While it might seem like a pretty arbitrary question for an editorial, I think it’s valid because 1) A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is currently out now for the Virtual Console, and 2) Chrono Trigger, arguably Squaresoft’s (now Square Enix), greatest game ever (Final Fantasy IV and VI, notwithstanding) is coming soon to the DS on November 25th. Oh, and 3) I’ve actually been playing A Link to the Past lately and forgot how doggone good it is.
Now, I know the issue is debatable, especially when the SNES had so many boss games— Super Mario World, Actraiser, and (okay, I’ll admit it), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time— but there’s just something about Link to the Past and CT that elevates them beyond being just great SNES games. They’re in a category all on their own and easily qualify as occupants for best game ever territory.
But let’s count the many ways I love thee, shall we? Link to the Past was a revolutionary milestone at the time that took the concept of light and dark and made it into a feature long before Samus would start meddling with all that nonsense in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Traveling back and forth through the light and dark realms, Link would find his precious Hyrule in a different state of turmoil whenever he would leap into the Dark World. My favorite moment of the game actually occurs early on when you first fall into the alternate universe and you come out a pink bunny, signifying that Link is good wherever he is, even in a world that’s supposed to bring out the worst in you.
What I really love about the game, though, is the fact that it’s so damn fun to play. Link has gone through some really interesting dungeons in the past (The water dungeon in particular if you’ve ever played The Ocarina of Time), but none were nearly as fun and, more importantly, as consistently fun, as they were in ALTTP. Every single one is short and easy to figure out if you just try out all your available options, which is something that wasn’t always true in some of the later games in the series (Again, I’m looking at you, water dungeon).
It was the kind of milestone of a game that makes you pay attention to Nintendo, more so than even Super Mario World. World was grand in its scope but wasn't a masterpiece that made you feel like turning it off was like turning off a part of fun you could never attain again unless you turned it back on. I even want to play Link to the Past right now. Screw this editorial! Bah!
But then, there’s Chrono Trigger, a game that poses so many moral questions that it has about ten or twelve different endings just to answer them all. CT is like no other game you’ve ever played, even making its superb sequel, Chrono Cross look weak in comparison. I actually remember the first time I played CT and remember how blown away I was by the music. In my opinion, and in the opinions of many others, CT has the best music of any video game ever. Every song by Yasunori Mitsuda and legendary Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu is perfect, utterly perfect, and they match the heroic adventure that even with 16-bits still looks spellbinding, even today.
And the characters can’t be beat. Frog, Lucca, Magus(!), and the others each complete heart-breaking personal quests in the midst of the amazing main storyline. Seriously, no RPG has ever matched the splendor of CT, and no RPG probably ever will. We fanboys are hard to impress with new things, and no new thing has ever come close to being as good as CT, that’s just how good it is.
So, which one is better? Well, as surprising as this may be, I’m going to have to go with Link to the Past. While the Chrono storyline is comparable to none and has way more replay value, Link to the Past, just has more heart, more gumption to it. From its achievement music to the way the combat system just works on so many levels, Link to the Past is the greatest SNES game in history, and I’m sticking by it. Chrono Trigger fans, who wants some?