In their recent direct presentation Nintendo announced they were finally bringing the much demanded SNES game library to the Nintendo Switch.
Much like their NES app, SNES Online comes as a free download for Switch Online subscribers. Players can now access emulated versions of classic SNES games on their Switch. These ROMs come with save states and other quality of life features designed to make them more accessible than ever.
Performance and Features
First impressions have been positive. The game library already contains several essential titles all of which run fine on the emulator. The image quality looks fantastically clean on the pixel perfect setting and input lag has been kept to a minimal.
One visual issue which does occur in certain titles is screen tearing. This is a common issue in games which utilise the Mode 7 graphical effects such as Super Tennis.
Online multiplayer returns from NES online and works in much the same way. Friends can link up and pilot each controller slot respectively. This feature is a blessing for fans of Super Mario kart and Puyo Puyo. With any luck Bomberman and Tetris Attack will join them before long.
Be Kind, Please Rewind
The rewind feature has been a revelation for giving players a chance to learn through trial and error. Nintendo’s Fire Emblem titles have embraced rewinding for allowing players to learn from their mistakes without losing their progress.
SNES Online is much the same and makes playing trial and error heavy games more pleasant than ever. Players can now rewind the likes of Kirby’s Dream Course and Pilotwings to learn what the best methods are without the harsh penalties that come with failure.
Rewinding will be seen as save scrumming by some but this ignores just how much it can improve the play experience. It opens better opportunities learn the do’s and don’ts of these classic games.
SNES Online features a mish-mash of 20 first and third-party Super Nintendo titles. No matter your preference there is enough variety here to find the games which fit you best. Here’s a run down of all 20 to get you started.
Brawl Brothers / Rushing Beat Ran (Jaleco, 1992)
Brawl Brothers is garbage. The developers made alterations to the games Western release so players would not be able to easily beat it in a rental. The changes were to the games detriment and I cannot even recommend to fans of beat’em ups. Levels are no longer point A to point B, players must navigate infinitely looping mazes with respawning enemies. This change makes it a chore to play.
Thankfully you can turn Brawl Brothers into a good game thanks to a very unique cheat code. When you start the game and the Jaleco logo appears sequentially and repeatedly press B, A, X, Y. You will get a glitched title screen. Press start and then down 3 times, then start again. Congratulations, you are now playing Rushing Beat Ran. This Japanese version removes the mazes and reintroduces weapons such as the throwing knife.
Although inferior to Capcom’s efforts Rushing Beat is still a decent beat’em up which wears its influences on its sleeve. It’s not a bad choice for the service but with any luck Capcom’s SNES exclusives will eventually find their way on there.
Breath of Fire (Capcom, 1993)
The SNES was blessed with an assortment of classic RPG’s so it is fitting the service would launch with at least one, even if it isn’t one of the big hitters.
Breath of Fire is solid if unspectacular. As RPG’s go it is lacking in originality and wears its Dragon Quest influence on its sleeve. The story is little more than your standard Hero’s journey as the player journeys across the wold in order to defeat the Dark Dragon clan who attacked their village and kidnapped their sister.
Breath of Fire is old-school as they come but there is a charm to its earnestness. You can switch off and relax as you journey across a world map made to feel bigger than it actually is thanks to the absurdly high enemy encounter rate.
A lack of clear direction aside the game is respectful to the players time. Battling lacks depth outside of accounting for equipment weight. The dragon transformations are a nice touch, but they are little more than a temporary stat boost.
Breath of Fire will easily become a time sink should you choose to play it. Just don’t be shy about using a walkthrough. It’s unlikely Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger will find their way onto the service considering Squares history of constantly rereleasing them but with the SNES library being so rich for RPG’s there will be no shortage of potential replacements to fill the void.
Demon’s Crest (Capcom, 1994)
This Capcom title is the third entry in the Gargoyle’s Quest Series, a spin-off to Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Whereas GnG centers on the virtuous knight Arthur, Gargoyle’s Crest follows the adventures of Arthur’s most fierce enemy, the winged demon known as Firebrand.
