Super NES Classic Edition review – still worth buying in 2023

The Super NES Classic Edition came out in 2017, and arguably, it makes more sense to buy it now than it did when it first came out.

Super NES Classic Edition review image of both the PAL and US version of the console.

Our Verdict

A fantastic collection of 21 classic SNES games in a cutesy recreation of the original SNES, with a few modern bells and whistles.

The SNES is a console that holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers, and the Super NES Classic Edition provides a perfect way to revisit this classic console or experience its games for the first time. While you can also play many SNES games via the Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) service, you’ll get a more authentic experience with the Super NES Classic Edition.

While Nintendo originally released this retro console in 2017 and has stopped manufacturing them, you can still find plenty of them in circulation. Of course, this will probably change in the coming years. Still, for now, this is actually the only way for you to officially buy the majority of games included in it – and since this wasn’t the case when it first came out, it’s arguably better value now than it was then.

Super NES Classic Edition design

For a nostalgia-focused console like this, the design is going to be a big part of the appeal for a lot of gamers. Fortunately, we don’t think anybody will be disappointed with this console’s design, because it looks exactly like the original SNES… only a little smaller (and, consequently, a little cuter).

Of course, the SNES looked different in different regions. PAL territories had rounder edges, while the US had a (literally) much edgier design, with lots of straight lines and angles. If you’re someone who wants to recapture the thrill of childhood gaming, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Super NES Classic Edition has two designs as well, meaning that you’ll find one that matches up with how you remember the console looking back in the day.

A real completionist might want to get their hands on both designs, but what about those who want to buy one (and are happy to import), but don’t have a nostalgia-driven preference for any specific design? Well, I’m biased myself, but I think the PAL design just looks friendlier and more inviting.

Super NES Classic Edition review image showing Donkey and Diddy Kong swimming in Donkey Kong Country.

Super NES Classic Edition games

The big question for a lot of fans will be, ‘what games does it have?’ so here’s the complete list for you:

  • Super Mario World
  • F-Zero
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Star Fox
  • Secret of Mana
  • Mega Man X
  • Super Metroid
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Star Fox 2

That’s a pretty great selection. You’ve got absolute classics like Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The 2D platformer genre is represented quite generously, but then, back in the SNES days, that was the predominant style of game.

Fans of the Star Fox series are likely to be particularly excited by the inclusion of Star Fox 2, a game that was completed back in the 1990s, but never actually released. This is currently the only way you can buy this game because while it has since been included in the NSO subscription service, it’ll most likely disappear once the service comes to an end.

Super Mario RPG is another exciting one because it’s a game that’s conspicuously absent from the NSO library. Developed by Square, it’s essentially a Final Fantasy game, but with Mario characters (and it’s glorious). Having since achieved a near-legendary status as one of the best RPG games of all time, it’s easy to imagine this will be the biggest selling point for some fans.

It’s great to see the oddball, otherworldly RPG, EarthBound in this collection too. While this one is on NSO, it’s still great to see it here (since there often seem to have been issues with re-releasing it). With a story that flips between deadpan hilarity to sincere emotional profundity and one of the strongest casts in the history of games, it’s something everybody should experience at least once.

In terms of games that have occasionally had re-release issues, it is also good to see Rare’s Donkey Kong Country in the mix. With beautiful pre-rendered graphics that look great to this day and a fantastic soundtrack by legendary composers David Wise and Eveline Novakovic, it’s a pinnacle of platforming, and it’s good that Rare’s acquisition by Microsoft didn’t get in the way of its inclusion on this console.

Though speaking of Donkey Kong Country, it’s a real pity that its two sequels weren’t included. I could maybe understand not having the third game (even though I love it), but not having highly revered Donkey Kong Country 2 feels like a big oversight, and that’s not the only game missing from the collection either.

Chrono Trigger, Super Mario All-Stars, Castlevania: Dracula X, Wario’s Woods, Tetris & Dr. Mario, Pilotwings, Aladdin, and countless others are not included. I appreciate that no matter what they included, someone’s favorite would be missing, but considering they could probably fit every single SNES game on one thing quite easily, you’d think they could have added a few more of the big hitters. Obviously, rights issues would get in the way of some games, but I wish there were just a few more (especially as you can’t legitimately expand your library).

Worth noting is that the Japanese version of this console has a slightly different selection of games, which might make it a more appealing choice for anybody who’s happy to import. While it doesn’t have EarthBound, Kirby’s Dream Course, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Castlevania IV, or Super Punch-Out!! it does have the following games instead:

  • Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem
  • The Legend of the Mystical Ninja
  • Panel de Pon
  • Super Soccer
  • Super Street Fighter II: The New Challenger

Overall, I think the Japanese selection isn’t quite as good, as I’d especially not like to lose EarthBound or Super Castlevania IV, I would have loved it if the Western release included Fire Emblem, especially if they translated it into English (imagine). Dedicated collectors might like to buy the US and the Japanese versions to that they have both outward designs of the Super NES Classic Edition, and both libraries as well.

