Mario Paint

This one took me wayyyyyy back! How many of you cool kids had the SNES Mouse back in the day? No? Well, I was one of them.

As I write this in 2022, I imagine most kids would look at this and think, what’s the big deal? Back in 1992, however, we didn’t have access to home computers in the same way we do with electronics today, such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

Therefore, Mario Paint was a HUGE deal!

I remember always going to stores, some that were even electronics specialty stores too, and just perusing the devices on display. Back then we’re talking the days of Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1, which I believe had the “Paint” program on it. (Or at least something crude like it.)

I could sit there for hours, if my mom would’ve let me, and played on it, as art was a big deal for me in my formative years. However, having a multi-thousand-dollar machine at home wasn’t in the budget – we’re talking the era of having maybe a single color TV in the entire house!

But one day, Mario Paint came home. I don’t recall if it was a gift or an expenditure from my lawnmowing side hustle, but boy was this thing the best ever.

For those looking at the in-game shots below, you’ll likely recognize several precursors to Super Mario Maker, which would release over 20 years later on the Wii U. The “Undo Dog”, the rocket ship which wipes the board – there are so many things here where the foundation was laid for the later creator-style games, that I had forgotten about.

The endless amount of time I blew playing Mario Paint was likely in the hundreds if not thousands of hours. It wasn’t truly a “game”, as you can see, it allowed for drawing within a canvas. You could, however, save your work – and continue later.

That was crucial because Mario Paint was super detailed for its time. A plethora of colors, patterns, and stamps – many featuring Mario-specific pieces – were available. But the title really shines with the ability to create animations, custom stamps, and even soundtracks.

Yes, this truly was a precursor to creating your own Mario games, although they were simply animated clips and not a “game” you could play. I recall having Mario, and Yoshi, stomp on Goombas and also adding some other custom 16-bit pixel art.

The icing on the cake was a time-killing minigame packaged under the “coffee break” icon, where the SNES Mouse piloted a flyswatter as you killed gnats, hornets, flies, and yes, there’s even boss levels. The game helped kids at my age get more adept at using a mouse peripheral, that’s for sure!

And who could forget the title screen? Each letter in the word “Mario Paint” created a different effect, from inverting colors, to a bomb which blew everything up, to making Mario small or even clicking on “N” to see the Nintendo dev staff credits.

Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting to have this much fun playing Mario Paint in 2022. I was instantly lost in nostalgia, and oftentimes revisiting those memories don’t age well. Yet, Mario Paint is still a tremendously fun walk down memory lane that I highly recommend to anyone who owned the game, or anyone else who has had a curiosity in the past.

Top Gear

Here’s a fun game that flew under my radar for many years.

The SNES really blew up the racing genre with its Mode 7 graphics capabilities. Top Gear (unrelated to the TV series of the same name) takes advantage of this, but in a strange presentation if you weren’t aware of the reasonings for it.

The game splits screens between Player 1 and the CPU in single player mode, but the game was thought of with two-player gaming in mind at first, and by the time the devs considered the single player modes, creating full screen versions of the sprites and more, would’ve delayed the release of the game, as well as increased the costs behind the scenes as well as production for a larger cartridge.

That’s what makes Top Gear unique, as you can glance at your opposition while zooming through the deep number of levels set-in real-world locations. I would equate this to playing Goldeneye 007 split-screen years later on the N64… but this was 1992 and the concept here works well.

Because of the split screens, Top Gear was able to graphically do things other games couldn’t. Other than F-Zero, the game appears to fly as your speeds reach 200mph.

The game is highly influential as well, spawning sequels and imitators. It may be one of the earliest games to use “nitro boosts” which instantly increases your car’s speed.

Speaking of, this could be one of the earlier games to offer so many customized options too. While there are four cars to choose from, each with their own array of handling attributes, you can also opt for automatic or manual transmissions.

The coolest aspect of Top Gear, however, are the controller options – including one where you hold the SNES controller upside-down! (I’ve never seen that before!)

