Perfect Ten: SNES games that would have made for amazing MMORPGs

    
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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.

5. ActRaiser

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.

9. EarthBound

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.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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butterpanda888
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butterpanda888

I strongly agree with 2, 5, 7, 8, and 9. I also agree with 1, but could do without demon toddlers.

Disclaimer: I have never actually played any of these games (or any SNES games for that matter), but based on your descriptions of them and your ideas on how they could be MMO’s I’d love to see that happen.

I have been wanting an MMO set in the world of Mario so badly.

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Fenrir Wolf

I was always a SEGA person, being a Yuropean. Interestingly, Phantasy Star did end up becoming an MMO. What an odd tale that was. It… wasn’t very good, truth be told. Afterwards, it became Phantasy Star Universe which—to my surprise—did have the faintest glimmer of something special, there was a spark there. I didn’t connect with it, much.

When Phantasy Star landed on the PSP as a storied multiplayer title, that’s when it really sank its hooks into me for the first time. Universe was the only title that, in all honesty, revelled in SEGA’s musical inclinations. Which I happen to love.

I find that, for the most part, singleplayer JRPGs don’t really translate well to MMOs. There’s usually something lost in the translation due to how focused they are upon a small band of wandering heroes, similar in a way to classical D&D. Which is perhaps why they can extend to multiplayer without losing much of their innate magic, but no further.

The best implementation of this being when each player is a character with their own story, history, and things to say. Which is, conversely, how the Seiken Densetsu series handled it, I think?

Earthbound—which stood out to me—would lose much of its flavour by becoming an MMO as it’s a very personal affair, the story is strongly tied to the character, coming of age, and how the imagination of youth reveals the hidden quirkiness of an otherwise normal world. I’m not sure how you could translate that to an MMO.

I guess the reason I feel this would never work is why I feel that a D&D MMO could never truly work. I mean, DDO was a multiplayer game first before it was anything else. You joined a party to go into an instance, it’s the only way they could’ve done it. The failure of Neverwinter (which is so dreary and uninteresting compared to its vibrant, starry-eyed, younger siblings who carried the Nights surname) illustrates that, I feel.

Many Western RPGs tend to function better as MMOs as the story is much less about a personal journey, and more about the story of the world that the player character finds themself in (see: The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, Bethesda’s Fallout, and so on). It’s probably no surprise that my favourite Western RPGs are those which eschew that trend, having the player’s story more intertwined.

Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines is a really good touchstone, here.

There’s also the necessary scale of it, too. With an MMO you invariably have to end up saving the world as the player’s power level increases. That’s the way they’re designed. That can be fun, certainly, in a more cheesy setting—like Champions Online—but for the most part, it’s overly stoic, dry, serious, navel-gazing and doldrums-inducing.

If you could untether the progression systems from an MMO, you might be able to tell a more personal storyline on a smaller scale. That’s something I’m an obvious proponent for as I’m not a fan of spending months grinding to max level only to have my character destroyed by a balance patch, undoing all of the effort I’d put in up until that point. Then I question why I’m even doing it.

I mean, it’s a video game, it shouldn’t feel like a second job. It should feel like a second life, a rather interesting one detached from the reality we know. Which means, if I’m honest, Second Life is probably more compelling than most MMOs on the market.

But I digress.

The point is is that with progression mechanics being what they are, you can’t really revel in the tiny details of a very personal storyline. You couldn’t, say, turn Costume Quest into an MMO because it deals with a small town being secretly invaded by monsters from another dimension. In an MMO, that small town is your starting zone. Two weeks later you’re in Africa.

Point is, you can’t really tell a personal story with an MMO—let alone a small-scale one—because that simply isn’t the nature of the beast. The player character cannot be anyone in an MMO, they’re quite intentionally a nobody, a faceless grunt, because there are so many other players abounds. They might put up the pretence of the player being the sole, singular hero of the land but there’s no character growth to speak of

MMO characters are essentially clone soldiers.

Which is sad because it reminds me that Star Wars: Republic Commando exists, which was a game about clone soldiers who each have more personality individually than every MMO player character has combined. Hm. Homunculi, then?

Which, again, is why DDO did what it did. I’m thankful for that.

What I’d really like to see is an MMO that tackles a personal story, or perhaps even a small-scale story that doesn’t involve saving the world (if they’re feeling ballsy). The problem with that is though that you’d have to gut-out the entire system of player progression via growing numbers and replace it. What would attract MMO players as much as that does, though?

