The best SNES games of all time

16-bit glory

Some consider the Super NES to be the greatest console of all time and that title isn't based on what resolution the hardware can push out or whether it can stream 4K Netflix movies like today's consoles. Gamers love the SNES for its games. With titles like Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, and A Link to the Past, the SNES has one of the most diverse and acclaimed game libraries in history. So, what games made Nintendo's console so special? We're counting down the 25 best SNES games to ever hit the 16-bit system.

25. 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 you've 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 couldn't get enough of Sir Arthur's 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 don't mind enduring the craziness... and that's exactly why Super Ghouls n Ghosts is so dear to our hearts.

24. 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.

23. Actraiser

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.

22. Pilotwings

Released on launch day, Pilotwings was a shameless tech demo for the Super NES' 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 wasn't 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.

21. 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 don't want anything to do with him.

20. 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 didn't 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, we've entered some awesome bizarre world that Space Jam couldn't touch. Oh, and NBA Jam didn't even need Michael Jordan to be great.

19. 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 you've 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 Kirby's ever-changing history, perhaps marking the first time Nintendo experimented with the formula.

18. 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 wouldn't 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.

17. 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.