The Best (and Worst) of the Super Nintendo Mouse

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Thought that you could only use the SNES Mouse for Mario Paint? Think again.

There is a stigma surrounding specialised peripherals for consoles. Whether it’s the always popular lightgun, that mainstay of every self-respecting console, the infamous NES Power Glove, or even those vinyl dance mats we all purchased at one point, then banished away to the attic, cupboard, or eBay – It’s always thought that these sort of accessories start off as fun bits of plastic for your system, until you realise that what you’ve purchased is unlikely going to be supported with more than a couple of mediocre games, rendering them obsolete and worthless almost the second you unboxed them.

And so, the SNES Mouse appeared to have suffered that very same fate. Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, this very old-fashioned, ball-driven mouse mimicked the very same devices that were available for the PC at the time. Of course, while the humble mouse quickly became an integral part of the computer user interface, there was no way that a mouse for a console would be anything more than a gimmick.

But while the mouse itself was forgotten, its legacy continued with the game it was bundled with: Mario Paint. This creative suite of sorts continues to have a strong following over twenty years after its release, and it’s easy to see why, thanks to its child friendly, simplistic nature. Players of all ages could use the SNES mouse to draw simple pictures, animate them and even create short pieces of music using a pre-defined set of instruments.

While it was never going to be as powerful as computer art packages, the fact that you could do all this on a console made it all the more popular. While you couldn’t print your creations out and saving your work was very limited, Mario Paint did come with instructions, showing you how to connect your SNES to a VHS recorder to save your footage forevermore. Even the web cartoon Homestar Runner started life as a simple looping Mario Paint creation, years before the advent of Flash animation.

It’s the music creation segment of Mario Paint that’s had the most endearing legacy, especially in the age of YouTube, as thousands of videos exist of user-created covers of popular songs and themes, just using Mario Paint’s limited tools for music creation. You pick a sound, place where you want it to go and what pitch you want it to be, and before you know it – You’re making music. Press play, and you see a little Mario running over your composition, triggering the sounds as he jumps on each icon.

Of course, if all of this creativity is beginning to feel like hard work and you want a break, you could always play the fly swatting mini-game for a few minutes or more.

While there was never a true sequel to Mario Paint, save for an updated version of the game that had controller support and was only available on the Japanese-only Satellaview broadcast system, its DNA can be found in many games after. The elusive 64DD addon for Nintendo 64 had a series of creative software packages called Mario Artist, where players could do everything from paint pictures in Paint Studio, animate 3D models and even import their own face onto characters using Talent Studio, edit simplistic 3D models using Polygon Studio, and then share all of these creations online using the Mario Artist Communication Kit. Various elements of Mario Paint also make brief cameos in some of the WarioWare titles, as some of the crazy mini-games you’d have to play. Of course, even the recent Super Mario Maker features many of the graphics and icons from Mario Paint, proving that this cartridge’s influence is still very strong among Nintendo developers.

Best SNES Mouse Games - Mario Paint

Most people thought that Mario Paint was the only game to support the SNES Mouse. It may surprise you to learn that over 60 games had some sort of SNES Mouse support, and some titles used this peripheral in some of the weirdest ways. While many of these titles were Japanese-only, there was a considerable amount available in the West. I’m going to show you some of the more notable games out there, but note that this is far from all of the games that support this addon.

First up is the sequel to classic bat and ball brick buster, Arkanoid. Doh It Again follows the very same gameplay from the arcade original, except it’s now on the SNES, and while it plays perfectly well using a controller, it’s a slightly different experience using a mouse.

For those who have never played Arkanoid or the original brick breaking game, Breakout, you have a bat at the bottom of the screen which you move side to side and a ball that rebounds off of any surface. You need to stop the ball falling below your bat, while also hitting all of the breakable bricks in the area. Arkanoid took this gameplay mechanic a little further, adding a host of power-ups to help or hinder your destruction.

While it’s not a patch on the original arcade machine’s paddle controller, the SNES mouse is a unique alternative which does give you a little control over the speed and acceleration, although, like most games usually played with a controller, it does take a little bit of getting used to.

If you’re bored of Mario Paint for some reason and want a suitable alternative, the Looney Toons ACME Animation Studio might be worth a look. Featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and tonnes more of those wacky Looney Toons, this cartridge offers similar functionality to Mario Paint, with a few other options and some added cartoon wackiness.

