King Arthur & the Knights of Justice
Ironically, these were the last two games ever reviewed by Super Play Magazine. I guess they were so bad that even Super Play had to stop and ask themselves “What are we doing with our lives?”
Sure, it’s a bit slow in places but it’s tremendously fun to throw stone tires and boomerangs at all sorts of dinosaurs, all in the name of saving your special cave lady. Best of all, you could do it with a friend.
Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics is a damn fine sequel. It refined a few things from the first game and makes for a worthy addition to any SNES library.
I didn’t expect much from Judge Dredd but was pleasantly surprised by how well it plays. Shoot, punch and kick bad guys into oblivion. Not great but good for a movie tie-in.
Capcom delivered SNES owners with two of the better beat ‘em ups in the form of King of Dragons and Knights of the Round. Now that’s how you do King Arthur justice!
When you take out the game’s best mode (the tornado tag team bedlam mode) and gut two of the six monsters, you’ve earned this “award.” King of the Monsters was as big a disappointment as the monsters themselves.
I love how the second row of this shelf begins with the Mega Man quintet. And the first row opens with both Lemmings 1 and 2.
BEST GAME Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals HONORABLE MENTION Mega Man X
From recruiting monsters to the IP system, Lufia II rocks!
X marks the spot indeed.
WORST GAME Lester the Unlikely DISHONORABLE MENTION The Mask
Lacking in self-esteem, Lester’s courage and abilities increase as you progress through the game. It sounds intriguing on paper but unfortunately it lacks in execution what Lester lacks in confidence.
To its credit, The Mask was faithful to source material and tried to be different from your typical movie licensed platformer. But its ugly animations and terrible aesthetic brings it down a notch or two.
Using three vikings’ specialized abilities to reach the stage exit, The Lost Vikings was both innovative and refreshing.
The sequel introduced Fang the wolf and Scorch the dragon. These were fairly underrated titles that got a bit lost [har har -Ed.] in the fold.
Magical Quest’s classic “take-a-block-from-the-sky-and-use-it-on-bad-guys” system, along with costumes that altered Mickey’s abilities, made it such a bloody good time.
Similar to X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse, I prefer this game due to its roster (Iron Man, Spider Man, Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine). Plus you can select any superhero for any stage whereas in X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse you couldn’t. Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems came out October 1996 so it’s often forgotten. Give it a shot!
Mega Man 7 divided the fanbase. His homecoming was met with mixed reviews but I find it akin to slipping on an old comfortable pair of jeans.
Michael Jordan in a platformer beating up bad guys with a basketball? That’s as crazy as him retiring from the NBA in his prime to go pursue a baseball career. Both happened, but only one turned out to be any good.
MOST WANTED Metal Warriors
Shame shield activated.
Mega Man X² was not the leap over Mega Man X like many of us hoped, but it’s a quality sequel nevertheless.
Mega Man X³ introduced Zero as a playable character. The Mega Man games are a bit like pizza. When it’s good, it’s really good. But even when it’s a bit eh, it’s still alright. Mega Man X³ falls somewhere in the middle.
Can’t go wrong with the Blue Bomber!
The SNES port of Mortal Kombat II spelled vindication and redemption. The blood and Fatalities were both retained in this second go-round, surprising the hell out of everyone back in 1994.
This shelf ends with two “Mr.” games.
The next begins with “Ms.”
Many Ninja Gaiden fans have been vocal about the mishandling of this SNES port. So vocal in fact that I almost feel guilty enjoying it as much as I do. Such a shame there was never a proper 16-bit sequel.
From a pure wrestling standpoint, NCW > Saturday Night Slam Masters.
A quietly solid top-down shooter, Operation Logic Bomb is a one man wrecking crew of a good time.
Pieces is an underrated quirky game. You wouldn’t think assembling pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to be that much fun, but it somehow is. Throw in a nifty 2 player mode and you have a surprisingly competitive affair.
Nosferatu was previewed in 1992 but didn’t come out until late 1995. With that much time you would expect a highly polished game. Instead, its broken difficulty past level 3 makes it a waste of massive potential.
MOST SURPRISING Phalanx
How did this cover get the green light?!
MOST WANTED Ninja Warriors
Man, I really need to fix this. And soon.
I like how the previous shelf ended with two “Mister” games and this one began with Ms. Pacman
Released in December 1996, Realm had a chance to be a sleeper hit. It’s a run ‘n gun featuring some nice visuals and unique creature designs. Unfortunately, the broken difficulty renders it nearly unplayable.
Power Moves was the first import I ever rented back in late 1992. Even then as kids we knew it was a bit lacking. Don’t even bother unless you’re going for a complete collection or for the sake of nostalgia.
