I think many of us hold a fond nostalgic torch for a specific console or computer that meant a lot to us growing up, and for me, that was the Super Nintendo. While it wasn’t my first nor my last console, the SNES hit that sweet spot of filling my burgeoning gaming years with a platform that was full of incredible hits.
In fact, I still look back on it and even play it today (thanks, SNES Classic!), which has led to more than a few daydreams in which I ponder what some of these games would be like if, hypothetically, the console was able to field MMOs of them. The sheer focus on platforming makes this a difficult proposition, but even so, I have thoughts on 10 titles that have that MMORPG potential even if the graphic and gameplay style remained largely the same.
So indulge me as I indulge myself today, looking back at the SNES and imagining… what if? (And hey, it’s no more weird than envisioning ’80s cartoons as MMOs, so let me have my midlife crisis!)
1. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
One of the most underrated and incredibly fun games on the SNES, Zombies tossed players into a stream of B-movie settings to fight monsters and bad guys with weed wackers and soda cans. The co-op on this game was really fun, as was the focus on exploration and rescue. Expand that in all directions, and you could end up with a wacky MMO that doesn’t take itself too seriously while focusing on public events to drive forward gameplay. I mean, I don’t know how the modern world would take fighting demon toddlers, but it’d be interesting to see.
2. Star Fox
Many modern space sim MMOs are saddled with what I see as an excess of details and function, making exploration, combat, and progress much more of a chore than it should be. So there could be room for a light and zippy space sim that skewed toward action and exploration without too many cumbersome stats, and Star Fox’s dog fighting and planet-hopping (not to mention its anthropomorphic cast of cartoony characters) could be a great counterweight to the current scene.
3. Secret of Mana
If we’re going to stretch — and I mean reeeeeally stretch — to point at an RPG on the SNES that was anything near an MMO, it would be Secret of Mana. Hey, I said it was a stretch! But the fact that this was a rare co-op RPG gave it a different angle than most titles in that genre, and it doesn’t take much of my imagination to add more people into the mix and keep the party rolling.
4. Chrono Trigger
I’m not just mentioning Chrono Trigger because it’s one of my favorite games of all time (which it is), but because the concept of a time traveling MMO intrigues me. It’s not something that could be easy to pull off, but how cool would it be to feature a world in which any content update or expansion would focus on adding another age rather than another zone? Factor in some heavy phasing to reflect changes made in the past and future, and we could end up with a social experience that also is customized by individual actions.
ActRaiser is probably the only title on this list I didn’t actually like — I thought it was a little cumbersome and took itself too seriously — but the format is an intriguing one for an MMO. ActRaiser was split between platforming and a sort-of city-building sim that ping-ponged off each other, and I thought that an MMO in which you would go out to quest and then come back to help your village rebuild would offer a nice symbiosis.
6. The Lost Vikings
You probably know by now that some of Blizzard’s earliest franchises were on the SNES, and out of these, I have always had a soft spot for the trio of puzzle-solving Vikings. Imagine a largely combat-free MMO where players get a portion of a toolset to use in conjunction with others to overcome obstacles, and suddenly the grouping possibilities seem endless.
7. Super Castlevania IV
While it’s not the best of the Castlevania series, SCIV really nailed the gothic horror setting in a way that hasn’t been done quite as well before or since. It’s not quite as bleak and bloody as, say, Diablo or Path of Exile’s, but instead hews more toward classic monsters and medieval dungeons. I’d just love to see this expanded into a full world that strikes up this particular balance between horror and adventure.
8. Super Mario RPG
Yeah. Wait. Don’t leave. Hear me out on this one. I think a lot of people dismissed (and continue to dismiss) Super Mario RPG for being an RPG-lite without realizing all of the rather excellent things it did with fleshing out the Mario universe into a somewhat believable place and bringing in a hefty dose of humor into the proceedings. With a popular IP behind it, I can envision a Super Mario MMORPG as being a great “introductory” MMO that invites people in rather than overwhelm them with too many features and stats.
Too many MMOs take themselves very seriously and play it safe. EarthBound represents a different school of design, where the possibilities are only bound by the developers’ imaginations. This mix of contemporary setting and bizarro fantasy would make for a fascinating online world, the likes of which we have never seen. So yes, give me yo-yos and psychic powers, please.
10. Sunset Riders
I am beyond disappointed with all of the half-hearted western online games that have been plopping onto the scene as of late. I know that the western genre is not as high in demand these days and tricky to do besides, but why not take a cue from Sunset Riders and go all out with a fantastical take on the setting? Just give us tons of guns, fun set pieces, and tight controls, and I know I’d be having a great time accessing my inner cowboy.