For the storied gamer, the Super Nintendo holds a place of extreme pride in the pantheon of gaming consoles. Some consider it the greatest console ever; others had Genesis, but still recognize that the Super NES was pretty freakin' cool. Regardless of who you talk to, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't like the SNES.
There must be reasons why everyone loves the system, and the top 50 reasons await in this list. Thousands of hours were spent exploring, conquering, and loving these games, and their influences on current game development are countless. These are the cream of the crop of 16-bit Nintendo gaming; read on and remember.
50. Mortal Kombat II
Mortal Kombat, the catalyst for the video game violence debate that still rages today, made quite a mark on the console scene. The first Mortal Kombat on the SNES was watered down from the arcade version so the young audience wouldnt see the blood and guts, but Mortal Kombat II took no such precaution. MK2 was as grisly and gory in our homes as it was in the local pizza shop, and we loved every second.
The expanded roster from seven to 12 gave us more characters to learn, the new stages included brand-new hazards to use against our enemies, and with two controllers we could turn a sleepover party into a tournament of simulated death until the wee hours of the morning... until the one kid whose parents wouldnt let him play bloody video games ruined it for everyone. We hope hes happy all these years later.
49. Breath of Fire II
Breath of Fire II, which launched here in America in December of 1994, joined the crowded SNES RPG ranks right in the middle of Final Fantasy III/VI (October 1994) and Chrono Trigger (March 1995). It didnt have much better timing over in Japan, as it launched on the same week as the Sony PlayStation. The stars may have aligned against this gem, but its still worth your time.
While Breath of Fire II was clearly overshadowed by all of that competition, the turn-based combat is just as fun and the story is just as engaging as both Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. Ryu and his friends put on a hell of a show; its just a shame that it serves as an undercard for two big main eventers. Breath of Fire II can absolutely hold its own against those big names if you allow it, it just needs the chance to shine.
Not many people remember that this PC classic was released on the SNES, partly because it launched at the end of the SNESs life cycle in 1995. Youd be surprised how faithful this port is to what youve played with mouse and keyboard. Thanks to the Super FX chip debuted by Star Fox, this was the closest thing to Doom anyone with an SNES was going to play without an expensive PC.
The original Doom engine wasnt used here; a brand-new engine was built from the ground up instead. 22 levels from the first three chapters of Doom made it into the SNES port, but episodes 2 and 3 can only be played at particular difficulties. Aside from these changes, this is classic Doom through and through, and wed bet that 99% of you reading this know exactly what that feels like. Doom on SNES happened, and it was great.
47. Tecmo Super Bowl
Before the name Madden became synonymous with the game of football, Tecmo ruled the gridiron with its iconic sports games. Tecmo Super Bowl was the first of the series to hit the Super Nintendo, and in doing so it brought a whole new set of features to the classic gameplay. Think of Tecmo being drafted from the NES to the Super NES, then trained to do a bunch of new things: Thats exactly how it felt.
Aside from the obvious aesthetic upgrades, you could now control touchbacks and punt blocking situations, edit your playbook at any time during a game, and adjust the weather to optimum conditions before playing. The season mode was also upgraded from just the 1991 season to three seasons (1991-1993). The call to the big leagues did Tecmo Super Bowl well, and before we knew it we were READY DOWN HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT-ing our way to victory.
46. Demons Crest
Weve seen this red-winged demon before; he stood in our path as one of the many enemies in Super Ghouls n Ghosts (which well talk about later). However, this time he gets his own starring role, and playing as him is just as fun as trying to defeat him was. Demons Crest is more Castlevania than Ghouls n Ghosts, but we still enjoy playing through it whenever we can.
Firebrand has a fair amount of abilities at his disposal, mostly utilizing his claws for slashing, wings for hovering, and fire breath for burning things and defeating enemies. He also can transform into more powerful versions of himself, culminating in the Ultimate Gargoyle, which makes him ridiculously powerful. Theres a lot of items and power-ups to collect and a lot of enemies to defeat in Demons Crest, so make sure you set aside a good amount of time; youll be playing it for a while.
45. The Legend of the Mystical Ninja
We cant decide what genre to place The Legend of the Mystical Ninja in. Is it an RPG because of the town exploration and information gathering in the beginning of each stage, or is it a side-scrolling platformer for the times we engage in battle after traversing the town? Were not sure what to call it, but we do know one thing: The game is pretty damn fun.
Theres not a large learning curve; its very straightforward in both the RPG and beat-em-up sections. However, its accompanied by a stellar ancient Japan-inspired soundtrack, beautiful graphics alive with color, and just enough challenge to make it a very addictive affair. Its not breaking down any barriers for platforming or RPGs, but its definitely one of the top games on the SNES.
