My 16-Bit Trifecta

“What is your favorite video game?”

It’s a good question for anyone who does play video games; it can give a small insight to a person. Plus, it’s a decent icebreaker for those who enjoy playing video games.

Now that I think about it, it may not be enough to say I have a favorite game. There is something different about three games for me, these are games that I will never tire of playing, and will always pop into my head when I’m thinking of a video game to play. Coincidentally, my three favorite games seem to have some pretty big similarities. But I’m putting off the whole point of this: what are my three favorite games?

In no particular order:

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

The plot of this game isn't canon. Which is a shame, because it is really good.

The plot of this game isn’t canon. Which is a shame, because it is really good.

Chrono Trigger

(not) Coincidentally, this has one of the few time-travel plots that is good.

(not) Coincidentally, this has one of the few time-travel plots that is good.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This game is as old as I am.

This game is as old as I am.

All three of these games came out for the Super Nintendo, that wonderful grey and purple 16-bit machine. And personally, I think each of them looks great, even today. There seems to be a smooth and complete graphical presentation and animation in these games. Part of that seems to stem from how they programmed the graphics back on 8-bit and 16-bit systems. Since you couldn’t make the advanced 3D models that you’ll see in games today, you had sprite models, pixel objects, and  animation effects. Because of the way in which these graphics were designed, there was always a level of abstraction in older graphics. But, with the 16-bit colors and processing, these images became more vibrant, had smoother animations, and  better effects. These combined to make  colorful, exciting and memorable imagery for me.

Before I continue, I do want to say that I’m not out to knock modern graphics. Being able to use the tools and technology that a development team has helps make great games stand out from the rest. While I really like the 16-bit graphics, there is just so much that can be done with modern graphics. Seeing the art style in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword rendered in a 1080p resolution is astounding; a real work of art. It was modern graphics that helped immerse me into the world in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. A lot of great games might not be around if not for modern graphics.

Why these three games have become something special for me is more than the fact that they were from the 16-bit era or that they came out on the SNES. The stories in these three games, the RPG and adventure elements, and the wonderful characters really made these games come alive for me. This is especially true for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Mario is one of the most iconic video game characters, but I never really got into Mario games, even the best ones. And despite having played all of the console Mario games up to Super Mario Galaxy 2, I can’t say that any of them break into my favorite game lists. I always have to say that while there are many great games in the Mario series, only one could get me to play it after I’d beaten it once, and only one really could get into my favorite games. Why? First off, I am actually a fan of the old turn-based RPG mechanics…when they’re done right. So basically as long as it isn’t Final Fantasy XIII or anything remotely like that mess, the mechanics of a turn-based RPG can work. Super Mario RPG is also has Princess Peach reprise being a playable character, and is the first time that Bowser becomes a playable character, as he joins your party. And then there are these two:

These two would make great Super Smash Bros. characters.

These two would make great Super Smash Bros. characters.

Mallow and Geno, two new characters to the game, were good additions to the Mario world to me. Unfortunately, Mallow doesn’t make another appearance, and Geno gets only one cameo appearance. This is due to Square Enix owning the rights to these characters, but  I enjoyed both of these characters in Super Mario RPG, and have missed them in other Mario installments.

As for Chrono Trigger, a lot of the same reasons for liking Super Mario RPG come to mind; the well-written story, the engaging and memorable characters, an enjoyable world to experience, and a sense of nostalgia. I was able to play Super Mario RPG and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past when I was young, but I only got my hands on a copy of Chrono Trigger a few years ago. Before playing through it, I was worried that I  might not like this game. I had wonderful memories with A Link to the Past and Super Mario RPG, and nostalgia is a factor as to why they were my favorite games, but what would a new story, albeit with old technology, hold up? Then I played the game, and I never worried that any of these games were favorites solely for nostalgia’s sake.

Finally, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was the first video game I remember playing, and it has stuck with me all the way. The story and characters, like both Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG are great, but this game has different game play than either of the other two. With no turn-based combat and many RPG elements being relegated to new tools and more hit-points, it has the least amount of RPG of the bunch. But the traditional Zelda temples, puzzles and items make their well-designed and (mostly) useful appearances. These three games stand out to me because their characters and stories are well-designed and ultimately so memorable, and the challenge of these games, even when I know what’s coming, is enough to keep me excited with each new playthrough… which might start right now.

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