Plok is a criminally underrated platformer where you control a strange bloke who fires his limbs at enemies, way before Rayman did it. It looks like a “kiddy game” but don’t be fooled, it’s tough as nails.
RoboTrek’s unique combat system, ability to customize robotic allies and the zany universe made it such a blast to play. Love the art style, too!
SNES fans got gypped when it came to Strider. However, Run Saber is a solid consolation prize. It’s a short, easy and fun 2 player hack ‘n slash.
Slippery control derailed this promising platformer.
MOST SURPRISING Rival Turf
For all the hate Rival Turf gets — some have called it Rival Turd — I was pleasantly surprised by how decent this turned out to be, especially for April 1992. It was the first SNES beat ‘em up to feature a 2 player mode.
MOST WANTED R-Type III
Said to be one of the best SNES shooters.
Why haven’t I played it yet?
Pocky & Rocky 2 was a worthy sequel.
Prince of Persia is an interesting little game.
Not counting the orange box of Final Fight Guy, Riddick Bowe Boxing is the only North American SNES box that doesn’t have the traditional black side. Instead it’s gray, white and red; it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Another box that stands out on this shelf is Robocop vs. Terminator. It’s the only SNES box that is a hard clamshell and has no title on the side. The game itself can be fun in a dumb, violent kind of way.
Shadowrun is a unique action RPG set in a futuristic cyberpunk world. The game opens with your character awakening from his slumber atop a cold steel slab. It hooked me right away and didn’t let go until the game’s satisfying finale. A sequel was hinted at during the end credits that we sadly never got.
Secret of Mana was an innovative action RPG that allowed 3 players to go at it. This was unheard of back in 1993. Mana may be a little overhyped in some circles but it’s still a quality adventure worth venturing through.
WORST GAME Speed Racer DISHONORABLE MENTION Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge
Speed Racer switches from side scrolling platforming to a racing game. The former is barely passable but the latter is absolutely atrocious.
Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge was way too hard and while not without some redeeming qualities (the music rocks), overall it falls shy of the mark. Not the worst game ever, though.
GUILTY PLEASURES Snow White: Happily Ever After Sporting News Baseball
Yes, I own a Snow White video game and yes, I kind of dig it. What the hell am I doing with my life?! The platforming is surprisingly competent. Just not the thing you go ’round talking about, not even on the internet
Sporting News Baseball isn’t the greatest baseball game around, but it features the iconic baseball field from my favorite film, Field of Dreams.
It’s actually pretty good.
I was just expecting a lot more.
MOST SURPRISING Street Fighter Alpha 2
Amazing what Capcom squeezed into a Super Nintendo cartridge!
MOST WANTED Star Fox
Hopefully I appreciate this in 2017 as I would have in 1993…
Some under-the-radar titles from this shelf:
While none of those titles will appear on any top 10 list, they kind of typify a good portion of the SNES catalog. Ranging from decent to very solid, while they’re not essential, they sure round out a collection nicely.
If you like your 16-bit baseball, Super Baseball 2020 is an entertaining futuristic take on the sport. For another outlandish quirky baseball title, be sure to check out Super Baseball Simulator 1.000. It’s outta this world!
[I see what you did there… -Ed.]
Looking for a more traditional baseball game? Then check out the quietly stellar Super Bases Loaded 2. A bit slow but super fun.
Ranging from pretty good to excellent, any of these games would do well to round out a strong Super Nintendo collection.
MOST DISAPPOINTING Thunder Spirits
Thunder Force III eats it for breakfast.
MOST SURPRISING Super Slap Shot
I really thought this game was going to suck but it ended up reminding me of a 16-bit version of Blades of Steel. Let me pump the brakes because I don’t want to overstate this game’s stock — but it’s surprisingly decent!
MOST WANTED Super Star Wars
Super Empire Strikes Back
Super Return of the Jedi
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I played the first one very briefly. It’s time I rectify this and play the other two. R.I.P. Carrie Fisher
Time Trax isn’t too shabby.
Can’t go wrong with the Top Gear trilogy.
Closest thing to Out Run on the SNES
I had an odd fetish for Top Gear 3000…
It even sports a quirky 4 player mode!
The box of EarthBound is so big it needed its own shelf!
The old man’s been kidnapped and it’s up to you to save pops. Luckily, you can turn into a werewolf as well as use a wide variety of firearms. Nothing special, but it’s enjoyable enough, especially on a rainy day.
Vladamasco is being ruled under the iron fist of the diabolical General Von Hesler. As young Spike, a junior magician and vampire in training, you must traverse many strange lands to put an end to Von Hesler’s wicked ways. Attack with your trusty cape and hat (which can be upgraded) in this short but sweet action RPG. It can be beaten in three measly hours, but what fun you’ll have!
