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Top 10 Video Games for the SNES

  • Date Published: February 16, 2020
  • Last Edited: February 16, 2020
  • Topic(s): Video Games, Nintendo, Super Nintendo

The best of the 16-bit era

Arguably one of the greatest consoles of any generation has to be the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or more commonly known as the SNES. Released in Japan on November 21, 1990, it received critical acclaim upon launch due to it being sold with copies of the widely anticipated Super Mario World.

The SNES boasted with 16-bit graphics, and superior programming allowed for brand new ways to play. Mode 7 was one of the key selling points for the SNES as it allowed background layers to be rotated and scaled to create different effects and perspectives. It’s most popular application was used to create racing and pilot simulators.

Games that used Mode 7, like Mario Kart, allowed players to see a horizon. With this technology, companies like Microsoft were able to produce Microsoft Flight Simulator to help train real-life pilots. 👨‍✈️✈️

The SNES had an incredible library of video games. In case you’re beginning to learn or already a seasoned pro, this information is to educate about the influential, intuitive, and most incredible games that have stood the test of time. Are you looking to playing the cream of the crop of retro games? Here is a list of the best SNES video games of all time.

10. Super Street Fighter II

  1. Genre: Fighting
  2. Release: March 1991
  3. Developer: Capcom
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Ryu Stage Theme, Guile Stage Theme

Street Fighter II became known as the best selling fighting game in the 1990s, with sales exceeding over $10 billion in revenue. The game dominated the arcades eating up many quarters. With the release of the SNES version, the arcade was available at home. The SNES version sold over 6.3 million copies, making it Capcom’s bestselling game for the next two decades and their bestselling game on a single platform.

It vastly improved upon its first installment and is regarded as one of the most important and influential video games made. Its list of an unforgettable cast of characters, special moves, amazing VGM (Video Game Music) made it a hallmark for fighting games to come.

9. Yoshi’s Island

  1. Genre: Platform
  2. Release: August 5, 1995
  3. Developer: Nintendo EAD
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Castle Theme, Baby Bowser Theme

Putting you in control of Yoshi for the first time, players set off on a stylish and quirky adventure with the trusty dinosaur and Baby Mario. The sequel to Super Mario World was nothing like its predecessor, but that’s in part why it makes it so memorable. The art style is unique, defining Yoshi and his adventures as the most creative art styles to date. His iconic moveset, such as throwing eggs or the flutter kick, gave this character even more personality.

Yoshi’s Island is a great platform to own. The sound design and music also excel. Each level continues to build upon the Mario universe in more complex ways. Great level and enemy design. The final battle between Yoshi and Baby Bowser was also an excellent touch. People would get good at this game so they wouldn’t have to deal with Baby Mario crying.

8. Super Mario Kart

  1. Genre: Platform
  2. Release: August 27, 1992
  3. Developer: Nintendo EAD
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Mario Circuit Theme, Koopa Beach Theme

Everyone young and old loves to get behind the wheel and drive around with his Mushroom Kingdom pals. The races in Super Mario Kart are challenging to accomplish the tracks in 1st place. Players could throw items like the Koopa shells and bananas at opponents to help them. The catchy tunes from Mario’s universe still played a vital role in keeping racers on the edge of their seats.

Arguably one of the greatest game franchises to come into existence. Finally, Mario and his arch-nemesis Bowser could spend a beautiful afternoon driving together. If you were a SNES owner, you just had to own a copy of Super Mario Kart for when your friends came over.

7. Final Fantasy IV

  1. Genre: Role-playing
  2. Release: July 19, 1991
  3. Developer: Square
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: FFIV Prelude, FFIV Kingdom Baron

If you’re ever going to start to play a Final Fantasy game, you should begin with Final Fantasy IV (or known in the USA as Final Fantasy II). Final Fantasy IV has a well thought out story, complex characters and drama, and a traditional JRPG battle system (for those purists).

You take control of various characters during the course of the game, watching them develop their story. Each chapter in this video game has you on your seat, and the surprises keep getting even more intense. The Mode-7 airship flights provided jaw-dropping visuals. Add in fun combat, a terrifying villain, and an unforgettable soundtrack, and Final Fantasy IV withstands the test of time.

6. Donkey Kong Country

  1. Genre: Platform
  2. Release: November 21, 1994
  3. Developer: Rare
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Island Swing, Aquatic Ambiance, Ice Cave Chant, Fear Factory

This is a one of a kind experience that truly is a remarkable piece of artwork. I’ve spent countless hours collecting bananas and replaying levels over and over again, still challenging and filled with secrets to learn. It was and still is considered the best graphical achievement for the system at the time. Its platforming has tight controls, and perfect for two-player couch gaming. By pressing the Select button, you’re able to switch control of the characters, passing it on to the second player without having to pass the controller.

The music composed by Dave Wise is incredible as well. I’ve listened to his works for hours on Youtube while doing my thesis. It’s a deep atmospheric orchestra; all the instruments are creatively used and fit each level perfectly. The whole trilogy is insane, but Donkey Kong Country is where it all started.

5. Earthbound

  1. Genre: Role-playing
  2. Release: August 27, 1994
  3. Developer: Nintendo EAD
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Kraken of the Sea, Bazaar

This is my favorite Role-playing game of all time — one of the most creative forms of storytelling I’ve ever seen. While most RPGs take place in medieval times, Earthbound is set in modern times in urban environments and with surreal, dreamlike characters, situations, and locations. Earthbound’s script is funny, never always needing to take itself too seriously.

