15 Best SNES Games That You Cannot Miss

Best Choice

Chrono Trigger

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Premium Pick


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Best Value

Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II)

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Many modern-day games focus on high-resolution 3D graphics and complex gameplay mechanics. However, while those games are fun to play, the classics will always have a special place in gamers’ hearts. Old Nintendo consoles like the SNES, NES, SNES mini, and SNES classic offered some of the best games of their time. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in particular was one of the front-runners in the game industry. It introduced audio and advanced graphical capabilities paving the way for future consoles. 

Fast forward to 2020, we no longer have the SNES in circulation (although retro-gamers and collectors might still have it). Nintendo’s latest console is the Nintendo Switch. However, this doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to SNES forever. There are always emulators to save the day. Additionally, Nintendo has been re-introducing old NES and SNES games to its Nintendo Switch Online service. 

With the online service, you can finally play this games on Switch to your heart’s content. Although, keep in mind that Nintendo hasn’t added all the games to the online service. Nevertheless, it’s no reason to fret since they added many games to play and are still adding more. Just recently they announced additional SNES games for May 2020. Don’t know where to start?


Here’s A List of The 15 Best SNES Games for 2020

Despite being released late into the SNES era, Chrono Trigger is one of the best SNES RPGs to hit the console. It was developed by Square and was worked on by some of the most prominent names in the industry, namely, Yuji Hori of Dragon Quest, Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy, and Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball. 

The storyline follows a boy who ventures on a historical quest. It’s not linear either, with 13 possible endings to the storyline. With marvelous pacing and action-packed gameplay, Chrono Trigger has stood the test of time and stands alongside many classics. 

If you want an RPG with a beautiful storyline littered with subtle complex themes, you shouldn’t miss Earthbound. Most RPGs out there come with sci-fi fantasy genres. Earthbound is one of the unique SNES games in that it’s set in modern-day life (at the time, of course). As you play the game, a few eerie sci-fi tones are also tossed in, which was rare back then.

The story follows four kids out to save the world, which seems lighthearted at first glance. However, as the story progresses, you’ll get subtle tones of dark, complex topics like abandonment, the difficulties of maturity, etc. Don’t mistake it for being a dark, gritty game, though. It’s portrayed in the most subtle and lighthearted way.

Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II as released in the West) is considered a game-changer to the series. It added new elements to the story and gameplay that stuck ever since. Nowadays, Final Fantasy IV’s story might seem commonplace, but back then, it was a groundbreaking story that wasn’t common in SNES games and video games as a whole.

Fast forward to today and it’s no doubt Final Fantasy is a widely known, well-respected title. The characters of the fantasy RPG have stood the test of time and so have the mechanics. Final Fantasy IV introduced many long-standing gameplay mechanics for the first time. Things like allowing multiple playable characters and the Active Time Battle System. 

The story follows Cecil, a dark knight who was separated from his friend Kain, the Dragoon (Dragon Knight). As the game progresses, the two are pitted against one another. It also adds an ensemble of characters like Palom and Porom, Rosa, and Rydia. The aim of the game is to save the world from Golbez, the game’s antagonist. 

One of the best SNES games to come out was Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III in the West). Like Final Fantasy IV, this game redefines the title, pushing it forward to sci-fi territory instead of mainly fantasy. The game employs a steampunk setting mixed with traditional fantasy tropes such as a feudal village.

In terms of narrative, Final Fantasy VI has one of the most mature themes in SNES games. Each of the 14 characters (all playable) have their own storyline that all interconnect. The game also adds many side characters playing defining roles within not just this title but the whole series. One of the most notable characters in the game is Kefka, whose sadism strikingly burns himself into the mind of the player. 

Final Fantasy VI is truly one of the best SNES games. It’s even played a role in pushing for RPG games to become widespread in the US. The game certainly isn’t something you should miss out on the next time you play SNES games.

Many SNES games redefined their titles and Mega Man X is no exception. It offered a different view of Mega Man and introduced more characters and gameplay mechanics. The now-familiar wall jumping and dashing you see on Mega Man games was introduced with this game. These new modes of traversing the world opened up new ways of interacting with the game.

As you play Mega Man X, you’re met with gameplay that’s fast-paced and tense. Couple it with some loud rock music and you’re sure to get your adrenaline pumping. The game also offers challenges for the player to hone their skills as you’re met with difficult bosses. These include the Chill Penguin and the Sting Chameleon who are undoubtedly hard to beat when you’re unskilled. 