Now, I’m not the biggest racing game fan, nor am I very good at them – so Top Gear also represents a pretty large challenge for gamers, with a high level of replay-ability. Each country features a number of tracks to race through, and you must finish near or at the top to unlock the next set. It won’t always be that simple, however, because you need to strategize pit stops to make sure you don’t run out of fuel as well.

Tucked within all of this is a kickass soundtrack lifted from the Lotus series of racing games on the Amiga, which were also produced by Barry Leitch. According to Wikipedia:

For example, the title music of Top Gear is taken from the ending of Lotus Turbo Challenge 2, and the third race of each country uses a remixed version of the Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge title theme.

Another neat addition are some of the speech bubbles in-game, which usually appear after boosting your speed with a nitro or when you bump into other cars.

The game is simple to pickup but tough to master, making it one of those rare titles where plunking down $60-70 back in the 90’s would’ve been a huge value for gamers in that era.

As far as nostalgia is concerned, I’d put Top Gear a tier below something like Sega’s Outrun, but among the better racing games of its time and one retro gamers would be happy revisiting.

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six

Once upon a time Nintendo games challenged the patience of young kids everywhere. Video games used to present a repeating challenge, such as Pac-Man or Space Invaders, with the idea being each level gets more difficult so the arcade machine sucks more of your quarters.

The 8-bit home console era brought about more linear gameplay, with many games amping up difficulty because there were only 6-8 levels in them – and I assume, you wanted a bit of a challenge so it didn’t seem as if you wasted your hard-earned $50-60 on a game you could beat within hours.

In this light, I’ve long since forgiven some games with stupid difficulty curves. Yet, there are others that are nigh impossible to beat, such as Battletoads. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made by Ultra Games (not to be confused with the fantastic Konami arcade version, ported as Turtles II: The Arcade Game) is yet another of those frustrations I had as a child, only to learn that one area was literally a bug within the title that was hard to get past regardless of skill level.

Over the years I’ve played my share of games with gimmicks, such as Ninja Gaiden, which ratcheted up the toughness with very little health, no continues, and/or a timer to beat. (Gaiden had all three!)

But never did I suspect that I’d run into a game so haplessly thrown together that it would make me enjoy those aforementioned torture fests more than what I was playing.

Enter Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six, a game I sought out during the current Spider-Man multiverse craze, thinking that it might be a cool, lost title of the early 90’s.

Little did I know how far from the truth that statement might be.

Spider-Man looks cool on the screen, and can use his web shooters: getting around the two-button NES controller by using both B and A buttons simultaneously, you can shoot the webs.

But can you use them? Not really.

The distance doesn’t go far, it doesn’t stick to much, and the web-swinging motion is easily canceled out by what I can only describe as the worst controls in nearly any game I’ve played from this era.

You see, you can jump with B. But you can’t really jump in a direction easily. Then all of a sudden you summersault, a la Metroid, but you can’t control where you toss to. And while jumping, you can’t attack.

Actually, you can’t attack while moving whatsoever. And while attacking, Spider-Man moves haphazardly on the screen, oftentimes through or past his intended target, which takes a nice cheap shot at your 4 blocks of health.

You can kind of get that health back, but not easily – and once you die, that’s it. You get one life, and one continue.

That makes the game challenging to say the least, but the collision detection goes beyond that, as every stray bullet (which travels the entire screen) can hit you with ease, while you can’t easily crouch and hit smaller rats which respawn to jump at and kill you. As you attack, you might punch – or jump kick – it’s totally random as to what you do, and if it will hit your enemy. But it will move Spidey, sliding him into more precarious positions, ultimately to kill you and have you start over.

I threw on some cheats to see if I could get further in this game than humanly possible, and well, you can’t really do that either. There are pits where you can’t jump high enough to get out, can’t directionally jump to get out of, can’t sling your webs to catch anything, and pretty much have to die to restart the level – or the game.