There are heartbreaking moments, moments that make you think about life, and the ending is one of the best I’ve seen in any video game. The transcendental development of the main characters is phenomenal, making you appreciate the grind in this game. Each time enemy encounter has a mesmerizing psychedelic background. It boasts a very groovy and experimental soundtrack throughout the whole game. Due to poor marketing strategy, it had horrible sales, but Earthbound is considered a cult classic amongst the most hardcore RPG fans.

4. Chrono Trigger

  1. Genre: Role-playing
  2. Release: March 11, 1995
  3. Developer: Square
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Chrono Trigger Theme, Enhasa (Time Circuits)

This is known as one of the most excellent RPG’s ever made. Known as the “Dream team” was tasked to developing a revolutionary RPG. The complex story with 13 different endings! It has depth to each of its character’s development and their background. And the ability to travel through time from the pre-historic to the pos-apocalypse. Its unique battle system had the battles happening on screen instead of a separate one, which was traditional at the time. The use of characters mixing their powers to create more devasting moves was a sight to beyond.

You’d have a tough time coming across someone who would say Chrono Trigger isn’t possibly the most excellent RPG ever created. Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Yuji Hori (Dragon Quest), and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) — were part of the creative team responsible for Trigger’s conception and development.

3. Super Metroid

  1. Genre: Platform
  2. Release: March 19, 1994
  3. Developer: Nintendo R&D1
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Super Metroid, Norfair Ancient Ruins

Super Metroids cinematic experience blended gameplay and its story without any dialogue. Its exploration and backtracking are one of the most herald forms in platforming, even creating a genre called Metroidvania. The atmosphere while exploring the Alien Inhabitat planet of Zebes felt like a breathing organism with enemies sprawling to life and attacking almost organically at Samus. This is a game of pure art so very well polished that it’d be a shame ever to pass up. It’s no wonder that it takes decades for the next release. And quite frankly, I’m ok with that.

2. Super Mario World

  1. Genre: Platform
  2. Release: November 21, 1990
  3. Developer: Nintendo EAD
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Overworld Theme, Athletic Theme, Fortress Theme

There is no other game like a Mario game. Everything about Super Mario World is practically flawless. It has incredible use of tight platforming controls, improved couch multiplayer, best pal Yoshi, secrets (so many secrets), colorful art style, intuitive gameplay, and unforgettable soundtracks composed by Koji Kondo. It’s impossible to hate this game or even put down the controller.

The pinnacle of platform gaming starts and will always end with the red plumber. After release Super Mario Bros 3. for the NES, many people thought, “How do you perfect a Masterpiece?” Super Mario World would outdo any other video game that would be released for the remainder of the SNES’s entire life cycle. Super Mario World didn’t just reinvent the platform as the whole genre, but it made it fresh with excellent relaxed visuals and audio, an enchanting world to explore, and it came included with every SNES. It’s no wonder Nintendo dominates the market and our childhood.

Honorable Mentions

Secret of Mana

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Square-Enix was dominating the market by producing the highest quality of RPG’s ever created. One of their most beloved titles was another SNES exclusive. With the ability to move freely during combat, it set it apart from other games. Secret of Mana’s story, music, and colorful setting sprung to life. It was also the only game on the SNES, allowing three people to play an RPG together. 

Megaman X

Megaman X was a reinvention of Mega Man for the NES. The mechanics built upon the original were improved and had a fantastic rocking soundtrack to keep you pumped from beginning to end. Megaman X also has a more extensive arsenal of abilities and weapons. Plus, Capcom even left players with a secret move allowing X to do Ryu’s Hadouken from Street Fighter II.

Starfox

Nintendo continues to push the envelope with what we think isn’t possible and making it a reality. Back when it was supposed to be the 16-bit era, Star Fox came and was the first game to have polygons on screen. Players took charge of the anthropomorphic Fox McCloud and his team of fighter pilots on their journey to save the galaxy. Star Fox was made possible thanks to the Super FX, a graphics support unit, added to later released SNES consoles to provide 3D polygon graphics.

F-Zero

Back when racing games still were starting to get its feet, F-Zero came, and once again, Nintendo left its mark on another genre. F-Zero is a fast-paced racing game where players must drive through a futuristic space track. It’s a challenging and adrenaline rushing game. The series, unfortunately, has been lying dormant for years. Hopefully, one day Nintendo will decide to revive it. This is also the first time Captain Falcon showed us his moves.

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

  1. Genre: Action-adventure
  2. Release: November 21, 1991
  3. Developer: Nintendo EAD
  4. Gameplay: Longplay
  5. VGM: Menu Screen, Lost Woods, Dark World Field

Without a shred of doubt, this is the most excellent game on the SNES. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is an amazing game for its story, art style, intuitive gameplay, dungeon design, soundtrack, items, and parallel worlds. This game transcends time, and just listening to the soundtrack can bring a tear to one’s eye.

Many of the most noteworthy characteristics of the Zelda formula came from A Link to the Past. This installment introduced us to the fairy bottles, mirror shield, the Hookshot, heart pieces, parallel worlds, and the Master Sword. To this date, I have yet to come across a title as innovative, captivating, and impressive as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Few video game series carry the reverence the video game industry holds for The Legend of Zelda. With the sole exception of the Super Mario games, no other franchise in the world produces such consistently high-quality video games and does so for 35 years.

We could discuss for hours which Zelda game is the best today. You’ll find many people would argue and say Ocarina of Time or Breath of the Wild is the best. But for a long time, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the pinnacle of the series and the absolute best video game in the Super Nintendo’s stellar library.

A library of childhood memories

There are so many more beautiful games that are available to play for the SNES. These games are available when you purchase Nintendo Switch Online. What do you think about this list of the best video games for the SNES? Do you agree or disagree? Did we miss any of your favorite games? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear about your thoughts.

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