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

5 – The superior Sony sound chip

Above: Final Fantasy VI’s “Searching for Friends” remains one of the greatest pieces of game music ever

Long before Nintendo and Sony became console rivals, the two electronics giants teamed up to create a dedicated sound chip that would set the SNES apart from all its contemporaries. Even better, said chip (which was designed by future PlayStation head Ken Kutaragi) would lead to the creation of truly legendary works of art, songs that have stood the test of time and burrowed their way into millions of gamer minds across the globe. With the means now available, composers cut loose in a medium previously limited to decidedly “video-gamey” noises.

Above: Chrono Trigger’s “To Far Away Times” is one of my favorite songs, period

All those aforementioned JRPGs? Stunning soundtracks across the board. Their already impressive gameplay was bolstered by emotionally moving compositions that soared past chiptunes and MIDI; even with technically superior hardware, the PS1 and N64 didn’t measure up to the SNES when it came to timeless soundtracks, and even today we’d wager most games don’t produce music that will ring on for years after they’re collecting dust in the closet. From RPGs to racers to side scrollers to sports games, there are just too many outstanding soundtracks to name. Sure, there are countless notable game OSTs out there (the Genesis has its fare share too), but pound for pound the SNES wins out - maybe check out our game music of the day entries for more examples, hm?

4 – The gimmicks were put to good use

In the pursuit of new technology, developers can often lose sight of the game that’s buried underneath. In the case of the Super NES, Nintendo used its gimmicky bullet-point features to power several genuinely great games, and in the process created franchises that are still around today. While the tech is less impressive in 2011, the thought process behind it – using programming tricks for gameplay-specific purposes, not duping people into buying your system – is as important today as it ever was. Consider the Wii, which stormed out of the gate with motion control and Wii Sports. Months later, the impact faded and “Wii Waggle” was shunned by the same people who happily stood in cold November lines for Nintendo’s latest console.

Above: Star Fox looks downright primitive today, but the angular Arwing design has persisted since its blocky debut

The SNES, on the other hand, introduced new tech that led to real classics. Out first was “Mode 7,” a scaling and rotation trick that was inseparably woven into F-Zero, Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart; the feature not only made them visually distinct, but also gave them better senses of speed and space. The Super FX chip made the polygonal Star Fox a reality, and the FX2 chip gave Yoshi’s Island its adorable storybook looks and morphing bosses. Rare used computer modeling to give Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct their visual punch as well.

We’re not saying modern developers put graphics ahead of gameplay, or that these SNES tricks failed to produce a bad game (Stunt Race FX comes to mind). But in the grand scheme of things, we love that in each instance of new SNES technology, Nintendo delivered a one-of-a-kind experience that, in most cases, resulted in something special.

3 – Nintendo perfected its formula

The NES era birthed Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid and many other iconic series that live on today, so it goes without saying that it too remains an important piece of gaming history. However, each of those series really came of age during the SNES days. It was a period of time in which Nintendo honed its craft to its sharpest point, fueling not just its own 3D games years later, but an entire generation of future developers who now look at “Nintendo magic” (that almost imperceptible excellence that Miyamoto snuck into his games) as a lofty goal to reach.

Above: Just about every Nintendo franchise that exists today experienced perfection on the SNES, B-listers included

Super Mario World expanded on Mario 3’s already big ideas, and added many of its own to boot. A Link to the Past took pieces of Zelda I and II, mixed them together with a genuine story, doubled the amount of content and poof, one of the greatest games of all time was created. Super Metroid significantly improved upon the already popular original, adding real tension and suspense to Samus’ claustrophobic journeys; Nintendo’s work on Super Metroid would eventually derail the entire Castlevania franchise (beginning with the equally brilliant but shamelessly cribbing Symphony of the Night) and eventually inspire chair to create Shadow Complex.

