We can already guess at least 2/3s of the games that will appear on Nintendo's rumored SNES Classic Edition, the next retro console that only exists to enrage you because you didn't get around to buying one. Sing it with me now, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, Kirby's Dreamland 3, Star Fox… Uniracers, maybe?
If Square Enix and Capcom somehow pony up and pitch in Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, and a Mega Man X game or two, that's game over. It'll be the most fantastic piece of hardware on the face of the Earth. My guess is Square would rather port those two games to the Switch and make you pay $30 each for them at that point… and since I'm a sucker, I'll be totally on board.
So we're here today not to talk about the undisputed classics of what many consider to be the greatest gaming console ever made. We're here to talk about those smaller games that slipped through the cracks, the really fun ones that just aren't popular enough to justify redistribution on one of these novelty retro consoles. These games have their fans, myself included or I wouldn't be writing about them, but I can't see Nintendo reaching out to pick any of them up.
And for the sake of keeping this simple and my brain fully functioning, we're limiting this to games released only in North America. No Japanese games, and no Terranigma either (you're getting off the hook easy, Square Enix!) because otherwise, I'd be cherry-picking this list all day.
Of all the games I'm listing, this is probably the most likely we're going to see. Capcom has been extremely generous in porting this mini-masterpiece to Virtual Console every chance it gets, and only the prospect of Mega Man and Street Fighter games are blocking its chances.
Otherwise, this is the kind of game you want to see fill in the cracks between the definitive classics. Demon's Crest is a game that can hang with the best of them. It pulls off the 16-bit horror setting better than every other game out there, even Super Castlevania IV, which already gives it a unique flare to help it stand out. After that, it's 2D platforming is one of the most varied on the Super Nintendo thanks to five different forms protagonist Firebrand can take, and the non-linear level design has it scratching at Super Metroid's heels in terms to demanding attention.
I'm not entirely kidding about Square Enix holding back Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger on us. Japan's Seiken Densetsu Collection in Japan for the Switch has already shown the company's plans for breaking from the Virtual Console pricing point for classic games, and there is no way it will cave with its most popular games. Maybe we'll see one of them, but not likely.
That being said, if we get anything from Square Enix, it will likely be from the Enix side of the equation. ActRaiser has almost as good of a chance of making the SNES Classic as Demon's Crest does, but I'm not placing any bets on it. I believe Nintendo recognizes its popularity among fans, and also, it is one of the most important year-1 games on the console. Super Mario World and Super Castlevania IV showed off how the Super Nintendo could make games prettier. ActRaiser showed off how to make games deeper and use the extra power to create insane hybrid games.
It also hasn't seen a release since the Wii's Virtual Console, so I think we're overdue in that regard.
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen
While we're riding on Enix to cough up the goods, let's give this one a little chat as well. This game has no chance of making it on the SNES Classic Edition, and it's not because of its lack of popularity. Nintendo has always stated that these retro consoles are meant to be a casual present for someone on a Christmas morning, not some hardcore fanatic's replacement for his PlayStation 4.
But that's just what they'll be getting with Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. This infamous and legendary strategy game would make the completionists and speed-runners of today wet their pants. Systems upon systems, dozens of endings, brutal difficulty curves, constantly fighting uphill battles lest you anger the civilians and lose their support, and best of all, nothing is ever explained! Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen is not only one of the most challenging strategy games ever created, it also demands that you figure the finer points on your own.
Yeah, not something grandpa or little Timmy wants on Christmas morning.
E.V.O. – The Search For Eden
Sorry, Square Enix. I lied. You're not getting off the hook so easily. Just one more, I promise.
This awkward little action RPG is all about evolution. Players start out as a fish and eat the other fish in the sea, and once they "level-up" they get to choose how to evolve, and they move up on the food chain. Fish become frogs become lizards become dinosaurs, up, up, and up it goes with each passing age of Earth. Enix had this real thing with rewriting human and natural history on the Super Nintendo, and this game starts at the very beginning of time for our planet.