Worse, someone decided that Spidey shouldn’t just stop at the top of a ladder, and so he just falls down, to start again, as if it were greased up by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

Since ladders are used everywhere, the jumping mechanic supersedes any need for web-slinging, the primary function of our web-slinger. And since jumping sucks, and you can’t attack in mid-air (like Turtles or Battletoads) you die – and if you have infinite health cheats, you kind of just jump around aimlessly, hoping to stick to something that’s part of a climbable part of the level and not a wall you can’t get past.

Beyond that, there are objectives where you must acquire items to get to the next part of a level. If you’re fortunate enough to find a boss, good luck, because you won’t be able to hit them or they spawn off-screen, or worse, on top of you.

It isn’t a wonder this game was made by the factory of misery known as LJN, famous for acquiring licenses but making terrible games.

Even with my Spider sense of nostalgia, this is a game best avoided at all costs – and easily a contributor to why parents and kids avoided anything licensed from comics, TV, or movies for many years. It was seriously so bad that I couldn’t even attempt to finish it with cheats.

My heart sincerely goes out to anyone who was given this as a kid and forced to play it!

Streets of Rage 2

As far as side-scrolling beat’em up games go, Streets of Rage 2 might be one of the best.

I’ve always held a high regard for the genre, specifically Konami’s line which took a formula based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and replicated it successfully to other brands such as the Simpsons and Marvel.

Sega’s flagship series features no such branding, but closely mirrors the edgier marketing of the Genesis at the time – as well as the pop culture trends too. In the early 90’s, action movies were all the rage, as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone cranked out box office blockbusters such as Terminator 2, Demolition Man, True Lies and many more.

With action, explosions, and the occasional ninjas all the rage, it’s hard not to see the inspiration for the sequel to the successful Streets of Rage. This title adds on more playable characters to start, and retains much of what made the first game so good.

Namely, the soundtrack to this game thumps.

The Genesis lacked the same audio processing as the Super Nintendo, but you’d never know it playing this game. Sega’s console also lacked a more diverse color pallet as its competitor, but that aside, Streets of Rage 2’s audiovisuals are quite possible the best of any Genesis game. Ever.

The stages take notes from other games in the genre, with a nod or two to TMNT perhaps, albeit coincidental.

The isometric elevator level? Sure. The pirate ship level? Maybe… Streets came out only a few months after Turtles in Time. Other stages draw inspiration from fighting in back alleys, a baseball stadium, and an arcade (which features the Japanese port’s namesake of Bare Knuckle on the machines as an Easter Egg.) There’s even a stage which is very Contra-like that feels as if it was ripped from the movie Alien as well.

None of this stuff takes anything away from the game, as it only enhances the culture surrounding it. SOR2 also puts some SNES-style movement throughout each level, visually surprising the heck out of me with background and foreground movement, and a solid number of enemies on each screen. Some of those opponents include enemies on motorcycles or others who throw bombs from the background.

The action never stutters, at least not in my single player implementation.

The HUD is a nice touch as well, showing the names of recurring bosses with a health bar indicator too. Gone are the days of figuring out just how many times you need to punch/kick a boss to beat it!

But punching and kicking aren’t the exclusive moves to SOR2. No sir, we have your usual jumping karate kicks but in addition, grappling knee strikes, suplexes, and special moves (which replaced calling in backup police with a rocket launcher) give the game some diversity and makes it seem as though you’re truly kicking ass!

Knives, pipes, and a samurai sword are among the weapons you can pick-up. You can also find money, apples and a fully cooked turkey on a plate by breaking barrels or other in-stage items: yes, young ones, that was a given in this era of games too and didn’t feel out of place as it might some nearly 30 years later!

Regardless, the controls for this game are incredibly tight whereas other brawlers may see you miss punches and take unnecessary strikes, SOR2 seems to “hit” on all cylinders.

While the level of difficulty ratchets up depending on the level you’re on, or the options screen where you can set it, the game is a blast to mash buttons through and still feels fresh for replayability. If you’re a fan of any sort of games such as those mentioned, or Capcom’s Final Fight, I would highly recommend Streets of Rage 2 finds a way into your retro gaming backlog… and please do move it to the top of the list!

NFL Sports Talk Football ’93

Once upon a time sports games were mundane. When the 16-bit era arrived, that all changed.