44. Kirby's Dream Land 3
Kirbys Dream Land 3 looks a whole lot different than previous Kirby games. Where the other Kirbys have a Saturday morning cartoon look to them, the graphic style here looks more like it belongs as wallpaper in a babys nursery. Dont judge a pink puffball by its cover, however; Kirbys Dream Land 3 is still as fun and cute as any other game he stars in, and its definitely worth playing.
Playing Dream Land 3 is like playing standard Kirby: Youre going to run, jump, inflate to fly, slide, and inhale enemies just like before. However, at any time Kirby can create Gooey, a blue blob with a long tongue, to accompany him, and a second player can control Gooey while hes onscreen. Instant two-player Kirby action! Kirbys Dream Land 3 serves as a fine send-off for the SNES, as it was the last first-party title released for the system. We think its a great way to say goodbye.
43. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
What sounds like a big problem for the cast of The Walking Dead is actually a solid adventure game for the Super Nintendo. Zombies Ate My Neighbors put us through a gauntlet of 55 stages, ranging from shopping malls to haunted castles in order to save the neighbors from all kinds of malevolent monsters, like zombies (duh), vampires, werewolves, aliens, and giant evil demon babies. Yes, that last one is as disturbing as it sounds.
The game played as a top-down adventure, almost like a giant obstacle course for our heroes to conquer, with danger lurking everywhere and power-ups to combat that danger also readily available. Weve never used an Uzi water gun with such glee, and not until Dead Rising would we ever experience the zombie-neutralizing power of a standard lawnmower. Serious gamers need not apply; Zombie Ate My Neighbors is for those just looking to have some fun.
42. The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse
Capcom and Disney had quite the relationship in the NES/SNES days. DuckTales, Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck gave them some big-time NES success, and they hoped to replicate that on the SNES with The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse. Mickey was thrown into a mystical adventure trying to save Pluto from the evil King Pete, and we reveled in it.
Like the other Capcom/Disney collaborations, Magical Quest featured some solid platforming while adding a few new things like upgradable costumes with specific abilities. Mickey could change between a magician, a firefighter, a mountain climber, and his normal self to get through the adventure, but youd need to be familiar with all four to win. This was another triumph from two major entertainment companies, though the partnership sadly wouldnt last much longer afterward.
41. Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen
Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger usually headline the lists of classic SNES RPGs around the Internets, but we want to make sure that Ogre Battle gets its day in the sun. This game had more features and moving parts than both of those games, requiring more player engagement, yet the other two have gone on to major stardom while Ogre Battle remains a cult hit at best. We dont get it.
Each chapter in Ogre Battle starts on a world map, where you can organize your troops, pick classes, etc. Once a stage is selected, the action zooms into the tactical map, where you essentially play a game of chess with the AI. When two opposing units get too close to one another, the camera zooms in even further and a turn-based battle ensues. Ogre Battle was doing Final Fantasy Tactics before FFT was even thought of, let alone available. Wheres the love?
40. The Lost Vikings
Even by 1993 it was tough to create a truly unique game, one that couldnt be summarized with Its [game name] with [distinguishing feature]. The Lost Vikings broke the mold by brilliantly blending puzzle and platforming aspects with resource management ideas that would crop in RTS games soon after. The catch is you control three distinct Vikings, but can only move them one at a time; you can switch between them freely, but only one can be active at any moment. And since each character has his own ability, every level becomes a clever action-based puzzle that played like nothing else at the time... and remains unique even today.
This is the only multiplatform game on our list, mainly because we wanted to focus on SNES-only experiences. But its worth having one on here to represent the notion that the SNES often got the superior version of every multiplatform game, and The Lost Vikings was undeniably better here.
Thanks to Mario and Sonic, the 16-bit days were absolutely choked with 2D platformers. With so many to choose from, what made Plok! stand out? At first glance, wed go with the graphics, which are some of the biggest, brightest, chunkiest sprites on the system. Explore past the candy-coated visuals and youd find an extremely varied, intensely challenging side-scroller that keeps adding ideas as the game progresses.
At first its all about Ploks projectile limbs, which can be fired at enemies and then return back boomerang style. Then its a black-and-white flashback area with granpappy Plok, then its about a magical amulet... so much crammed into one game, all with a kickass soundtrack. Its an odd choice for this list, but we stand by it.