Worthy of the Arnold name, True Lies is barbaric and one of the best 16-bit movie licensed games. Few SNES games can match its sheer brutality.
U.N. Squadron is loads of fun.
I’ve always found the SNES port of World Heroes to be underrated and faithful. Easy to pull off combos, vibrant visuals and those oh-so-vicious Death Matches make this one a winner in my book. Besides, where else can you knock someone into burning ropes?
16 fighters, 24 megs and 32 fists (plus a sword and bearded axe) to contend with, World Heroes 2 is everything a sequel should be: bigger and better. The home port adds in a speed option and the ability to play as the two bosses, bringing the count to a whopping 16. Only Super Street Fighter II had as many at that time. Truly an unsung hero. Pun intended.
MOST DISAPPOINTING Total Carnage
Total Carnage is a semi-sequel to Super Smash TV that fails to recapture the magic of the original. This is further exacerbated by a somewhat shoddy home port.
I saw Wolfenstein at a friend’s house in 1992 but my first time ever playing it was with the Super Nintendo in early 1994. And I freaking loved it. I was surprised by how smoothly it ran, relatively speaking of course. In my book, it stands as a stunning, underrated achievement.
MOST WANTED Ys III: Wanderers From Ys
It will be my first Ys game!
Tuff E Nuff is kind of odd, from the energy bar placement to the title printed on the box, which reads in full: Hey Punk! Are You Tuff E Nuff? It’s fairly decent for a homegrown SNES fighter, however.
Speaking of homegrown fighters, WeaponLord is very deep.
Super Nintendo games represent a sweet spot in gaming for me. It was during a time where games weren’t overly simplistic yet they weren’t yet too complicated, either. It just strikes that happy medium for me. I also find that many SNES games have aged extremely well. Many are as playable and as enjoyable today as they were 20, 25 years ago. It’s a true testament to the timeless quality that many of these games exude.
One of my favorite things to do is come home on a Friday night after a long grueling work week, head to the game room and finally playing that one game that I’ve been wondering about ever since the ’90s. Finding the game on the shelf, opening it up, reading through the color manual, and popping it in to at long last quell a 20+ year curiosity. One guy said it best years ago when he said “It feels like I’m fulfilling my childhood dreams.” Aside from your SNES classics and gems, I find there are also over 100 games that are perfectly playable and enjoyable. Maybe they’re nothing to write home about necessarily, but they can certainly entertain you for a weekend or two. I own over 400 boxed Super Nintendo games and I’d say only a small handful of them are bad. It really blows my mind how deep the SNES library is. It’s probably why I find myself coming back to the system time after time. It’s been a great journey these past 10 years!
Man, Super Mario Kart. Where do I begin? The Super Nintendo is loaded with awesome games; my memories with this system run long and deep. Super Mario Kart not only ranks as one of the very best, but it also gave me and my gaming buds countless epic memories. It was a brilliant idea — take Mario, his chums and throw them in a crazy, zany go-kart world. It was instant Nintendo magic. And the rest, as they say, is history. As clearly evident by the success the Mario Kart franchise would go on to enjoy, Nintendo caught lightning in a bottle.
THE NIGHT IT CAME BACK HOME
On April 9, 2006, I reacquired Super Mario Kart by trading my copy of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Limited Tin Edition). Only 40,000 were ever made. My girlfriend at the time bought it for me in 2004. Two years later, I turned it into Super Mario Kart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2. The tin edition was going for roughly $25-$30 at the time. It goes to show you how great the retro gaming market was back in 2006. I made the deal with a nice guy off DigitPress. While I’m a big fan of the Halloween films, I couldn’t pass up on this golden opportunity to get four of my favorite childhood video games in one fell swoop.
THE NEW KINGS ON THE BLOCK
It was 24 years ago that my brother and I made the best trade of our gaming lives. Exchanging Death Duel for Super Mario Kart instantly made us kings of our neighborhood. All the kids living nearby came flocking to our place weekend after weekend, month after month. Being the only ones who owned the game, our quaint little home morphed into a madhouse as we had friends coming and going nonstop. Even now, whenever I close my eyes and listen closely, I can still hear the incessant chiming of my childhood doorbell. As a kid I would lay there in bed on lazy Sunday mornings trying to enjoy my peace and quiet. No such chance of that. By 8:45 every Sunday morning, like clockwork, Ben and our other friends were banging down our door. We were truly the new kings on the block.