Sega led the charge against their rivals at Nintendo by investing heavily in sports games and famous celebrities and licenses. From Buster Douglas Boxing counteracting Mike Tyson’s Punchout to co-developing video games for Disney, Sega was all-in on making sure their Genesis console competed with the Super Nintendo.

One of the celebrities Sega had signed was then four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Montana. In what could be construed as an odd twist in a storyline, the original Joe Montana Football game was developed by Electronic Arts: who also developed their John Madden Football series for the Genesis after reverse engineering the console and holding Sega ransom over cartridge licensing fees.

Both companies saw their sports lines as a seasonal opportunity to sell an upgraded game. The more realistic Madden went its separate ways from the arcade-style Montana following the first rendition of those titles.

Joe Montana II would be labeled “Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football”, but much like Madden and other sports games of the time, it still lacked an NFL license for the real teams or players. It wasn’t until the third entry in the series, NFL Sports Talk Football ’93, that the perfect storm would brew for Sega.

Montana would still be the headliner for this game as his career started to wind down. This game would also feature all 28 NFL teams as well as the players. You can also choose the type of field (natural, artificial or dome) and weather (including rain and snow).

The variety helped Sports Talk keep pace with Madden, but it was the revolutionary “sports talk” feature that would return for the 1993 edition of the game and take center stage once again. Featuring (from what I found) over 500 phrases, hearing commentary in a video game was still a wildly new concept back in 1992. While they are fairly generic (only Montana’s name is spoken among the players) hearing that the “Rams are in the 3-4 defense” or the “49ers are in the pro set” was trailblazing for its time.

Some of the other phrases focused on down, score, time and the weather. If you attempt to go for it on fourth and long? The announcer would belt out “I can’t believe it!”.

The play calling is a bit tedious, but has most of the formation options found in its competitors of the time.

The game play somewhat resembles Tecmo Bowl in this aspect, down to the horizontal view of the field – which can be changed to Madden’s vertical style (with the camera positioned behind the offense or defense) or a ridiculous “blimp view” which even makes my review of Madden ’95 for Game Boy look advanced by comparison!

The game itself seems fairly deep if not a bit more complicated to play than Madden. Rather than passing windows, hiking the ball with the QB asks players to cycle through receivers with B before passing to them with A – which could get you sacked or force an interception if you’re too clumsy.

Running the football? A chore!

The pacing of the game seems a bit off, as you wait… and wait… for the teams to line up. Once the play is run to the focused player, be it a running back carrying the ball or a receiver catching, the screen zooms in for a fairly detailed camera view.

I’m sure with more time the game can really get addicting and become yet another football title to master. The sports talk feature firmly supplanted Sega and its Sega Sports line as a force to be reckoned with in the 16-bit console wars. This is definitely a title that anyone with a retro football itch should check out especially when comparing it to other games of its era.

John Madden Football ’93

I wish I could cover every single version of John Madden Football that exists, but that would fill this website with a lot of repeat information. Instead, I decided to jump around to different versions of Madden, mainly those that are anomalies or the ones I was accustomed to playing growing up.

My first taste of video game football came at my neighbors when I tried John Madden Football ’93. Released in 1992, my favorite team (the Pittsburgh Steelers) were hardly that great (yet). My neighbor loved playing with the Chicago Bears – however, this edition of Madden would be the last to NOT feature the NFL license.

At that time, you’d have to use your own imagination and/or knowledge to know who was who in the game. One of the coolest aspects of that, was pitting a worthy ’78 Steelers squad against my neighbor’s ’85 Bears: both dominant teams of their era pitted in a fantasy matchup.

Thus, was the appeal of Madden early on. While you didn’t have the “Steelers” and “Bears” you still knew who quarterback number 12 was on “Pittsburgh” and running back number 34 was on “Chicago”. Each team still wore its faithful colors and players were statistically based on their real-life counterparts as well – and its not as if licensing were all that common outside of a big-name endorsee, such as John Madden or Sega’s own Joe Montana Football, at the time.

