The Top 25 Super Nintendo Games Of All Time
August 23 is the 25th anniversary of one of Nintendo's most beloved consoles, the SNES. In honor of this important gaming machine, we compiled a list of the best games to ever hit Nintendo's old gray box. It might be time to dust off your machine and see how well many of these classics hold up.
25. Secret of Mana
This action/RPG featured fantastic gameplay and stellar visuals, combat, and music to boot. Not only was Secret of Mana a stellar action/RPG, but it featured three-player co-op, which is still unheard for for a game of this type. We’re still impressed with how well it holds up today. (Watch us replay the game here.)
24. Donkey Kong Country
Most of Nintendo's early platformers were renowned for their stellar gameplay, but Donkey Kong Country was known more for its 3D-like graphics than anything else. While it was no slouch in the gameplay department, we were more entranced by the then-impressive character models for DK and his enemies. (Watch us replay the game here.)
23. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Despite being released when most of the gaming world’s eye was on the newer 32-bit systems, this Yoshi-centric sequel lived up to its pedigree. Many gamers hear Baby Mario’s shrill cries in their nightmares to this day. (Watch us replay the game here.)
22. NBA Jam
In the height of the arcade era, Midway’s over-the-top basketball game was so good that even those who were sports averse got into drilling three pointers from half court and shattering backboards. NBA Jam’s iconic catchphrases like, “He’s on fire,” and “Boomshakalaka,” are still drilled into our heads.
A god-like being known as "The Master" wages an epic war against the evil forces of Tanzra in Quintet’s 16-bit experiment that combines “god game” town management with 2D side-scrolling action. For the time it was graphically amazing, and the combat and world building was mind-blowing back in 1991. Plus, we’ll never forget those incredible boss battles. (Watch us replay the game here.)
20. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
An unlikley match made in heaven is probably the best way to describe the story-driven Super Mario RPG. Both Square and Nintendo were in their primes, and putting Mario into a turn-based RPG worked out perfectly, spawning the Paper Mario series. (Watch us replay the game here.)
19. Super Castlevania IV
Spinning stages, screen-filling bosses, and one of the best soundtracks to ever grace a video game made Super Castlevania IV one of the finest 16-bit action/platformers. Purists laud its devotion to perfecting the formula created by the 8-bit original, and the creativity in the level and enemy design cannot be denied. (Watch us replay the game here.)
18. Star Fox
When this space shooter filled with anthropomorphic animals first hit the scene in 1993 it was a technical showcase. A Super FX chip built into the cartridge itself helped provide many gamers with their first glimpse of 3D graphics. And it didn’t hurt that the on-rails shooting was a lot of fun. (Watch us replay the game here.)
17. Final Fight
Haggar and Cody had their work cut out for them beating down the most diverse street gang known to man including urban cowboys, Andre the Giant wannabes, and a wheelchair-bound, crossbow-toting millionaire. Guy had to sit out the original port of the arcade game, though he was added in a later edition.
16. NHL '94
EA Canada’s premier hockey game is in the short list of games that always comes up when people talk about the best sports game ever, which isn’t surprising given how tight the controls were. NHL '94 also introduced the "one timer" move, which allows players to shoot the puck directly off of a pass.
One of the early examples of the Mode-7 tech, Pilotwings let players earn their wings in smoothly scrolling and scaling landscapes. The variety of aircraft and challenges made it easy to look past how suspiciously flat everything was.
Adapted from the tabletop role-playing game of the same name, Beam Software’s quirky RPG felt like something that hadn’t been done before. Not only was it a cyberpunk adventure back when cyberpunk was still a fresh concept, but its open design and interesting cast of characters help the game feel a lot more free-form than most RPGs of the era. (Watch us replay the game here.)
13. Mega Man X
This futuristic offshoot ushered the franchise into the 16-bit era and came into its own, sporting around the same number of entries as Mega Man proper. New mobility options like dash movements and wall slides, plus new armor options, helped X make an impressive debut.
Known as “the game with the big box,” Earthbound shipped with a strategy guide, scratch-and-sniff insert, and one of the most charming games around. Ness and friends saved the planet while staying in touch with mom and dad in this hilarious RPG. (Watch us replay the game here.)
11. Mortal Kombat II
When it was released in 1992, Mortal Kombat drew more attention for its over-the-top violence and gore than for its actual gameplay. Its sequel expanded even more on the bloodshed and dismemberment, but it also refined the combat significantly. Friendships and Babalities were introduced, beginning the series’ rapid slide into outright silliness, but there was a truly solid fighting game at its core.
