re: ten super nintendo games for under $100 each

| tim

“ten super nintendo games you can purchase for less than $100 each”
by tim rogers

Hello, my lovelies!

I suppose many of you don’t know that I have a Formspring. Formspring is a website where people can ask people questions, either anonymously . . . or nonymously.

I’ve been glibly, quickly, hiply answering a lot of questions in as few words as possible (“What magazine would you most like to be on the cover of?” “Big Penis Decadely”), though every now and again I look at a question and decide to give it a good once-over.

Someone recently asked me “I just got a SNES, and you just so happen to be in control of the next ten games I will buy and play on the SNES. What are the 10 games I should play that aren’t going going to cost 100+ on ebay? And what are 1 or 2 rarer games that are worth it?

I liked this question, so I decided to give it a long answer — which I have decided to post here. I had fun answering it. So: it gives me an idea — send me questions to my Formspring, either anonymously or not, and maybe I’ll answer them in a short feature post like this on Or maybe I won’t! I reserve the right to ignore your question with extreme prejudice.

So . . . think of this as something of a slower-paced, text-based, one-question installment of the insert credit dot com podcast. (I’ve just given myself the idea to write short features based on previous podcast questions. Oh man. We should do that, guys.)

Anyway, let’s get on with my little answer to that big question:

Ten games! Man, I don’t know. This is tough. You want US SNES games, yeah?

I can barely think of anything that doesn’t totally suck which would cost you at least $30.

Hah — here’s how out of touch i am: i was going to say to get the hideously underrated Dracula X (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) SNES port, and then . . . I checked eBay, and the lowest price is $160. I guess I Just Don’t Know!

Here is a brief list of what I feel to be less-obvious games which are also incredible (note, I am not saying Zelda: Link to the Past (or anything else) “sucks” by excluding it):

1. Secret of Evermore by Square USA is an *incredible* video game that is simultaneously perfect as a “Japanese”(-style) Role-Playing Game and as a graphical adventure. No one ever gave a hoot about it because Square’s marketing was terrible — they tried to sell it as a spiritual follow-up to Secret of Mana, and it bombed because it wasn’t Dumb Happy Co-op Yaytimes. However, it deserves a shot, and people should be singing its praises pretty soon. Of extreme noteworth is the Roman-inspired “Antiqua” world, which features a billion post-Kojima fourth-wall-shattering moments. For example, there’s a desert that is literally a hundred horrible screens tall. The player must cross it to get from the beach to the capitol of the empire. A skeleton boatman, however, will let you cross on his wooden sandboat, if you pay the fare — one Amulet of Annihilation (very rare). However, if your chosen character name contains any profanity, he won’t allow you on the boat. Then, once you get to the capital city, you have the Marketplace Puzzle, which is about as intelligent as anything ever put into an RPG or a graphical adventure. Also, the combat is Secret of Mana brought closer to Zelda. It’s just great, OK? Noted as the first great game soundtrack by Jeremy Soule, who later went on to do Baldur’s Gate and the Elder Scrolls (Skyrim being particularly fantastic!). You will believe there are Real Classical Guitars inside your Super Nintendo. (~$60 on eBay, with some weird anomalous $80+ prices here and there.)

2. Blackthorne by Blizzard is basically Out of this World: The Videogame. It’s a puzzle-platformer so long and grindy that it might as well be endless. It’s a beautiful, hideous, grotesquely painful slog — in the best of all possible ways. It was Demon’s Souls before Demon’s Souls. It has a really great shotgun and some meaty mechanics. I love the weight and feel of everything in the game. I like the 32X version a bit better because of the weird digitized-y graphics and excess gore, though this is still super hot. Warning: it’s a bit weird and has a steeper learning curve than is initially apparent. It requires tons of memorization of level layouts and enemy positioning . . . and just as you think you understand the mechanics, it turns out the game expects you to squeeze a little more out. It actually begins this squeezing process probably a little bit too early for a lot of people. It expects a lot out of you — it expects you to be constantly paying attention. If you can’t get around the themes of Jim-Lee-illustrated Comic-Book-Heroic Rocker Guy With A Shotgun Killing Demons In An Alternate Dimension, maybe you won’t be able to invest the necessary attention. If you can, though, you’re in for a trip: this game is packed tight with puzzles that don’t feel like puzzles. Post-puzzles. “Thinking Action” is what someone might call it. That’s my favorite kind of action, to be totally honest — and my favorite kind of puzzle. (~$40 on eBay)

