The SNES Classic Mini: Is This Thing Even Worth It?
So we all know what happened with the NES Classic Edition last year, and it would appear the SNES version is going down the same road. Nintendo didn't manufacture nearly enough to meet demand, it became the hottest Christmas gift / gaming investment vehicle in the world, and if you didn't pre-order one you were stuck trying to get one from a scalper for anywhere from 3x-5x retail value. I'm sure this price will fluctuate over time, and you can see where it's at through the referral link below, but as I post this it runs about $200 at best for a used NES Classic, and $250 for an unopened one.
At this time (in early July), pre-orders for the SNES Classic Mini are still available here and there, flittering in and out of existence (probably as stores find and purge scalpers trying to grab multiple copies from their rolls). Should you get in there and throw virtual 'bows to get one of these things for $80? Let's take a closer look.
So if you're actually planning on taking it out of the packaging (or giving it to someone who will), the game lineup should be your first second third fourth and fifth consideration, as you can't add any extra games to this thing without hacking.
The US, Europe and other Western territories will be getting:
  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • F-Zero
  • Final Fantasy III
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out
  • Yoshi’s Island
That's ... actually a pretty damn strong lineup. If you want further detail, we've actually got full reviews of all of these games in our SNES section. Someone with taste picked this lineup out and it leaves you with little to complain about.
My only quibbles would be:
  • Donkey Kong Country wasn't that great to begin with and the visuals have aged terribly
  • F-Zero is just okayish, with a relatively small collection of tracks it doesn't hold up for very long. It's not as good as the sequels.
  • Kirby's Dream Course is a very meh mini-golf derivative
  • Kirby Super Star is a little better but is still effectively just a mini-game collection
  • Why not Super SF2 instead of SF2 Turbo? Or por que no las dos?
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts is pretty well-made but it's also immensely frustrating, most people will give up on it real quick
Now, none of those games are TERRIBLE, I think the worst of them in our reviews are Kirby's Dream Course and Super Ghouls at 2/5 each. Even if we're just sticking to Nintendo / Capcom / Square / Konami titles (and avoiding outside licenses like TMNT and sports games due to legal complications), I can think of some better choices for those five questionable slots though. Would have gone with Chrono Trigger and Kirby's Dreamland 3 for sure, those are the two big inexplicable exclusions here. I can see the argument that FF II has too many other re-releases at this point, but so do a bunch of other stuff on this list. Definitely would have got Terranigma on there (assuming Square owns it now since they merged with Enix), would have been the first official release in the United States! And to round it out, maybe ... I dunno .. ActRaiser (again assuming Square owns the IP since they own Enix now). Maybe switch that out with Gradius III if you feel it's getting too RPG-heavy. But this list is like 85-90% perfect as is.
The one thing that jumps out here is Star Fox 2, as this will actually be the first official release of it. Nintendo had nearly completed it back in 1995, but word is Miyamoto ordered it scuttled as he didn't want polygonal 3D games on the SNES drawing attention from the soon-to-be-released Nintendo 64. A nearly-complete beta leaked out into the wild almost 15 years ago, and a full translation was released by Aeon Genesis in 2004, so it's been playable for longer than some people reading this have been alive at this point. However, it's always been a pain in the nuts to find the "most complete" version, plus get the translation patch to work, then also get the emulator working with all of this, so there's definitely reason to be interested in an official Nintendo release of the game ... particularly if they're planning on polishing the rough edges of the beta (like poor enemy AI that made the game far too easy).
So ... are they? Well, this if this June interview of Dylan Cuthbert (from Argonaut, team that worked on Star Fox 2 back in the day) is to be believed, Star Fox 2 was actually fully complete and Nintendo has been sitting on a QA'd master copy of the game all this time. A complete Star Fox 2 ups the ante considerably, at least for huge fans of the franchise, as this will be the first time it's been available anywhere (scurvy ROM pirates or otherwise). The only question is, will Nintendo also bring this to the Switch at some point in the future? No word from the big N as of yet.
So if this isn't just an investment opportunity for you, and you're actually focused on playing games ... is this really the best choice out there? Do you need to wait (and also pay at least $80)? Here are the other options:
* An actual SNES and actual cartridges. Be prepared to spend at least $500 just to get the console, controllers and the Squaresoft games listed here alone.
* PC emulation. Been around for literally 20 years now. Rock solid. Check out Higan if you have a potent gaming rig, SNES9X if not so much. Also, if you have an older computer, maybe keep ZSNES around for the handful of things that SNES9X doesn't do so well with.
Shortcoming: comfy couch play on your big living room TV. Solution: streaming to your TV with something like Steam Link or an Nvidia Shield TV setup. These systems will run you anywhere from $50 to $200 (assuming you already have the computer), but it also allows you to stream any other games or anything else running on your computer to the TV.
* Knockoff consoles. It turns out hardware can only be patented for X amount of time in most countries (usually around 20 years from original release), so a bunch of companies like Yobo and  Hyperkin are selling emulators inside console shells that are technically legal. They'll either run ROMs from an SD card, have the ability to run actual cartridges, or both at once.
Here's the problems with this method. First, as mentioned before, the cost of actual SNES cartridges is ridiculous, especially the popular games. Second, the emulation on these things is never perfect. The better ones are really close, but undoubtedly the SNES Mini is going to be much more accurate.
First of all, if you just want it to flip, the track record of the NES Classic indicates this will probably make you at least a quick $100. They're producing more of the SNES Mini, though, and given that the NES Classic price is holding pretty steady over time, this probably isn't going to be one of those long term investments that turns into thousands of dollars. Unless you want to hold it for like 10-20 years and spend all that time hoping Nintendo doesn't re-release better versions of it. As a gift, the recipient will certainly appreciate it as free money at the very least. Just don't be too offended if they don't ever actually play it. If they DO play it, though, there's thousands of hours of gaming goodness packed onto this thing.