10. Tetris Attack
While the name may be misleading because the game barely references the classic puzzle title, Tetris Attack could make even the most quiet and reserved friends turn into smack-talking competition freaks.
9. Final Fantasy II
None of the early console RPGs captured gamers’ imaginations like the adventures of Cecil and his band of heroic friends. A huge cast of characters kept this story of redemption and love compelling for hour upon hour of monster slaying goodness. The expansive game world included everything from an underground landscape of stone and lava to a thrilling conclusion on the moon.
8. Super Bomberman
Before it became a genre, “party game” was synonymous with Super Bomberman. In fact, Super Bomberman was often what created the party in the first place. If you bought a multitap, it was for Super Bomberman. The game has reappeared on countless platforms thanks to the endless gratification that comes from trapping friends in the middle of a string of bombs, and laughing maniacally as they explode. More games need that.
7. Super Mario World
Incredible graphics, sound, and gameplay signaled that lightning could strike twice on Nintendo’s second home console. Since players could finally save their progress, Nintendo crammed Super Mario World with loads of content. Many stages had multiple exits that unlocked secret paths – most notably the unusual and challenging Star Road. And don’t forget the first appearance of Mario’s dino pal, Yoshi. (Watch us replay the game here.)
6. Super Mario Kart
Combining wacky combat racing with adorable characters and inventive tracks was so successful that Super Mario Kart created a genre that remains a gaming stalwart to this day. The design skillfully walks the tightrope between “fun for all ages” and “victory is solely determined by a die roll” that so many games of all eras and genres fail to achieve. Super Mario Kart is one of the all-time greats at entrancing a group of friends on a couch, Mode-7 graphics or no.
5. Street Fighter II
This is where the fighting craze began. People crowded into arcades to watch frenzied bouts between Street Fighter II’s world warriors, waiting for a turn to demonstrate their skills and put their quarters on the line. All eight fighters had a diverse arsenal of special moves that could be executed in a flash with specific joystick motions and button presses. It may not sound revolutionary now, but that’s because every fighting game since owes its existence to Street Fighter II. (Watch us replay the game here.)
4. Super Metroid
Samus Aran’s first adventure may have broken barriers, but her outing on the Super Nintendo established a framework that would inspire franchises from Castlevania to Shadow Complex. Super Metroid delivered a perfect storm of upgrades and secrets, and provided players with an unparalleled freedom to explore an entire world of unearthly curiosities. (Watch us replay the game here.)
3. Chrono Trigger
Calling Chrono Trigger a JRPG is a disservice. While it fits nicely into anime design conventions and features turn-based battles, this ground-breaking SNES game also eschews many of the elements that drive people away from the genre. Between the lack of random battles and the surprisingly well-written time-travel story, there’s plenty here for even those who typically dislike JRPGs to fall in love with. If the great plot and fast-paced fights aren’t enough to convince you, Square also used Chrono Trigger to introduce the idea of “new game plus,” opening the game up to multiple replays in order to unlock a dozen possible endings. (Watch us replay the game here.)
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
The original Zelda had a tremendous impact on gaming, but the franchise’s SNES debut polished and improved upon its core elements to a degree few could have expected. Link still scoured dungeons for keys, bested giant bosses, and saved the girl, but it was done on a much larger scale than the original. The overworld was bigger and littered with countless secrets, the visuals were stunning, and the alternate Dark World introduced an element of gameplay not seen before in the series. Thankfully, gamers had access to an arsenal of fun weapons and gadgets to help them on their quest to defeat Ganon. A sure-fire sign of a great game is its ability to stand the test of time, and Link to the Past remains a blast today. (Watch us replay the game here.)
1. Final Fantasy III
Each entry in the long-running Final Fantasy series adds new features, gets prettier graphics, and innovates on the RPG genre, but they are all chasing the glory of Final Fantasy III. This installment (also known as Final Fantasy VI in Japan) perfected the 2D role-playing game. An amazing cast of characters with unique abilities gave battles unprecedented depth, the soundtrack set a new standard in video game music, and just when you thought the story was getting predictable, the whole world got destroyed. Packed with legendary moments like the opera-house sequence, flying a Mode-7 airship, and confronting an angelic lunatic jester, Final Fantasy III was the best role-playing game of its day – and no one has topped it yet.