I would be interested in the attempt, though!

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nobleeinherjar

The SNES is the console I have the most fondness and nostalgia for, too. It cemented my love of pixel art, chiptune music, and RPGs.

I liked that Zombies Ate My Neighbors was on this list. For some reason, it was the first game that came to mind when I read the article title despite the other games on the list being “better” choices. Secret of Mana, Earthbound, and Chrono Trigger are probably my top 3 picks from this list.

I would also add Romancing SaGa. It’s “kinda go where you want, gain stats/learn arts as you fight” nature would be good for an MMO. I don’t know about the game itself, but Treasure of the Rudras’ magic system–you use words to produce various effects–would be a neat addition to an MMO, too.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Sunset Riders? I dunno about that, I mean killing Native Americans isn’t exactly PC in our modern sensitive American culture.

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Pandalulz

I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Final Fantasy VI, it’s got it’s own “Cataclysm” expansion already built in. :P

I know mentioning a FF game is dumb anyway though, FFXIV encompasses them all in its own adorable way.

Actraiser would just be fulfilling Wildstar’s settler path in a way it never could have.

You know though, I don’t know if A Link to the Past would make a good MMO, but somebody should do something with the Dark World mechanic.

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Nu

A Link to the Past? You’d be looking for Graal Online 15 years too late. Graal was great during its come-up and truly felt like a zelda game gone MMO.

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Bannex

I love super Mario rpg more than I probably should. That game is flat out amazing.

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Schmidt.Capela

That game is a collaboration between Nintendo (perhaps the best developer when it comes to making games a joy to play) and Square (at the time often considered the best at creating turn-based RPGs), made with a generous budget by a team capable of using the SNES hardware to its utmost; no wonder they created one of the most fun and enjoyable turn-based RPGs ever made.

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TomTurtle

This reminds me of my time with Graal Online, which shamelessly used assets from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past when I had played it. I remember there being some kind of editor that you could use to create your own tilesets and create your own world, though it wasn’t part of the online experience.

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starbuck1771

Shame on you Justin you didn’t mention Wing Commander.

Demon of Razgriz
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Demon of Razgriz

I’m surprised it hasn’t been adapted as a MMO yet. It’s a IP that would’ve definitely benefited as a MMO. Give players the ability to play as either side and have at it.

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Schmidt.Capela

Before being disbanded by EA, Origin attempted to make at least one Wing Commander MMO; it was cancelled so EA could publish “Earth and Beyond” without internal competition.

Incidentally, this resulted in the Wing Commander franchise being basically killed (the only thing made with it after that was Wing Commander Arena, an XBox 360 exclusive spin off that is just a dogfight simulation), and all the Wing Commander devs — people who were big fans of space sims — being moved to the (later also killed) Ultima Online 2 project, a fantasy game.

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starbuck1771

Yeah sadly stupid decisions like that are what gave companies like EA & Microsoft bad reputations that they continue to live up to today.

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Alex Willis

These are all great games, but I’m not sure some of them could be made into MMOs. Chrono Trigger, for example, relies heavily on a player’s decisions changing the past and future. What if different people made different decisions? How could you instance that? Or, alternatively, if you didn’t instance it, how would that work? It would just be one huge chaotic mess. It would be the most fun game in the world to troll other players in, however.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Doing some instanced stuff would be normal, but they could do without it. As a series, there’s also alternative timelines, so anything and everything is basically possible.

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IronSalamander8 .

I have a bunch of these still! Zombies ate my neighbors is brilliant although I found it very difficult after a certain point, still loved it. Star Fox was solid and loved the graphics at the time. Secret of Mana I don’t think I finished but it was a good JRPG. The Lost Vikings is brilliant, with it’s Lemmings like puzzles and humor. I enjoy most of the Castlevania games and I’d love a dark Gothic setting like that. I beat the Super Mario RPG many times, it’s fantastic fun and is a personal console favorite of mine.

I haven’t played the others, I never got ChronoTrigger although apparently I should have.

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Schmidt.Capela

Chrono Trigger is one of the best RPGs ever made by Square (of Final Fantasy fame); I actually consider it better than the SNES Final Fantasy games. Nowadays it’s also sold on Steam; the port was terrible at launch, but has been updated to the point it’s now quite reasonable.

Earthbound is also fantastic, but kind of an acquired taste. I love it, but people that want RPGs to take themselves seriously often balk at it.