E.V.O. – The Search For Eden simply doesn't have enough fans to garner demand for re-release, plus I think the general population might find it boring. Those who love quirky Enix games though should check it out elsewhere.
Here's a strange one in that it won't get re-released because of its publisher. Maybe you've heard of it, a company called… Sony. Before the PlayStation became a console, Nintendo and its rival had a buddy buddy relationship while prepping for the release of the Super Nintendo's CD expansion. This is pretty well-known history by this point.
What's less known is that Sony created a few games for the Super Nintendo in that time frame, and some of them are pretty solid. Hook, yes based on the Robin Williams movie, is better than it has any right to be, but the true gem of the bunch is Skyblazer. It's a solid game that can hang with Mega Man, Castlevania, and the iconic franchises of its age. The setting and the main character's slick move set make it special in some regards.
It wasn't a hit, and not many ever knew about it at the time. I doubt the demand exists for the two companies to cross the aisle and make it happen.
Rock 'n' Roll Racing
Blizzard's classic isometric racing game no doubt has too many licensing issues it would have to contend with for a re-release. Bad to the Bone, Highway Star, and Paranoid would cost Nintendo a few too many clams for the casual run of this novelty console. But ooo… to hear those classic racing endings again.
"Viper is in another time zone!" Full games aren't the only kind of memories I'm looking for on the SNES Classic Edition. These smaller moments hit the nostalgia spot just as nicely.
J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Vol. 1
Good luck scoring the rights to this one, and good luck retaining fans after they finally play it. Yipes! The post-Peter Jackson generation Lord of the Rings fans are so spoiled. We had to deal with games like this that forced our imaginations to work overtime to take us to Middle-earth, not to mention stomach some pretty awful design.
I don't envy them, though. Because I got my Lord of the Rings fill from various sources like the CCG game, the audio dramas, these crappy early games, and *gasp* the books themselves, the Middle-earth in my imagination is far beyond the reaches of the standards that the Jackson films set.
Pro-tip: this game had a killer soundtrack that was way better than the game itself. Just listen to the intro song and get swept away!
My gut tells me that if we get a classic SHMUP game, it's going to be something from Konami and something popular like Gradius 3, legendary slowdown and all, or something flashy yet shallow like Axelay. What we are not going to get is the actual best SHMUP on the Super Nintendo, this killer game from Capcom called UN Squadron.
This game supersedes all of the competition with its non-linear battle map approach to progress, its RPG and shop systems, and its trailblazing art style. In North America, it's just another SHMUP with a ho-hum title, but in Japan, it is based on the classic anime series, Area 88, and probably has some baggage attached to it. Not likely to make an appearance, but it should.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Now we're talkin'! I've been trying my hardest to not overly dominate this list with JRPGs, one reason why I shied away from Super Famicom games, but I can't shy away from this one. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is everything you could hope for from a B-tier JRPG franchise. It's got fun characters, a long storyline dominated by episodic scenes, challenging puzzles, and a monster training system that puts it over the top of the competition.
At its core though, it's just a classic reinterpretation of the genre's Dragon Quest roots, and that's all you want sometimes. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals came out at the very end of the Super Nintendo's life, and where Chrono Trigger took the genre in a more cinematic direction, this game used the maximum powers of the Super Nintendo to reinforce what made the genre popular to begin with. Not the best game to become a fan of the genre with, but definitely one that you could show to kids after they dip into the pool.
I don't know who Nintendo would have to talk with to put this on the console though. Developer Neverland went under just recently, but Natsume could still own the North American publication rights. If not, that would leave Taito, the Japanese publisher, who is now owned by… oh… hello Square Enix. How are you again?
Pocky and Rocky 2
A simple tale of a Japanese shrine maiden and her lovable pet raccoon. These games are so much fun. You play co-op as Pocky or Rocky, and you team up with a friend to throw an absurd number of charms or leaves at brilliantly drawn Japanese ghosts.
This is what we like to call the cute 'em up genre. We stand no chance at getting this game because of how little known it is, and even if we did, we'd most likely get the first game, not the sequel.