Yesterday we looked at 8-bit classics from Nintendo's NES. Today the 16 bit wonderbox gets the spotlight. This list has quite a few more obscure and/or Japan-only games on it, as the SNES was rich in classics that never made it here or just got overlooked.
1. Rockman & Forte
The American name would have been "Megaman and Bass" had it come here, which it eventually did on the Game Boy Advance years later. It's kind of weird that Capcom released a Super NES Megaman game after Megaman 8 on the Playstation, but the fact is that while we were all playing the Playstation and Nintendo 64 the Super NES was still alive in Japan, with both cartridge releases and ROM downloads through the "Nintendo Power" system. This game used graphics from Megaman 8 and graphics from Megaman VII. When the early 16 bit emulation boom hit, this one got distributed a lot as "Megaman 9" which is of course not the real title. The game re-uses two robot masters from 8 (Tengu Man and Astro Man) and the game actually internally refers to itself as "Rockman 8.5" so think of it as an interquel. It's viciously hard (Burner Man will ruin your day) but a great game nonetheless.
2. Wrecking Crew '98
This sublime update to the classic Wrecking Crew was another Nintendo Power game, meaning it came out so late in the Super NES's lifespan that there was no chance of it coming stateside. And unlike Rockman & Forte, it never hit any other system. It's a shame though. The gameplay actually resembles a mix of Tetris and Wrecking Crew as you go around smashing blocks to make them match up. It's great for competitive play or alone. Nintendo really should stick this on the Virtual Console some day...
3. Kirby No Kirakira Kizu
The best translation would be "Kirby's Sparkling Kids" which is odd to say the least. Most people refer to it as "Kirby's Super Star Stacker" as it's an updated version of Kirby's Star Stacker on the Game Boy. If you've played that one, that's really all you need to know. If not, then what you need to know is it's a ridiculously simplistic puzzle game that is addictve as fuck. The idea is basically to line up icons of Kirby's freinds. Unlike most games which make you line up three or four, you only line up two in this, which seems like it would make it far too easy. However with the ability to stick stars between them and create massive combos, the game has it's own sort of complexity. It also gets really REALLY fast after a while. I personally mastered this game because I played it that much. Oh and by the way, this is yet ANOTHER one of those great Nintendo Power games that game out in 1998. Go figure.
4. Mario & Wario
This one actually was going to come out in America and I even saw it previewed in a magazine. It never did come out though. The reason that a game starring two of Nintendo's most popular characters never came out here is actually simple, it played with the Super NES Mouse. Remember the mouse? If not, the mouse and it's ridiculous plastic mousepad came with Mario Paint and very few games supported it, most of which never made it here. The Mouse wasn't really popular enough to justify this game coming out here. These days we can play it on an emulator and use our regular mouse. The basic premise is that Mario (or Yoshi or Peach) has a bucket over his head. Instead of, y'know, taking the fucking thing off, he walks blindly forward, and you control this little fairy thing that bops him on the head to make him stop or turn around or jump. Kinda like lemmings, but with that Mario twist to it. It's not an amazing game, but it's a fun distraction for a while, and plays loads better on an emulator with a real mouse than on a Super NES with a weird one.
5. The Illusion of Gaia
Hey look, a game that actually was released in the states. Well damn. Illusion of Gaia is an action-RPG that is sort of the same pseudo-series as Soul Blazer and Terranigma. The game is ridiculously odd. I'm not sure if it's the translation or what but the plot makes absolutely no sense, the characters are bizarre caricatures and the game's ending raises more questions than it asks. To put it simply, the plot is an absolute dud, the game was marketed terribly and hardly anyone has played it. But you actually should play it, because under all that nonsensical plot is a really solid game. The levels you play are a blast and there's just something to be said for running around smacking giant works with a flute. The game plays a lot like Soul Blazer, but the controls and graphics are a lot better. The game allows you to level up simply by beating every enemy in a room, and it's so fun to smack enemies around that you'll wish there were more. I play through it and skip the dialogue, and the game is better for that.
6. Radical Dreamers: Unstolen Jewel
Lemme guess. Never heard of it, but the screenshot and text looks familiar, right? Radical Dreamer's almost has no gameplay to speak of, it's a text based adventure with a few pictures. The reason you should play it though, is that this is the sequel to Chrono Trigger, one of the most beloved games of the Super NES. It never came here for obvious reasons, though it's been translated for emulation. And the reason the screen should look familiar is pretty simple, it's basically the intro to Chrono Cross, which is a VERY enhanced remake of this game. Radical Dreamer's plot is like a beta version of Chrono Cross, and for fans of the games, you owe it to yourself to check out this incredibly odd game.
7. Breath of Fire II: The Destined Child
There's actually more than a few reasons to play the Game Boy Advance version instead, but for the sake of ease, I'm including it here. Breath of Fire II is probably the most ignored game in the series, which is kind of odd as it outdoes the original in every possible way. I attribute it's relative obscurity to a few factors. For one, the original had the benefit of Squaresoft translating, which as they're the household name for RPGs in most regions, boosted the game. Capcom actually made it, but few realized that. Capcom took on the second one solo, which led to another issue, a terribly bad translation. Actually the translation for the first game was also awful (thanks for nothing, Square) but this one does have a lot of spelling and grammatical errors if you can believe it. Also the game is punishingly difficult. The GBA version addresses a lot of this. That being said, the game is very rewarding, and as I said simply does it better than the first game. This was the shit at least until III came out.
I was always kind of surprised that no one but me seemed to own this absolutely wonderful sim. Especially that the PC game is a classic. Maybe it's a bit too much of a PC game for most console gamers, but populous is fucking wonderful. Basically you're a god fighting against a demon, and you control and help your little guys to grow and go to war with the demon's little guys. Along the way you stir shit up in the way of earthquakes, volcanoes and poionous swamps. There's also a ridculous amount of levels, a total of 989, with some of them being almost fucking impossible to beat. If you try this and like it then try out the even better DS version that came out recently (which I picked up immediately when I saw it in the store and once again, is getting no buzz at all.)
9. Actraiser 2
I've heard it all before. Bla bla Actraiser 2 sucks, bla bla vote Obama, bla bla buttsex. Let me say it right out: SHUT UP THIS GAME RULES. The first Actraiser was a godly game, a mix of town-building sim and CastleVania style action mixed with the aesthetics and unique sounds you expect from Enix. So Actraiser 2 took out the town building stuff and yes I know that was a blast and bla bla bla butt hurts bla. That's no reason to discount 2 for being a mere action game, because it really well. Seriously, I have never heard a complaint about this game that didn't revolve around the town building sim parts being missing. Yes, I loved the town building, but that doesn't mean that this game is bad. Try it.
10. Kirby's Dream Land 3
How can a Kirby game be underrated and obscure? Especially if it's NOT a puzzler and was released here. And it's a direct sequel to the original games. Simply put, Kirby Super Star stole all it's glory. And while Kirby Super Star was great, I actually prefer this understated gem. With a washed out pastel style art style, a unique mission based level structure and some of the most unique and charming gameplay you'll ever experience, this game is simply a piece of art. No one paid attention becuase Kirby Super Star had already done what they expected and this artistic gem got brushed by the wayside. A damn shame.