30 Classic SNES Games You Can But Shouldn’t Play On Your Mac

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on June 28th, 2011.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was a phenomenally fun console that successfully ate up a large portion of my childhood. There are so many classic games from this era that have long been forgotten. If only there were a way to download and play those 16-bit masterpieces on your Mac. Oh wait, there is.

Today we’ll flood your memory with enough digital nostalgia to make you teary eyed by showing you where you can grab these games and play them today. Be sure to read the fine print though as emulating old Nintendo games on your Mac is risky business!

Is This Legal!?

In our article Attack of the Mac Emulators: Retro Games on OS X, we outlined a hot debate on the legality of emulators. There are three sides to the debate, each fiercely held by many individuals and each with valid points.

The argument that partially condones the practice says that if you actually own the original version of the game, there’s no harm in downloading a ROM. You did in fact legally purchase the game so who cares if you want to play it on your Mac instead of the dusty SNES your wife makes you keep in the attic?

The argument you won’t like comes directly from Nintendo. According to them, it’s illegal to download and play these ROMs regardless of any other circumstances. No two ways about it, having this software on your Mac is a prosecutable violation of copyright laws. People downloading Nintendo ROMs are no better than music and software pirates (in all honesty, Nintendo is probably spot on here).

The third argument comes from a number of commenters on the article mentioned above. These intrepid souls pretty much say that Nintendo has long forsaken some of these titles and won’t be making money on them any time soon, so there’s absolutely no reason we shouldn’t breathe some life into their legacy. Surely it can only be good for Nintendo for us to remember how much we love their games right?

Download at Your Own Risk

Today I’m avoiding the debate and simply pointing out that, legal or not, these games are in fact out there and easy enough for anyone to get their hands on. I will assure you one thing: Nintendo has better lawyers than you. Regardless of which opinion you subscribe to, if Nintendo says this is an illegal practice, and you for some reason get caught, you’re likely screwed.

If you want to be safe, read the following as a list of links to avoid. If you do decide to proceed, you can’t say that you have not been warned! Also, be sure to check out Emulator Zone for a collection of supposedly legal ROMs that are less likely to make the FBI knock on your door.

Snes9x

While we’re discussing things that you shouldn’t download, make sure you don’t grab Snes9X, which is what people use to play these games on their Macs.

The Games

Once again, it’s probably best if you just avoid this whole ROM business altogether. And to help you with that, here’s a convenient list of games that you definitely shouldn’t download.

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Super Mario World

Super Mario World

Super Mario World was a dramatic and welcome update to the beloved series. An awesome and immersive two-player experience, this game stuck with the level map idea of Mario 3 but introduced a ton of new items and abilities such as a cape for flying and a friendly ridable dinosaur named Yoshi.

In each section you progress by defeating a new member of Bowser’s dysfunctional family until you reach the final showdown with the main koopa himself in a bizarre flying machine. We all absolutely loved this game the first time around and the replay value is quite high.

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Super Mario All-Stars

Super Mario All-Stars

Super Mario All-Stars was a Mario fan’s dream come true. All the original NES Mario games reborn in 16-bit glory and a new bonus game: Mario Lost Levels.

You know you’re dying to revisit the wacky drug trip of Mario 2!

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Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart

No collection of SNES Mario games would be complete without Super Mario Kart. This amazingly addictive racing game has spawned a remake on every Nintendo console since the SNES!

The entire Mario gang, both good and evil, goes head to head in a go-kart race filled with killer turtle shells and slippery banana peels.

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Super Metroid

Super Metroid

Like Mario, Metroid debuted on the original NES. It was awesome, but it was also wicked difficult. Super Metroid featured a boost in graphics, awesome new suit powers and while still being difficult enough to be interesting, it elicited far less curse words from players.

By any measure, Super Metroid was a fantastic game that defined the space-aged platform jumper genre for years to come. If you’re looking for a classic hardcore SNES gaming experience, this is it.

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Zelda - A Link to the Past

Zelda – A Link to the Past

After experimenting with a new side-scrolling format in “The Adventure of Link” for NES, the Zelda series returned to its roots in this top-down-view game.

A Link to the Past was proof that the Zelda series wouldn’t fade into oblivion. For those of you just old enough to remember how amazing it was to play “Ocarina of Time” for the first time, us old-timers had that same feeling when we got our hands on this game. In fact, many of the elements that you love from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask (the hookshot, spin attack, world hopping, etc.) were born right here on the SNES version. To this day it’s one of my favorite Super Nintendo games.