3. Rock and Roll Racing by Blizzard is an incredible action racing game which has some of the best friction ever laid out on a silver platter in the history of games. It was also released on Genesis, though the SNES version has better sound. The gimmick is that it has old rock and roll songs chiptuned as the background music. That’s a dumb gimmick, though the not-dumb gimmick is that the game feels incredible. Every time your car leaves the track, every time you rumble up a hill, every time you let loose a missile and watch it wobble into a straight path — every little tiny friction feels like a game-sized event. I wonder why we don’t have anything this good on Xbox Live. Every time Action Button Entertainment Co-Founder Brent Porter and I talk about this game, our voices slip into a lower volume, and we talk about making something as good for Xbox Live Arcade. Only it’d be about helicopters! . . . Which unfortunately can’t jump. Hey, we’re working on it. In the meantime, Rock and Roll Racing is Rare-ish, like RC Pro-Am or Cobra Triangle, though they went the extra mile transforming that simple twitch mechanic (of tank controls on a high-speed isometric racing game) into something literally sports-worthy. These guys later made Starcraft. Duh — of course. Nobody talks about this game enough. (~$40 on eBay)

4. The Lost Vikings by Blizzard is the best puzzle-platform game ever made. I look at games like Limbo or what have you and I’m just all backslashfaced. The Lost Vikings is the real champion. One of your guys has a shield: he can hold it up to use it as a platform, he can block projectiles with it, or he can use it to glide from a ledge. One of your guys can run and jump. One of your guys has a sword and a bow and arrow. You switch between them at will. You position them and move through levels. Trine has some similar mechanics, though this game still is the champion of level design. They really put the Amazing-On-Paper game design concept through every possible permutation. This game is a true hybrid car of design — it gets about eight times the mileage on double the mechanics. Again, you’ll notice that this game, like Blackthorne (forged by the same masters), contains Post-Puzzles: Thinking Action Segments where “knowing the solution” is only one part of the solution (“implementing the solution gracefully”) is another. Where the mileage really gets wacky is when you have to risk death multiple times simply to discover if your solution is indeed correct. Yet no situation is ever uncrackable; though the puzzles get generally harder, playing the game is an education process. You will achieve a calm collectedness; you will be superhuman by the end of the ordeal. Really, really super-incredible video game. (~$40 on eBay)

5. The Lost Vikings 2 by Blizzard is . . . actually better than The Lost Vikings, sometimes. Get it and find out what those sometimes happen to be. I’ll give you a primer, though: the titular vikings are still lost, only now they have alien super-powers. This sounds like a gimmick — and it is — though it now gives each of your characters a new risk and a new reward. Math tells us this means the puzzles can now be one quadrillion times more complex. Well, yay for that! The graphics are darker, the tone is grimmer, the theme is weirder, though the core is just as hard. It might actually be too hard — and sometimes too easy — and the game might ultimately just be a re-thinking of its predecessor, though hey! Level design gets better with polish. Playing this game right after The Lost Vikings might teach you a whole bunch of neat stuff about game design that you didn’t even know you were dying to know. And yes, I sure did just list four Blizzard games. Deal With It! They ruled the Super Nintendo. Heck yes: I bet you thought I was one of those Japanese Video Games 4ever sort of people huh (~$50 on eBay)

6. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals by Taito is the fourth-best Japanese RPG I’ve ever played. The best one is Mother 3, which is for Gameboy Advance; the second-best is Chrono Trigger — which has unfortunately slipped into the $300+ Zone on eBay; and the third-best is Dragon Quest V, which is only Super Nintendoable in Japan, and available in English for the Nintendo DS. Every time I think about it, though, Lufia II might be The Best RPG. Every time I play a new Final Fantasy and roll my eyes at one thing or another, it’s not because I’m Impossible To Please: it’s because I played Lufia II back when it was released. If you, too, want to become Impossible To Please: just play Lufia II today! It will definitely still hold up. What’s precisely great about it is that it has dungeons full of meaningful puzzles. The game frequently and relentlessly uses your common sense as a key to unlock the door to the next area. Also, you can see enemies on the map. They move every time you move. You can stun them with arrows, and possibly maneuver a whole puzzle room without a single enemy encounter. When you do get into a fight, the depth of the battle formulas is on par with Dragon Quest. So: the game has some incredible depth in its battles and its dungeons are constantly, stupidly interesting. The story is pure 1980s manga throwback trash, though since the game came out in the 1990s, it’s done with a perfect degree of self awareness, and it gets off on huge (huge) twists and turns. The construction of the plot is gleeful — it has tiny set pieces which lead into medium-sized and then huge set-pieces, then back into small set-pieces. There’s downtime, there’s up-time . . . and then everything changes, and then everything changes again. It’s hilarious Final Fantasy IV oneupmanship at times. And there’s a great casino, and a fantastic endless dungeon — man. It’s just great. Those other three RPGs I list as “the best” Japanese RPGs all have Something Special about them (a literary plot, time travel, multiple generations of characters), and Lufia II really has Nothing Special. That’s its charm: it is the most delicious meat and potatoes RPG ever. If you play just one Super Nintendo RPG, play this one, and you will absolutely not have an inferior experience to any of the hideously pricier games. Also, it’s worth noting that this is the only Super Nintendo game I would actually recommend 100% to my friend Brandon Sheffield. (~$70 on eBay for just the cartridge)

7. Metal Warriors by LucasArts / Konami is one of the most deliciously stickily frictive action games you could play. Again, people always tell me I am Impossible To Please when it comes to action games — Metal Warriors is one of the reasons why. In it, you pilot big ugly robots. You can exit your robot by pressing the SELECT button. Then you’re a little guy on a jet-pack with a tiny little gun. Sometimes you need to get out of the robot. Usually you don’t. The level designs are grandiose, with as many OMGs Per Minute as the typical triple-A blockbuster. There’s a Gears-of-War-ish grandiosity in the level scale. I am not even kidding. It helps that you’re controlling a robot who is several stories tall, and that you’re seeing the world in a cross-section. The action mechanics are tuned finely enough, with enough risks and rewards spread nicely enough across all of the robot types, that you could make a two-player one-on-one versus mode — oh, wait! There *is* one of those! Wow and Yay! Also, guess what: the cut-scenes are great. The story is pretty neat, even. It’s like Call of Duty: Space Robo. Back in its day, reviewers found the plot bland. Well, it’s an eagle for the course right about now. (~$70 on eBay)

8. Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge by Nintendo is a Super Scope game, so technically you will be needing one of those big ugly guns. Also, you would need to play this on a CRT. Once you get past that: Welcome To Funville, Population You. This game is a stupidly seamless blend of graphic adventure, interactive film, fighting game, Japanese Animation Robot Worship, shooting game, and RPG. That sounds sort of weird, though it’s not: you have a gun. You are a robot gunner. You have to kill other robots. There’s a plot and a story, and the game is constantly making you feel like part of A Totally Awesome Thing. You’ve got your crew talking to you in text bubbles. You’ve got animated anime faces in said text bubbles. You’ve got diverse mission-briefing settings and great / hammy portentous dialogues. And then the game itself is just loud and crazy. It’s like a post-fighting-game Punch Out!! — enemies have pattern-tells, and memorizing the tells alone is never enough to make you win. You have super bombs and regular shots and charge shots. When I first played it, this game set my imagination on fire. To this day I have awesome nightmares about one-on-one first-person-shooter deathmatch games in the mode of Metal Combat. It’s amazing what this game did with just a gun peripheral. It is far and away better than any motion control game at immersing the player; the shooting is pixel-precise and aficionado-approved and competition-ready. People still whisper about this game. Action Button Co-Founder Brent Porter and I regularly have these long, morose talks about how ZIGGURAT is going to renew this game design spirit on a Halo scale. Someone, please: all we need is five million dollars. (~$50 on eBay, though I found some crazy loon selling a Super Scope, Super Scope 6, and Metal Combat for just $74.99. Somebody scoop that up!)

9. Super Turrican 2 by Factor 5 (published by Ocean) is the sequel to Super Turrican, which was the Super Nintendo polish-up of the Amiga classic Turrican. Turrican is one of those games with way too many versions of way too different aesthetic. I happen to like Mega Turrican on the Genesis the most because it is weird, ugly, and noisy, though the (two-game) Super Turrican series is incredible as what it is. It’s like . . . a cleaned-up, more “presentable”, more “Nintendo”-worthy product than any other Turrican. Super Turrican 2 picks up where the original left off, and is even more cleaned-up and presentable. Some might argue that that’s against the spirit of Turrican, though hey! I don’t particularly think so. Super Turrican 2 has great shooting, stupid-hard twitchy jumping action, and some loopy, lumpy, weird, charismatic grappling hook friction. Like some other games on this list (Blackthorne!) it’s such a long, weird, virtually plotless slog that it might as well be endless. Turrican is a huge inspiration for the ZIGGURAT series, what with it being no nonsense, no plot, awesome shooting, and pure thrill. (~$70 on eBay for just the cartridge)

10. NHLPA Hockey 93 by Electronic Arts is a sport for your television. It will cost you $5 and earn you a million dollars. Renowned at Action Button Entertainment Headquarters as “the last one where the ice was blue by default”, NHLPA 93 (which, as the title suggests, only had the license of the players’ association) is both a sports videogame . . . and a videogame. It is a sports game — and it is an action game. Twenty-one years before NHLPA 93, some guys made Pong. Well, this was the promised land they had envisioned. You can probably get a headshot in Call of Duty, yeah? Well, try to score a goal in this. Now try to score more goals than another human player. This game will kill you. People like to go “lol EA” all the time, though there’s a reason they’re worth billions. Take a look at this one right here. Consider it a tiny crack in the fabric of the universe: peer through this celestial keyhole and glimpse a billionaire’s zygote. The game is positively, grotesquely rock-hard with friction.

As for “what rarer games are worth it”: to be honest, not that many of them. Dracula XX is $150, though you can get the PC-Engine Duo version on PSP, or the Nintendo Virtual Console. Chrono Trigger is on the DS. They’ll probably Chrono Trigger on the iPad at some point, too, and it’ll only cost you $25 (HOT BURN), which is cheaper than the $400 eBay jerx expect for it. I guess Earthbound is almost worth the obscene prices people ask. Though really, if you have the budget for Earthbound, I’d say to just get all of these games I just mentioned here. Combined, they’ll cost as much as Earthbound. Well, a boxed and sealed Earthbound, anyway.

Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t play Earthbound. I’m just saying that you probably only need to play it once-ish. (The “ish” means you can never actually play it a second time. (I mean this as a (huge) compliment.)) All these games in this list, though — they are a good library of fingertip-experiences to always have kicking around the house. If I were to get a Super Nintendo tomorrow, this is the collection I would gradually begin building.

. . . Oh hey. I guess I am done with this, then. I think I will put this on


Maybe, in our next episode, I can discuss what ten Genesis games I would suggest — for under $10 each! (Might have to make it $20.)

tim rogers