The Top 7… Reasons the Super NES is Nintendo’s best console

Two decades ago this month, the Super NES was unleashed on an already Nintendo-obsessed North America. Since its 1991 arrival, the console has gone on to become one of the most enduringly popular machines in gaming history, and home to numerous classics that inspired many of the titles we love today. But unlike most obsolete consoles, the Super NES has aged like a fine wine, retaining all of its latter-day grandeur and possibly even gaining allure as the years pile on.

Above: The ethereal first image of the SNES, as seen in Nintendo Power

To celebrate this 20 year anniversary, we’re posting misty-eyed recollections of the SNES all week, beginning with today’s assertion that after all this time, the Super NES was (and remains) Nintendo’s best console. Strong words for sure, but we think we have some equally strong reasoning…

7 – It had the best Nintendo launch day

Just a few months ago, Nintendo dropped the 3DS onto the market with an undeniably weak lineup. Even though Wii would find mainstream success, it launched with little beyond Twilight Princess and a packed-in Wii Sports to entice players to hop aboard. GameCube hit shelves in 2001 with no Mario or Zelda game (Luigi’s Mansion and Rogue Leader were strong, but not enough) and even the N64, which revolutionized 3D gameplay with Mario 64, only had that one game and Pilotwings 64 to keep gamers busy. The original NES had a half-launch in 1985 followed by more “launch” games in 1986, so it’s hard to say what even counts.

Compare those launches to the 1991 SNES onslaught of top-tier games. On day one we had the original Pilotwings and F-Zero (both of which would become Nintendo staples), plus Super Mario World for free inside every console box; that would be the last time Nintendo gave away its prize Mario game right out of the gate. Third parties offered Gradius III, Super R-Type and SimCity, and if you extend this timeframe to “launch window” (as so many publishers are fond of doing these days), you can add Final Fantasy IV, Actraiser, Final Fight, Super Ghouls & Ghosts, UN Squadron, Super Castlevania IV and a pile of sports games to this list as well.

Every one of those games was notable in its time, and most of them have aged well enough to still be enjoyed today. To have that level of excellence not just on day one, but through the first holiday season, is something Nintendo hasn’t topped since. Hell, while we’re at it, few modern launches can compete with it either.

6 – It was an RPG haven

 Final Fantasy VII is usually attributed with introducing JRPGs to the mainstream West, but years before it arrived, the Super NES was already churning out hit after hit in the exact same genre. Granted, none achieved the critical or commercial success of FFVII, but it’s not hard to argue Nintendo’s 16-bit system was equally instrumental in acclimatizing the Western audience to JRPGs. Nintendo tried pushing Dragon Quest on the NES, but it didn’t stick – the SNES was where the genre finally exploded.

It all began with Final Fantasy IV (released as FFII in the US). Before long we also had Breath of Fire, Secret of Mana and Lufia, followed by mega-hits like Super Mario RPG, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Illusion of Gaia and Final Fantasy VI, plus A Link to the Past if you’re cool with classifying it as an RPG (people like to argue that point). Even the second stringers were remarkably strong; 7th Saga, Robotrek, Paladin’s Quest and Uncharted Waters all made their mark on a system already loaded with top-notch options, amounting to a feast of role-playing goodness the competing Genesis/Mega Drive couldn’t hope to beat – though Phantasy Star, Beyond Oasis and Shining Force were more than adequate competition.

The very concept of “classic JRPG” was honed to perfection on the SNES, and laid groundwork not just for the PS1 era of RPG excellence, but also today’s de-makes and indie games (such as Bastion, Half-Minute Hero and Cthulhu Saves the World). The genre may be in trouble on consoles, especially in the face of modern RPG hybrids like Elder Scrolls, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect, but the idea is still inspiring multiple DS hits that pull directly from the SNES days – see Bowser’s Inside Story, Strange Journey or even Pokemon for modern equivalents.

There’s another angle to these various JRPGs too, one we’ll get into on the next page…

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  • CanadianBeaverHunter - August 29, 2011 3:43 p.m.

    SNES is a great link to the past.
  • Flashinthepan - August 24, 2011 11:05 p.m.

    Having never owned an SNES, I can't actually judge it against anything else as a console. What I can say is, after playing it and the Gamecube, I prefer the Gamecube controller. I don't play any one genre of games exclusively, and I never had a problem using the GC controller for any game. That being said, I'm so very happy the SNES is receiving such praise to this day. What the hell is Nintendo doing now?It really is a shame that they could fall so far. Carry on, little cartridge player. Carry on. recaptcha: (Ceg asooms Spelling assumes wrong. lol.
  • grayguwapo - August 24, 2011 9:16 p.m.

    I agree with this... (and great article by the way)... I'm a solid Playstation gamer but I have to pay my respects to Nintendo SNES. Truly this console was without a doubt the ONE that put gaming where it is now... This came out before PS, XBox, Wii, etc. and it came out with a bang... I had this console and so did all my friends so game time with anyone was really great! I also had SEGA's megadrive and genesis and these weren't at par with SNES, my friends and I would always resort to playing SNES over other consoles due to it's sheer great game library... great job with this one Nintendo and happy anniversary!
  • Vault101 - August 24, 2011 5:57 p.m.

    Great Article!
  • snothammer - August 24, 2011 1:48 p.m.

    Damnit I thought my comments weren't posting. Wish I could delete my stupidity.
  • snothammer - August 24, 2011 1:44 p.m.