 Whether everyone acknowledges it or not, all the modern 2D indie games, on some level, must equal or exceed gameplay defined by the SNES. For all Braid’s lofty ideas and Limbo’s stirring imagery, they still must live up to control and layout standards set in the ‘90s; if they don’t handle like a proper 2D side scroller, all that other fluff goes right out the window. Those two indie gems, along with Splosion Man, Super Meat Boy, the newly announced Cobalt and many more XBLA/PSN games happily promoted as “old-school,” all owe (and pay respect to) the glory days of the SNES


  • Pocotron - August 22, 2011 6:44 p.m.

    Last! (going from newest first)
  • meh - August 22, 2011 7:12 p.m.

    What you did there, I see it.
  • D0CCON - August 22, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    And replying to your comment makes you not last.
  • Pocotron - August 23, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    Stop that.
  • db1331 - August 22, 2011 6:54 p.m.

    It really did have some amazing games. When you talk about titles that are as close to perfect as possible, you have to mention Link to the Past and Super Metriod. I don't think I could name one fault in either of those games.
  • InfinityPrimo - August 24, 2011 3:50 a.m.

    those damn speed shoes in Link to the Past!! Naw jus jokin, that is a perfect game. Super Metroid...HA! Nuff said
  • ninjaemperor - August 22, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    I can't wait to hear you guys talk about it on tdar! Brett's ending his GR history on a very high note T.T
  • D0CCON - August 22, 2011 7:11 p.m.

    I'd also say that this was the only time where the older console's graphics looked better than the newer console. I'd take SNES sprites over N64's 3d characters that were only allowed 8 polygons or so any day.
  • Gotxxrock - August 22, 2011 7:11 p.m.

    Forgot one thing Brett, the movie tie-in games were actually fun to play back then too!
  • meh - August 22, 2011 7:12 p.m.

    I was never alive for the SNES, but its still one of the most fun things I've ever done when I finally got my hands on it. Great Article.
  • 8bitBaby - August 22, 2011 7:21 p.m.

    yeah... i remember watching my stepdad play super metroid and going "this is sooooo much more intense than the nes one." it really brought across atmosphere well. 20 years... has it really been twenty years? gosh. time... where does it go?
  • Rubberducky - August 22, 2011 7:30 p.m.

    SNES brings back memories, I remember playing SFII endlessly but the one that made it great for me was Super Mario World
  • Baron164 - August 22, 2011 7:34 p.m.

    Yeah I'd definitely say the SNES was Nintendo's best ever console. I loved the FX games even if they look like garbage now.
  • jasoncarter - August 22, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    As a retro gamer I must say, folks, they really don't make them like this anymore. The nes and the snes made me the gamer I am today. Nintendo, along with all the other developers, thank you!
  • burnsideking24 - August 22, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    the song for Chrono Trigger makes me regret me never playing it fully... gonna play the DS rom for it now! or maybe the SNES rom... hmm...
  • Nintygameplayerperson - August 22, 2011 8:36 p.m.

    Download it on Virtual Console! It's so awesome!
  • Corsair89 - August 22, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    The SNES probably had the best line of RPGs of any console to date.
  • LoganDeckard - August 22, 2011 7:55 p.m.

    Coming from someone who's Super NES was his first console, all these points are pretty spot on. Damn fine article Brett. Sad to know this is your last top 7 but, I couldn't think of more appropriate topic. Gonna miss you man.
  • Skeletortilla - August 22, 2011 8:07 p.m.

    Those "modern RPG hybrids" are some of the closest things to actual RPGs that consoles have had yet. I've never played a JRPG that was any more a role-playing game than Halo. Technically, both have a role for you to play, but almost zero influence on the story. Leveling up and having stats and loot =/= role-playing.
  • shawksta - August 23, 2011 9:58 a.m.

    I completely agree, right now, the DS/3DS is the true RPG games best place to be, it sucks how random genres add a level system, call it RPG and then act as if it revolutionized it.

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