This twist of playing as the series most infamous enemy makes it stand out as it’s dark colours and moody tones give the game an atmosphere gloomier than that of the series it spawned from.
Capcom’s DNA is all over Demon’s Crest as it shares similarities with the Mega Man X and Magical Quest being big influences in the series evolution following its second installment on the NES.
Like Megaman the goal is to battle through hordes of enemies and hazards until Firebrand eventually defeats the levels boss. Unlike Megaman X the levels splinter into multiple paths with new abilities hidden in each one.
Much like Mickey Mouse and his costumes in Magical Quest, Firebrand can transform into new Demon forms to bypass obstacles and open new paths. This hybrid design gives Demon’s Crest flexibility as the player is encouraged to discover the locations of the Demon’s Stones on their own.
Demon’s Crest was long considered a hidden gem and it is no wonder. Of the many Capcom classics on the system this game is easily among their finest.
F-Zero (Nintendo, 1990)
Captain Falcon is best known as the chiselled chunk of testosterone from Super Smash Bros series. It’s easy to forget he was once an important character for Nintendo. His debut game backed up Super Mario World as one of the launch titles for the Super Nintendo.
For a launch title designed as a tech demo for the systems Mode 7 capabilities F-Zero has aged solidly. It’s single player only but what you get is a challenging game w
hich helped pioneer the futuristic racing genre with its blistering speed and fluid vehicle control.
F-Zero feels a bit bare bones by modern standards and White Land II will no doubt become a roadblock for many, but this is still well worth your time. The SNES had an expansive library of racers but unfortunately few matched F-Zero’s quality. When it comes to discussing the best racing games on the system this one often wins by default.
Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics (Data East, 1994)
The first Joe & Mac was ported to almost every system known to man. It was surprising then to learn that its sequels would all remain exclusive to the Super Nintendo.
Joe & Mac two follows on from the original with the cavemen once again adventuring through prehistoric lands filled with cavemen and dinosaurs for the pair to whack with their clubs. It is hardly revolutionary or challenging but I cannot fault its presentation or graphics.
Sprites are detailed and capture the cartoon look the game was going for. The addition of a world map opens progression and allows players to choose the order they wish to play levels in.
Joe & Mac is easily forgotten thanks to the flood of far better platformers on the system but as an opening release for SNES Online it is more than acceptable. This one is alright if a bit easy.
Kirby’s Dream Course (HAL Laboratory, 1994)
HAL has never shied away from experimenting with Dream Course being their second attempt at a “Ball Kirby” game following the Game Boy exclusive Pinball Land. This time golf would be the game of choice as players putted Kirby into enemies in as few turns as possible.
It’s an inventive spin on golf and actually quite enjoyable when you hit your shots right. The problem is hitting those shots. It takes a great deal of practice to get a feel for the games sensitive shot power bar. There is little room for trial and error in the main game. Players will have to spend a fair deal of time in practice mode before they are ready.
The game eventually opens up and introduces teleport panels and kirby’s copy ability to give players creative ways to clear levels. Kirby can be shot off cliffs and then use the umbrella to control his landing. Wheelie allows Kirby to speed over bunkers and bodies of water. Starman gives Kirby the ability to vault over obstacles. The creative mixture of golf and Kirby’s abilities help keep the game engaging.
The isometric perspective is necessary, but it makes it easy to misplace shots and ruin your run. Dream Course can often feel overly punishing and frustrating. Thankfully the rewind option helps the user to play and learn from their mistakes at the same time.
Taken purely on its own merits Dream Course is merely a decent Kirby game, good but often forgotten for a reason.
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (HAL Laboratory, 1997)
From one Kirby to another, Dream Land 3 is one of the newer games on the service. Releasing two years after Yoshi’s Island the game takes its crayon aesthetic to the next level as one of the prettiest titles on the system.
The colours and art style give the game a certain softness and HAL deserve praise for what they accomplished. Visually, it has aged spectacularly and is much easier on the eyes than the N64, GBA and DS games that followed it.
Dream Land 3 does suffer from the same old issues the series has always suffered from. The game is easy and the task of finding all collectables to unlock the true ending will feel more like a diversion than a real challenge.
