Continuing the success of a great console, namely the NES, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had quite the shoes to fill. And it did fill them, with more to spare. The SNES has a lot of great titles, but some of the best SNES games are the ones below.
The SNES marked the early and mid-1990s with games ranging from platformers, RPGs, shooters, and fighter games, most of which redefined genres and were responsible for pushing the industry forward. These greatest hits are best experienced with a SNES emulator.
Super Mario World
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Super Mario World expands on the Mario universe by adding elements that were unavailable due to the technical limitations of the NES. An overhead map is added, showing you the playable world. The other game mode consists of playable, side-scrolling maps, and a familiar Mario experience.
The game has more elements than the previous title, such as Yoshi, the now-famous dinosaur that Mario rides. Power-ups are back and new ones are introduced, such as the Cape Flower which turns Mario into Superman, more or less. You can now store power-ups, in case you need them going forward.
Super Mario Kart
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Mario racing games had to start somewhere and Super Mario Kart is the first game in the Mario Kart series and is one of the best Super Nintendo games. The game features characters from the series, namely eight of them, racing in go-karts. The characters all have distinct driving skills.
There are many levels that are thematically similar to known Mario universe levels, as well as appropriate music. Characters from the universe make their appearance as background props and game elements. Power-ups are also present, giving players new tools to win a race.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Developer: Nintendo EAD
A Link to the Past is a very interesting game in the Zelda series, which returns to the classic gameplay of the original title. The plot is much different and takes place in the defeated hero universe where Ganon essentially won.
Link is back and can now move diagonally while also wielding more weapons. Weapons can be upgraded and new items are available. Dungeons now have multiple levels and are harder. Link can travel between the Light and Dark World, in fact, it is necessary to advance the plot.
A significant part of the gameplay relies on traveling between worlds, which gives you a parallel version of the existing one, with different characters and enemies. With its gameplay, level design, and music, it topped the charts and is one of the best NES games.
Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
Capcom’s Street Fighter II was a great game and Super Street Fighter II expanded on the character count. It also rebalanced existing characters, making sure that no character is overpowered. It was a favorite among arcade fans.
The SNES edition received a special controller built by Capcom for consoles that typically didn’t use six-button controllers. The version also has some notable differences, namely all blood being replaced by sweat and music stops in between rounds.
Developer: Nintendo R&D1/Intelligent Systems
Samus Aran is back and this time, with more Space Pirates to defeat. Ridley is back, one of the bosses of the previous game, and once again a Metroid is stolen and used for evil goals. Samus is called back to Zebes to catch Ridley and the Metroid.
Much like the previous game, this one also features an open world connected by doors and elevators. Power-ups are back, and more varied than in the first game. Samus can now swing, jump very high or morph into a ball to pass through small areas.
Final Fantasy VI
Going back to RPG land, Final Fantasy VI is a masterpiece. Leaving the strictly fantasy worlds of previous titles, this one is much more creative. A combination of steampunk and fantasy, set in a 19th-century-like world, the very concept is alluring.
Gameplay is similar to most Square RPGs of the time, with an overworld map, a town or area map, and a battle scene. Battles are turn-based and the party has regular attacks as well as magic or tech attacks. It is a must-play title in the series.
Building on its successful RPG train, Square made another hit called Chrono Trigger. Set in a world where anything is possible, a young man leaves through a portal to save a girl. Once the adventure starts, you realize that it is much broader than expected with the introduction.
The gameplay is similar to Final Fantasy VI in both navigation and combat. Like the previous game on the list, it has amazing music, courtesy of Nobuo Uematsu, who made these games come alive in a different way. Both FF VI and Chrono Trigger are some of the best SNES games.
Developer: Virgin Games USA
Publisher: Virgin Games
RPGs can get complex at times and if they have 11 endings, people might want to play something simpler. Cool Spot is just that, a spot with sunglasses. The goal of the game is to save other spots and get to the end of a level.
A simple platformer, it offered a breath of fresh air in a world where games were starting to take themselves too seriously. Even though it was a living advertisement for 7UP, it is still a great game that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is.
Publisher: Hudson Soft/Sony Electronic Publishing
Super Bomberman continues the tradition of Bomberman games being released for every platform. Like most Bomberman games, your goal is to exit the level you are on by finding the door hidden inside the destructible walls.
Bombs can be placed together or chained for a more destructive effect. The flame spread can also be upgraded, so much so that the player might have trouble getting away from it. It is a safe game when it comes to gameplay, but still one of the best SNES games overall.
Developer: iD Software
Publisher: iD Software
Doom is a game that many have missed out on, especially the original title. The new Doom games are great, but that greatness started in 1993, with the original Doom, and its 1995 SNES port. The SNES port was an official one and the game was later ported to all sorts of devices after iD open-sourced the code in 1997.