38. Killer Instinct
ULTRA COMBOOOOO!!!! When Rare jumped from Donkey Kong Country to killer fighting games, we hoped that the Super NES would continue to get the love from the studio that it had before. After all, this was the company that restored Donkey Kong to his original glory, giving him a brand-new lease on video game life. Surely theyd be kind enough to let us play their fighter on the system too...
Indeed they did, and Killer Instinct made an instant impact as a unique and frenetic fighter. The graphics were toned down from the arcade version, but the crazy cast of characters and even more insane combos stayed put. Was there a better feeling back in those days than landing a 100+ hit combo and watching your friends face drop as the hits kept coming? We didnt think so.
37. Kirbys Avalanche
So youre sitting there on your phone playing Candy Crush Saga like everyone else, and youre thinking King.com was the first company ever to think up something like this (at least thats what they want you to think). However, Kirbys Avalanche followed the exact same format back in 1995: Match colors in a row so they disappear, match as many as possible for maximum score.
Kirbys Avalanche is admittedly a bit more like Tetris in its dont let the playing field fill up or youre done aspect, but thats because back then we didnt have to pay for extra turns: We played until we screwed up and filled the jar, then we pressed start and did it over again. There was no play 99 cents for five more turns crap, and we preferred it that way. Excuse us while we go take our medicine and watch Matlock.
36. Stunt Race FX
In a world of Super Mario Kart, Stunt Race FX was an excellent alternative. This was more of a true racing game compared to Marios wacky antics, leaving the weapons out and replacing them with a more realistic driving scheme. When you needed a break from the cartoony racing of Mario Kart, you went and played Stunt Race. Its just how things worked back then.
One big advantage Stunt Race had over Mario Kart was variety. Stunt Race gave you five different vehicle types to race with: F-type like you see in Formula 1, a small coupe, a four-wheel-drive monster truck, a two-wheeled car (which looked as odd as it sounds), and a giant semi that was so big it needed its own camera angle. Stunt Race proved that Mario Kart wasnt the only car on the track, and in some ways Stunt Race even surpassed its competition. Its definitely worth a test drive.
35. Super Bomberman 2
Super Bomberman 2 ended friendships. If that sounds strange, then youve never taken on friends in the games addictive multiplayer offerings. Its the same as normal Bomberman, but against your friends! The joy of trapping an enemy between a bomb and a hard place now also comes with the look on your friends face as they watch themselves blow up. It was pure madness, but it was so much fun!
Playing alone wasnt too shabby either, as Super Bomberman posed quite the challenge to those familiar with his exploits. Six themed worlds of eight stages each awaited our little robot bomber as he bombed his way through the adventure, and you could retain your progress via a password system. Fun, challenging, and the passwords didnt make us leave the system on at all times; Super Bomberman 2 had it all!
34. Street Fighter Alpha 2
The Super Nintendo faithful had done pretty well keeping up with the Street Fighter series for a while. Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Turbo (which included the previous arcade release Champion Edition), and Super Street Fighter II all had a home in our consoles, but eventually the well dried up. The graphical technology got better, and the SNES just wasnt equipped to handle it.
In 1996, however, through the use of a new chip, those who hadnt upgraded to PlayStation yet were thrown a bone in this excellent port of Street Fighter Alpha 2. The game was very faithfully translated from its arcade original, including the full roster (save one hidden character) and all of their moves. Whats more, SFA2 was one of the best fighting games out at the time, so SNES fans got to enjoy the cream of the crop one more time before saying goodbye. Thanks, Capcom, for the last hurrah.
33. Sim City
Sim City on the Super Nintendo had no business being as awesome as it was. Sim City was a PC game needing a mouse and keyboard to function properly, and Sim City was a SNES launch title. That means no Mario Paint keyboard and mouse to help us out. Why then did Sim City work so well on a system that wasnt properly equipped?
Its because Nintendo developed the game itself, working specifically to the SNESs abilities and adding in its own pieces of flair to create an excellent port. Only one major change was made: Remember the Godzilla disaster on the PC? SNES brought Bowser in to destroy the city instead. Everything else was maintained, allowing those who couldnt afford a PC in the early 90s to build a city of their own on the SNES... even if we immediately destroyed it afterward. Who plays Sim City and doesnt destroy a city or two?
32. Super Ghouls n Ghosts
Are you one of those people who think video games today are too difficult? Lets talk difficult for a second: Imagine youve slaved away at a side-scroller for hours, dying over and over again but still pressing on against insane amounts of ghosts, zombies, demons, and bugs, only to finish the game and be told nope, not done, do it all over! That is difficulty, but its also why Super Ghouls n Ghosts is such a fantastic game.
