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Nintendo Power Picks the Games on the Super NES Mini
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on April 21, 2017   |   Episode 18 (Show Archive)  

This week we learned that Nintendo may be planning a mini Super NES for the holiday season. Of course, this should come as no surprise to anybody that remembers how popular the NES Classic Edition was last year, but it's nice to hear that all of our 16-bit favorites may be returning sooner rather than later. To help celebrate what will surely be another huge seller, I've decided to take a look back at old issues of Nintendo Power to see what games they would have chosen. Today we're going to talk about Nintendo Power's top reviewed 16-bit games of all time and figure out just how many actually have a chance of being packaged with the Super NES Classic Edition this fall.

Before we dig into the games, here are a few things you need to know. Nintendo Power reviewed a total of 669 Super NES games between October 1991 and November 1997. Although they used a 5 point scale, no game scored lower than a 2 and Nintendo Power never gave a perfect 5 out of 5. In fact, the 669 scores average out to a 3.3 out of 5. To make this interesting, we're going to focus our attention on the 27 games that scored above a 4.0. Let's start with the eight games that scored a 4.1 out of 5.

4.1 out of 5
If Nintendo wants to include a fighting game with the Super NES Classic Edition, then they would be wise to go with either Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. But if Nintendo Power had their way, they would probably go with Killer Instinct. I know it seems crazy, but this really is Nintendo Power's highest rated fighter. Street Fighter II scored a 4 and Mortal Kombat earned a 3.3. Make of that what you will.

As we go through the top reviewed games, I think you're going to find that there are a lot of surprising entries. For example, I bet you wouldn't have guessed that E.V.O.: Search for Eden would be one of Nintendo Power's top rated games. While a lot of critics liked it at the time, it's still shocking to see this unorthodox adventure game beat out ActRaiser, F-Zero and countless other well-known gems.

Blackthorne also got a 4.1 out of 5, though I'm here to say that it was well-earned. It's a crime that very few people talk about this side-scroller. Unfortunately, I doubt we'll see Blackthorne make the cut, but I do think Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts has a shot. The original Ghosts 'N Goblins found its way onto the NES Classic Edition, so why not the sequel?

Speaking of games that were also on the NES Classic, I'm curious if Nintendo will include a compilation like Super Mario All-Stars in the system. Featuring remakes of some of Mario's best games, it should come as no surprise that this collection earned high scores from Nintendo Power and would be a good fit on the Super NES Classic.

I would say the same thing about Super Mario RPG, though I'm not as sure this one will make the list. While not everybody loved Mario's very first role-playing game, it picked up a lot of strong review scores at the time and deserves to be in the collection.

It's also worth mentioning that Super Mario RPG wasn't the only role-playing game to crack the top 30, as Capcom's brilliant Breath of Fire II also made the cut with a 4.1 out of 5. Based on the review scores, this game is actually better than Final Fantasy III, which only scored a 4 out of 5. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I would love to see Breath of Fire II make it onto the system.

The final game in this 4.1 grouping is StarFox, the very first game to incorporate Nintendo's Super FX chip. I'm actually really curious to see if the enhanced games will even make it to the Super NES Classic, since they don't always play nice with emulators. I mean, StarFox is one of Nintendo's best-known 16-bit games, so you would think it would show up, but we'll see.

4.2 out of 5
Up next are the three games that scored a 4.2 out of 5. Let's start with Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2, since that's the only one that actually makes sense. I know this is a bit of a divisive platformer, but it definitely deserves a spot on the Super NES Classic. That said, I'm not as sure about the other two games that picked up 4.2s. One of them is The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare, which received so-so scores everywhere but Nintendo Power. The other is Young Merlin, a fun little adventure game that somehow managed to score higher than Final Fantasy III and Breath of Fire II. I doubt we'll see Bart or Merlin on the Super NES Classic.

4.3 out of 5
Let's move on to the games that scored a 4.3 out of 5. Here's a fun fact: This is the only grouping that doesn't feature a game published by Nintendo. Not a single one. Odd. We'll start it off with Lemmings, a classic computer game that found reasonable success on the Super NES. Nintendo Power was impressed with the amount of content and how many characters they could fit on the screen. Personally, I was more into the sequel, since Lemmings 2 offered support for the Super NES Mouse. Does anybody remember the Super NES Mouse?

The next game on the list is Out of this World, also known as Another World if you lived anywhere outside of the United States. While it hasn't aged well, this was a beautifully crafted side-scroller with a deliberate pace and stunning rotoscope animation. Of course, it was quickly surpassed by the even better Flashback: The Quest for Identity, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Up next is Super Star Wars, which will probably not find its way onto the system due to licensing issues. Although many enjoyed the sequels more, the original Super Star Wars was actually Nintendo Power's favorite of the trilogy. They gave Super Empire Strikes Back a 4 out of 5 and Super Return of the Jedi a 3.4 out of 5. They were pretty much over the series by the time the Ewoks showed up.

Speaking of games that probably won't show up due to licensing issues, our next game on the list is Boxing Legends of the Ring. Featuring everybody from Sugar Ray Leonard to Sugar Ray Robinson, this is one of only two sports games to score above a 4.0. It's not surprising seeing this pick up strong reviews, but what is shocking is how easily it clobbered Nintendo's own boxing game. They gave Super Punch-Out!! a 3.6 out of 5.