Doom puts you in the shoes of the marine, known as Doomguy, who doesn’t talk but shoots all sorts of guns, energy weapons as well as a chainsaw. The plot is minimal and storytelling takes a back seat while action is the primary goal. It is a great title, one that should be played by everyone who likes the franchise.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Developer: Nintendo EAD
This is a different take on a known genre and known series. It puts the player in control of Yoshi, the friendly dinosaur which Mario rode in the previous game. The game’s name is indicative of its playable character.
The plot is set in the past where storks carrying baby Mario and baby Luigi are attacked by Kamek. They fall out and baby Luigi is taken away. Yoshi catches baby Mario and carries him on his back throughout the game’s 42 levels in a classic platformer experience with a new perspective.
Developer: Konami Gaming
Sunset Riders takes us to the Old West in America, where we assume the roles of bounty hunters. There are four playable characters, two of whom carry revolvers, one a rifle, and the last one a double-barrel shotgun.
The goal of the game is to run and gun all the enemies and eventually defeat the outlaw whose bounty you want to claim. There are eight bounties to complete, namely eight bosses to beat. You can slide, jump, shoot, and climb obstacles to avoid fire.
Contra III: The Alien Wars
With its name, you can assume that this Contra title puts us against aliens who have invaded Earth. Lance Bean and Bill Rizier are the two playable characters, who in a typical Contra fashion, run around, gunning enemies while dodging any incoming damage.
Most of the stages are side-scrolling but two of them are top-down, adding a different perspective to regular Contra gameplay. The top-down stages allow you to change the camera angle. Every stage has a boss or even a mid-boss, making it another difficult Contra title.
Donkey Kong Country
The Donkey Kong franchise was very popular and this was a highly anticipated title. Advertisements for the title were expensive all over the world. The game offered a different perspective from the first one and was met with great commercial success.
You take the roles of Donkey and Diddy Kong, who want to get their bananas back from the crocodiles, the Kremlings. It is a side-scrolling platformer with puzzles that are captivating and frustrating, as we have come to expect from Rare. It is also one of the best SNES games.
Kirby Super Star
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Kirby games were also popular in the 1990s and Kirby Super Star offered players a collection of seven games and two mini-games. The games range from a platformer to a Metroid-esque exploration game, a racing game, a shooter, as well as a boss battle.
It was very well received. People like to play multiple games, especially if they pay the price of one game. It was a commercial success and interestingly, it was one of the last best SNES games, released shortly before the Nintendo 64.
Mega Man X
Mega Man X is a solid successor to the NES game Mega Man. It is set in the distant future, about one hundred years after the previous game. A scientist finds a robot left by Dr. Light and uses it to create robots with free will, some of which go rogue, also known as mavericks.
X is the original robot left by Dr. Light, who joins Zero, a hunter, and goes forth to take care of all the mavericks, as well as Sigma, the most dangerous of them all. As a run-and-gun title, it improves on the original game, with more gameplay elements and variety.
Rare is known for releasing interesting titles and this one is not different in that regard. Think of it as a combination of Street Fighter when it comes to moves and combos, and Mortal Kombat when it comes to finishers after winning a battle.
A double health bar is present and a plethora of completely new characters, all competing in the Killer Instinct tournament, hosted by Ultratech. Ultratech is also testing its own creatures in the tournament. It is a fun and refreshing game, something Rare often managed to deliver.
Developer: Gremlin Graphics
Even the SNES has a racing game and one named after a very popular TV show. Top Gear is a racing game where you move up/forward like you do in most racing games of the time. The goal is to become the fastest racer in the world, racing in different countries.
Top Gear uses the soundtrack of the game Lotus, slightly remixed and adapted. The gameplay involves pit stops, refuels, manual or automatic transmissions, as well as nitro. Running out of fuel ends your race. It was the first release in the series, essentially launching it.
Developer: Ape Inc.
EarthBound is a non-traditional RPG that takes place in the Mother universe. Being the second game in the series, it continues its amazing storytelling and subverts expectations once more. It features a 2D oblique perspective and no world map.
Not only that but it is set in the modern-day 1990s, with goofy elements that resonate with a non-gamer audience. The enemies are unconventional, as well as the “magic” and combat in general. It is one of the best SNES games and a must-play for those tired of regular RPGs.
Super Castlevania IV
Super Castlevania IV is the SNES adaptation or rework of the NES game Castlevania. Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter, is out to get Dracula, whipping things along the way, and swinging through levels.
Secondary weapons are available at the cost of Simon’s hearts. The whip can be used to hit enemies, swing from place to place, and even block projectiles. It is Castlevania’s lightsaber. The game was a great success and one of the best Super Nintendo games.
At least some of the best SNES games are on this list, but have no fear if it is not enough, the SNES library is huge. With a SNES emulator, these twenty games can be played with perfect emulation and modern features. Most of them are available as remakes, on PC, consoles, as single games, or as parts of a bundle.
The SNES was a great console and if these games are used as a benchmark, there aren’t many titles that surpass them or even meet them on equal footing. These titles can be played with an emulator, with the original console, or by purchasing a Nintendo Switch and downloading the official pack for free.