Gaming Flashback: The Best of the Super NES: RPGs
It's been more than twenty years since the release of Chrono Trigger on the SNES and in that time I have played the game multiple times and seen multiple endings, including the 100% ending that grants you the "New Game +," option. I've enjoyed the game all of these years and even now as I replay the game in honor of its 20th anniversary, it inspires me to look back and think about the greatest RPGs to grace to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Much of the 16-bit generation is considered to have given us many of the greatest RPGs to ever be released, so today I'd like to take a look at my favorite RPGs on the SNES and talk about the reasons why these games are great. This won't prevent these games from being covered in the future, but it is great way to talk about five of my favorite RPGs on the SNES, so without any further hesitation, let's kick this off.
Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals
This may seem an odd way to start off this list, but Rise of the Sinistrals is actually the prequel to 1993's Lufia and the Fortress of Doom, despite the “2” in the game's title. Telling the story of the fabled hero Maxim who fought against the Sinistrals during their first appearance 100 years prior to the original game, the game actually features a much better story and infinitely better mechanics than its predecessor. Rise of the Sinistrals is a much more enjoyable game than its predecessor and offers an amazing soundtrack by Yasanori Shiono. Neverland knocked it out of the park with this game, and its unfortunate that the company would go out of business after the release of Rune Factory 4 in 2013. If you've never played Lufia 2 and you consider yourself a fan of RPGs, then you owe it to yourself to track the game down and play it, though I will warn you that a cartridge copy will cost you a pretty good sum of money.
Years later the came would be reimagined as an action RPG for the Nintendo DS, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals. While I've never played the game, I know it features a remastered version of the original game's soundtrack, which makes me very interested in someday tracking it down and playing it.
No list of the greatest RPGs on the Super Nintendo can be complete without this game on it. Earthbound is a fantastic game, from its writing, to its humor, and even it's quirky music. While I may hold other games in a higher regard that Earthbound, there is no doubt that Shigisato Itoi's masterpiece holds a very important place in my heart. It's an endearing story and is a title every person should own on their Wii U. After a meteor crashes into the hills near his home, Ness is drawn into the fight to save the future from the monster Giygas, but along the way he must battle zombies, cults, and various other crazy obstacles on his way to fill the Sound Stone. Earthbound is a unique experience and should be experienced by everyone at least once, but don't take it from me, my friend and internet superstar, Joe Walker did a fantastic job of summing up his thoughts on the game in a video he made last year.
Rolling out yet another heavy hitter, this Square Enix masterpiece was the last time we'd see the team of Hironobu Sakaguchi, Akira Toriyama, and Nobuo Uematsu collaborate on a title until 2006's Blue Dragon. Chrono Trigger is considered by many to be in the upper echelon of Super Nitnendo RPGs, and upon playing the game, its easy to see why, from its memorable characters, amazing artwork, and soundtrack that was one of the best of its era, Chrono Trigger simply offers everything you could want in an RPG.
The story of Chrono Trigger begins as the Kingdom of Guardia celebrates the new millennium with the Millennial Fair. As Crono you head off to the fair and encounter a young girl named Marle. She tags along with you to to demonstration of your friend Lucca's teleportation pods. After a successful test run, Marle wants to try the pods, but her pendant causes a strange reaction with the device and she is sucked into a strange gateway. Crono goes after her only to be thrust into an adventure to save Marle, but also the future of his world from Lavos, an alien being who will destroy the world in 1999.
Another great thing about Chrono Trigger is the fact that its been ported to pretty much everything as its currently available on the SNES, Playstation, Playstation Network, Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, Nintendo DS, and Android and iOS operating systems. So, there's really not excuse not to play this game if you're a fan of RPGs, it really is one of the best and I am actually currently replaying it in my free time in celebration of the game's recent 20th anniversary.
Illusion of Gaia
Part of the unofficial “Quintet Trilogy”, along with Soul Blazer and Terranigma, I feel that Illusion of Gaia is likely the most underrated game of those I have on this list. As more of an action RPG, the game has you exploring dungeons and, more often than not, solving puzzles to advance through the game. Despite being an RPG, the game is pretty linear and most areas cannot be revisited after completion, so there isn't a lot of forced backtracking.
Since the game takes place on Earth in an alternate reality it is cool to see levels based of off real world locations like the Great Wall of China, the Nazca Lines, and even the Egyptian Pyramids. The story of the game is based around a young boy named Will who leaves home on a quest to find his missing father, but ends up on a journey to stop a comet from colliding with the Earth and wiping out all life in the process. It falls into the typical plot elements of a game of its era, but the game's presentation more than makes up for it. Illusion of Gaia, and it's predecessor Soul Blazer, are both memorable titles and deserve to get some more attention than what they are receiving.
Final Fantasy III
Last, but most certainly not least, is Final Fantasy III, or VI as it is known now, is one of my favorite games of all time and one that I revisit regularly. I'm not even sure where to being with this one, I love just about everything about this game, so I may be a little biased here. So, Final Fantasy III, where to begin? Well, the story starts out with a mysterious girl and two soldiers invading a secluded town. They find a strange creature called an “Esper”. The creature has some kind of reaction with the girl, killing the two soldiers with her and breaking her free of their control. She wakes up unsure of who or where she is, but she must immediately run because she is being perused by the city's guards. She must now flee from the guards and find out who she is and why she was being used by Imperial soldiers to attack the town of Narshe. As the story advances, we find that her origin plays only a small part in the plans laid out by the Empire to return magic to prevalence in world that has not seen it's use in more than a thousand years.
The story lays the ground work for a greater conflict, as Final Fantasy III features an enormous cast and nearly every member of the cast gets some kind of side quest that either explores their backstory or helps the character grown, and while many of these don't become available until the second half of the game, many of them are worth playing out just to learn the motivations of the various members of your party. In addition to the characters themselves, their designs are by Yoshitaka Amano are fantastic and, of course, the game's soundtrack, by veteran composer Nobuo Uematsu, is one of the best of the ten or so soundtracks that he composed for the Final Fantasy series. I could go on and gush about Final Fantasy III/VI all day, but I feel that would overkill for this type of article, so we'll leave it at this for today. The game is available on the Playstation, Super Nintendo, Playstation Network, Gameboy Advance, Wii Virtual console, and iOS and Android mobile devices. Much like Chrono Trigger before it, Final Fantasy III has be rereleased on so many devices, that there isn't much excuse for not playing it. If you own any of the devices above and haven't played the game, I strongly urge you to pick it up, because not only is it one of the best on the SNES, it's among the best Final Fantasy titles in each of the game libraries where it is available.