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Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III in the U.S. was really Finally Fantasy VI in Japan, but that’s confusing and doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this is one of the best video games of all time and by far my favorite installation of the Final Fantasy series.

You can have Cloud and Sephiroth, I’ll take Sabin and Edgar any day. If the words “bum rush” and “Magitek”make you smile, you know exactly what I mean.

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Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country

At the time, Donkey Kong Country had some of the best video game graphics I’d ever seen. It’s laughable now but back then those textures and lighting effects were stunning!

This game wasn’t all eye candy though. With two-player tag team mode and a goal of collecting lots of spinning yellow things, it was a lot like the SNES version of Sonic The Hedgehog. My brother and I could think of no better way to spend a weekend than to take on the roles of Donkey and Diddy as we blasted from barrel to barrel, eating bananas and defeating those evil crocs!

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Mega Man X

Mega Man X

Mega Man X didn’t reinvent the wheel. The same boss-driven level selection built up your arsenal of weapons as you pursued the evil Dr. Wily. It felt a lot like its NES counterparts, just smoother, prettier and yes, a little bit easier. I mean, have you played the original Mega Man lately? How did we ever even get past a single level!?

In other news, the Mega Man series seems due for a revolutionary update on par with Metroid Prime doesn’t it?

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Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

This game was right at the heart of the early video game violence debates. In fact, Mortal Kombat was so cool that my mom literally didn’t want me playing it. This of course meant that I escaped to my friend’s house every chance I could for a little one-on-one tournament fighting goodness.

Though Scorpion gets all the attention with his classic “Come here!” grab, I was always a fan of his blue counterpart Sub-Zero.

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Street Fighter 2 Turbo

Street Fighter 2 Turbo

You simply can’t mention Mortal Kombat without following it up with Street Fighter 2. This game was a complete departure from the typical “roam and punch” style fighting games for NES and was the primary pioneer in the one-on-one combo button mashing fighting genre.

What true Nintendo fan hasn’t spent hours perfecting the d-pad swirl necessary to successfully launch the Hadouken attack?

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Star Fox

Star Fox

If you think that the first time Fox had to save that whiny frog Slippy from certain death was on the N64, you are sadly mistaken friend. The whole Star Fox gang began their battle against Andross right here on the SNES in a surprisingly awesome 3D pilot shooter for its time.

True nerds will remember that this game was completely revolutionary. It featured the Super FX chip that fueled the signature polygon graphics. Released in 1993, it was the very first 3D Nintendo game!

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Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV

Long before Twilight ruined vampires by turning them into pubescent heartthrobs, the bloodsucking vermin and their leader Dracula were the arch enemy of the Belmont clan. Dracula had a nasty habit of rising from the dead and this family was dedicated to making sure he stayed in his coffin.

I absolutely adored the entire Castlevania series and was always at the rental store the day they got ahold of a new version. In Super Castlevania IV Simon Belmont is at it again, this time with a much more impressive whip that can go in all directions and even latch onto things for an Indiana Jones-style swing across a chasm.

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Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts

Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts

Super Ghouls and Ghosts was a lot like a lighthearted Castlevania. The gameplay was quite similar but had a humorous lean to it that often resulted in you losing your armor and defeating zombies in your underwear.

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F-Zero

F-Zero

F-Zero was beyond cool. This high speed futuristic hover racing game had every kid in America begging their parents for an early Christmas gift.

Though I probably spent even more time battling three friends in the N64 sequel, the original represents one of the best racers you’ll find for the SNES.

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Battletoads & Double Dragon - The Ultimate Team

Battletoads & Double Dragon – The Ultimate Team

Was it an absolutely shameless attempt to make some quick sales by awkwardly mashing together two popular NES franchises? Yes it was. Did it work? Absolutely!

Battletoads and Double Dragon were both classic “beat ‘em up” brawlers and this game incorporates the best (and worst) of both. You probably won’t spend more than ten minutes with it but it’s good for a quick laugh.

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Earthworm Jim

Earthworm Jim

I had this game for Sega Genesis but it was pretty much exactly the same for SNES, evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt and all.

Earthworm Jim won’t top any best games of all time lists, but it was flat out fun. Your gun shot a million bullets a minute, you could swing around using your wormy body or go mucus bungie jumping and Jim was constantly yelling as you played. It was everything a nine year old could ever want.

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Kirby Superstar

Kirby Superstar

Most people today know Kirby simply from the Smash Bros. series but he used to be the star of his own fairly popular video game series. Kirby completely took the platform jumping genre and turned it on its head. He was a cute, cuddly blob who had limited flight abilities and an awesome talent for eating enemies and stealing their powers.