Perhaps we were secret masochists back in those days, but we couldnt get enough of Sir Arthurs adventure no matter how many times we died. Powering him up, collecting different weapons, and fighting the ghastly hordes was addicting, and we all got a good laugh when poor Arthur was reduced to his boxers, even if we knew the next hit would kill us. If a game can remain fun while having an insane difficulty, we dont mind enduring the craziness... and thats exactly why Super Ghouls n Ghosts is so dear to our hearts.
31. Final Fight 2
Have you played the original Final Fight in the arcades? Its a fun beat-em-up worthy of every quarter. Did you play it on the SNES? Not as fun, considering all the cuts, right? We were afraid the sequel might see similar limitations, but this one was built from the ground up for Nintendos super console, so everything wed want from an arcade Final Fight 2 made its way to the cartridge. This was the Final Fight we always wanted.
The core gameplay didnt change much from the previous game, but this time two players could join together to smack the crap out of Mad Gear gang members to their hearts content. You had your choice between the returning Mike Haggar (and his moustache) and two newcomers in Carlos and Maki. Cody and Guy they were not, but the two newbies could still kick some serious butt. We had to wait for a sequel, but we finally got the true Final Fight experience at home.
30. Battletoads in Battlemaniacs
There are about a billion beat-em-ups on the SNES, from Ninja Turtles to Sunset Riders to Final Fight to... well, you get the idea. Standing proudly among them is Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, the sequel to NES hit Battletoads, which features some of the best graphics on the system. Unlike most brawlers, Battletoads had a knack for constantly changing the formula each time you got to a new stage, and it made for one hell of an experience.
The first stage has pieces of the level crumbling around you, the second descends into a massive hole in the ground, the third is a screaming-fast turbo tunnel, and so on. It never even has a chance to become boring, let alone derivative. The bosses are massive, the music is rockin', and the ever-present 90s attitude is in full effect--who cares if its a cynical knock-off of TMNT when it looks and plays this good?
29. Castlevania: Dracula X
Back in the day, the TurboGrafx-16 hosted a Castlevania game called Rondo of Blood, which sported high-quality 2D graphics, full anime cutscenes, and voice acting, all new to the gaming scene. Those who didnt have that under-the-radar console didnt want to be left out, so Konami ported the game to the SNES as Dracula X. While some of the major enhancements had to be cut, Dracula X still gave fans a quality Castlevania experience.
Dracula X stars Richter Belmont as he fights to save his lover Annette from that blood-sucking jerk Dracula, who is keeping her prisoner inside of his gigantic tower. Admittedly, the Super NES version of this game isnt as strong as the TurboGrafx-16 version, but its still an awesome Castlevania game that serves up some ghoulishly good times. It also serves as the prequel to Symphony of the Night, which many consider to be the best Castlevania ever, so it cant be that bad, right?
28. Earthworm Jim
Gaming has had some weird characters emerge over the years, but there arent many who stand out like Earthworm Jim does. Essentially an earthworm in a spacesuit, Jim battled against the evil Psycrow and Queen Slug-for-a-Butt (who did, indeed, have a slug for a butt) in order to save Princess Whats-Her-Name in one of the most delightful platformers of the time.
Its hard to forget Earthworm Jim after playing it even once, as there are so many crazy parts to talk about we could go on for hours. Fighting through the fiery pits of Heck, bungee-jump battling above a pool of phlegm, and zooming through space in the Andy Asteroids ministages all bring back terrific memories. Just dont mention those damn underwater maze levels. They make us want to pull our hair out.
27. TMNT: Turtles in Time
The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game set a high standard for arcade brawlers, but after Capcom released Final Fight, Konami knew it had to step its game up. What better way to do that then to send the turtles through time? Turtles in Time improves on everything the original Turtles game did and makes it even better, making it one of the best action games on the SNES.
From Big Apple, 3 AM to Bury My Shell At Wounded Knee, each stage tested our mettle with all kinds of enemies, from the Foot Clan to charging dinosaurs in Prehistoric Turtlesaurus and ending with some insane boss fights. Also, mention Turtles in Time to a gaming music buff and prepare for some really awesome SNES-era music, especially the final boss battle. Our heads are still banging 20 years later.
26. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
In 1996, many a Nintendo fans mind was focused on the upcoming release of the Nintendo 64, bringing revolutionary graphics and untold gaming potential. However, one of the premier Mario games to ever release launched only a few months before, a collaboration between Nintendo and RPG juggernaut Squaresoft. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars changed how we looked at the plucky plumber, and were all better for it.
