Genesis does what Nintendon’t? Think again. I’m back for another retro edition review, and this time, it’s the Super Nintendo Classic Edition. Nintendo’s “Super Nintendo Entertainment System” (SNES for short) hit the scene in 1990, and fans debated over whether it was a direct answer to Sega’s 16-bit console, the Genesis. What ensued was one of the greatest “console wars” in the history of video gaming. Almost thirty years later, as a followup to their wildly successful NES Classic Edition, Nintendo announced and released the Super Nintendo Classic Edition. Just like its predecessor, it would be a mini replica of its analog, with many games preinstalled. And also like its predecessor, the release was a massive success. The device was not quite as difficult to find as its older brother, but it wasn’t necessarily a “stumble upon” either. I managed to snag mine when my town’s Best Buy received a bonus Fall shipment of 54 systems. My dad and I were second and third in line, and we managed to pick up two consoles—one to keep and one to resell. Now, a year later, the SNES and the NES are actually pretty easy to find—but should you get one? Let’s take a look.
As for the controllers, they’re not as bad as those on the NES, but sadly, they’re close. Like the NES controllers, these look and feel just like the originals, but they still lack a home/reset button and have that annoying proprietary connecter. Luckily, there are some saving graces. First of all, the console comes with two controllers instead of just one, which is an immediate step in the right direction. The cables on the controllers have been lengthened from 2½ to 4½ feet (1.37m), which is…sort of an improvement. I’ve found that if you’re in a small room, sitting at the same height as your TV (i.e. in your bedroom, on your bed), the length is excusable. But as soon as you move to a larger space (such as, I don’t know, a living room or game room), they become unacceptably short. Again, as with the NES, easily-accessible extension cables solve the issue of length but heighten the issue of reaching the home menu. However, while the Wii/Wii U Classic Controller isn’t great for the NES, it’s perfect for the Super Nintendo, since its button layout is almost exactly the same. So if you’ve got one of those and an extender cable, you’re set. Fortunately, 8bitdo’s Retro Receiver (which I previously mentioned in my NES Classic Edition review) will also work on the Super Nintendo. And as an added bonus, 8bitdo has many controllers that are perfect supplements to the SNES Classic Edition’s. Be sure to check them out. And of course, the Retro Receiver also accepts PS3/4 controllers and Switch Joy Cons, which are both nice supplements as well.
If you wait long enough on the menu screen, Mario will appear and will enable a demo of the highlighted game. You can also access the instruction manuals for all the games by selecting the green “?” book icon in the top banner. The system will display a QR code, which you can then scan to see the manuals. The two-step flow is a little tedious, but since you’ll be viewing the manual on a separate screen, you can have it open during gameplay.
Suspend points have returned with even more features. You can have up to four suspend points per title, and now, by hovering over a suspend point and holding [X], you can rewind the games! It’s a cool and helpful feature. Many of the games included (like Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, and Link to the Past) offer in-game “battery” saves, but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the suspend points. For example, in Super Mario World, you’re only allowed to save after certain levels, but with suspend points, you’re free to save wherever you like. And of course, for games that only offer password saves (like Mega Man X or Super Castlevania IV), the feature is a must. However you look at it, suspend points are certainly warranted on this system. As for display (the other big emulation feature), games play in glorious 1080p HD. You’ve also got three display options: standard 4:3, a CRT filter, and “pixel perfect” (a dot-by-dot mode that keeps pixels perfectly square). These display options are all great, but I wish there was a smoothing filter too, as one can make certain 16-bit games look stunning. Nonetheless, Nintendo has added a selection of frames to fill in the pillar box space. Most of the frames are pretty silly (they remind me of those on the Super Game Boy and GBA Player), but some of them (namely the dynamic gradient) create a remarkably immersive experience. Don’t worry though—if they aren’t your style, you can turn them off. In short, the NES set the standard for emulation features on retro edition consoles, but the Super Nintendo raised the bar even higher.
But of course, you’ll notice that there are some remarkable standout titles. SquareSoft, whose relationship with Nintendo has been rocky through the years, has three games on the system: Final Fantasy III, Secret of Mana, and the elusive Super Mario RPG (which, despite featuring Nintendo IPs, has never before appeared in Nintendo emulation). There is also a game by Rare: Donkey Kong Country. It was the first game I ever played on Super Nintendo, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s on the Classic Edition. However, many fans consider the second title, Diddy’s Kong Quest, to be the superlative title in the series. I suppose that more than one Rare title would’ve been too much to ask, and since Nintendo was limited to only one, they chose the more accessible entry.** There’s also only one game per series on the system, essentially, so having Donkey Kong Country be the one exception may have been odd.*** But the pièce de resistance in terms of standout titles is Star Fox 2, which was never before released. You have to finish the first level the first Star Fox at least once to “unlock” it, which I find charming.
I’d confidently say that the game selection on the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is the best of any retro edition. Ironically, it has the lowest number of games of any currently available system, but these games are all so much richer and full of content than whatever you’ll find on any other system. As I said before, I believe that the SNES is where Nintendo came of age and is where 2D games reached perfection. While every game on the system is over twenty years old, some feel like they haven’t aged a day. Super Mario World is one of my favorite games; I find myself going back to it all the time. And yet despite having played it so often, I’m able to find something new in it each time—that’s how abundant it is. Super Metroid is a game so influential, I believe that if it were released today, people who didn’t know better would never guess it’s 24 years old. I’m not a personal fan of RPG’s, but EarthBound and Final Fantasy III are frequently cited as some of the best ever made. And of course, A Link to the Past is a masterpiece that’s right up there with its younger brother, Ocarina of Time. 21 titles alone barely scratches the surface of the copious Super Nintendo library, but Nintendo selected the absolute cream of the crop for the Classic Edition. As I said before, there’s essentially only one title per series, but (A): many series (e.g. Metroid, Zelda, and Super Mario) only had one entry on the original Super Nintendo, and (B): the titles selected from multi-entry series were the right ones (e.g. Castlevania and Street Fighter). Like I said before, Donkey Kong Country is questionable, and I’m sure fans would’ve liked to have seen Mother 2, but even so, I still think the assortment is perfect. As we all know, the selection of games is truly the deciding factor for retro editions, and the Super Nintendo’s flawless collection is its greatest strength.
Thanks to satisfying aesthetic, improved controller functionality, incomparable emulation features, and an absolutely impeccable game selection, I confidently declare the Super Nintendo Classic Edition to be the best retro edition console on the market. Here’s the ranking so far:
*Since Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario World were published by Nintendo but were developed elsewhere (Rare and Square, respectively), I consider them each to be ½ third-party. Therefore, the two of them together add up to one additional third-party game.
**For those who don’t know, Rare (or Rareware) is a developer who produced many revered games for Nintendo consoles, including Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, and Banjo-Kazooie. The company was purchased by Microsoft in the early 2000s, and since Nintendo and Microsoft are competitors in the gaming market, the latter infamously no longer allows Rare to associate with Nintendo.
***Star Fox 2 is definitely a sequel to Star Fox, but since it was previously unreleased, I consider it a unique exception; Kirby’s Dream Course, Super Mario RPG, and Super Mario Kart feature their respective stars, but since they’re different genres from their main series, I consider them spinoffs; and although Yoshi’s Island bears the prefix “Super Mario World 2,” I don’t consider part of the Super Mario series, but part of the Yoshi series instead.