SNES Mini tips special (’90s style)

What’s the haps, kidz?

The SNES Mini is finally with us, and gamers all over the world are reliving (or discovering for the first time) the glory days of early ‘90s gaming.

Some of these SNES classics can be on the tricky side, though, which is why back in the day every games magazine worth its salt had a tips section.

It doesn’t really happen much these days – partly because simple ‘cheats’ like passwords and controller inputs are rare in modern games – but there was nothing quite like the excitement of buying a new mag, flipping to the tips section and finding a new cheat for a game you owned.

With that in mind, I’ve gone through my own personal archives and dug up some never-before-seen SNES tips I wrote way back in the early ‘90s. Yes, I definitely wrote these 20+ years ago and am not making that up for an inevitable comedic payoff layer. Honest.

True story

Not every SNES Mini game is ‘tippable’, but here’s some nifty old-school secrets for those that are. And just to be safe, I’ve tried them all out again on my own SNES Mini to make sure they still work.

That said, let’s travel back in time and read those tips I definitely legitimately wrote in the early ‘90s.

Note: ‘R’ and ‘L’ always refer to the shoulder buttons on the SNES controller, not right and left on the D-Pad.

Donkey Kong Country

Get 50 lives

There are three certainties in life: we’ll always have to pay taxes, Brookside will always be on TV and Donkey Kong Country will always be hard.

Thankfully, Rare’s put a cheat in there that should make things easier. Go to the File Select Screen at the start of the game, select Erase Game so the words flash, then press B, A, R, R, A, L.

You’ll hear a noise. Now when you start a game you’ll have 50 lives.

Practice the bonus levels

The bonus animal stages in Donkey Kong Country are a great way to earn lots of extra lives, but they don’t pop up too often so it can be tricky to work out strategies to maximise your winnings.

There’s a way to deal with this: while the intro sequence is playing with Cranky Kong winding up his gramophone, press Down, Y, Down, Down, Y. This will take you to a hidden cave where you can practice each of the mini-games over and over.

It’s this sort of fan service that will ensure Rare and Nintendo will continue to have a strong partnership for decades to come.

Final Fantasy III

Insta-kill enemies

Squaresoft’s fantastic RPG is further proof that rival studios like Enix will never be considered equals.

That said, there’s an interesting little trick in Final Fantasy III which makes most battles complete non-events: even most of the bigger bosses.

You need to make sure that you have both the Vanish spell and the Doom spell in your party (you get them later in the game).

Doom is a spell which casts instant death on some enemies, but most of them have immunity to it. However, the Vanish spell makes enemies invisible, and while invisible an enemy is wide open to any magic attack.

That means all you need to do is cast Vanish to make an enemy invisible, then cast Doom to kill them in one shot. This doesn’t work on every enemy type – zombies, for example – but it works on the vast majority.

Kirby Super Star

Unlock the other games

Kirby games always give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside, much like any time you watch a TV show presented by Rolf Harris.

You may have noticed, though, that some of the games in the Kirby Super Star selection screen are greyed out but it isn’t clear how to unlock them.

Well, it’s simple when you know how. To unlock Revenge Of Meta Knight, you have to beat the DynaBlade game.

Then, to unlock Milky Way Wishes, you have to beat Revenge Of Meta Knight and the Great Cave Offensive.

Mega Man X


Mega Man is one of Capcom’s most beloved mascots, and Mega Man X does a great job of showing why he’ll be one of the big C’s main men for the foreseeable future.

Though it isn’t quite as difficult as the NES games, you may still need a little bit of help.

If you enter the password 3475 / 5668 / 2581 you’ll skip the first stage and start on the ‘select a boss’ screen with all Turbo Hearts, all four Sub-Tanks and all the armour upgrades.

If you want even more help, enter 8441 / 2176 / 4423 and you’ll start with all Turbo Hearts, all four Sub-Tanks, all upgrades, every weapon and every boss defeated.

This way you can either replay the stages armed to the teeth, or jump straight into the final level.

Street Fighter fireball

You may not know it, but Mega Man X has a hidden special move which lets you pull off Ryu’s fireball from Street Fighter II.

Getting it is tougher than Frank Bruno, though: you need to have all the Heart Tanks, Sub-Tanks, enemy weapons and power-ups (use the second password above if you want).

Then you have to go to Armored Armadillo’s level and play all the way through the final mine cart at the end of the stage. When it launches you through the air at the end, jump up and climb the wall.