Square brought its turn-based RPG expertise to the Mushroom Kingdom, and the result is one of the best RPGs on any Nintendo system. Its just easy enough to be approachable but also challenging for the hardcore crowd, and the story takes us on a journey worthy of Final Fantasy let alone Mario. Plus, the names Mallow and Geno will set any longtime Nintendo fans heart a-flutter, but youll have to play the game to find out why.
Released on launch day, Pilotwings was a shameless tech demo for the Super NESs Mode 7 scaling and rotation tricks. But in a rare turn of events, this graphical showcase was also a fully enjoyable flight sim that spawned a new Nintendo franchise, most recently seen on the 3DS. However, neither the N64 or 3DS sequels truly replace the original, as each have their own feel, plus wed argue this is the most replayable of them all.
Its initial appeal may have been the graphics and sense of flight (such imagery just wasnt possible on NES or Genesis), but its flight-school presentation and variety of events (biplanes, parachuting, rocket belt, hang glider, and even a military chopper) made it last well past that easily impressed launch window.
24. Star Fox
Do you enjoy turning on your fancy new game console and seeing all of the crazy 3D graphics splash across your screen? Well, you can thank Star Fox for pioneering the use of full 3D graphics in a game. The Super FX chip powering this puppy was the first 3D graphics accelerator ever placed in a consumer product, and Nintendo had it made just for its new team of galactic animal pilots. Its a damn good thing the game was so much fun.
The on-rails aerial combat of Star Fox brings back a lot of fond memories of blasting through Andross armies with lasers and bombs. We loved flying around the screen, dodging obstacles and doing barrel rolls even before we had to press Z or R twice. The only thing we would change about this gem is Slippy Toad; hindsight is always 20/20, and that damn toad is so annoying we dont want anything to do with him.
23. Donkey Kong Country
Not only did Donkey Kong Country's practically photo-realistic graphics blow our minds at the time, but DKC's gameplay still holds up beautifully too. Although Donkey and Diddy each handle differently, both exemplify what a great platformer is all about--running, jumping, jumping on things (or cartwheeling over things), jumping over things, and precision timing.
To sweeten the deal, DKC also features the best in swinging on things, riding in things, riding on things, and collecting things (sometimes secret things!). Plus, DKC's relaxing water levels are easily the best of the genre.
22. NBA Jam: Tournament Edition
Boomshakalaka! NBA Jam tore up the arcades from the day Midway released it, so it makes perfect sense that it would also tear up home consoles as soon as it was released. Gravity-defying dunks and hes on fire! (after three straight successful shots) rang out through all hours of the night in many a household, even those with families who didnt really like basketball.
Half the fun is the insanity that happens on the court, but the other half is unlocking some pretty outrageous people to jam with. Team mascot like Benny the Bull and the Phoenix Gorilla make sense, but when The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the actual Prince of England, and the then-First Family of the USA are slamming the rock from 25 feet in the air, weve entered some awesome bizarre world that Space Jam couldnt touch. Oh, and NBA Jam didnt even need Michael Jordan to be great.
21. Kirby Super Star
What a way to send off the Super NES. Even as the N64 was dominating sales charts in 1996, Kirby snuck in a remarkably generous, multi-game marathon of squeaky-clean greatness. On one cart came four Dream Land-sized adventures, plus a meaty item hunt called The Great Cave Offensive. Toss in a boss arena and a helping of not-crap minigames and youve got one of the best Kirby packages of all time--much more memorable than Dream Land 3 or the oddball Dream Course, which both fizzled on SNES, even if they were perfectly fine games.
Super Star was rereleased on DS a couple of years ago with even more content, but wed still recommend the SNES original any day of the week. Plus its one of the defining moments of Kirbys ever-changing history, perhaps marking the first time Nintendo experimented with the formula.
Yet another launch-window game that blew us away, Actraiser was a truly perfect mix of 2D action and city-building simulation. It kicks off with your godlike energy possessing a statue built in your honor, which you then use to hack away approaching monsters. Then, with the area clear, you take control of a worker angel and slowly rebuild civilization... but before long more monsters arrive and its back to ass-kicking you go.
There is no modern equivalent to Actraiser, and its this uniqueness that earns the game such a high spot. Its a rare case of a game splitting ideas 50/50, with two absolutely different styles of play, yet getting both totally right. Hard to come by today, almost unheard of in 1991.
19. Super Mario All-Stars
The current gaming landscape is rife with classic games either being bundled together in a giant collection, getting a facelift to the current graphical standard, or in some cases both. That trend has been around since all the way back on the Super NES with Super Mario All-Stars, and how can we not recognize this game for housing some of the best Nintendo titles ever made?
