by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 24th May, 2019
Check out 25 finest games to play on the Super Nintendo, a legendary console from the nineties that pushed gaming into the mainstream. The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and Sega Master System took video games found in numerous arcades around the world and put them into millions of homes.
The third generation of consoles is the one responsible for bringing games to the TV and making them popular. NES, Sega Master System, and home computers such as Amiga took the smoking corpse of the gaming industry (which suffered a massive crash in 1983), rose it from ashes and ensured that it takes the road that will lead it to become the biggest entertainment industry in the world.
This is why SNES has so many fans. Most of them were kids back in the day when the Super Nintendo dominated the world of video games and most of them have super positive memories about the console.
And while most of our memories are warped so they can support feelings accompanying them (both positive and negative) I can say that the overwhelmingly positive attitude of gamers towards the SNES is completely justified.
The machine had super competitive pricing, it looked great (as long as you lived in Europe), it introduced better visuals along with advanced controllers, and it had a ton of superb games to go with it.
SNES's games library is probably one of the best in the whole history of video game consoles. Not only that the nineties were the golden age for third-party publishers trying to release their games on Nintendo consoles resulting in amazing third-party titles, but Nintendo itself also had an incredibly successful decade when it came to first-party titles.
Most of those ended on the SNES (with a couple of gems finding their way to the Nintendo 64), contributing to building a huge gaming library filled with quality titles. I tried to take 25 of those and put them on this best of list.
While I know that no matter which 25 games find their way on this list it won't satisfy everyone I hope that most readers will only have a handful of titles to add instead of trying to create a completely new list of 25 best games for SNES.
Chrono Trigger is, hands down, the best JRPG on the SNES. Everything is perfectly designed and if the game came out today all it took for it to become a best seller would be a visual upgrade. Everything else plays so well making visuals the only thing that prevents the original Chrono Trigger to be seen as a modern game from the 2010s.
And back in 1995 when Chrono Trigger came out, the game was ahead of its time. A quality story that triumphed over every other JRPG of the time, excellent visuals that pushed SNES to the max, strategic gameplay capable of sucking you into the world of the game for days on end, and a game world that is alive and capable of providing high levels of immersion.
Square Enix (back then just Square, remember this because we will see a couple more titles from Square on this list) always knew how to make a fantastic JRPG and with Chrono Trigger the company created a perfect swansong for one of the best consoles of all time.
When I first turned on my SNES back in 1996 (I think), the first cartridge to be inserted was Donkey Kong Country. I read about the game for so long and now, I finally had the chance of actually playing it. And it was as good as I hoped it would be, with the game becoming another title that would be played for hundreds of hours in years to come.
The game featured excellent platforming gameplay with cleverly designed levels, each one containing multiple secrets, and each new world featuring new and original environments. Donkey and Diddy were (and still are) perfect companions and the story was cool although a bit (well, more than a bit) simplistic, which was expected in a platforming game.
But the strongest selling point of Donkey Kong Country was the game's visuals. The unique method of creating 3D models and then turning them into 2D sprites made the game amazing when it comes to visuals and ahead of its time.
Everything looked detailed and 3D, which was super cool in 1995 when true 3D games could be counted on one hand, and this also allowed developers to create incredibly detailed environments and levels that looked way better than in any other similar game.
Another thing that 3D models allowed Rare is creating animations that were better than in any other game on the market.
Second and third games from the series also were superb platformers (especially the second part) but the first Donkey Kong Country is still a cult classic title that is played all over the world.
I played this one on Sega Mega Drive (Genesis for you NA folks) and it was one of the best games of my childhood. The movement and animation of Jim were on par with Donkey Kong Country. And visuals were also superb, with varied level design, unique enemies, large levels that were a bit daunting to play, and detailed looking characters.
The story was better than in most other platformers and it was enough to provide a backdrop for the action that happened on the screen. The game looked as good on SNES as on Sega Genesis and it ended up as one of the best platformers of the decade, no matter the platform. And despite the SNES had a superb platforming library Earthworm Jim was so good it definitely deserves a mention on this list.
Final Fantasy VI (Known as Final Fantasy III in the US) is a true masterpiece. Square Enix produced fifteen (more if you count spin-offs) Final Fantasy games and this one is probably among the top 3, which is a remarkable achievement. Everything about Final Fantasy VI is top notch.