FLASHBACK TO CHRISTMAS 1992
Christmas ’92 proved to be one for the record books. In addition to my mom buying me King of the Monsters, that same year our uncle bought us Death Duel. I remember the ad from EGM. It looked cool and all, but honestly, my brother and I were a bit disappointed. Of all the games on our wish list, Death Duel certainly wasn’t even in the top 20. We tried not to complain though as our mom always taught us to be grateful and that any gift was better than none at all. Still, Kevin and I went home that night talking about how awesome it would be if Death Duel magically transformed into Super Mario Kart instead (the game that topped our Christmas wish list). It was rare that my brother and I both wanted the same game — he was a “mainstream” guy while I was more fond of the obscure underdog titles. However, Super Mario Kart transcended all of that. It was just that kind of game.
And then, as we were talking, an epiphany struck us. We suddenly recalled the ad for Death Duel in EGM. We pulled out the latest EGM issue that we had bought weeks earlier and madly flipped through it in search of our great loophole. Ah, there it was. Not suggested for children under 14. I was only nine and my brother was 11. My brother wouldn’t be able to play Death Duel for another three years! And five for me! Not that we couldn’t break the rules but when the rules benefit you, why not follow them?
After showing the ad to our mom, just as we predicted she would, she promptly called our uncle to explain the situation and asked if he kept the receipt. Luckily, he did and since we hadn’t opened the game yet, it was ripe for a swap. So later that week my mom took me and Kevin to exchange Death Duel for Super Mario Kart. I remember thinking that it was the greatest trade in the history of mankind. I still laugh thinking about this Christmas memory. Who knew a silly ad could bring about such a dramatic turn of events?
Rather ironic that I originally acquired Super Mario Kart via trade, and then 14 years later reacquired it by trade. I’m hanging onto my copy this time for sure!
My brother and I played the crap out of Super Mario Kart that Christmas season and well into 1993. It was such an addicting game. My favorite character was Yoshi. My brother loved using Koopa. One of our friends, Ben, liked using Bowser or Donkey Kong Jr. Ben liked them most because they had the size to push others around. We were the only kids in the neighborhood who had Super Mario Kart, so our neighborhood friends were banging on our door like bloodthirsty zombies. I remember many Sunday mornings where the doorbell chime woke us up at 8:45! Kevin and I quickly became the kings of our block, all thanks to Super Mario Kart.
THE GO KART RACERS
There are a total of eight racers, but really four different types. They come in four pairs which vary in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Mario takes a break from stomping goombas, but this is hardly R&R! He’s sort of a jack of all but master of none type. He doesn’t have the highest top speed and his acceleration is only average. However, he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Also, due to his slightly bulky build, he’s able to hold his own a little bit even when bumped by the heavyweights Bowser or Donkey Kong Jr.
The man who lives in the shadow of Mario. I always liked Luigi because I enjoy cheering for underdogs and sidekicks. He basically has the same abilities as Mario but he lacks the size to adequately counter a Bowser bump.
The damsel in distress is out to get hers! She’s top of the line when it comes to acceleration, but only average when it comes to top speed. Look at those demon-possessed eyes. Yeah, I would advise against cracking any sort of “kitchen barefoot” jokes here.
Yoshi has always been my go-to kart driver. Come on, a dinosaur in a go-kart? You just can’t beat that. The beauty (Princess) and the beast (Yoshi) share the same qualities and both are especially ideal for Donut Plains and the battle mode. On the flip side, they rather stink when it comes to Vanilla Lake.
For the first time ever, you can control one of gaming’s most iconic villains. I remember this being a huge deal in my gaming circle back in late ’92. Using a special customized XXL go-kart, Bowser is as nasty as ever. Because of his enormous size, he’s slow to accelerate but once he gets going, there’s NO stopping that immense momentum… until you bump into a barrier, that is. That’s gonna suck. A lot. But as far as top speed is concerned, Bowser is king.
Donkey can shove the competition aside and is the only one who can truly withstand the impact of a Bowser bump. Both struggle with Donut Plains and the battle mode, but they excel at Koopa Beach.
Koopa was my brother’s favorite back in the day. He lacks in top speed but makes up for it when it comes to control. Koopa steers corners extremely well, which means you can stay on the gas pedal a little longer than most other racers when rounding corners.
Toad is similar to Koopa but rumor has it Toad has the slight edge in terms of acceleration (being just a hair better… again, just a rumor). Both of them are cornering champions though and perform well particularly on Choco Island. But look out for Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr.!
