6. Yoshi's Island
By the mid-90s the Mario developers had little to prove, as they'd 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 that's still seen by many as the pinnacle of design for the genre. Just as platformers were becoming edgier and focused on slick visuals, Miyamoto's 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 Yoshi's 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 couldn't ruin the fun. Yoshi's 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, you'd 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 Nintendo's 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 wouldn't just be a launch game, but was also packed in with the system, but that's 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.
There's 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?
What is the Best of SNES for you?
These are our favorite Super Nintendo games, but we know you have favorites of your own. What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.