The original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (previously Japan-only) all found a home on the Mario All-Stars cartridge, meaning hours of platforming fun across four classic Mario games. Some of us even prefer the All-Stars version of the original Super Mario Bros. to the NES version, which tells you a lot about the quality of this bundle.
18. Final Fantasy II
One again, a launch-window game sets the bar so high we could barely imagine things getting any better. The jump from the first Final Fantasy to this (which was released in America as FF2, even though it was actually FF4) was so profound it made more than a few GamesRadar editors lose their then-11-year-old minds. Such storytelling, such characterization from a video game? Actual plot points and personal arcs that show how people change and grow? It was genuinely shocking at the time, and while the dialog may be more than a little melodramatic now, its still no less ridiculous than most game dialog today.
FF2 was also the introduction of the Active Time Battle system, which would more or less power every FF until FFX, which even then was a modified version of something started 10 years earlier. Like most games in our top 10, FF2 was an important game as well as an endlessly entertaining one.
17. Donkey Kong Country 2
The first Donkey Kong Country set a high bar for a new Nintendo platforming franchise, but the sequel raised it even higher. Incredible stage designs, including some of the toughest platforming one will ever play (those damn bramble stages!), were highlighted by one of the best music soundtracks in the Super NES library (that wonderful bramble stage music!).
The most interesting addition to DKC2 was Dixie Kongs replacing the title character Donkey, instead joining Diddy on his quest. Dixies quickness and in-air mobility quickly made her a fan favorite; anyone who can glide through the air using her hair as a helicopter is alright by us. DKC1 was the trailblazer, but DKC2 was the pinnacle of the Donkey Kong Country series.
As with Pilotwings, F-Zero was a day-one visual kick in the pants, offering neck-snapping speed that just wasnt possible on the NES. The visually arresting idea of courses floating a mile above a bustling cityscape cemented the idea youre screaming through impossibly constructed tracks far in the future, simultaneously creating a visually distinct game and subtly telling a story about the fictional future of racing in general. And as with all Nintendo games, the handling was dead-on, making every race a true test of speed-based skill.
The N64 and GC versions of F-Zero are both amazing, but neither interferes with each other or the SNES original. All three are worth playing today for their own reasons, especially if youre still interested in hearing more classic SNES music.
15. Super Punch-Out!!
Weve mentioned in the past how every Nintendo franchise experienced perfection on the Super NES. That couldnt be more true of Super Punch-Out!!, which took the accessible, addictive gameplay of the NES original and added more strategic options for those willing to dive a little deeper. Each of the games eccentric (racist?) boxers had a pattern that could be learned and exploited to such a degree that 100% perfect playthroughs were possible; however, you had to learn how to read the enemy and react accordingly.
The fighters were huge, the animations were silly and, most importantly, the controls were absolutely perfect, making this one of the best-playing games on the system. The 2009 Wii sequel was quite good, and a worthy successor, but if we had to pick one boxing game to play forever, itd be this one.
14. Super Castlevania IV
Before Symphony of the Night ushered in the free-roaming Metroidvania era of Castlevania, Super Castlevania IV delivered its best linear entry to date, which also doubled as a whirlwind tour of the Super NES abilities. From its stunning soundtrack to its frequent use of Mode 7, parallax scrolling, and spooky transparency effects, Super IV made its 16-bit advantages plainly clear. Comparing this to its NES cousins was like night and day.
Super Castlevania IV also had its fair share of spectacle, with towering bosses, perfectly matched music, and set pieces that were not possible on earlier consoles. At the time it was a technical darling, easily convincing us all the SNES was a powerful machine worth owning--today, it remains a rock-solid action game thats infinitely replayable.
13. Contra III: The Alien Wars
At its core, Contra III is an all-out action assault on the senses. Waves of enemies, titanic bosses, amazing power-ups, and all that insane crap that makes 2D shooters so endlessly rewarding are all over the place here. But more importantly, this was the first time a shooter felt like a real action movie, sucking us into each tension-filled moment with musical cues, intense sound effects, and genius pacing. Its the pinnacle of the Contra series and easily the best all-action game on the Super NES.
Like we mentioned with Secret of Mana and other games in this list, the SNES marked the first time several types of games became genuinely cinematic. As an action game you wouldnt think Contra III would pull that off, but it does so in just about every level. The third level alone has enough intensity to rival Vanquish, which may be the only appropriate comparison.
