Just like a game show, then, it's time for THE LIGHTNING ROUND, where the stakes can really get shaken up, or in this case, where some old classics get judged with lightning speed. Without further ado, let's begin.
Super Mario World (SNES)
The best of the classic 2D Mario games. Yoshi's Island is something else entirely but also very good.
I will now begin taking arguments for the case of Super Mario Bros. 3, but they're all futile.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
This is not the Sonic game you are looking for.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)
This, however, is. Such a textbook example of a sequel making improvements on the first game: better graphics, necessary improvements to gameplay, faster levels, great music. If memory serves, this was the one that was good when it needed to be good, too — Sonic had touched a nerve in gaming, especially in America, and the follow-up coincided with the Genesis' big push. I don't know how many other people got the Genesis and Sonic 2 pack, but that was under the Christmas tree for both myself and Sasquatch contributor Tyler.
Maybe this is driven too much by nostalgia, but popping it in and hearing the SE-GA refrain just took me back to a simpler time. Anything that gets us to harken back to awesome childhood memories gets treated with a certain amount of reverence, but I also feel like Sonic 2 stands up. It feels faster and plays tighter than its predecessor, with just enough improvements and gameplay facets to make it really feel like a deep experience. Sure, you can blast through it pretty quickly when you know what you're doing, but can't you say the same of the Mario games?
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
I swear to god I'm going to actually give this game more time soon. It's just so...daunting. It's like being stuck on the first page of the novel that everyone keeps telling you is awesome.
Mortal Kombat (SNES)
I may be biased a bit toward Street Fighter, but I just feel like this is dated as hell. Thanks to having been too young to get parental clearance to play the original when it was new (or, for that matter, old enough to figure out ways around that) and having been older when the series hit a long crappy streak, I don't have the sort of nostalgia others have toward Mortal Kombat.
Strangely, thanks to the hype around the new series reboot that was released last week, I'm trying to get myself into these games. Key word, though, is trying. Maybe I need to go spend some time reading up on the play mechanics, but it feels kind of like a one-on-one 2D brawler instead of what I'd typically consider a fighting game. I know there are systems and mechanics under the surface, but they're awful hard to find.
I guess this must be how it is to approach Street Fighter without any background, huh?
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
I can't believe I *gets attacked by dive-bombing bird* could actually play *gets swooped by another bird* this game for any amount of time wh-*gets knocked by bird into pit, cue game over music*
You know what? Yeah, this is technically an 8-bit game, but it took me playing the ROM of the 16-bit Ninja Gaiden Collection to actually get through it. Thank god for cheat codes built into questionably legal software, I suppose. I had this game when I was a wee lad in elementary school and I can't believe I actually had the patience to make it decently far into the game. Of course, nothing was like when my cousin and I brutally attacked Ninja Gaiden with a Game Genie, but that's another matter. In any case, this game is a classic example of how abhorrently hard old games can be.
Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Is it a step down compared to the Mario games? Probably. It still blew the doors off everyone when it was released, pushed the SNES hardware, reflects more Western game design choices and has pretty awesome music. Does it hold up to the test of time? Ehhhh....kind of. For some reason, Mario and Sonic haven't aged as quickly as DKC; maybe it's because DKC tries to be more of its time period, the mid-1990s, than either of those (Funky Kong says hi). It also doesn't quite feel as fit a platformer as Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, or a Sonic game.