The return of animal friends from Dream Land 2 and the introduction of co-op play are welcome but they are not enough to lift this beyond just being a respectable Kirby game.
Time will tell if the excellent Super Star will find its way onto the service but for now this release will suffice.
Pilotwings (Nintendo, 1990)
Pilotwings left me pleasantly surprised. For years I had seen people rave about it with said praise regularly being accompanied by demands for a sequel not called Pilotwings Resort.
Having played Pilotwings 64 previously I had no expectations going into the original, but it is actually excellent. The handling and physics used for the planes, hang gliders and sky diving genuinely impressed me.
Pilotwings is a challenging and skillful game, one which keeps things short and does not overstay its welcome. You’ll complete the initial training missions without too much trouble, but it is the post-game expert mode where the game really begins to challenge your mastery.
Pilotwings is a simple but still holds enough depth to keep you coming back. It feels rewarding to pass with high grades. The secret bonus levels are the cherry on the top of a solid package. A treat to be sure.
Star Fox (Nintendo & Argonaut, 1993)
The early 90s was such a pivotal time for 3D graphics as technology was finally reaching the point where an all-3D future was within reach. While Sega and Namco were battling for arcade supremacy with Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, Nintendo were hard at work putting 3D games into the home.
Star Fox would be the first game to utilise the Super FX, a special chip developed by British studio Argonaut Games which allowed the Super Nintendo to utilise more advanced rendering techniques. Thanks to the Super FX Star Fox quickly became an icon of its era and a best-seller to boot.
Today Star Fox holds up surprisingly well despite the strain it put on the system. The frame rate is far from smooth, but it manages to stay just high enough to remain playable and engaging.
Star Fox wasn’t merely a tech demo made to show off Nintendo’s graphics technology, the game had heart. The gameplay set the blueprint for later entries and has such remained largely playable.
Hajime Hirasawa’s first and last credit as a game soundtrack composer is arguably the best score in the series with the likes of Space Armada, Venom and the Star Fox theme elevating it into a genuine sci-fi epic.
Against all odds Star Fox continues to stand the test of time and rightfully deserves its respect. If you can look past the age of its technology, then you won’t be disappointed.
Stunt Race FX (Nintendo, 1994)
This Star Fox sibling was developed using the same Super FX technology and you’d hope it’d would be more of the same in terms of quality.
Unfortunately, lightning fails to strike twice as Stunt Race falls into many of the pitfalls Star Fox did so well to avoid. Stunt Race would render 3D for everything from the vehicles to the arenas and racecourses. The insistence on rendering pushes the Super FX and the frame rate suffers massively as a result.
Stunt Race has the makings of a good game, but its technical demands hold it back. It’s lack of difficulty will see anyone be able to finish it with no issue and while Stunt Race can be enjoyable in short bursts it feels more like a historical footnote and relic 25-years on. Play F-Zero or Super Mario Kart instead.
Earth Defence Force (Jaleco, 1991)
This game is completely unrelated to the bombastic giant ant and UFO blasting series of the same name. This Earth Defence Force is horizontally scrolling shoot’em up that takes pages out the books of superior shumps such as R-Type and Thunder Force.
The players ship comes with its own option similar to R-Type while using a weapons system and speed choice taken straight out of Thunder Force. Unique to EDF is its level system and ship shielding. Players can take three hits before dying and accumulates experience points which lead to weapon upgrades. These systems alongside multiple firing options are bright points in EDF’s design.
Like many old school shumps EDF enforces checkpoint resets on death. Resetting shumps are not bad in themselves but EDF often falls foul of the line of acceptability as later stages border on bullet hell design.
Earth Defence Force gives freedom of choice in weapon use but even this is a pain as you don’t get to see what the weapon does until you have already started playing. An annoyance which will see you resetting the game until you find a weapon you like.
Earth Defence Force is far from a bad game, but it suffers from being a merely decent shoot’em up in an era of excellent ones. SNES online is just begging for the likes of Gradius III, Darius Twin, Axelay, R-Type III and Super Aleste to be added in the future.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (Capcom, 1991)
Now here is a series that is greatly misunderstood by many as being unfair and overly difficult. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is the third entry in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series and continues the tradition of punishing game design that rewards players for their patience and forward planning.