12. Tetris Attack
Anyone who says Tetris is the best puzzle game ever obviously hasn't played Tetris Attack. Known by other names (Panel de Pon, Puzzle League), this incredibly addictive puzzler has eaten up countless hours of our lives, and wed happily give up more. Created by Nintendos R&D2 team, the gameplay mechanic of swapping colored tiles quickly got complicated as the rising board ratcheted up the tension.
Though there have been many remakes, theres something about the SNES original that kept us coming back. Was it the colorful, Yoshis Island-inspired art? The catchy soundtrack? Or was it playing a versus match on the living-room TV and seeing the look on our friends face as we crushed their dreams of winning with a screen-filling garbage block?
11. Secret of Mana
Today the Super NES is known for its immortal selection of RPGs. The first two years had more than a few standout titles, but for our money the real rush of AAA games began with 1993s Secret of Mana, an action-RPG that could today be likened to a 2D Kingdom Hearts. Instead of turn-based slowness, you directly control one of three characters, while still able to dictate moves to the other two. The core idea worked great, but it was the atmosphere, story, and music that made it such a memorable adventure.
Secret of Mana marked another milestone for cinematic SNES gameplay, pushing ever closer to the eventual perfection that would manifest in future games. Just watch the title screen and try to not feel inspired...
10. Mega Man X
Contra III may be the SNES best pure action game, but Mega Man X wins when it comes to depth and inventiveness. It took a popular (but aging) character, updated him with fancy new abilities, and told a vaguely serious story to make a brand-new game that was both familiar yet delightfully fresh. So, while the action itself is less mind blowing than Contra III, theres more to see and do (namely discovering hidden power-ups and using boss weapons against their pals) in MMX, making it the all-around superior game.
There was also a stronger allure around Mega Man X, as it was a stupidly popular series in the NES days, while Contra was great and known, but didnt command the fervor of Mega Man 2.0. That means millions more have deservedly strong attachments to MMX, which also counts for something.
9. Final Fantasy III
All the aforementioned notions of cinematic storytelling come to a head in Final Fantasy III (actually FF6). Its ensemble cast suffers defeat after defeat, eventually losing their battle to save the world only to pick themselves up and try all over again. Each step in this arduous, emotional journey is expertly told with a bulky cartridge, a plastic controller, and technology that would today fit inside your back pocket; for it to remain so effective and so moving for so long after its 1994 release means it is a true work of art, and demands to sit high atop any list, regardless of platform (we did already name it the 14th best game of all time).
Final Fantasy VII gets a lot of praise for popularizing the JRPG, but lets be real--FF6 is the better game, with better characters, music, villains, and events, and it sold fantastically. If it had a cool (and misleading) CG commercial like FF7, odds are it would be the game most often trumpeted around as the Best Thing Ever.
8. Super Mario Kart
Its hard to remember, but there was a time when the character-based, cute kart racer wasnt an incredibly tired and worn-out idea. Instead, at a time when racing was pretty much grounded in reality, and hardly cute, Mario and his friends had the novel idea of having adorable characters attack one another from small cars. And racing would never be the same again.
Though Mario Kart as a concept has been iterated on many times, and as a concept has been pretty much perfected, we still love the original in its own way. It wasnt bogged down by at times clunky new abilities or crummy online support. The 2D visuals, the collection of racers and tracks, driving over coins; the original still has so much charm that we cant let it go.
The SNES was undoubtedly home to some of the best JRPGs ever made, but even among such esteemed company Earthbound (Mother 2) stands out. Released in a huge box that contained a strategy guide with puke-scented scratch-and-sniff stickers, Earthbound was clearly proud to be different. Its characters and bizarro world were rich with humor and spirituality, and the psychedelic color palette and contemporary setting contrasted sharply with the medieval fantasy RPGs on the market.
While Earthbounds game mechanics stuck pretty closely to the traditional JRPG template, its surreal world, excellent localization, and brilliant experimental soundtrack created an experience unlike anything else. It also contains one of video gamings very best endings, a scary, touching climax to a game that, despite its jokes and wackiness, proudly professed the power of friendship and love. If you have a taste for the odd or weird, Earthbound cannot be recommended enough, theres really nothing else like it.
6. Yoshis Island
By the mid-90s the Mario developers had little to prove, as theyd consistently created timeless platformers that were the biggest games in the world. But before they left behind two dimensions to then define what a 3D platformer was in Mario 64, they decided to make one last 2D adventure for the SNES. Using their considerable expertise and knowledge of platformer design they created a spin-off to Super Mario World starring Yoshi thats still seen by many as the pinnacle of design for the genre.
