Contra III: The Alien Wars is often cited as a shining star in the catalogue of games available on Super Nintendo, one of the finest consoles ever launched. Incredibly, the game has lost little of that lustre all these years later, as the gameplay, presentation, controls and sheer intensity of Contra III’s attitude all manage to strike just the same chords they did in 1992. Available on Switch as part of Konami's Contra Anniversary Collection, its refreshingly short completion time, ingenious stage structure and inimitable mood and tone come together beautifully to offset the one or two design drawbacks in the top-down levels.
The fourth game in the series, although known to Westerners first as Final Fantasy II at the time, we were lucky enough to see it again on GBA as Final Fantasy IV Advance, and again around three years later with a DS iteration. That 3D remake of the 16-bit original may have added several more features, including voice acting, but it's tough to play a 'bad' version of this game, and the Super NES original is still a genre high point on a console filled with RPG jewels.
As with other games of the era, Cecil's journey is a challenging one and not for the faint of heart, but whichever version of the game you play — SNES, GBA or DS — this is one of the best RPGs ever made.
Super Street Fighter II followed on from Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting and added four new fighters and some excellent gameplay modes, yet arguably doesn't manage to overshadow its predecessor. Turbo was, for many, the game where Street Fighter II reached its peak; by the time Super came around the SNES was about to give way to 32-bit systems and the popularity of one-on-one fighters was starting to diminish, but this is still an exceptionally enjoyable brawler with plenty of depth, appealing visuals and excellent two-player potential.
Secret of Mana manages to take the action-adventure stylings of Legend of Zelda, and add that trademark Square RPG feel to it. Easily available these days as part of the Collection of Mana, the action combat of this game may take some gamers a little time to get used to if you prefer more traditional role-playing games, but you absolutely don't want to miss this one if you're an action-RPG fan.
There are very few role-playing experiences quite as enjoyable or engrossing as Terranigma. Not only is the quest absolutely epic in size, but the way the storyline continues to evolve and unfold gives it a cinematic feel. Terranigma did for action-RPGs what games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger did for the more traditional RPG market; it's one of those RPGs that once you play it, you'll never forget the experience.
A fantastic showcase for the Super NES and its Mode 7 sprite scaling features, Super Castlevania IV is considered by some (including its director Masahiro Ueno) as something of a remake of the NES original for the new generation of hardware, although with its sumptuous visuals, reworked mechanics and startling 16-bit soundtrack, it has a very different feel to its 8-bit counterpart. It's available on the Super NES Classic Mini and the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, so if you missed out back in the day you've got ample opportunity to catch up with this gem.
Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting was undoubtedly a big deal when it launched on the SNES back in 1993. The Street Fighter craze was in full force and it was genuinely exciting to see the original game refined and improved in such a manner; you could finally play as the four boss fighters and the additional speed injection made things much faster and enjoyable. Turbo is an improvement over its SNES-based prequel, and offers more depth and entertainment as a result.
This classic 16-bit platformer from Rare revitalised the character of Donkey Kong and introduced new members of the DK clan in a game that looked unimaginably impressive running on Super NES hardware back in the day. Donkey Kong Country's faux 3D sprites may not have aged too gracefully, but the underlying gameplay is as solid as it was in 1994 — this is still a thoroughly enjoyable romp.
An extremely impressive package featuring the NES Super Mario Bros. games with a 16-bit lick of paint, Super Mario All-Stars was a convenient way to revisit the classics back on Super NES. Ultimately, with the exception of Super Mario Bros. 2 (we'd argue that this collection offers the optimum version of that game), the originals offer the best experience these days. If you're playing this via Nintendo Switch Online, they're all just as easily accessible.
However, for anybody who first experienced the NES games in this package, we understand if this represents peak 2D Mario for you and offers the ultimate nostalgia trip; everyone's a winner now that they're all available via Nintendo Switch Online.
What's a 16-bit console without a classic arcade-style side-scrolling beat 'em up? This tapped into the zeitgeist in the early '90s and came from Konami at a time when it seemed the company had trouble producing a bad video game. Turtles in Time matched the popularity of the licence with an impressive game to boot. This is an expensive cart to track down these days and despite tricky licensing issues, it'd be a treat to see it running on a Nintendo console again. Until then, we've got our well-loved cart.