If you’re a Kirby fan, also be sure to check out Kirby’s Dream Land 3.

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Madden NFL Football

Madden NFL Football

The Madden NFL series needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular game franchises of all time and a pioneer in releasing a slightly altered version of a game every single year to be purchased immediately by sports fans with too much money (now a time-honored video game tradition).

It all started right here. The graphics might be better in today’s Madden games, but the heart of the series is alive and well in the original and you’d be surprised how much fun it still is to play.

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Mario Paint

Mario Paint

Dear Nintendo, I’m still waiting for a Mario Paint sequel. This was probably the most original game ever to be released on the SNES. Instead of using a controller, you used a computer mouse! As the name implies, it starts off as a simple MS-Paint-Style game with colors, patterns, markers and stamps to choose from to create your masterpiece (the sound effects were awesome). It didn’t stop there though. If you needed a break from drawing you could play the awesome flyswatter game or create a musical masterpiece by placing Nintendo characters on an actual music staff (my favorite part).

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this game. It’s definitely no surprise that I went on to become a Photoshop addict and subsequently a professional graphic designer!

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NBA Jam Tournament Edition

NBA Jam Tournament Edition

There were basketball games before NBA Jam, but this one is the only one any of us remember. The game was defined by outrageous ariel acrobatic slam-dunks, no-foul opponent shoving and an unforgettable announcer who made you feel like a super star.

If you’re a fan of the original, go here, I personally loved the Tournament Edition for the expanded rosters and hidden unlock-able characters.

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Ninja Gaiden Trilogy

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy

Technically, these Ninja Gaiden games were NES titles, but just like Super Mario All-Stars, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy compiled the games onto one cartridge (sadly, the graphics didn’t get a boost).

Ninja Gaiden is the Castlevania of the ninja game genre. These games were difficult but extremely fun and contained mind-blowing animated cutscenes.

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Paperboy 2

Paperboy 2

Everyone loves Paperboy! You’re a kid on a bicycle who must successfully navigate his route despite angry dogs and other nasty creatures trying to stop you. Your goal is to toss the papers into the mailbox, at the front door or even at the garden hose to make the sunbathing lady angry.

Paperboy 2 was one of those in-between titles that appeared on both NES and SNES so before you leave a comment and insist that this was an NES title, get your facts straight!

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Pilotwings

Pilotwings

Pilotwings was a flight simulator without the violence of dog fights. This game was relaxing, beautiful and tons of fun.

The object of the game was to earn your pilot’s license and to do so you had to master not only flying a plane, but skydiving, piloting a rocketbelt and hang gliding as well! Passing a challenge typically involves flying through rings or perfecting a landing.

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SimCity 2000

SimCity 2000

SimCity 2000 was actually the second installment in the SimCity series but it was the first SimCity that I ever played. The Sim series has been around for decades now and still sees plenty of success with each new launch.

Interestingly enough, SimCity 2000 was originally a Macintosh game! There’s definitely some irony in playing a Mac port of an SNES game that was really just a port of a Mac game!

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Super Bases Loaded 3 - License to Steal

Super Bases Loaded 3 – License to Steal

When I think of old school baseball games I think of RBI and Bases Loaded, both classic titles that kept me indoors instead of playing actual baseball in the backyard.

Super Bases Loaded 3 was the peak of the Bases Loaded series and definitely worth a play for the nostalgia.

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Super Black Bass

Super Black Bass

I’m not sure who decided to try to sell a realistic fishing simulator to kids, but it worked. I loved fighting monster fish in all of the Black Bass games.

It was one of the few games I could convince my dad to play with me! Maybe that was the marketing strategy all along.

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Super Punch-Out!!

Super Punch-Out!!

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! is definitely near the top of my list of favorite NES titles. Super Punch Out!! was a solid follow up with nicer graphics, trickier opponents and a cool transparent fighter effect.

Overall, the gameplay is pretty much the same as the original. Try to learn each fighter’s patter as you dodge their punches and counterattack until they stop getting up!

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Tetris 2

Tetris 2

How do you follow up Tetris? It was in interesting question that had us all on the edge of our seats almost twenty years ago. The answer, according to the television commercials that I remember, was simple: bombs. You know that grabbed my attention!

This game was basically a cross between Tetris and Dr. Mario where the pills were Tetris pieces and the viruses were bombs. Match the colored pieces to the colored bombs to clear the level.

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X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse was in truth, a little rough around the edges. However, it allowed you to take control of all of your favorite X-Men heroes, each with his or her own special mutant abilities so it was still pretty cool.