The final game to earn a 4.3 is The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, which, yet again, probably won't make it to the Super NES Classic for licensing reasons. That's really shaping up to be a troubling theme as we near the top of the list. But even though it will probably be left off Nintendo's upcoming console, I recommend you seek it out and give it some love. It's a fantastic little game with great graphics.

4.4 out of 5
With all those licensed games behind us, let's move on to the 16-bit titles Nintendo Power scored a 4.4 out of 5. We're going to kick it off with one of my personal favorite 2D action games -- Flashback: The Quest for Identity. This is a game that took the basic structure of Out of this World and improved it in every way. It has better graphics, refined gameplay and is a much longer adventure. Forget about the recent remake, this is a genuinely stirring side-scroller with stunning animation.

Next up is Donkey Kong Country, which seems like a lock for the Super NES Classic. Critics instantly fell in love with this 2D platformer, thanks in large part to the incredible graphics. That said, they weren't as blown away by the two sequels. Nintendo Power gave Donkey Kong Country 2 a straight 4.0 and Donkey Kong Country 3 picked up a 3.5. Not bad scores, but the overwhelming excitement had clearly tapered off a bit.

The same can be said about NBA Jam, which just so happens to be the next game on our list. This was a massive phenomenon at the time, both in the arcades and at home. In fact, this game got a lot of people to rush to the stores and buy a four-player adapter. While I prefer NBA Jam Tournament Edition, Nintendo Power disagreed and gave it a 3.5 out of 5. NBA Hangtime, on the other hand, only managed to eek out a 3.1, which seems reasonable in my opinion.

It wouldn't be a proper "best of" list without at least one mention of Super Mario Kart, one of the most influential racing games ever made. What's funny looking back at the reviews now is that nobody realized how influential it was going to be. But even if they didn't know just how popular Super Mario Kart was going to be, the critics were quick to give it high scores. Nintendo Power gave it a 4.4, making it one of the best reviewed games in the magazine's history.

4.5 out of 5
We're moving on to all of the games that managed to score a 4.5, which means that we're finally entering the home stretch. These final seven games are the best of the best according to Nintendo Power and every single one of them should probably be considered for the Super NES Classic. Especially our next game, Shadowrun. While the series has gone downhill in the past decade thanks in large part to a poorly received online first-person shooter, both the Sega Genesis and the Super NES games were highly rated among critics at the time. I love the mix of adventure and cyberpunk fantasy, and I'm here to tell you that it holds up surprisingly well given its age and ambition. Shadowrun definitely deserves a place on the new console.

On the topic of role-playing games, Nintendo Power showered most of the 16-bit SquareSoft games with high scores. When Final Fantasy II came out, Nintendo spent a lot of time telling people it was one of the best reasons to rush to the local Kay-Bee Toys to buy a Super NES. They had a similar reaction when Chrono Trigger hit retail, calling it one of the best RPGs ever made. Both games managed to score an impressive 4.5 out of 5.

Of course, Final Fantasy II wasn't the only reason to pick up a Super NES at launch. The next game on the list is Super Mario World, quite possibly the best pack-in game ever. While some critics felt this wasn't a significant enough step up from Super Mario Bros. 3, Nintendo Power had no problem giving this launch game tons of coverage and a stellar score. But did you know that this Mario sequel wasn't the top rated launch game? It's true, and to get those details we'll need to move on to the games that scored a 4.6 out of 5.

4.6 out of 5
As crazy as it sounds, Nintendo Power's best reviewed Super NES launch game was none other than ... SimCity? Yeah, I know that seems nuts for a system that launched with both F-Zero and Super Mario World, but this computer game port managed to impress the critics like nothing else. In fact, SimCity was the top rated Super NES game for nearly a year, unsurpassed by some genuine 16-bit classics. My guess is that SimCity probably won't show up on the mini Super NES.

While we probably won't see SimCity, I'm almost certain Super Metroid will make the cut. Of all the games we've talked about so far, this has to be the most improved sequel. This turned out to not only be hugely successful, but also helped spawn an entire sub-genre we still see to this very day. Super Metroid is a masterpiece, and I would be legitimately shocked if it didn't show up in the Super NES Classic.

4.9 out of 5
So now that we've looked at every game that received a score between a 4.1 and 4.6, there's really only one place to go -- the very top! When it comes to Nintendo Power's top rated game, there can be only one. Scoring a staggering 4.9 out of 5, the magazine's best reviewed 16-bit game is The Legend of Zelda III: A Link to the Past. To put it in perspective, that 4.9 is not only the best Super NES score, but also beats out every NES and Game Boy score. It trounced nearly 1,600 games to earn the spot at number 1. Let that sink in. I would be absolutely baffled if Nintendo left Zelda III out of the Super NES Classic; it's one of those games that defines the 16-bit system. If it doesn't come with the system, then something is seriously wrong.

What Games Would You Choose?
So that brings us to the end of our look back at Nintendo Power's best reviewed Super NES games. Chances are that only a handful of these games will make it onto the upcoming system, but it's still a lot of fun to look back at what Nintendo's official magazine said at the time. Now here's what I want to know: What games do you want on the Super NES Classic Edition? If you had complete control over the selection, what would it look like? I can't wait to hear what you have to say and then see how it compares to the official list. The system had so many incredible games, here's hoping Nintendo doesn't let us down.


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