    I actually never owned a SNES when I was a kid. So, a few years ago I bought one and have been loving it ever since. If I could only ever play one console for the rest of my life, I think the SNES would be it.
  • InfinityPrimo - August 24, 2011 3:49 a.m.

    Wow. My favorite game of all time Chrono Trigger has only recently been eclipsed by a game going by the name of Mass Effect. Chrono Trigger is the best damn RPG of ALL TIME and it was on the SNES. Jeez I miss those times. They can't be recreated only revisited, but nothing was like being a kid playing Super Mario RPG, FFVI, Chrono Trigger,Street Fighter II, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, DAMN!!!! Every single classic, which is why PS2 is like the true spiritual successor to the SNES. No other system comes close to the depth of a true video game experience. I'm so glad I grew up with it.
  • soranamineforever - August 23, 2011 8:01 p.m.

    RPGs. The one reason the SNES beat the ever-loving crap out of the N64, Gamecube, and Wii. Seriously, other than Tales of Symphonia, can any of you name me a notable RPG that was released on these consoles (outside of Japan)? Actually, I can. Xenoblade Chronicles. Where the ass is your review of that game?
  • FauxFurry - August 23, 2011 6:50 p.m.

    Either great minds think alike or Brett Elston and Chad Concelmo are the same guy. Whatever the case is,that's cool.
  • lilspooky - August 23, 2011 5:09 p.m.

    I am part of the Nintendo generation, and i couldnt agree more with this article. SNES is still my all time favorite console. Mostly fueled by nostalgia at this point. However sprite based games have a timeless quality to them. PS1, PS2, and N64 didnt age well at all, many of the titles are unplayable at this point. I still play through a few SNES games here and there.
  • birdman1041 - August 23, 2011 4:47 p.m.

    For those who lament the high price of games today (usually $59.99 on launch day) I kid you not - I purchased an old copy of Wave Race 64 yesterday for 5 bucks and in the box was the original receipt from Toys R Us for $64.99. Think I'll be getting a bit more gameplay out of the new Deux Ex for less than that.
  • newgames128 - August 23, 2011 3:37 p.m.

    The glory days of gaming right here.
  • newgames128 - August 23, 2011 3:37 p.m.

    The glory days of gaming.
  • Jrm21 - August 23, 2011 3:36 p.m.

    This makes me extremely sad that i was born in 95 and never got my gaming stride til 2000
  • NightCrawler_358 - August 23, 2011 2:53 p.m.

    The SNES is definitely Nintendo's best console, but I'd say the best overall would be the PS2, but thats just my opinion.
  • Colicub - August 23, 2011 2:47 p.m.

    My personal favourite is the Gamecube, but maybe that's because I am a SEGA child through and through. Not that the SNES doesn't have some utterly incredible games in its library, and it is the superior system for JRPGs (not that the Mega Drive doesn't have some great ones), but for me it's the Mega Drive all the way.
  • IceBlueKirby - August 23, 2011 12:32 p.m.

    I never had a SNES until around 2001, but when I finally got one I realized what I'd been missing. Super Mario World is easily my favorite Mario game, A Link to the Past is my favorite Zelda, Super Metroid is my favorite get the idea. Plus I LOVE Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger, so it's home to my two favorite RPGs of all time as well. The SNES is a triumph of gaming, and it's a shame that today Nintendo fails to live up to the standards it set years ago. Not that I dislike their systems after the SNES, mind, just that none of them quite deliver the same variety and quality when it comes to the library of games available.
  • Pruman - August 23, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    The SNES is my favorite system of all time (although the 360 nearly ties it), and celebrating its 20th birthday definitely makes me feel a little old. I was but a lad of 8 when that heavenly gray box came out, and even though Nintendo Power had accomplished its mission by getting me to beg my parents for one like a madman, my SNES wouldn't come until Christmas Day 1991. When I unwrapped it, along with my copy of F-Zero, I was in nerdy kid heaven. I've got too many SNES memories to list here, but here are my favorite ones: -Thinking LTTP was over after I beat Agahnim, only for the game to surprise me with 8 more dungeons; -Hours upon hours of Battle Mode with my friends in Super Mario Kart; -The first 20 minutes of Super Metroid, from the title screen to exploring bombed-out Zebes from the first game; -Playing Star Fox and being FLOORED by how pretty and cool it was; -Having my 11-year old mind BLOWN by how good-looking Donkey Kong Country was -The entire game of Final Fantasy VI/III, but ESPECIALLY the opera house part; -Playing Donkey Kong on my Super Game Boy. I need to stop, I could go on forever. Happy birthday, SNES!
  • TheTrooper424 - August 23, 2011 11:02 a.m.

    So true!
  • shawksta - August 23, 2011 9:55 a.m.

    Yeah, the SNES is no doubt one of nintendos best and has reasons to be true. Each of their consoles always have something that makes them incredible. I like how nintendos doing what they did in the past. The DS changed the handheld gaming generation which had a big effect outside it and had probably the hugest variety, reminder of Gameboy starting handheld gaming. Now the 3DS is enhancing the DS, with mainstream 3rd party to increase its variety, much like GBA enhancing Gameboy. WiiU is also nintendos second home console with its predessesors name since SNES, WiiU has a HUGE potential that can change gaming, and with heavy 3rd party, its possible were looking at the next SNES!