Visuals were excellent back in the day, with detailed sprites and lifelike (for the time, mind you) animation. The world is huge and filled with stuff to do. But more important, it felt alive, which is still a hard thing to accomplish in most open world games.
One of the standout features of Final Fantasy VI was its playable roster of characters. Forget about the Octopath Traveler and its eight characters. In Final Fantasy VI, you could play with 14 characters, each with their own hopes and dreams, substories and motivations.
It was a joy to play the game and to uncover stories about every single one of them and then lead them against one of the most iconic baddies in any Final Fantasy game. And yes, the story was well-written with a great plot and lots of interesting NPCs, some of which had extremely interesting stories to tell.
To this day Final Fantasy VI remains one of the best JRPGs on the SNES and in gaming in general and rightfully so.
The best Castlevania for the SNES and one of the best Metroidvanias of all time was an instant hit back in 1991. The console just came out and this game was one of its killer games.
Developers took the previous game, enhanced it and added better control scheme as well as better platforming gameplay and spiced it all up with superb combat. Levels were huge and filled with smartly designed puzzles that were challenging but never went into the impossible category.
Visuals were amazing and they still hold their ground today and the music and soundtrack improved the atmosphere and made the game even more awesome.
And while Super Castlevania IV had many strongpoints its boss battles were the best part of the game. The final encounter with the Dracula is probably among the top five boss battles ever and, luckily for many, before encountering the lord of the dead you would battle a plethora of amazing bosses, each better from the last.
This is a gem of a game that should be played even today in case you missed it back when it originally came out.
Do you like Wipeout? Well, the futuristic racer wouldn't be made if it wasn't for F-Zero, the iconic racer that entertained millions of gamers back in the nineties. The sense of speed, the colorful visuals, the unique driving mechanics of each ship, and the SF backstory was a winning formula that turned F-Zero into a worldwide hit and one of the best games found on SNES. The iconic four ships are still an iconic sight for most kids who lived in the nineties.
Just solo racing on the game's first map (Mute City), struggling to restrain the super powerful machine capable of reaching insane speeds while at the same time trying to improve your record time was enough to play the game for a whole day.
And then you had numerous cups to win along with lots of tracks many of which were hard just to finish in one piece let alone triumph and finish on the first place.
This game was amazing and it still is. F-Zero started the futuristic hover racing trend and it was the main reason why racing games took off the tried and true racing cars formula and started to explore more exotic ways to quench racing fans' thirst for speed.
Jungle Strike and Desert Strike are some of the best games found on SNES. The first one took place in a desert region (Middle East) with the player leading an attack chopper across various missions across huge maps. The second one took the winning formula, expanded it a bit, and the end product is one of the best action games of the nineties.
Jungle Strike was like Ghost Recon Wildlands back in the day. Huge maps, superb visuals, and quality action. But instead of leading spec ops soldiers you played as a chopper pilot and oh boy was it fun.
Visuals were stunning but that wasn't why this game rocked back in the day. The US president was attacked and then you had to go to jungles of South America and discover what the hell is happening along with destroying numerous enemies.
A few plot twists made the game interesting through the end. But the story was secondary here; Gameplay and excellent level design are things where Jungle Strike excelled.
You had to take care of fuel and armor, had multiple objectives in each mission ranging from killing everything that moves to rescuing soldiers and taking down enemy supplies. Maps were huge and filled with different objects, bases, and resources. You could pick up fuel and ammo, discover side objectives, cruise the map looking for hidden places, and more.
The action was explosive and filled with danger. Most enemies, apart from infantry units, were deadly and the player had to think before attacking bases. And as a cherry on the cake, the game included a couple of missions were you swapped your chopper with stealth bombers and hovercrafts. Jungle Strike was fun as hell, challenging but rewarding, and one of the most interesting games on the SNES.
Like Super Mario All-Stars, Kirby Super Star was a collection of nine games starring Kirby. Now, the cute pink blob had some amazing titles both on the NES and SNES and the Super Star Collection took nine of them and offered them all in one package. And Super Star collection was a massive hit. Nine games, nine unique experiences, and all that starring Kirby.
You could play classic platformer games, do a bit of driving, explore wonderful worlds, and so much more. When it comes to content Kirby Super Star is probably the richest game for the SNES and the fact that all nine games present in the collection were awesome just made Kirby Super Star even better.