Another regional oddity to keep in mind is that the PAL version of the console features US ROMs of games exclusively. So if you thought Star Wing and Kirby’s Fun Pak were really cool names, or you enjoyed playing as the robots in Super Probotector, you’re going to have to make do with Star Fox, Kirby Super Star, and Contra III: The Alien Wars (with the original humans).

Super NES Classic Edition review image showing hands holding SNES controllers.

Super NES Classic Edition controllers

The Super NES Classic Edition comes with controllers which are literally just like the original SNES controllers. In terms of what you hold in your hand, it feels exactly the same as the original, and that’s really cool.

I’m a maniac who has played Donkey Kong Country on every platform it’s been rereleased on (Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, Switch) and I can safely say that playing with the controller on this console made the experience feel much closer to my childhood memories than any of the other consoles have ever managed to do when re-releasing SNES games. It’s funny how much difference a controller can make.

Wonderfully, Nintendo included not one, but two controllers with the Super NES Classic Edition. If you’ve got a lot of fond memories of racing your friends in Super Mario Kart or beating them up in Street Fighter 2 (still regarded as one of the best fighting games), you’ll be able to do so again without having to fork out for extra controllers.

While I understand that they included wired controllers for a feeling of authenticity, a part of me also feels that that feeling would not have been lost with a wireless SNES controller. I’m probably just too used to my modern luxuries, but one of the few bad things I have to say about the Super NES Classic Edition is that dealing with a wired controller again felt a little bit annoying.

Super NES Classic Edition modern features

The Super NES Classic Edition gives you a selection of classic games just as they were, as well as a sprinkling of more modern features, including:

  • Menu screen: This lets you browse through all of the games on the console, with a lovely piece of original music that sounds very much like a genuine piece of 90s SNES music.
  • Save states: Though purists can easily choose to ignore them, they’ll make a world of difference to anyone trying to get through trickier older games for the first time.
  • Rewind: If the save states aren’t enough, you can even rewind your progress to reverse any mistakes you may have made mid-game.

While I have no criticisms of its main menu, it has to be said that the rewind and save state features haven’t been implemented in the most intuitive way. Since you’re just using a SNES controller (and all the buttons will have assigned functions in the original game, with none spare for these fancy new things), you have to press the reset button on the console, then access these options from the main menu. It kind of makes sense, but it’s also kind of clunky.

Super NES Classic Edition vs Nintendo Switch Online

For modern gamers looking to play SNES games, there are two options available to them: the Super NES Classic Edition and an NSO subscription. So which is the best one to go for?

Well, the Super NES Classic Edition costs about the same as ten years’ worth of the NSO subscription that encompasses SNES games, so the subscription would definitely be the more cost-effective way to play. But, of course, it is just that: a subscription. Eventually, Nintendo will probably discontinue it and revoke your access to these games.

The Super NES Classic Edition is now the only way to buy SNES games (well, aside from paying high prices for the original cartridges). When this retro console originally came out, you could buy SNES games on both the Wii U and New 3DS eShops, but now both of those have been discontinued and Nintendo no longer allows people to buy their classic games.

While NSO has some games that the Super NES Classic Edition doesn’t, the reverse is also true. If you want to ensure you have this selection of classic games safe to be enjoyed at any time across all the years to come, then NSO isn’t gonna hack it. Plus, with the packaged-in controllers to give you an even more authentic experience, there are many extra benefits to the Super NES Classic Editions which, in my opinion, make it the superior way to experience SNES games.

Super NES Classic Edition verdict

If anything, the Super NES Classic Edition is more valuable today than it was when it was first released over half a decade ago. It looks cute and gives you two fantastic reproductions of classic SNES controllers, plus a library of 21 fantastic games to lose yourself in, including many which are just as fun today as they were when they originally released in the 1990s.

It is a pity that there’s no (legitimate) way to expand the library of games on this console – imagine if, for example, you could put old cartridges in and it would save the ROM? And I’m sure that a few fans will feel a bit disappointed by the absence of certain favorites. Nonetheless, there are enough fantastic games here, that even if you’re sad about certain missing games, you’ll still be happy about what has been included.

The addition of the save states and rewind features will help make these games more accessible to gamers who aren’t as used to the more unforgiving nature of older games (looking at you, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts). Even if you feel like that’s cheating, these save you from having to complete classic games in one sitting – you can just save wherever you are, stop playing, then come back and resume at the exact same point the next day.

Whether you’re a new fan who wants to learn more about the SNES days, or someone who lived through them (like I am), this console caters to everybody, and I can only recommend that you buy one before they end up being super rare and stupidly expensive.