With Nintendo expected to unveil its new Wii U home console this winter, the Manifesto's columnists are offering their picks for the greatest games on each of the company's U.S. consoles.
With its Nintendo Entertainment System a wild success, The Big N moved on to the Super Nintendo console in 1991.
If the NES was what got Americans excited again about gaming, the Super Nintendo was what cemented the fact that there would be a generation of gamers.
The best NES games — The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. and Metroid — got even better sequels. Other series like Final Fantasy took off. And new series like Super Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country began on the 16-bit console.
Nintendo saw stiffer competition, though, in this console generation, with the Sega Genesis and company mascot Sonic the Hedgehog nipping at its heels. In fact, one Manifesto columnist, Delano Massey, declined to endorse the SNES and has written instead why Sega should be praised for these years.
Many of these titles, both Nintendo's and Sega's, are available on the Wii's Virtual Console, so check them out and see the ancestors of today's top games.
'Donkey Kong Country'
I remember the first time I saw Donkey Kong Country. I was at the home of my friend who always got the latest greatest everything. I was in awe. It wasn't until 12 years later, while first playing Gears of War, that I got that feeling again.
It was the graphics. They were, in a word, stunning. And while it's true that not all games that look great are great, Donkey Kong Country was better than that. It was the single best title on the Super Nintendo.
After the shock and awe of the prerendered 3D lush environments wore off, the fantastic physics of the gameplay kept me hooked. And once that wore off, the 2D platforming puzzles made me want more. And, of course, there were the secrets with the endless, addicting hunt for never-ending hidden rooms.
The best part about this game? It still holds up today. You don't believe me? Download it on the Wii's Virtual Console. It sure won't feel like a game released before most of today's college freshmen were born.
Most underrated Super Nintendo game: EarthBound
WILL WOOD JR.
'The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past'
The third title in the series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, was considered the right step for Nintendo as it sought to make up for a fairly disappointing second incarnation. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had introduced side-scrolling gameplay, as well as magic, to the series. The game was so radically different that it turned off some fans. But Nintendo got them all back and created even more with A Link to the Past.
The game was very similar in style to the first title in the series but introduced more complex dungeons and had a light world and dark world to essentially double the gameplay.
Ganon remained the villain, but there was a major item introduction in A Link to the Past as Link first began wielding the Master Sword.
Boasting stellar graphics, great music and yet another amazing adventure, A Link to the Past is a strong contender always for not just the best Super Nintendo game but the greatest game of all time.
Most underrated Super Nintendo game: Knights of the Round
I missed the 16-bit era.
While most of my peers were arguing about whether Sega Genesis really did what Nintendidn't, I was stuck playing my secondhand 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System.
My parents couldn't justify buying a new game system when the one I had worked just fine. (Parents never understand.)
The 16-bit era came and went, and soon even the 32- and 64-bit generations were distant memories, giving way to game systems with graphics so awesome they couldn't be measured in bits, followed by everyone finally admitting they didn't know what a bit was.
It was then, while trying to connect with my gaming roots, I bought a secondhand Super Nintendo from a friend to experience the era I missed.
It came with five games, including the excellent The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario Kart, which I barely played.
I was too busy playing SimCity, a city building simulator.
It might sound boring, but setting tax rates and zoning laws, building skyscrapers, and improving public transportation ate up dozens upon dozens of hours of my late teens.
The game had no real end goal, except to keep your populace happy. However, no matter what I did, the dwellers of my city always seemed to hate me. I thought, "Man, it's hard to run a city," and vowed to always give government the benefit of the doubt. (Ironically, I grew up to become a reporter.)
Long story short, I typically ended my people's suffering by activating the natural disaster option, calling in a giant lizard to wreak Godzilla-like havoc on my cities. In typical Nintendo flair, that lizard was Bowser of Super Mario Bros. fame.
Most underrated Super Nintendo game: The Lord of the Rings: Volume 1