You can draw, make music, colour in Looney Toons, and even use them to make short and extremely limited cartoons. There’s even a match two pairs mini-game if you’re really bored. Actually, it’s quite like Mario Paint, but this package has a little more depth and complexity in what you can do with it.

Amiga megahit Cannon Fodder was made with a mouse in mind, so it comes as no surprise to learn that the SNES port not only contains support for the SNES mouse, but it’s the best way to play the game.

This slightly comical take on war is simplistic enough to play solely with the two-buttoned mouse, and that’s why it works so well. Being able to quickly and accurately place the cursor for movement and shooting is so much more preferable than clumsily moving it around with the standard D-pad, so this a game that’s definitely worth checking out.

Sid Meier’s Civilization somehow made it to the SNES, and as always it’s a fantastic strategy game that has stood the test of time. Building up a global empire from nothing will never stop being an engaging endeavour, and I spent many an hour playing this game in my teen years.

While playing with the standard controller is reasonably easy, once again this is the sort of game that the mouse was made for, if only because there’s a lot of clicking buttons, units and other icons. This is one of those rare PC to console ports that actually works.

Onto the drivel. Fun & Games is a very barebones package that is nothing more than a very pale Mario Paint ripoff, featuring none of the depth or competence that Nintendo’s game features. This cartridge features two very hard to control games, one being an awful Pac-Man ripoff, the other a dull space shooter. There’s a terrible paint package that isn’t a patch on Mario Paint, an awful-sounding music maker, and for some reason, a weird mode where you play dress up by cycling through different items of clothing and accessories.

With Mario Paint and the Acme Animation Studio already available, I see no need for anyone to pick up this awful game. Still, at least the mouse works.

Worst SNES Mouse Games - Revolution X

Unlike Revolution X, a port of the hit arcade lightgun shooter featuring those ageing rockers, Aerosmith. As a lightgun game, you would think that adding mouse support would make sense, so luckily Revolution X happily offers this to you. However, they also made the same button for firing your gun and pausing, so every time you press the fire button to shoot an enemy, the game pauses. The only way to get around this is to hold the fire button down, which is just irritating.

This isn’t the best lightgun game around in the first place, and with no mention of mouse support in the manual or box, I do wonder if the ability to use the SNES Mouse was fully implemented or even intended. It’s just a missed opportunity really.

Way before Peter Jackson gave us his cinematic take on Tolkien’s literary classic, Interplay brought the first of a planned series of games based on The Lord of The Rings, to the Super Nintendo. This slow-paced RPG didn’t exactly set the world on fire, hence this was the only game in the series.

As for mouse controls, this is the type of game that doesn’t work at all with a cursor. As you have direct control of Frodo, it makes far more sense to use a standard controller, and attempting to use the mouse is an incredibly cumbersome and frustrating experience. Probably not the greatest use of the peripheral.

Unsurprisingly, strategy games seem to be best suited for the SNES mouse, and King Arthur’s World is a good example of this. Reminiscent of the Lemmings series of games, this medieval-themed release puts you in charge of an army, using various different types of units to reach the end of several side-scrolling levels, taking on various enemies along the way, and making the most of each unit’s abilities to survive a number of hazards.

It works well with the SNES mouse, and it’s worth noting that this is one of the first SNES games that offers Dolby Pro Logic surround sound, which gives an immersive audio soundtrack from the console’s stereo output.

Funnily enough, this next game also features Dolby Pro Logic and SNES Mouse support, and it is Ocean’s licensed game based on 1993’s massively successful Jurassic Park. Differing from the side-scrolling platformers on other systems, this game starts off with a top-down view for the most part, but when entering buildings, it shifts to a first-person view. While the game is mostly controlled with the standard pad, in these first-person areas, the SNES Mouse can be used.

While this game doesn’t do a great job at telling you what you need to do next, it’s a refreshing change from the usual uninspired licensed games of the 16-bit era. It’s a little cumbersome to use the SNES mouse, as it’s far easier just to use to pad for everything. However, it’s good to see a developer think a little outside of the box when it comes to supporting alternative control methods for a console game.

We now come to one of the weirdest uses of a mouse I’ve ever seen. For some reason, someone decided that a racing game would be a good fit for the SNES Mouse, and the result is Lamborghini American Challenge. Somehow, it sort of works, although it’s no comparison for using a normal controller.