If I remember right the gameplay allowed you to instantly switch between the characters as you faced different challenges within a level.

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Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Imagine an old school zombie horror movie turned into a cartoon where kids with squirt guns are the heroes and you’ll understand how amazing this game is. Need I say more?

What Are Your Favorites?

To sum up, Mac SNES ROMs are a moral gray area of the Mac gaming world and shouldn’t be downloaded without some serious thought towards what the potential consequences. However, for now, you can in fact find them all over the web and today’s article merely seeks to point this out.

Leave a comment below and tell us about your top three favorite SNES games. Are you a Mario geek, a Samus Aran fan or a Final Fantasy addict?


  • http://net.tutsplus.com Jeffrey Way

    Super Metroid and Link to the Past are two of my favorite games of all time.

  • http://www.appsbynight.com Josh Jones

    This seems like an odd article for this type of site.

  • Vitalis

    No list like this is complete without “Chrono Trigger”

    • Michael C.

      Agreed. In all honesty there really isn’t a list. It should just be:

      Chrono Trigger

      - Other games

    • Rich

      Agreed

  • Steve

    Zombies is one of my favorite console games of all time.

  • Josh

    Awesome, next there should be an article on the legality of downloading premium but GPL WordPress themes then a list of where to download the themeforest stuff for free :)

  • http://samcater.com Sam Cater

    I love the attitude and subtle hints of this post ;)

  • http://butlerm.com Matthew Butler

    this is all fine and dandy but you need to post if its possible to have a ps3 controller hooked up via bluetooth or usb to the mac.. because playing on a keyboard is basically impossible

    • Krista

      You can download a USB-powered SNES controller that works on both PC and Mac on eBay for around $13. :)

  • Geo

    “Nintendo has long forsaken some of these titles and won’t be making money on them any time soon.”

    Too bad that’s not really true. Most of these games can be purchased and played on a Wii.

  • Mashi

    A ROM post on an app site? Okay then.

    Also there’s a severe lack of EarthBound and Secret of Evermore oin this list.

  • Coolidge

    Tales Of Phantasia and Mario RPG, are the best of RPG game on SNES :D

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      I’ve always wondered about Mario RPG… is it really that good?

      • cde

        It’s great, until you hit a certain character level and the game/emulation crashes because of a out of range exception. HA!

      • Gab

        It is, case closed. ;)

        Seriously, the cross-overs of different characters from square made for an all-star cast in a very good adventure.

        The story in itself is very good, the combat system quite inventive in it’s own right (think RPG elements with button timing for added combos).

        It is also, from what I recall, quite a lenghty game. I’ve never add the out of range problem, though I don’t doubt it could happen.

        Now, seeing how much people ask for the SNES cartridge these days, you can definitely understand why some articles like this appear now and then…!

  • http://www.digitalbydesignstudios.com Troy

    This is the most confusing post ever….I mean…..I get it but really with the act?!?

  • David

    Really disappointed with this post and it seems a really odd editorial decision to publish it.

    It wouldn’t have taken you long to find out that old Nintendo games of are far from abandoned and are available on Wii, DS/DSi & 3DS. The whole nudge-nudge wink-wink it might be illegal it might not, Nintendo can afford better lawyers than you, don’t say we didn’t warn you approach stinks of immaturity (and/or a poor thought attempt to either get traffic from dubious search terms, perhaps?).

    Very strange.

    • David

      Sorry, my iPad typing skills (lack of) & autocorrect played havoc with that last sentence. Should have said “a poor thought out attempt to get traffic from dubious search terms…”

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      I own a Wii and am aware of the marketplace for older games. The passage you’re referring to merely points to commenter arguments from a previous article… I also clearly stated that Nintendo has the winning argument in this debate :)

  • http://www.devolute.net devolute

    What’s more confusing is the recommended piece of software hasn’t been updated in the past couple of years

  • Catherine

    Clearly some people are oddly upset about this post, which makes little to no sense. Games and their emulators are apps; and this is an app review site. This “good and bad” debate on ROMs has been going on for many, many years–and it’s not like we don’t know about it–but for the sake of people who don’t, they have this leeway in.
    The reviewers were just posting their thoughts on the issue (even if it was tongue-in-cheek), and gave us the links to other sites so we can make our own decision based on the debate. There is nothing wrong with that or covering your ass saying “don’t do this” as Nintendo and other big companies probably look for people to point fingers at if they fear they’re losing money. (God forbid it’s the fact nobody wants to buy a rehash of a N64 game on their 3DS.)
    Furthermore, I’d like to completely disagree with the poo-poo on “it’s always illegal.” I’ve paid my dues and own the majority of these games (at least any game I’d ever care about downloading), and I am not planning on selling any copies of these to make money off of them; it is for personal enjoyment.

