The days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES were key formative years of my youth. I spent hours playing Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and dozens more classic platform games. However, it was the RPGs, those role playing classics like Final Fantasy and A Link to the Past that had the most effect on me. I spent days beating Zelda two and three times, so enamored with the game as a whole that I couldn’t wait to play through it one more time when I was finished.
There were dozens of games just like that, that caught my attention and forced me to feel something special through my television. It may be the big and powerful consoles these days vying for the best and most impressive graphics around, but it’s those epic RPGs of the 1990s with storylines of gold, and characters that I’ll never forget that truly impressed upon me the gaming mentality I still carry with me today. And these are the best of those many many games.
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy VI, released in the US as Final Fantasy III is one of those games that not only defines for a generation what an RPG is, but managed to help the SNES go out on one heck of a high note. The game was a dozen steps forward in nearly every facet of RPG gaming, from the graphics, to the epic story line and a cast of characters that few would ever forget. The villain, Kefka is one of the dirtiest, rottenest bad guys to ever set foot in a video game and until the next Final Fantasy was released no one argued that this Final Fantasy was the greatest of them all (which, by the way, many will still say if you ask them.)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Link’s first and only 16 bit outing is a legendary quest that jumped light years beyond what we’d seen in the previous two NES Zelda games. Going back to the overhead map style game of first game, A Link to the Past was an epic quest in a giant Hyrule to rescue the princess and save the realm once more from Ganon. This time around, instead of a sneaky second run through the game, you found yourself going to the dark realm and back, alternating worlds and changing events as best you can. The end result was one of the best action RPGs around, that is until the next Zelda game hit the N64 and became the greatest game ever made.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Some have commented on how odd the pairing of Disney and Squaresoft was in Kingdom Hearts, but Square had a history of odd couplings well before they took to the House of Mouse. This late life SNES RPG was a collaboration between Nintendo and Squaresoft, creating a massive, brilliant RPG featuring everyone’s favorite plumber. It’s still the only decent Mario RPG made (That Paper Mario for the Gamecube was something different entirely) and it told a pretty decent story in the process, not something that Mario and friends were known for. Unfortunately it’s never been reprinted or rereleased, likely due to strained relations between Squaresoft and Nintendo, but we’re all hoping for a revival on the Wii’s virtual console now that Square Enix has agreed to release a few of their games.
Chronotrigger, released in 1995 by Squaresoft was one of those games that arrives at the last possible second for a console, after a new machine has already been announced and new games are sparse, and doesn’t get the longevity that it deserves, becoming instead a rare masterpiece that only the greatest of RPG gamers still own. Chronotrigger was an amazing game. It was one of the best looking SNES games ever made, and featured an amazing story complete with many characters, time travel, and the much vaunted New Game+ mode that allowed you to play through the game again with all the stuff you earned the first time (this time to get everything you missed). With infinite replay value, a perfect storyline, and amazing Akira Toriyama inspired visuals, this game is definitely one of the best.