The mushroom is a classic, basic and useful card to have in your back pocket. When you’re at the beginning of a long straight path, or right before a jumping strip, press A to give yourself a short and sudden burst of speed. Remember using this to scream ¼ across the tracks of Ghost Valley 1, or Mario Circuit 2? It never gets old! ^_^
Ah, the green shell. The shell for real men. It shoots out straight, so that means you have to aim it with skill. Of course, some luck factors in as well, but the green shell is largely based on positioning, timing and skill. Misfire and it will ricochet off walls until it finds a victim. Don’t get in its way! Also, you can drop it behind you. It makes for a defensive tool if timed properly. Nice!
For less skill and a much higher rate of success, the homing red shell will quickly stir up words not quite appropriate for this site. Once in a blue moon you can avoid the red shell. For example, power sliding around a corner can free you of the red shell’s death grip. But the wise and discerning player will only fire the red shell when their target is right there for the taking. A banana peel or green shell can nullify it, however…
The banana peel isn’t the best offensive tool in the game, but it can be surprisingly effective when you’re neck and neck with the competition. You can also launch a banana peel about 10 yards ahead of you. While a fun sight, it’s rarely effective. Its best attribute isn’t its offensive capabilities, but rather its defensive potential. It has the ability to act as a defensive buffer to a red or green shell.
Although it doesn’t quite enjoy the glamour among Mario Kart fans as the vaunted lightning bolt does, the star has always been my personal favorite. It’s a combination of various powers: your speed is increased, you’re immune to track obstacles and enemy weapons, but best of all, anyone you touch instantly spins out. However, if you fall into water, lava, or off an edge, you’ll lose the power.
The game’s most infamous and adored power-up, the lightning bolt is both devious and dangerous. The fact that it’s so rare only increases its legend. Releasing the lightning bolt affects all seven competitors. Doing so shrinks them down which decreases their speed, but best of all, it allows you an opportunity to sadistically crush (literally) the competition. The lightning bolt is no doubt a game changer!
The coin is often viewed as the worst item of the lot, but it’s not useless. It’s definitely a no-brainer item though, since as soon as you get it, you should press ‘A’ to use it. It adds two coins to your count. Coins affect your overall top speed, with 10 being the max. So while it may not be as sexy as the other items, it’s handy when you have few or no coins.
Mr. Ghost is only available in Battle Mode, sadly. I wish it was available in the two player GP mode as well, but I guess one can’t have it all. The ghost not only snatches your friend’s current item but it also makes you “invisible.” Stealing your rival’s red shell or star in particular tends to lead to a curse word or two being uttered. And let’s face it, that’s probably half the fun of the battle mode
The feather allows you to make a great leap of faith. It’s particularly handy for Ghost Valley 1 and a few other tracks. Sure, you can jump with the L or R button but this turns you into the second coming of Michael Jordan. You can also use it to leap over an incoming shell (which is super satisfying) or a well-placed tricky banana peel. You can also use it to cut corners, too. Good stuff.
You get the items by passing a question mark tile. Let the randomness run its course or if you’re in a rush then press ‘A’ to stop it. It was (and still is) a fun gimmick that made Super Mario Kart extra awesome. The racing itself is fine, but the weapons add an extra dosage of strategy and fun.
MARIO CIRCUIT 1
This is by far the game’s easiest course, as well it should be. It eases you into the mechanics. There are no major tight corners. Instead, you get plenty of straight away paths. Not a lot of frills or thrills here, but that’s fine since there are 19 other tracks that are much more gimmicky. Mario Circuit 1 is plain but a memorable beginner’s track nevertheless.
DONUT PLAINS 1
To the casual observer, at a cursory glance, this track may appear to be a tranquil setting with a beautiful pond. However, experienced kart drivers know behind the serenity lies a deceivingly semi-tough course that can eat up unsuspecting novices. Some corners have loose dirt and debris strewn about. Ease up on the gas during these points or else pay the price.
GHOST VALLEY 1
Ah, Ghost Valley. The mushroom super jump bit, the feather trick and its unique elevated wooden track make this course unforgettable. Oddly enough, whoever built this course from long ago randomly inserted a jump bar in the middle. Remember the first time you used the mushroom right before the jump bar? Talk about a “holy shit” worthy moment indeed.
BOWSER CASTLE 1
Bowser’s got some of the trickiest tracks around, but his first one is fairly straight forward. It has some memorable features that help make it stand out. Midway through there are three zipper bars for you to drive over, granting you a quick speed burst. It was always a rush to turn the corner tightly and hit one of those zipper marks right on the, er, mark. And watch out for those annoying Thwomps!
