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Probably my favorite of the Nintendo Wii’s many unique features is the Virtual Console. No longer am I required to dig through the closet to find my dusty old console when I want to play a SNES game. Now I can simply download it and play it on my existing setup, in full, modern television glory.
There are quite a few SNES games available for the Virtual Console, and Nintendo is adding more on a weekly basis. There are quite a few great SNES games available for download, but here are your five best bets for getting the most game for your eight dollars.
You will probably notice that almost all of the games on this list are Nintendo first-party titles. There are a couple reasons for this. First, since Nintendo is in charge of what titles end up on the Virtual Console, it stands to reason they’d have an easier time getting more of their own games on the service.
Second, as almost any veteran gamer will tell you, nobody knows how to make great games for Nintendo consoles quite like Nintendo. Not every first-party title is great, but all the greatest games seem to be made by Nintendo.
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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Still my favorite of the Zelda series, A Link to the Past takes place from a top-down perspective. Players guide Link through dungeons and a massive overworld on his quest to once again save Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon.
The coolest part of A Link to the Past is the Light World/Dark World mechanic. Basically, distorted mirror images of the game world exist on parallel planes that can be accessed by gazing into a magic mirror. This mechanic figures heavily into the game’s puzzle solving elements.
Trying to reach a Dark World item that lies across a chasm near a defoliated forest? Simply warp to the Light World and find that a helpful tree lies across the chasm. Now you can cross in the Light World, then pop back into the Dark World to grab your item.
And that’s a simple example of the amazing puzzles in the game.
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Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana remains one of my all-time favorite RPGs. As a teenager, I played through it countless times, constantly introducing it to friend after friend who, upon becoming hooked themselves, demanded we play it together all the time.
Yes, I said together. Secret of Mana is one of the few quality multiplayer RPGs ever made.
There are three characters in total. In the single-player game, you switch between them, activating abilities by scrolling through them. With a friend taking control of one of the other characters, you only had to control two and consequently the gameplay was a lot smoother.
It’s hard to say what exactly makes Secret of Mana so great. It was one of the many great games released by Squaresoft during their heyday. It’s an action RPG that eschews the traditional turn-based combat system. It is also one of the best and most complete SNES experiences that can be downloaded for the Wii’s Virtual Console.
Check out page two for a fantastic action game, a stellar platformer, and a unique RPG featuring some very familiar characters.
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Of all the fantastic iterations in the Metroid series, there is one game that most gamers and critics seem to agree is the best. That game is Super Metroid. Super Metroid doesn’t deviate from the standard Metroid formula of unlocking abilities to access new areas and take down new bosses. Instead, it brings the series’ standard elements to a new high, perfecting all that has always made the series great.
For those that may be unfamiliar, Super Metroid places you in control of Samus Aran, an intergalactic bounty hunter hot on the trail of some space pirates responsible for stealing a parasitic Metroid from a laboratory. The game takes place from a side-scrolling perspective and has both action and platforming elements.
It’s awesome. That’s really all you need to know. It's a great Wii game for a budget price.
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Super Mario World
I realize I’ve used the word “favorite” about three times already, but here it comes again. Super Mario World remains my favorite game of all time. Its amazing mixture of platforming elements, innovative powerups, useful sidekicks (i.e. Yoshi), and multitude of hidden worlds and other secrets make it a blast to play through again and again.
Modern 3D Mario games like Mario Galaxy are amazing, but they can’t hold a candle to the difficulty and fun of old-school 2D games like this. If the recent success of New Super Mario Brothers for the DS and a sequel on the Wii are any indication, I’m not the only one longing for the 2D days of yore.
Before you check out the new sidescrolling Mario games, download Super Mario World and experience the series at its best.
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Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Developed collaboratively between Nintendo and Squaresoft, Super Mario RPG is one of the most fascinating and quirky journeys through the Mushroom Kingdom ever. Former enemies Mario and Bowser team up with a cast of familiar characters to take on an even greater evil threatening their world.
Combat resembles standard turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy, but with an active button-timing twist. Quick reflexes equal more damage in this game, no more inputting commands and then going to the bathroom while waiting for your next turn.
Super Mario RPG used to be one of those SNES carts that collectors salivated over when they came across. Now, thanks to the magic of the Virtual Console, anyone can download it for just eight dollars.
Any of these five great games would make an excellent addition to your Virtual Console collection. They’re not just the best SNES games available for the Wii, they’re among the best video games ever created.
While you're on the hunt for great Virtual Console games, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to the Wii Virtual Console for more top 5 lists, reviews, and articles about the service.