GnG does not reward fast reaction times and speedy play. The player doesn’t dash and jump over obstacles so much as they path their jumps to land in the safe spots between danger zones. Decision making is key.
Arthur once again fights the legions of the underworld with an assortment of weapons the best of which easily being the bow and arrow, an angled two-shot weapon which becomes a three-shot homing attack when equipped with the magic armour.
The rewind feature for SNES online has been a blessing for this games accessibility as players can now use trial and error to learn from their mistakes without the harsh punishment of losing minutes worth of progress.
The simplicity of GnG works in its favour, it wins the player over through solid design. The game is tough but fair, if you make a mistake and die then it is on you. Enemies have set behaviour and are always avoidable if the player refrains from acting hastily. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a title which rewards good video gaming fundamentals. With any luck more people than ever will be able to see it for the classic it truly is.
Super Mario Kart (Nintendo, 1992)
The question of which Mario kart is the best has always been contentious. There are two kinds of people when it comes to the SNES original: people under 30 who merely like the game and people over 30 who think it is the best Mario Kart ever made. The anchoring bias is very real and with good reason, Super Mario Kart is very different to the games which would come after it.
For someone raised on Double Dash and Mario Kart DS, the original has always been a game I struggled getting to grips with. Super Mario Kart handles unlike any other Mario Kart game. Turning comes as a shock to the system as drifting will see players steer wildly off the track if they have not taken the time to practice the technique.
Drifts turn far harder than they would in future entries. Tracks in SMK are small and tight; long stretches and extended turns are absent as the player must twist their way through a constant barrage of sharp turns, u-bends and 90-degree corners. Players must take different approaches with drift turns; it is not a one-size fits all approach like modern Mario Kart titles.
Super Mario Kart will not be to everyone’s liking. Even if the player masters the handling, they will still have to contend with the aggressive AI that cheats regularly.
Super Mario kart is still good, but a few blemishes prevent it from earning top marks. Racing games have never been the Super Nintendo’s strong suit, but Mario Kart would have been an excellent racing game on any system.
Super Mario World (Nintendo, 1990)
As the best-selling Super Nintendo game of all time there isn’t much left to be said about Super Mario World. It is still as good today as it was in 1990 and with the popularity of Super Mario Maker more people than ever before will be looking towards the original for inspiration.
If you haven’t played Super Mario World before then make it the first thing you play next time you load up SNES Online, it is a game absolutely everyone should have played, the perfect Mario game.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Nintendo, 1995)
With Super Mario World being a stone-cold classic, you’d think Nintendo would have done more of the same but to the surprise of many they wound up going in a different direction. Yoshi’s Island is less a sequel and more an entirely new game altogether.
It became the basis for the entire Yoshi sub-series of games as the player uses eating, egg laying, egg throwing and air flutter abilities to get baby Mario to the end goal. Yoshi’s Island isn’t particularly difficult. Emphasis is placed on exploration and collectable items. It’s an easy going game but one still satisfying enough to provide an honest challenge to all levels of skill.
It is one of the few games to have utilised the Super FX2 and it certainly proves to be a difference maker as Yoshi’s Island standouts out as one of the most visually realised games on the SNES. The colourful crayon aesthetic, detailed character art, fluid animation and plethora of visual effects have helped the game endure well into the modern day.
Yoshi’s island still remains the best Yoshi game as well as one of the best games on the Super Nintendo. With a colourful palette and adorable visuals, the game has remained loved and is still nice to look at. Often imitated, but never bettered, Yoshi’s Island is a title you will want to experience.
Super Metroid (Nintendo, 1994)
There are many influential games on the Super Nintendo, but few can claim to be the progenitor of an entire genre. Counting all the games Super Metroid has inspired could be an article of its own. Without it there would be no Symphony of the Night, no Cave Story and possibly no Dark Souls either.
Super Metroid has barely aged a day and continues to demonstrate the best map design in the series. Planet Zebes is the most open and free of any Metroid map. The game doesn’t hold the players hand and tells them where to go. Instead it leads them on through carefully planned pathways which makes the player feel like they are progressing naturally.