MARIO CIRCUIT 2
I’ve always enjoyed the Mario Circuits because they have sort of a ‘pure’ untainted kart track feel to them. At the same time, there are just enough tiny gimmicks here and there that keep things interesting. This one is most notable for its famous great big jump bump at the end. Sabotaging players here was wickedly fun. Try dropping a banana peel just to the right of the second marker on the left side for computer opponents. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about
CHOCO ISLAND 1
A slippery dirt course way out in the desert, the infamous piranha plant calls Choco Island home. The terrain is dominated by bumpy surfaces and mud slicks so don’t get too pedal happy here. Be weary also of the mud bog that lies somewhere in the last quarter of the track — try using a mushroom here and see what happens!
GHOST VALLEY 2
While the first Ghost Valley track will always be the best one in my book, all of them are special in their own unique way. This one has a zipper for the final stretch of the course, with a small jumper off to the far right side… allowing you to take to the skies with a mushroom. I like how the small jumper is randomly placed there.
DONUT PLAINS 2
Try using the mushroom to skip the edge of the pond! This course is a perfect place to show off your great power sliding technique. Donut Plains 2 is littered with monty moles up the wazoo. They pop out of holes in the ground and even magically jump out of the grassy areas. If one latches on, you have to shake it off. I shake it off, I shake it off! But I keep cruising. Can’t stop, won’t stop moving. It’s like I got this music in my mind saying it’s gonna be alright. Er, sorry. [I don’t know this guy. Security! -Ed.]
BOWSER CASTLE 2
This place can be a little confusing at first. Luckily, Bowser’s kind enough to place some arrows to guide you along. You can choose different routes to take. Alright, the routes are basic, but having a choice is still nice. If you have a feather, you can pull off a really awesome trick but it requires absolute precision. It’s not as easy as the jump in Ghost Valley 1…
MARIO CIRCUIT 3
There are a dozen square question mark blocks waiting for you just after the start / finish line, which may allow players to get an early advantage right out of the box. There is a serious hairpin turn in the middle of the track, and just for the hell of it there’s a nifty turbo plate in the final straight away leading up to the goal.
KOOPA BEACH 1
The good news: there aren’t any tight turns. The bad news: the sand surface isn’t the best for traction. Your kart has just enough buoyancy that it can travel safely across the water… except for the deeper, darker blue parts. Touch that and you’ll be swimming with the fish! [HAR HAR HAR -Ed.]
CHOCO ISLAND 2
Strange, suddenly I’m craving Coco Puffs. Choco Island 2 has a much bigger patch of chocolate goo waiting for you in the middle than the first Choco Island. There’s also a very narrow road which is the perfect place to drop a green shell or banana peel. Avoid the heavy dirt off-road sections — they slow drivers down to a crawl.
VANILLA LAKE 1
Brrrr! It’s a good thing the engine of your go-kart is so hot because you’re going to need that warmth as you race around this slick frozen lake! It’s probably the shortest track in the whole game. Vanilla Lake 1 is filled with annoying ice blocks that really impede your progress if you can’t skirt around them successfully.
BOWSER CASTLE 3
Bowser’s castle tracks just keep getting fancier and fancier. This one gives you three different lanes to pick from. The inside and outside lanes have a turbo tile to zip you past the competition. But the middle path has two question mark tiles. It does require, however, a well-timed leap to acquire…
MARIO CIRCUIT 4
This is a fairly long track that’s packed with corners of all sizes and shapes. It’s also home to many pesky pipes looking to block your path. Nothing beats the thrill of successfully blowing past them on your way to the finish line. On the flip side, nothing’s worse than being clipped by a centimeter, slowing you down to finish in second place (or worse). D’oh!
DONUT PLAINS 3
Graced by two rickety old bridges, literally. One of them is missing some wooden planks and the second bridge is really FUBAR… requiring you to leap safely across. It’s so narrow too that you’re likely to get bumped if another racer is nearby. You can knock others into the pond, but keep in mind that it goes both ways! And to top it all off, the bloody monty moles are back.
KOOPA BEACH 2
It’s time for another bash at the beach! This beach is loaded with some serious greenery that will slow down anyone who drives on it. As it was with Koopa Beach 1, watch out for the dark blue patches of water. They’ll drown you faster than you can say “CRIKEY! FLOPPING CHEEP CHEEP!”
GHOST VALLEY 3
The trickiest of the three Ghost Valley tracks, this one is filled to the brim with gaping holes. Carefully navigate your way through or you’ll pay a dear price. Just like the two previous Ghost Valley tracks, the feather can prove to be a difference maker here.
VANILLA LAKE 2
A very slippery course that’s more lake than land. Advanced players know how to jump around the edges of the lake to shave a precious second or two off their time. To complicate matters, this track is filled with ice barriers that can bring you to a complete and fatal stop. Winter Wonderland this ain’t!