Using the mouse in this fashion is like using a primitive analog controller, as the more you move the mouse, the more you steer. The problem is that unlike using a pad, the steering doesn’t spring back to the center position when you stop steering, which means that you’re constantly swinging the mouse around to center yourself. Still, it’s another unique use for the peripheral.

If ever there was a game made for the mouse, it’s Lemmings 2: The Tribes. Surely you must know what Lemmings is all about – In this strategy game, it’s all about assigning jobs to a group of suicidal rodents so they reach the end of each level, instead of aimlessly wandering to their doom.

This time around, you’re dealing with Lemmings of different tribes, which means there are several different themed abilities available, making for a far more complex game than the original. As you imagine, Lemmings was designed with a mouse in mind, so playing the SNES version with the correct peripheral is the definitive way to play this port.

My favourite game to support the SNES mouse strangely didn’t even make it out of Japan. Mario & Wario is a point-and-click puzzle action game where where Mario has been rendered blind by having a bucket stuck to his noggin. It’s up to you to ensure Mario completes each level safely by clicking dotted areas to build paths, clicking enemies to clear those paths, and click Mario himself to change the direction he’s walking in. It’s the simplest of puzzle games, and that’s why it works so well.

Why it wasn’t released outside of Japan, I don’t know, but it’s worth a look, especially as no knowledge of the Japanese language is necessary.

Best SNES Mouse Games - Mario's Super Picross

Yet another Japan-only release is Mario no Super Picross, the 16-bit rendition of the Picross series plays very similar to the Game Boy’s Mario’s Picross, albeit with a few different puzzles. You’re given a grid, and outside of this grid are some numbers that indicate how many grid squares you need to chip away in a row or column. Break away the right squares before the generous time limit runs out, and you’ll end up with a picture. Chip away the wrong squares, however, and you’ll incur a time penalty.

This is the type of game that should work with a mouse, but I found myself clicking the wrong squares more than I would have liked. I actually found that using the pad gave me a little more control, stopping me from making silly mistakes and losing time.

Picross is always great, but this is one version that is more than adequate with the standard pad.

Terminator 2: The Arcade Game was one of the more popular arcade lightgun shooters of the early 90’s, and the SNES version was a very good port, and also gave you the option of using the controller, Super Scope light gun and of course, the SNES mouse. As for the game, it’s your standard lightgun shooter, putting you in the role of a Terminator programmed to stop Skynet from starting Judgement Day.

Unlike Revolution X, the mouse option actually works, and works very well. You’d probably want to use the Super Scope for this arcade port, but considering that you need an old school CRT television to play with a light gun, the mouse is a decent alternative.

Tin Star is a forgotten SNES gem, mixing a Wild West theme with robots. An original game built from the ground up to support the standard pad, Super Scope and SNES Mouse, you play as the eponymous sheriff, Tin Star, and it’s up to you and your skill with firearms to save the day from the Black Oil Gang and their leader, Black Bart. Taking place in various different types of levels, from canteen shootouts to tense duals, it’s quirky, bright and fun, with a sense of humour that elevates it from a lot of lightgun-style games.

If violence is what you’re after, this port of PC classic Wolfenstein 3D should keep your trigger finger satisfied. While it’s lacking the Nazi paraphernalia of the original, as well as a bunch of other content that has been censored, such as blood, it’s a decent console port, although using the mouse isn’t quite the same without access to a keyboard. You might want to stick with the controller for this version, although it might just be best to stick with the PC version altogether.

Finally, you can’t talk about the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D without talking of Super 3D Noah’s Ark. This unlicensed SNES game from Christian developers Wisdom Tree is built from Wolfenstein’s engine and in fact this was licensed from id Software themselves. As such, the mouse support remains and the game plays exactly like id’s original game, only instead of shooting enemies, you’re firing sedative-packed food at animals using a slingshot, in a bit to make them sleepy.

So that was a hefty chunk of games that use the SNES Mouse. It’s not all of them, but it’s certainly the more notable and playable titles for the most part. Hopefully, you found this video enlightening and that you now have a greater appreciation for this interesting and rarely spoken about SNES peripheral.

If you liked this video, I would be so grateful if you shared it with your friends. Did you own a SNES Mouse, and did you have any of these games? Let me know in the comments.

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