Just as platformers were becoming edgier and focused on slick visuals, Miyamotos team doubled down on cuteness, but Yoshis Islands crayon-colored visuals masked a game full of incredibly sophisticated 2D game design. With levels custom-made for Yoshis floating, butt-stomping, and egg-throwing attributes, each new area was cleverer than the last. The boss fights were some of the best in franchise history and even a screaming Baby Mario couldnt ruin the fun. Yoshis Island proved that classic gameplay could still matter in the mid-90s, and still does today.
5. Street Fighter II Turbo
Many fighting game fans cite Street Fighter II on the SNES as the first fighting game they ever played. While we agree that the original SF2 was the trailblazer for the 2D fighting genre, Street Fighter II Turbo perfected the 2D brawling even more, adding the four bosses as playable characters and introducing the world to a hyper fighting speed that some still use today. This is the quintessential Super Nintendo fighting game.
The game was everything we loved about Street Fighter, only made better. We could finally play as Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison; the new fighting speeds created fresh fighting strategies; and the precise timing on special moves now required because of that fighting speed made pulling off some moves more difficult than ever. But what fighting-game aficionado is going to pass up a challenge?
4. Super Mario World
After seemingly perfecting the Mario formula with Super Mario Bros. 3, youd think the devs would rest on their laurels. Instead, the team almost immediately got to work on trying to top their genre-defining, multimillion seller and get that successor ready for the launch of Nintendos second home console. And, as hard as it is to believe, they created a game that topped its predecessor in almost every way.
Building on the rock-solid foundation of Mario 3, Super Mario Worlds energetic graphics immediately grabbed your attention with colors far more vibrant than anything seen on the Genesis, let alone the NES. The classic Mario gameplay was there, but augmented by new tricks and abilities, not the least of which included your new dinosaur pal Yoshi. Hard to imagine now that one of the systems all-time classics wouldnt just be a launch game, but was also packed in with the system, but thats just how crazy that era was.
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
This solidified the template for every Zelda game that followed it. A Link to the Past represents the open-world action RPG epic distilled to its purest form. The gameplay--a mix of exploration, puzzles, and combat--strikes a perfect balance between rich complexity and elegant simplicity, all across the backdrop of two impressively expansive overworlds. Looking at LTTP today, it almost seems like a modern game that's been given a 16-bit treatment.
Its dungeon-puzzle format has influenced countless games since, but even 20 years later, none have reached LTTP's level of perfection. Its dungeons are challenging without being tedious, and every puzzle's difficulty is carefully crafted. And while the story is basically one giant fetch/rescue quest, it's completely devoid of filler.
2. Chrono Trigger
What is there left to say about Chrono Trigger? Its arguably the Last Great JRPG before cutscenes and absurd, zipper-laden outfits hijacked the genre. As with FF6, the characters are at the heart of the games greatness, but in Triggers case theres a pervasive sense of real friendship, that these people, pulled from across time and space, genuinely care for each other. They save not just the world, but reality itself, and it all starts with a silent everyman hero defiantly sleeping the day away; there is no comparison for the journey taken and the places seen in Chrono Trigger, and we doubt any RPG will ever come close. Theres just so much variety in design, thought, and execution that only a dream team of Japanese developers could pull it off without making it a confusing mess.
The buildup to the games final battle is suitably engrossing, but its the ending that really seals the deal for Triggers undying adoration. A teary-eyed goodbye from friends and allies, all wrapped up with a whimsical, Miyazaki-esque adventure through the skies with nothing but a handful of balloons. Movie magic on your SNES, at the same time everyone is flipping out over the Saturn and PlayStation. Oh, if only we knew what we were leaving behind...
1. Super Metroid
Were not shy in saying that the SNES is where Nintendo perfected its craft. Nowhere is that more true than Super Metroid, which drastically improved on both its predecessors by adding a map, new powers, new monsters and insane amounts of detail crammed into every claustrophobic room. And that detail is the real genius of Super Metroid--how its story is told and how planet Zebes and its denizens are conveyed; the game tells so much with so little, using subtle moments and music cues to accentuate events that other games would shout from the heavens. In this regard, its only real modern equivalent is Portal. Even BioShock, which literally states its purpose, is blunt by comparison.
Its explorative, backtracking nature was copied by Symphony of the Night, and more recently, Shadow Complex, proving its endlessly repeatable nature. It was aped five years later, now 18 years later, and will continue to inspire new titles into the future. Outland, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Cave Story, and others take their cues from this towering achievement in 2D gaming. Nintendo seems unsure what to do with this series, having handed it off to Retro Studios 10 years ago then taking it back only to release the backpedaling Other M--how about, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, you make that next 2D Metroid everyone has been waiting for?