It would only be appropriate for the final course to be the toughest. Rainbow Road, in that context, certainly doesn’t disappoint. There’s no room for error with narrow paths galore and some very difficult to avoid Thwomps. Oh yeah, those plain Thwomps from Bowser’s castle tracks? Yeah, they’re now enhanced with an electrical force field. One touch and it’s Spin Out City. Rainbow Road separates the boys from the men.
BATTLE ZONES OF DEATH
Select from four battle zones in the 2-player battle mode. The first course is basic and pretty much wide open, while the second one has more nooks and crannies for players to take cover. The third one, surprise surprise, is the slipperiest of the four. The fourth, as you can see above, is the nuttiest.
The battle mode is real simple. Each player has three balloons strapped to their go-kart. The first to pop all three balloons of the other player wins. This led to some serious cutthroat battles. The Ghost icon was a bitch! Great memories…
We also had a blast with the Time Trial mode. Getting the best time meant bragging rights. It was a gloat worthy accomplishment any time you beat out your brother, friend or even your own records. Not only could you be recognized for the best total time but the game also took account of best single lap time. Nothing was better than breaking both the single lap and total time record simultaneously.
Ah, the performance chart from the game’s manual. The SNES had some great instruction manuals, bursting with both color and useful information. Kind of sad to think about how today’s kids will never fully grasp the simple joy of studying a game’s manual in the backseat of their car going home from the video rental store. Life today is better in a lot of ways, but I can think of a few things technology simply cannot supplant.
Super Mario Kart has a simple but effective ranking system. If you ranked at 5th or worse, you had to then replay that course. The point system is as follows:
1: 9 points 2: 6 points 3: 3 points 4: 1 point
I’ve always felt that this scoring system worked really well. Take a look:
Classy, elegant and yet simple. Gotta love it. The music that plays here is awesome and to this day remains stuck in my head.
Nothing is more exhilarating than a photo finish race. Check out how crazy close Donkey Kong Jr. came to my Yoshi — 1’17″52 vs. 1’17″53!
I love the set-up screen here. Super Mario Kart just oozes with class and brilliance. You start out by earning the Gold Cup on all three races of the 50cc class. Then do the same in 100cc. Doing so unlocks Special Cup. Earn the Gold Cup there and you’ll unlock 150cc. 150cc is no joke!
MUSHROOM CUP OVERVIEW
Few things satisfy like using a mushroom to burst past your top rival during that finish line finale.
Power sliding around a tight corner to zoom past the competition is simply the best. And if you have the star, using it right after power sliding around a corner really puts you ahead of the pack!
I liken the green shell to that of a bow and arrow. When aimed properly and used effectively, it proves to be both fatal and satisfying. While the red shell is a more effective weapon, the green shell is the one that allows players to show off their mad skills and ability to project accurately. Here I am setting up poor unsuspecting Koopa in my line of fire. Let’s see what happens to ol’ turtle face…
Release the sucker at just the right time and BAM! They spin out in a frenzy dropping coins every which way as you speed on ahead. Was there anything better than this? Even a mere child can use the red shell successfully. But the green shell now, ah ha. That, my friends, is entirely another matter. The green shell is for true Mario Kart masters
SEND IN THE CLONES
Surprisingly not, there came an inevitable flow of Mario Kart clones on the Super Nintendo. Shockingly however, most of them came out in Japan only. The most blatant clone is SD F-1 Grand Prix. Think Super Mario Kart meets the animatronic rejects of Chuck E. Cheese’s. As far as clones go though, this one is quite good. It has slightly better visuals than Super Mario Kart (October 1995 vs. September 1992). However, to no one’s surprise, it doesn’t play as well. The same can be said for all the other clones below. They’re all very competent and fun in their own right, but they’re NAGASMK (not as good as Super Mario Kart). SD F-1 Grand Prix is my favorite of the clones.
Definitely the least blatant clone of the lot, Battle Cross is what you might get if you threw Super Bomberman and Super Mario Kart into a blender. Who didn’t dream of that crossover at some point during the early-mid ’90s? Battle Cross is a single screen racer featuring six drivers and various weapon power-ups strewn across its nine wacky tracks. It does suffer slightly however from “It sounds better than what it actually is” syndrome. It’s pretty good but ends up feeling a bit “lightweight.” Still, it allows up to five human players and when approached with the proper mindset it can be a rather fun affair. Just temper those expectations going in.
Battle Racers took Bandai’s famous Kamen Rider-related characters and dumped them into a Mario Kart-esque game. I love the gorgeous sunset effect as seen above. It’s a very solid racing game but as stated before, it’s simply NAGASMK. Still, it’s worthy enough to warrant a look.
