1994 was a big year for games -- Super Nintendo games, that is. Final Fantasy III, Donkey Kong Country?, Earthworm Jim, Shaq Fu -- all landmark titles for the 16-bit generation, to be sure. But the NES was still limping along. It wasn’t until December of 1994 that the reliable grey box expelled its last, ragged breath in the form of Wario’s Woods before fading quietly from the realm of official releases forever.
Wario’s Woods also bears the high honor of being the only game to place earnest little Toad in a starring role. Unfortunately, his domain is restricted to a 7x11 area of falling bombs and woodland creatures, and his only duty is to arrange them by color to make them go boom.
Unlike the vast majority of falling block puzzlers, Wario’s Woods actually manifests player control in the form of an on-screen avatar, which is enough to make a fairly derivative gameplay system stand out. Toad has a varied move set -- he can lift entire columns or single items, kick creatures or bombs, and even hop straight to the top of any column he’s underneath.
Years after its release, Wario’s Woods saw a bit of a revival thanks to its inclusion in Animal Crossing and release on the Wii’s Virtual Console. The NES version is, strangely, far more prevalent than its Super Nintendo counterpart, which was released on the very same day in 1994. With greatly enhanced music and more detailed cartoony graphics, an added Vs. Com mode, and simpler controls, the SNES Wario’s Woods is unquestionably superior. Still, both present the same addictive puzzle mechanic, and it’s easy to find yourself lost for an hour in Wario’s Woods to this day.