In other words, it was still revolutionary – kids these days just won’t understand what it was like to get a “real football simulation” with 11 vs. 11 players!

The game itself was praised and panned depending on who you read reviews from: it was largely unchanged from the 1992 iteration, with some stating Madden would be a doomed franchise with its yearly roster updates. (Clearly that wasn’t the case!)

Yet, Madden ’93 still worked well.

It carried over conventions from the computer and early console versions – such as showing a view behind the quarterback (other games showed a TV-style sideline view). While Madden ’90 and ’92 preceded ’93 on the Genesis, this version runs better without the framerate stutter and has sped-up gameplay.

The famous ambulance coming on the field was first introduced in ’92, while field conditions and audibles were brought into the series’ first console versions in ’90. Instant replay, two-player co-op, QB injuries and other game modes were all brought in a year earlier as well.

So, what makes ’93 stand out other than it being my first Madden memory?

Well, many forget that Madden originated on computers and not console gaming systems. EA had wanted to present a game that was 6v6 or 7v7, but Madden balked and would not lend his name to the title.

Eventually all was for naught, but Madden was developed by a bunch of different development teams, with some being fired in the early years. Park Place Productions had worked on the previous Madden ’92 but Blue Sky Productions took over and created ’93 from scratch. Like ’92, all of the NFL’s 28 teams were included (and unlike ’90, which only featured 16 of the 28). ’92 had one All-Madden team, but ’93 added historical teams as well as an All-Madden Greats roster.

Madden’s digitized quips, such as “he’ll remember that number” were also a first in ’93.

Quite honestly, just about everything that’s in ’93 is now taken for granted. The refreshed visuals showed referees on the field, spotting the ball and calling penalties: and sidelines also had zebras holding the down markers!

Heck, even getting drive statistics after scoring a touchdown (complete with celebrations and spiked footballs no less) was a new experience in sports games way back when.

But there’s still a long way to go from here. There are no real NFL teams or players, no fans in the stands, stats on the pause screen, manual substitutions (other than QBs), unique stadiums or even a regular season mode. (Playoff stats could be tracked to a battery-backup on the Genesis cartridge, however.)

Yet, ’93 will have some fond memories for me with the co-op play next door: but make no mistake, as I go down my Madden memories list, there are some really great games with awesome editions going forward. However, ’93 was definitely the launching point for the series, in my opinion, from which all other Madden titles are built upon.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear)

For the most part, Sonic the Hedgehog games on Sega’s handheld Game Gear console are a forgotten gem.

However, the 8-bit sequel to the excellent first Sonic game on the handheld quite frankly sucks.

That may not even be a generous term – and it’s also lame that Sega named the first and second games identically to their siblings on the Genesis!

While Sonic 2 on the Genesis was a fantastic follow-up in the series, Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was riddled with issues. Oddly, this title came out before the Genesis version, which meant it was the real debut of Sonic’s buddy Tails.

The premise is the same: it’s a platformer. Collect rings (which you can recover some of after being hit, unlike the first game) and defeat the bad guys.

It’s the extras added to this game that make it awful. Sonic has an ability to smash through certain walls, but you have to know when and where to use this. Gimmicks such as a ridable mine cart and a hang glider are introduced too.

And that’s where the removal of checkpoints along with these gimmicks makes the game incredibly frustrating. The hang glider is impossible to use. Even in the case of using save states, several areas took quite the stitching together of well-timed pauses in order to continue across gaps.

If you die? Then you start over at the beginning of the stage.

The game is riddled with all sorts of cheap ways to die: random spikes you’d never know are there, impossible paths to backtrack, and you know right away something’s off because Act 3 of the first Zone has Dr. Robotnik carry you to a hillside a la the Sarlacc Pit in Return of the Jedi, where you avoid sliding to your instant death while other instant kill bombs bounce down the hill toward the, um, enemy.

The very next Zone sees you nearly meet your maker as soon as it starts, with bridges that collapse and spikes at the bottom of the pit.    Giant air bubbles to float around to higher areas of certain levels offer a pretty crappy “challenge” too. Another underwater level starts with next to know air bubbles in which to avoid death either.