When you reach the top of the wall you’ll find a big Energy Unit. Collect it and jump into the pit, killing yourself.

You then have to do this four more times: playing through the entire stage again, climbing the wall, collecting the Energy Unit and dying.

On the fifth occasion, the Energy Unit will be replaced with a capsule, where Dr Light will appear and give you the fireball move. You have to do a Street Fighter motion (roll the D-Pad in a quarter circle from Down to Forward then shoot) to pull it off.

Star Fox

Round my neck of the woods, Star Fox is called Starwing. I’m only calling it Star Fox here in case this guide somehow makes it to America (maybe I can send a letter to their version of Teletext or something, I dunno).

Rest assured though, in the UK it’ll always be known as Starwing and that’ll never change because there’d be a riot if it did.

Black Hole

There’s a secret warp zone hidden in the Asteroid stage on the default (Level 1) path.

As you play you’ll eventually find a spinning bar made up of grey asteroids with an orange one in the middle (see the screenshot below).

Fly towards it and shoot the orange asteroid at the last minute, flying through the gap it made. There’ll be two more bars like this, do the same with those.

If you’ve done it right (it can take a couple of goes to get right) you’ll see an asteroid with a smiley face on it. Shoot the hell out of that and it’ll turn into a Black Hole.

Fly in and you’ll end up in a weird space graveyard which includes three different warps that take you to different areas.

Out Of This Dimension

The Black Hole’s one thing but there’s an even weirder level hidden in the game. I’m talking Eurotrash weird.

Choose the hardest path (Level 3) and play through to the Asteroid stage. Shortly into the stage you’ll see a massive asteroid on the left, followed by one on the right.

Shoot the one on the right loads and it’ll eventually explode. A weird bird thing will then appear in the distance and fly towards you.

Fly into the bird and you’ll teleport to the Out Of This Dimension stage, which is just one big acid house rave like all the teenagers are doing these days. Because I’m writing this in the early ‘90s, remember.

Star Fox 2

Never heard of it, mate.

Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting

10-Star Turbo

Street Fighter II Turbo’s main gimmick is that you can choose the game speed on the main menu by setting the number of stars from 0 to 4.

However, there’s a way to make it even faster – Linford Christie fast – and you’ll need a second controller for it.

After the Capcom logo disappears when you start the game up, once the sequence with the Street Fighter logo begins press Down, R, Up, L, Y, B on controller 2.

If you’ve done it quickly enough, you’ll hear a noise. You can now set the speed up to 10 stars.

If only the SNES had some sort of way to save the game state after doing this so you don’t have to enter the code ever again.

Super Castlevania IV

Hard mode

There’s a special harder version of Super Castlevania IV that adds more enemies and makes them take more hits to beat.

You can get it by either completing the game, or by entering this password. Leave your name blank on the Enter Your Name screen, then choose Continue and enter:

Heart / Axe / Space / Holy Water
Axe / Space / Space / Heart
Space / Axe / Space / Space
Space / Heart / Space / Space

Now you’ll be able to play the harder version of the game: it’s to the normal game what DJ Jazzy Jeff (the talented one) is to the Fresh Prince (the rapper one who’ll inevitably fade into obscurity).

Face Dracula

If you can’t be bothered with all that game-playing malarkey and just want to skip to the final boss fight against Dracula so you can get your arse handed to you in record time, here’s a password.

Leave your name blank on the Enter Your Name screen, then choose Continue and enter:

Space / Space / Space / Holy Water
Holy Water / Holy Water / Space / Space
Space / Holy Water / Space / Space
Space / Heart / Axe / Space

This’ll take you to the final boss fight. Before you channel your inner Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and climb the stairs though, jump off the ledge to the left.

You’ll land on an invisible ledge: hop left again and you’ll be given 99 hearts, both whip upgrades, a boomerang cross and a II and III stones (so you can throw three crosses at once).

Just be careful heading back up when you’re done: there are invisible stairs going up followed by a jump to the right.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Level Select

Capcom’s side-scrolling action title is one of the hardest games ever made, and sadly there’s no such thing as, say, some sort of worldwide information-sharing service where you can get help on how to beat it.

Luckily yer 11-year-old boy Scullion’s here to help you out with this useful cheat. You’ll need a second controller for it though: hopefully your full-sized SNES system came with one.

Go to the Options screen and highlight Exit. Hold down L and Start on controller 2, then press Start on controller 1.

