The SNES is one of the many consoles I missed in the early 90s. My family bought a PC instead of another console. Thankfully, a few of my friends had the Sega Genesis or the SNES. This was how I first played many of my favorite games.
My friend Drew was the person I played many of these games with. He was my best friend at the time, and I remember hanging out with him most weekends and playing video games. There wasn’t much else to do in the small town that we grew up in.
At the time that we were renting SNES games, they were only in places like Family Video. I think Blockbuster and Hollywood Video had moved on from those games and were only stocking PlayStation games. There might have been some other mom-and-pop shops where we rented SNES games, but most of my memories came from Family Video.
TLDR: ActRasier, Illusion of Gaia, and Secret of Evermore are among the most memorable game I rented for the SNES.
Let’s talk about what qualifies for this list. I’m not just going to be putting any random game on this list. Here are the criteria I used to compile this list:
- Has to be an official release
- Has to have been a game I rented or borrowed
- I have to have a fond memory of the game
Review Score: 79/100 (GameRankings)
Like many SNES games, I played this with my friend Drew. I can’t remember exactly when we rented this, but it was before I got a PlayStation, and he got an N64. It was probably in the mid-90s at some point. We rented it from a Family Video one weekend.
This is something that I didn’t know I wanted to play. Drew described the game, and it exceeded my expectations. I thought it was awesome! ActRaiser is a combination side-scrolling action game, city builder, and god game. It is a collection of ideas that don’t sound like they would work well together, but they do!
You play as the Master when you’re in the side-scrolling levels, and you play as a cherub in the Sim City sections of the game. Each stage comprises two side-scrolling levels and a Sim City level. It is a ton of fun!
I don’t think we beat the game that night, but I eventually did when I found the game’s ROM online one day. This was another game that I looked for when I started collecting games. I say this a lot, but when I first started collecting, I had a long list of games I wanted to find.
Secret of Evermore
Developer: Square Soft (Now Square Enix)
Genre: Action RPG
Review Score: 81/100 (GameRankings)
This is an interesting one. I hadn’t heard of this game until after I’d played Secret of Mana. I first played that game on an emulator. My friend Drew rented this one after I told him about Secret of Mana. He really sold this game to me!
Secret of Evermore plays like Secret of Mana, but there are a few differences. The alchemy system in Secret of Evermore is a huge improvement on Secret of Mana’s magic system, and I like that you have to swap between party members to get passed some obstacles. Swapping party members replaces the need to swap weapons in Secret of Mana.
You play as a young boy who gets caught up in an experiment. You and your dog are transported to a strange world made up of a few realms. As you travel through this place, you’ll discover what is happening and how to get home.
I like this game, but when I went back to it, I wouldn’t say I liked it as much as Secret of Mana. It was a fun game back in the 90s, but I think I would rather play one of the Mana games or another similar action RPG.
Developer: Beam Software
Genre: Run and Gun
Review Score: 7.125/10 ((EGM) This is an oddly specific number)
If you’ve ever rented a video game in the 80s or 90s, there is bound to be one of those games that you don’t remember why you rented it. You also might have been suckered in by one of the many bad licensed movie video games of the time. It was rare when you stumbled across one that was halfway decent.
I don’t remember why my friend Drew and I decided to rent this game. He probably talked me into it or had rented it before. I had watched the movie a few times but hadn’t heard of the game at all. It was okay, but it was still able to make an impression on me.
True Lies is a top-down run-and-gun shooter following the movie’s events. In many ways, it reminds me of Die Hard on the NES. They have the same issues but can be fun games to play and figure out how to beat any given part.
Developer: Westwood Studios
Genre: Action Adventure
Review Score: 7.6/10 (EGM)
This is another weird one. I want to say that we rented this alongside another game, but I can’t remember if we did or not. Either way, Young Merlin was the more memorable game for some reason.
Does Young Merlin have a movie, tv show, or toy line tie-in? Surprisingly, no. It is a stand-alone game where Merling takes on the Shadow King and gets help from the Lady of the Lake. It is one of those weird games that feels like it should’ve been connected to something else, but it isn’t. This might be good as it doesn’t have to adhere to another property’s interpretation of Merlin.
Young Merlin plays like a Legend of Zelda game, at least one of the early ones. There were several games like this. It wasn’t exactly a Zelda-like game, but it did have some similarities. It was an okay game, but I’m not eager to revisit it.
Illusion of Gaia
Genre: Action RPG
Review Score: 80/100 (GameRankings)
Illusion of Gaia is more like a Legend of Zelda game than Young Merlin. It is also a much better game. My friend Drew rented this game a few times, and I played it at a cousin’s house. It is the only game I can say this about with any confidence.
This is an action RPG that has you play as Will. However, you can change into other characters throughout the game. This becomes necessary in some spots so you can level up, complete puzzles, and get passed some obstacles. It is a nice way to get around the fact that you only have a party of one.
In Illusion of Gaia, you play as Will and travel around the world to different ruins. These ruins correspond to places in our world, which is intentional. It gets explained that something happened to the real world, and it created Illusion of Gaia’s world. This all ends with you fighting Dark Gaia and resetting the world to normal.
I think the European title for this game, Illusion of Time, makes more sense. That is kind of what the game is about. Illusion of Gaia is a very fun game and a nice alternative to Legend of Zelda.
I don’t have many memories of renting games for the SNES. It is one of the consoles I didn’t play much as a kid, and it wasn’t until much later that I started to discover the games it had to offer. While I did learn about many of them from my friends, I discovered even more games on the internet.
The SNES has plenty of excellent games, and rental stores were among the many ways people learned about them. Contrary to what some people on the internet say, not everyone was subscribed to Nintendo Power. Also, only some people who play retro games know about every game or go out of their way to collect them.
I don’t think there are other SNES games that I rented back in the day. If I think of any, I’ll make another list or revise this one. At some point, I’ll list the games I discovered through emulation.