One of the most popular characters from Nintendo house is Star Fox and this was his first game. Star Fox came out in 1993 and it pushed graphical limits on consoles with its polygonal ship models that were a sight to behold back in the day.
Where other consoles offered simplistic sprite-based visuals Star Fox incorporated real 3D models with sprites used to make the game look even better. Sure, the visuals are laughable today but imagine kids playing the game and seeing wonders like 3D models, which were reserved for ultra-expensive personal computers. It was crazy.
But visuals alone cannot make a phenomenal game and Star Fox knows that. So it offers an excellent single-player campaign made out of various missions that lead you and your squad all over the solar system.
I remember playing Star Fox as a kid and being blown away not by graphics but by explosive gameplay that was hard as it gets but incredibly rewarding. You had to watch your ship and to get used to wonky controls but once the adjustment period ended you would become a legendary fighter pilot capable of conquering every mission. Surely the most advanced game on the system and the start of a legendary series.
Mega Man was a huge success on the NES but fans had to wait for a couple of years before Capcom decided to release a Mega Man game for the SNES. And all those years waiting paid out because Mega Man X presented a completely new take on one of the best platformer series ever.
Gameplay evolved and developers introduced new moves and powers such as dash and wall running. On top of that upgrades in the form of new armor parts and health upgrades were introduced, which made the game even better and give players another source of motivation to beat the game.
The game takes place 100 years after the last one and features completely new enemies and the main villain along with a sidekick in the form of Zero, who becomes playable in Mega Man X3.
Visuals also received a noticeable upgrade over NES games and the game looked amazing for the time. The combination of superb gameplay, new powers, and upgrades, as well as a completely new story, made Mega Man X instant success on the SNES. And while X2 and X3 are better games, Mega Man X is here because it started the golden age for Mega Man on the SNES.
C'mon, it's NBA Jam, you know the game ends up on every best of list. The magic of NBA Jam is hard to explain, its explosive gameplay combined with superb humor is still unbeaten.
The nineties were the golden years of NBA and the game is filled with legendary players who are still considered the best ballers to ever walk on Earth. It's NBA Jam and it's the best sports game on the SNES, period.
Square was the master of JRPGs, and it still is. But Secret of Mana is a completely different beast, at least when it comes to gameplay. Visually, the game features the classic Square 2D look with rich and detailed sprites and excellent 2D graphics. But instead of sticking with the classic JRPG gameplay Secret of Mana took the action RPG formula and adapted it for the SNES.
The RPG elements were simplified and the game played much like Zelda titles. Exploration and combat combined with puzzle solving and light RPG elements proved to be a winning combo because the game ended as a solid financial success.
Combat was superb, fast and precise and it was the best part of the game. And the fact that Secret of Mana supported up to 3 player co-op only made it better and one of the best co-op experiences of the SNES.
Shadowrun brought hardcore RPG experience on the SNES years before PC crowd started bathing in titles like Fallout and Planescape Torment. Shadowrun was an isometric RPG that followed the rules of the tabletop game and it was the best classic RPG for the SNES and one of the rare RPGs that managed to stand out among numerous JRPGs available for the system.
The game featured real-time action, it was set in a huge cyberpunk city and it followed an intricate technothriller story that was on par with the best stories found in Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy games.
And the setting, a cyberpunk world of the year 2050 that knows about magic and is home to different fantasy races (elves, dwarves, ogres, orcs, etc), was so much different than what SNES players experienced with numerous JPRGs.
Sadly, the game didn't end up being best seller but it earned a cult classic title years after it came out. Fortunately, the excellent setting of Shadowrun tabletop game was brought back to the video game world with the excellent Shadowrun Returns from 2013, and isometric RPG that kept the soul of this 1993 work of art.
Street Fighter II was the game that launched fighting games into mainstream. After it debuted in arcades around the world people started to notice this niche genre that today includes some of the most popular video game IPs of all time.
Back then you could waste a whole weekend simply playing Street Fighter with friends so when Capcom announced the game is coming to consoles people were ecstatic about the chance to play the game on their TVs.
