Feature: 20 Years of the Super NES

Time flies when you’re having 16-bit fun

It’s been a year of major anniversaries, proving the fact for many of us at Nintendo Life that we are, indeed, getting old. We’ve seen anniversaries for Zelda, Metroid and Sonic, with Mario enjoying a celebratory cake with Princess Peach only last year. Next up is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: the Super NES officially launched in North America on August 19th 1991, so it's time to celebrate.

Of course, the Super NES arrived in Japan in November 1990, and European gamers had to wait until April 1992, but now seems to be as good a time as any to look back on the 16-bit console. Much like the most recent generation of consoles, and as will probably be the case with the Wii U and the next-gen offerings from Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo faced competition that boasted of mature titles and superior graphics – who can forget ‘BLAST Processing’ on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. And yet after a long — and at times closely fought — battle, Nintendo won that particular console war.

We shouldn’t forget that, despite claims by its competitors, the Super NES packed a bit of punch of its own. The best of the games on the console were a demonstration of the bright and detailed sprites that could be produced, while basic 3D-style graphics were possible with the Mode 7 graphics setting. Nintendo also found other ways to boost the console's capabilities, utilising a design that meant graphics chips incorporated directly onto a cartridge could provide impressive results. One of the best known examples was Star Fox (Star Wing in Europe and Australia) using the Super FX chip for polygon based graphics. Throw in the controller with its four face and two shoulder buttons, and this was a console that grabbed gamer's attention.

As with any console, though, success is dependant on great games. Fancy hardware and cutting-edge technology is only as good as the games that it comes with, and it is here that the Super Nintendo shone the brightest. As well as entries from beloved Nintendo franchises, third party classics also ensured the success and legacy of the SNES. Many of these titles are still wonderful to play today, and thanks to the Virtual Console get regular play-time on Wii consoles around the world. To acknowledge the gaming legacy of the SNES, we’ve looked through our archive of reviews and identified the best games, in our opinion, from this classic console. Check out the next page for the results.

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