It’s quite shameful that the developers thought any of this was a good idea, but it gets “better” when you realize you cannot rescue Tails unless you follow a specific path of getting all six emeralds – one is hidden within each of the five zones.

In the sixth zone you must earn it by beating the zone’s boss and hopefully, you did well and your game doesn’t end right there – that’s right, if you don’t get the emeralds, you cannot access the final zone and rescue Tails.

The game simply ends… maybe mercifully.

Several of the bosses are very challenging in a sense of there’s not enough screen real estate to properly battle them, leading to more cheap defeats and having to do a lot of work over again.

If you read my part about the gimmicks above, then you can sense the pattern of wanting to thrown the Game Gear across the room. (One zone is appropriately named “Gimmick Mountain” in what may be a nod of how craptastic this game is!)

Another consideration in this era of playing the game versus back in the day: I’m not sure how anyone had enough battery life to actually complete the game unless you were a ridiculously good pro video game player.

Hard games were a way of life for an 80’s child growing up, but dumb and buggy games are another story. I only recommend someone check out this game to see the insanity for themselves. Otherwise, this is one of the Sonic games you can definitely skip.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

When Sega introduced Sonic The Hedgehog it knew they finally had their “Mario Killer” for the Genesis console.

But how do you follow up a great game with an equally great sequel? It doesn’t always happen, but Team Sonic was able to capture lightning in a bottle and improve the Sonic formula further.

This platformer continues the speed run inspiration of the first game, actually ratcheting up the animation to be even faster. It’s most famously known for introducing Sonic’s companion, Tails, to the genre – who can be controlled by a second player, and also offers help/hints when Sonic gets stuck.

The graphics of this game are better than its predecessor, as anticipated, along with another catchy soundtrack.

The “spin dash” is also introduced in this game, where holding down on the D-pad along with another button, curls our favorite blue character into a spinning ball which helps accelerate him into objects or jumpstarts his running about the stage.

As a noted Mario fanatic, coming over to Sonic was a bit of a culture shock in ways. Stages aren’t always linear, as Sonic can often complete a level by going up or down through it, and sometimes requiring a backtrack in from right to left, much unlike the very structured left-to-right, mostly single paths of his Nintendo competition.

Once you have this figured out, it’s memorizing threats in a stage which comes next, such as jumping into spikes or lava, or getting trapped in water where you once again perish if you don’t come up for air after so long (which happens to be my biggest pet peeve in the entire series, because this Hedgehog just doesn’t jump or swim very well!)

Other elements, such as capturing rings, remains. So long as Sonic has 1 ring on him, and takes damage, he doesn’t technically die (unless you fall into an instant death situation of being pinched between objects, such as a ceiling, fall into the abyss or, of course, drown).

Regardless, these shortcomings were nothing such back in the 90’s when video games still presented some impossible challenges. Sonic had a heavy replay value and mastering it took some quick reflexes. It’s no wonder the sequel is one of the best-selling Genesis games of all time.

If you haven’t played it, or haven’t in a while, Sonic 2 is perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy retro gaming.

WWF Super WrestleMania

After dealing with the limitations of the 8-bit era pro wrestling games, WWF Super WrestleMania came along and blew everything out of the water during the 16-bit era.

Interestingly enough the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo had different versions of the same title: this one reviews the latter which had a larger roster, and obviously better graphics and audio as opposed to the competition.

The graphics, audio, gameplay, roster and everything just about trumps any of the NES era WWF games. When you first start the game, however, LJN had to keep their logo onscreen until you hit the start button – a minor annoyance but one found throughout the game at times.

The next step was your traditional start menu, which then led to an amazing discovery that you could play with not only tag teams, but a four-man “Survivor Series” style match as well.

You select a difficulty level next and then get to choose from one of ten wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan, the Macho Man, and the Road Warriors – the rosters were the main difference between the two games, as the SNES was lacking the popular Ultimate Warrior. Aside from Hulk and Macho, both versions only shared The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase as well.