And Street Fighter II was good but not stellar like its arcade cousin. Gameplay was slower and there weren't lots of fighters to pick from. All these weak sides were rectified by Street Fighter II Turbo, a new version of the game that brought new characters and put gameplay speed into overdrive. This was the ultimate version of the best fighting game ever and it played so damn good.
Combos were amazing, visuals were out of this world and the gameplay speed was finally on par with the arcade version. SNES received a major system seller with the Street Fighter II Turbo and the best fighting game of the generation shadowed only by the excellent Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.
All NES Mario Bros. games on one place is a recipe for success. This collection came out early in SNES lifecycle and it became an instant victory. Three Mario Bros. games along with The Lost Levels, the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 that never seen the light of day outside the land of the rising sun presented a huge value for kids of the day. You could buy this cartridge and play games on it for a whole year and not become bored.
But the collection wasn't a simple re-release of the games for the SNES. Each title received a noticeable graphical facelift along with additional save slots which were extremely valuable back in the day (if you had a brother or a sister back in the days of NES fights were usually triggered by them overwriting your save game, which was disastrous in case you managed to get near the end).
For me, Mario Kart for the GBA still is the best Mario Kart of all time but the SNES version was also pretty good. Visually, it looked similar to F-Zero with its pseudo-3D visuals. There were many interesting tracks and every character was great to play.
Sadly, the game didn't hold when it comes to visuals but it still is a blast to play, if you only can find a working SNES console along with working pads. But back in the day when we had those couch multiplayer was a killer feature and Super Mario Kart did it the best.
This is why many houses were always lit during weekends. Friends would come to sleepover and instead of sleeping they would play the game until the morning. And then you would live for the next weekend so you can beat your friends again, or simply play the game again. Oh, good ol' days.
Do you like the unforgiving difficulty of Bloodborne and Dark Souls? Do you like playing a game that is so hard it makes you destroy one controller per week? Are you excited when facing bosses capable of one hit you? Well then, I think you would like Super Ghouls n Ghosts, a Dark Souls of the time and the reason why Nintendo sold so many extra controllers for the SNES.
The first game of the series was considered as one of the toughest titles for the NES and the sequel continued the trend. Super Ghouls n Ghosts is hands down the toughest game for the SNES and many players who started it didn't even reach halfway before deciding to bury it somewhere safe and never again think about it.
But those who managed to beat Super Ghouls n Ghosts probably regard it as one of the best games ever. And that's true, to an extent. You see, once you spend hundreds of hours playing the game and become a zen master of Super Ghouls n Ghosts you will start to think this is the best game ever because the game becomes so rewarding once you learn all the tricks and moves.
But, in order to reach that level you had to spend months in front of the TV playing the same game instead of trying something new and cool.
Nintendo asked Square to develop a Super Mario RPG game because Square made all those awesome RPGs for the NES and SNES and the company agreed. The result is the first Mario RPG game and a title that defined future Mario RPG titles.
The story was solid but not as good as in Final Fantasy games and gameplay was extremely varied and loads of fun.
RPG mechanics weren't too complex and the combat wasn't too hard. These two things resonated well with gamers making this one a great experience that put Mario in a completely new role where he could walk in any direction and do some cool things he wasn't capable in classic Super Mario 2D games.
While this isn't the best Super Mario RPG, Legend of the Seven Stars is one hellishly cute game that looks pretty and plays great. A definite gem of the SNES library.
Super Mario Bros. games for NES were great and they created millions of Mario fans who wanted something special for the SNES. Nintendo had a tough job to make a game better than Super Mario Bros and they did it with Super Mario World.
Tight gameplay made the game to play even better than NES titles, complex levels filled with various platforming elements along with new powers, and visuals that were ahead of its time secured a worldwide success for the game.
The campaign was a blast to play and the game has huge replay value. And adding Yoshi is just a cherry on a cake that made Super Mario World a system seller and a worldwide hit.
The best Mario game for SNES. Visuals are hand drawn and cute as hell, and animation is simply perfect. The game also took the classic formula of Super Mario games and turned it on its head which, luckily, was a great thing to do because Yoshi's Island is one of the best Mario games ever. Instead of leading Mario into another epic adventure of saving the Princess (you know which one) Yoshi's Island went back in time.
The story follows baby Mario, who's been dropped on a mysterious island filled with colorful Yoshis. They decide to help baby Mario so instead of playing as Mario you play as Yoshi and your main objective (aside from finishing levels) is protecting Mario and preventing baddies from taking him.