You’ll be taken to a special Level Select screen, where you can choose to jump to any part of the game so you can quickly die there instead of the first stage.

Super Mario Kart

Small Racers

If you fancy yourself as a bit of an Ayrton Senna and reckon Super Mario Kart is too easy for you, there’s a novel way of making it trickier.

Go to the character select screen and hold the Y button over your character, then press A. They’ll shrink as if they’ve been hit by a lightning bolt or one of Princess Toadstool’s mushroom items.

When you start the game you’ll be permanently small. Unlike when you’re hit with a shrinking power-up, you’ll still be able to race at full speed. However, you’ll still be crushed if you bump into an opponent. Let’s see if you can win now, smart arse.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Easy levelling up

Another gem from Squaresoft, Super Mario RPG may not be available here in Britain but I’ve imported it from America and trust me, it’s brilliant.

Like most RPGs, levelling up can be a bit of a grind but there’s a way you can do it easily and quickly.

All you need to do is find any situation where there’s a Star power-up next to a Save Point.

The Star lets you plough through enemies on the map and kill them immediately instead of triggering a battle. Crucially, you’ll still get XP (and eventually level up) when you do this.

The trick, then, is to save your game at the Save Point, then collect the Star and start ploughing through enemies: but leave one remaining.

When your Star runs out, trigger a battle with the last enemy and deliberately die. You’ll get a Game Over screen then restart at the Save Point, but all the XP and level ups you got will be carried over. Repeat!

Super Mario World

Get loads of lives

It’s hard to imagine there’ll ever be a platform game better than Super Mario World. It’s such a great adventure that there’s literally nowhere left for Mario to go now: here’s hoping we see him again in at least one more adventure.

If you’re struggling with it, there are a bunch of cheeky tricks you can pull off to get extra lives. My favourite is in Iggy’s Castle, which you encounter shortly after starting the game

(Don’t worry, if you’ve already beat the castle and destroyed it, it you can stand over the ruins and press L+R to play the level again.)

At the start of this level there’s a fence you can climb along. Here’s the thing though: once you grab the fence, you count as being ‘in the air’ until your feet touch the ground again. The whole thing counts as one big jump.

There are Koopa Troopas climbing the fence too, and if you climb downwards from above onto their heads (if they’re on the same side of the fence as you) you’ll kill them.

Keep doing this and the points you get for each will multiply until you start getting 1-Ups. If you do a flawless run like this you’ll end up with eight extra lives: then all you need to do is jump in the fire (don’t hit the checkpoint) and start again.

Note: don’t punch enemies on the other side of the fence. That’ll reset the counter. You can punch the gate to flip Mario around to the other side and continue your 1-Up streak by moving onto the heads of the enemies there too, but don’t punch the enemies directly. Jumping and punching the gate is fine, punching enemies isn’t.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Unlock the Mini Battles

Yoshi’s Island has a bunch of mini-games in which you take on a Bandit and try to beat them.

They can actually be quite tricky, so you might want to be able to play them whenever you like and practice them.

To do this, hold down the Select button on the level selection screen and press X, X, Y, B, A.

You’ll unlock a special hidden menu where you can choose to play any of the five Mini Battles, and even play some of them with two players.

It’s a perfect way to resolve quick arguments with your sibling, like deciding who has to go to the shops in the rain to buy the latest issue of Smash Hits.

Super Punch-Out!!

Sound Test

The fourth game in the Punch-Out!! series has a unique soundtrack, with some entertaining pulse-racing themes.

In fact, some of them are so good you might want to just listen to them without playing the game. You’re in luck: you can.

Plug in a second controller. When the Nintendo logo appears at the start of the game, hold the L+R buttons on controller 2.

You’ll then be taken to a secret Sound Test screen where you can listen to all the game’s music, so put your Gary Glitter albums to the side for now (don’t worry, they won’t be going anywhere: his stuff is timeless) and rock out to this instead.

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  1. Another great way to get lives in Mario World is in Vanilla Secret 1.

    Start the level, but don’t kill any of the jumping Koopas. Keep going until you obtain the grey P-Switch, then go back left, to the ‘end’ of the jumping Koopa part. Hit the P-Switch, and run left, collecting all those lovely grey coins for OVER 9000 lives. Well. A lot.

  2. Great article. I am a big fan of Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Mega Man X and Donkey Kong Country. Thanks for sharing. When you are playing games and due to some reason your game is over that time your tips are really helpful.

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