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  • Jordan

    I do believe you should be able to use Roms as a sort of transfer from an outdated (maybe even dysfunctional console) to pc if you previously owned the game, but I think Nintendo would argue that you could buy a 3ds to play these older games, which they still haven’t perfected.

  • http://www.crummyboss.com Jonathan Scialpi

    Yes is is illegal. However nobody is actually going to pay money for these games. And the people that actually do buy these games are nintendo enthusiasts. These games should be open to the public now that their time has passed.

    If not, Nintendo can use them for marketing strategies. An idea comes to mind where they can give one of these games away when you buy a Wii game or 3 away when you buy a Wii system. They can give you a code on the Wii game which you plugin to website to redeem a game (downloadable from the site of course)

  • http://www.crummyboss.com Jonathan Scialpi

    Yes it is illegal. However nobody is actually going to pay money for these games. And the people that actually do buy these games are nintendo enthusiasts. These games should be open to the public now that their time has passed.

    If not, Nintendo can use them for marketing strategies. An idea comes to mind where they can give one of these games away when you buy a Wii game or 3 away when you buy a Wii system. They can give you a code on the Wii game which you plugin to website to redeem a game (downloadable from the site of course)

  • Tasos

    I would add donkey kong 2 & 3 and flashback (amazing sci-fi game)

  • Anon

    You can dump copies of your own roms with the right devices. These devices range from about 150 US dollars and up.

    Emulation of SNES roms has been around much longer than the Wii, so the point of these games being abandoned still stands. Who do you think Nintendo, and Sony, were “emulating” when they decided to release old game being played on “emulators”. Yes, the Wii VC games are nothing more than roms being played on Nintendo made emulators.

    If that whole emulation scene hadn’t been around since the late 90′s, we would have never had retro VC, or PSN titles released. I n the past, the most these companies did was release “ports” (modified, unoriginal, more/less features, usually updated graphics) of their older games.

    So yes, “downloading” roms is illegal under any circumstance. Roms themselves, dumping them yourself, and the emulators (Snes9x, Zsnes) are not.

  • TheGamerGoy

    Secret of Mana and Earthbound need to be all over this thing.

  • Roawa

    3 games that aren’t in the list for me would be of course Chrono Trigger, Mario RPG, and also Terranigma. Haven’t heard of Terranigma? That’s because it was never released in the US, even though an English version was made for the UK. So in the states, you can only get it “illegally” by downloading it, or by buying a foreign system and cartridge (which are also only “legally” for sale and use in their home countries, according to Nintendo, while we’re talking about their “legal” opinion). Of course it won’t get released on the Wii, since there’s no market for it, since Nintendo never created one here. Ultimately it comes down to copyright laws not protecting the people who actually create, the game developers at companies like Nintendo, but protecting the profits of people in suits, many of whom don’t even play games, much less make any of them, against people who actually want to use and enjoy the products of the creators. I think most people would be willing to pay a reasonable rate for the right to download roms on any platform they wish, but you shouldn’t need to buy a Wii if you don’t already own one, just to play 8- and 16-bit games.

    And, in conclusion, The Lost Vikings was also awesome.

  • SmokeBombClock

    Ok a little late commenting on this… BUT… I love the debate about “it’s legal if you own it”… like you said, Nintendo said it’s not, so it’s not. Plus, if you have once licence for Microsoft Office, you paid for it once, right? So why not put it on all the computers at work, right?

    You bought the license to one game, for the NES, that’s it. And Nintendo DOES hurt from it, because if you have the ROM, why the hell would you now want to by a Wii U/3DS and get it off the virtual console for $10 a pop when you can get the free ROM?

    The bright side? I’ve yet to hear about someone getting sued or going to jail or any trouble for downloading ROMS, and the sites are STILL up and STILL easy to find.

  • Name

    A weak list. You missed out on Turtles in Time (the best beat-em-up of a generation), Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, DKC2 (which most people consider better than the original), Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, Gradius III, Aladdin, Contra III, and many more just to throw in some garbage sports games. Black Bass? Seriously? I’d claim that you just stole from other lists, but nobody else would include that weak bullshit. Hell, you even chose the original MK over any of the other titles, and on a system that initially didn’t have blood (so we went to our friend’s house to play the Genesis version). How well does Mario Paint hold up? About as well as a 20-year-old fish sandwich. Congratulations for farting something out instead of doing research.

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