Since he starred the show, Yoshi received a bunch of gameplay additions that made the game a joy to play. The story was cute and those moments were you drop Mario and he starts to cry and you try to take him back before baddies take him are some of the most memorable moments in any SNES game.
The visuals, the story, the perfect blend between exploration, combat, and puzzle solving, the stupendously amazing level design, and the excellent main character are only some things that made Super Metroid so good.
The environmental storytelling was something new for the time and Super Metroid pulled it off perfectly! You don't have to listen or read walls of text, no. Here the story is told in an organic way and all players have to do in order to uncover the story is to play the game.
Next, the world was designed so well that most exploration done in Super Metroid feels natural like you simply followed a path in a linear game and that's what numerous fans of the game love the most.
Super Metroid also features superb gameplay that combines combat and puzzle solving and that still holds its ground even today.
All these phenomenal parts click together perfectly to make one of the best games of all time and the most fun Metroid game to play out of them all. This is a timeless classic and should be played by anyone who calls themselves a gamer, period.
Punch-Out was the best boxing game for a long time until Fight Night took the throne and Super Punch-Out was the SNES version of the NES hit. The main upgrade was in the graphical department. The game received new and much more detailed sprites and well as the crowd that looks light years better than on the NES original.
Further, character models look like they came from the future. Super detailed sprites accompanied by excellent animation gave Super Punch-Out its strongest selling point. Luckily, combat remained excellent as in the original, which is the reason why this one ended on the list.
Each fight was a thing to remember and each fighter had their own formula for defeating them. An excellent game that sadly didn't have Mike Tyson, who was part of the original game, which is a shame.
This beat em up was released back when heroes in a half shell were at the top of their popularity. That meant large budget and pretty visuals but Turtles of Time delivered on every front. The game was pretty with cool-looking levels and extremely detailed Turtles. The story was okay but more than enough to get you to the end.
The game was a superb port of the arcade version and, unlike the original Street Fighter II, it played at full speed. The co-op mode was virtually the only one that was played because beating goons solo wasn't really interesting.
But with friends, this game became the ultimate time waster. You would beat it and then immediately start over, this time picking a different turtle, or simply giving the pad to a friend. And then you would beat it again, and start over.
Varied levels (at least when it comes to graphics) and a crazy large number of different enemies were the best parts of the game along with the inclusion of bosses from the TV show and some cool one-liners turtles would pronounce when they defeat enemies.
Overall, Turtles In Time is a great package and the best beat em up for the SNES. It's a shame that the SNES version of the Power Rangers: The Movie was a letdown compared to the awesome Sega Mega Drive version because that one is one of the rare games that can match Turtles in Time.
Adding features and creating deep and complex gameplay loop isn't always the best course of action and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is probably the best proof that, sometimes, it's better to not complicate things.
The game didn't try to reinvent the wheel and to add new gameplay mechanics. Instead, developers sharpened the experience of the first game while ignoring most changes introduced in the Legend of Zelda II.
The result was a simple yet highly addictive action adventure that offered a plethora of cool items and weapons, many puzzles that were a blast to solve, a well-written story that was epic in the best way possible, and an expansive world that added immensely to the level of immersion.
On top of all that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past featured amazing combat with superb boss battles as well as excellent graphics. An all-around product that ended up as one of the SNES best sellers and one of the best Zelda games ever.
After the epic Mortal Kombat 2, Midway released Mortal Kombat 3 that was way worse than its predecessor. The game received an updated version titled Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and it can be said that this one is the best Mortal Kombat game of the nineties.
A bunch of fighters to choose from, unmatched gameplay that was fast and bloody and required knowledge about combos (which was a bit tricky in days before the internet), and ultra-brutal fatalities that weren't seen in any other game made Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 the best Mortal Kombat on the SNES.
You could play with friends and waste whole days trying to perform the most ruthless fatalities and brutalities, you could tackle towers and play cooperatively with friends to defeat Shao Kahn (playing cooperatively here means giving the pad to a friend after you get defeated), and you could sit back and just watch friends battling to the death.
The game looked amazing, played even better, and its character roster was by far the largest in any fighting game of the time. While many claim that Mortal Kombat 2 was the pinnacle for the SNES, I simply have to refute the claim because Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was miles better.