Finally, we come to the lone American clone in this lot. Street Racer features a four player split-screen mode. That alone makes it something to write home about. Well worth adding to your SNES collection, Street Racer has got its own bizarre personality and world. Give it a shot.
HONEY I SHRUNK THE KARTS!
The rule was simple. If you were “IT” you could pick any driver. The other person had to select Bowser (or Donkey). Why? They were the slowest to accelerate. The goal? Tag big ol’ Bowser (or Donkey). We found Vanilla Lake 2 to be most conducive for this makeshift mini-game. I can’t tell you how many hours we wasted on this. It was so cool because we felt like we had discovered an extra ‘secret mode’ to the game, which only increased its already excellent longevity. When shrunk, the small courses suddenly loom large, and what healthy child doesn’t love a spot or two of tag? It only added to the game’s brilliance and was a testament to just how stellar the game was. GP and Battle Mode are great and everything… but for sheer laughs and kicks, try out this miniature game of tag! It was classic childhood innocence sprinkled with that impeccable Nintendo magic that made it a winning combination
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Mario Kart was considered a universal smash hit. While today many are divided on where they stand — some feel it has stood the test of time while others think it hasn’t aged too well and that later renditions have rendered the original a bit obsolete — back in 1992 practically everyone was blown away. Along with Capcom’s Street Fighter II, Super Mario Kart was THE two player game to have on the Super Nintendo. Those two showcase titles were responsible for moving Super Nintendo systems by the truckload back in 1992. EGM gave Super Mario Kart ratings of 9, 9, 8 and 8. GameFan rated it 97, 96, 95 and 90%. Super Play scored it 93%. In EGM’s Top 100 Games list printed in issue #100 (November 1997), Super Mario Kart ranked in at a lofty #15. Their “Most Challenging Moment” blurb made me smile because I completely agree with them. It was a heated argument back in the late ’90s on which was better: Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64. I do love me some four player Mario Kart 64 but come on, the tracks on the original game was simply superior. It’s a debate that continues to stir passionate opinions to this very day…
Nintendo Power Magazine published their Top 100 Nintendo games list in issue #100 (September 1997). By the way, I found it cool (and such a wild coincidence) how EGM and Nintendo Power Magazine reached 100 issues at almost the same time. Nintendo Power ranked Super Mario Kart #32 while Mario Kart 64 placed #4. They hit the nail on the head with their very first sentence. I owned both Mario Kart games growing up, and while I really enjoyed Mario Kart 64 as well, Super Mario Kart was my favorite.
Super Play Magazine published their own Top 100 SNES Games list back in April 1996. Super Play ranked Super Mario Kart as the third best SNES game ever created.
Retro Gamer Magazine printed a special article on the SNES back in issue #23 (March 2006), highlighting ten “perfect” SNES games. Super Mario Kart topped that list at #1. Speaking of lists, I’ve been working on my very own SNES list the past 10 plus years.Whenever I get around to publishing it, you’ll see I also have Super Mario Kart ranked fairly high
A “DY-NO-MITE!” COMMERCIAL
It’s crazy to believe it’s been nearly 25 years since Super Mario Kart raced its way into our hearts. Time flies. It’s almost been 25 years since my brother and I pulled off the greatest gaming trade in the history of mankind (well, at least of our lives). This was the kind of game that brought all your neighborhood friends over like ants to sugar. Hell, even that one guy you barely knew! Whether it was the intense battle mode, the heart-pounding GP race, or even the brilliant makeshift tag mode we created out of a simple code, Super Mario Kart provided so many rich memories for me and my friends. It features great graphics (although it had to be seen in 1992 to truly be appreciated), excellent sound and unforgettable music, and finely tuned gameplay that only the Big N could perfect. The racing just feels right, and the creativity of the weapons and tracks only added to the game’s zaniness and appeal. Nintendo delivered another legendary gem and proved there was indeed life for Mario and friends outside of the platforming genre.
I still play Super Mario Kart to this day. It’s one of my “go to” games whenever I feel like I might be heading into a gaming slump. It’s like that tried-and-true classic on the menu that you always order when you want to be reminded of how good food can taste. Super Mario Kart always reminds me of why I love gaming in the first place. It’s got an outlandish universe filled with classic characters, practical weapons and power-ups to use that never gets old, and memorable courses that are still as fun to race on now as they were then. Almost a quarter century later, Super Mario Kart still finishes in first place in my book in many categories. And it remains one of the finest Super Nintendo games ever created.
Regardless of later renditions and what else may come in the future, Super Mario Kart will forever be a true testament to how GREAT video games can be. It’s the best racing game on the SNES and one of the best Super Nintendo games ever. Thank you, Shigeru Miyamoto!