Super Metroid is a timeless classic. Whether you think this is the best or second-best game on the console is merely down to preference, either way there are few games that can match its greatness. Just do yourself a favour and don’t play it with the joycons.
Super Puyo Puyo 2 (Compile, 1995)
The inclusion of the Japanese exclusive Super Puyo Puyo 2 came as a great surprise. What’s also surprising is the decision to use the original Puyo Puyo 2 instead of the revised Puyo Puyo 2 Remix that released a year later.
Regardless, Puyo Puyo 2 is a fine addition. Single player has been expanded from the original to include more characters and levels. The game now supports up 4 player multiplayer matches and new rule variations. Finally, Endless Puyo mode allows for continuous play without disruption.
Puyo Puyo 2 would set the foundations for the series going forward and is definitely still a version worth playing. With online play between friends ebign an option Puyo Puyo 2 is now the perfect game to play if you don’t have the money spare for Puyo Puyo Tetris or Puyo puyo Champions. If you want a skill intensive puzzler, then they don’t get much better than Puyo Puyo.
Super Soccer (Human Inc, 1992)
NES Online has its fair share of games whose inclusion can be best described as token. There is little demand for the likes of Tennis, Soccer and Baseball but these titles still help bolster the library. SNES Online is no different with Super Soccer’s inclusion being the most token of the games included.
While more playable than the NES titles there is still something very primitive about Super Soccer. The game makes little effort to follow the actual rules of the sport: you can’t foul players, take free kicks, win penalties or play offside. It doesn’t even have the gameplay to compensate with an arcade appeal either. Of the games available this is probably the weakest of the lot.
Super Tennis (Tokyo Shoseki, 1991)
I have heard much praise for Super Tennis by those who played it in the Super Nintendo’s heyday.Being honest, as someone who grew up with the fluidity of Virtua Tennis and Mario Tennis, I just cannot get on with Super Tennis in 2019.
If I could pick any world which describes these old-school tennis games, it would be stiff. There is a stiffness to Super Tennis. Players do not carry momentum in their strides and are slow off the floor when it comes to rallying the opponent’s shots. With modern tennis games being designed to carry momentum into strikes the stop-start nature of Super Tennis is jarring to play now.
The game was clearly good for its time and does give the player a wealth of options with each button corresponding to a different shot type, but it cannot pick this game up when held under the scrutiny of modern standards. You could still learn to have fun with it once you’ve adapted to its pace, but I don’t see why you would want to in this day and age.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Nintendo, 1991)
The reason the Zelda series is the giant we know it as today. A Link to the Past took the stiff, tile-based design of the original and evolved it into a fluid and swift adventure game set in a world that felt more alive than the barren monster-ridden Hyrule of the original.
Its openness encourages and rewards explorative curiosity while also maintaining enough structure to ensure the player never gets lost. It is a game equally good at showing and telling as the player doesn’t need to rely on dialog to know where to go and what to do. As a series built on reward through discovery, exploration, and problem solving, Link to the Past is a perfect demonstration of everything that is good about Zelda.
Its design works equally well in all dimensions as it laid the foundations for what would become Ocarina of Time. Much like Super Metroid it is incredibly influential and whether you consider it the best game on the system is merely down to preference. It is still a treat to play and is easily in the upper echelon of the best Zelda games.
Nintendo have confirmed that new games will be added to the SNES Online library in the future. However, in the same breath they also revealed that these new releases would no longer take place on a monthly basis.
It is not known when the new games will come or what games we will be getting. There is a high demand for classics such as Turtles In Time, Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger and U.N. Squadron. Titles such as these will likely never find their way onto the service due to licensing complications and in the case of Square, an insistence of releasing revised versions of their games as solo releases.
However it does also present an opportunity. Overlooked cult classics and rarities now have a chance to find new audiences through this service. With over 1,000 official releases to it’s name the SNES library is not going to be exhausted any time soon. Even if you’re not big on netplay this service combined with NES Online will more than help justify the cost of your yearly subscription.