Otherwise, the available wrestlers were vastly different, including the Undertaker, Sid Justice and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, plus two tag teams: the aforementioned Road Warriors and the Natural Disasters.

Ring introductions looked cheesy, but the fun, if you will, begins after the bell.

The visual life bar was a major help in the new 16-bit era, but everything else was ramped up – with more buttons on the controllers themselves, you were now able to do much more with your wrestler, such as running or climbing the ropes.

You could even brawl outside of the ring, but beware of a count-out! (Heck, let’s gone one further: there are announcers ringside and a referee in the ring!)

Yet, and quite honestly, this game still suffers from the “pickup and play” issue most pro wrestling games do. You often grapple with your opponent, a commonality with the 16-bit era games, but in Super WrestleMania there’s no “tug-of-war” bar to know who is getting the upper hand.

You’ll often come out of the grapple with a simple headbutt… or if you’re close to the ropes, you might throw your opponent over the top rope.

There were no signature moves in the SNES version, which is a bummer – you’re pretty much stuck to suplexes and body slams. However, the character selection menu has a nice treat. If you stay on one wrestler for a few seconds, their entrance music plays.

This was likely a “killer app” type of feature back in 1992! (I know it was when I was a kid!)

Overall, this was a step in the right direction for the wrestling genre, but it still lacked the ease of mastering. Grappling appears to be related to AI cheating, and figuring out how and when to pin your opponent meant matches lasted 20 minutes or longer in some cases.

There are better wrestling games on the platform, but then again, in 1992 this title was groundbreaking. It’s worth having a look just for the progression from Super WrestleMania to the next games in the series.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

Super Mario Land 2 returned to its roots following a bizarre entry on the Game Boy platform which had an Egyptian theme mixed with UFOs… this iteration also filled your screen and looked more like a “Mario” title as opposed to the very basic and tiny graphics found in the original Super Mario Land.

Yet, SML2 carried over some ideas from its predecessor on the handheld rather than its big brothers on the NES. Coins didn’t accumulate for extra lives, rather, hearts were found in the recurring question block containers which now filled massive portions of your screen.

Goombas and Koopa Troopers returned as common enemies, with one main boss making his debut which would spawn a set of other games in his name: Wario.

SML2 also incorporated an overworld map and was a larger game in general than the first in the series, with 32 levels total. The super mushroom, fire flower and starman all make an appearance as well for power-ups, but the oddity in this case is Mario’s outfits don’t really change due to the monochrome colors of the Game Boy: with the fire flower, he instead has a feather in his cap.

Of course, the thing most people will remember about this game is Rabbit Mario… predictably achieved by eating a carrot! Mario then has ears on his cap which allow him to jump higher and slowly float by using his “ears”.

The series also features a midway point “save” when reaching a bell, another step in the right direction of being more like other classic Mario games.

The plot isn’t your usual Mario fare either. While our protagonist was away in the strange Sarasaland of Mario Land 1, Wario puts an evil spell on Mario’s private island, Mario Land. The inhabitants do a 180 and think Mario is the villain and Wario is their leader… and thus, the collection of the six Golden Coins begins to unlock your way into Mario’s castle and face his nemesis.

When it comes to retro games, this one ages decently. I find Mario Land 1 to be a bit jerky with controls, and the side-scrolling vehicles to be outside the norm of Mario games. This one is more grounded, though Wario at first just felt like a cheap imitation slapped on the box to give the game a villain, he too has carved out a niche over time – it’s rather peculiar that the sequel to this game features him as an anti-hero of sorts rather than return to the same formula too.

For the most part, if you can get past the usual Game Boy monochrome graphics of sadness, the actual title holds up to this day as one most Mario fans should play. I enjoyed it much more than the original due to having a kinship with Super Mario Bros. 3 rather than Super Mario Bros. 1.

You don’t have to squint to see what you’re doing either (a huge plus), and the controls are much tighter than the original – even if there’s some occasional screen flicker (something, again, you should be able to work around if you’re used to these handheld games).