Vast open worlds aren’t always commonplace when it comes to RPGs. The most notable title with that kind of gameplay is The Legend of Zelda. However, unlike many other titles, Secret of Mana is one of the rare SNES games that allow for open-world exploration. 

Apart from its open world, Secret of Mana introduces engaging battle systems to spice up your gameplay. It features real-time battles and allows for timed attacks so you have to evade and attack at the right time. 

The game is a full-fledged RPG complete with weapons, multiple characters, and a beautifully designed pixel-art world. What’s more unique to the Secret of Mana is its co-op mode, which isn’t very common in RPGs.

Granted, Star Fox isn’t one of the SNES games with the best graphics. After all, the early days of 3D graphics don’t really age well. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the top SNES games because it’s such a joy to play. With action-packed stages each occurring on different planets within the Lylat solar system, you’re sure to get your blood pumping.

As you progress through the game, you’ll encounter varying difficulty levels. There are branching paths that you can revisit later on and the gameplay is astounding for its time. Star Fox was a success both commercially and critically and became a mainstay in Nintendo games. If you have time, you should definitely give it a try. 

Ah, yes. Definitely one of the classics. Super Mario Kart is the game that started it all. With Nintendo’s level of polish, you’re in for a treat.

Today, we already have the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe but playing the original game still has a certain flavor. It doesn’t have the best graphics out there. However, it’s still a well-made game for what it offers. Super Mario Kart was the one that launched one of the best franchises for co-op gaming. Take a trip down memory lane (literally) as you play the very first Mario Kart on the SNES Switch. 

Super Mario RPG is one that’s not quite like an RPG. It has a heavy emphasis on action and platforming gameplay making it more like a Super Mario game. 

If you’re a big Mario fan, then you have to play Super Mario RPG. It’s the foundation for recently released Mario RPGs like Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi. The game was also the first to allow Mario to work with Bowser, his greatest enemy. While it may seem like a normal occurrence today, it was innovative back then and the fans were appalled. Even though it isn’t as character or story-heavy, it’s still every bit of fun as other Mario RPGs. 

Super Mario World is the title game for the SNES’ release and it remains one of the best. It’s one of, if not the, best platformers on the SNES. Super Mario World is iconic to the series and sparked many innovations in gaming.

Super Mario World introduced not only a wider color palette and better controls but also non-linear gameplay. Nintendo took the risk and played with new kinds of mechanics. It was the first to introduce secrets in-game that took you to shortcuts. These shortcuts not only eased your playthrough but sped it up rapidly. 

Super Mario World also introduced others that have become a staple in the series such as collectibles. Only a skilled player well-versed in the game and its controls could collect these items. It’s also immensely more satisfying for completionists once they collect everything in the game. To top it off, the game has 96 different levels. If you’re bored, definitely check it out on the Switch or with a Super Mario World ROM. 

Companies often struggle after releasing a hugely successful game. Pressures of previous success and acclaim can accumulate and expectations will rise as a result. After Super Mario World’s success, Nintendo was put in a similar position. However, they didn’t let the first game overshadow their next work and came up with a brilliant surprise. That is Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.

Instead of focusing on Mario like the previous game, Yoshi’s island focused on Mario’s “car”: Yoshi the dinosaur. The goal of the game is to protect baby Mario (yes, Mario in diapers) from the island’s enemies. Yoshi’s island gave Yoshi added never-before-seen abilities like eating enemies and turning them into egg bullets. Nintendo also intentionally differentiated this game by giving it a softer, more pastel color palette compared to Super Mario World. It’s truly a fantastic sequel that can stand on its own two feet with a unique identity.

“Show, don’t tell” is the mantra of many authors that create beautiful stories. The difference between sub-par and masterfully written narratives lies in its storytelling, not in its story per se. That’s because a story is more than just tireless exposition — and Super Metroid portrays that beautifully.

With Super Metroid, the developers created everything deliberately. Most games rely on action or puzzle-solving to make their games interesting while telling the story via exposition. That’s something even today’s games struggle to balance. However, Super Metroid seamlessly mends gameplay with its story in a breathtaking way. More often than not, you’ll feel like you’re not mindlessly grinding to progress within the game. 

Of course, what would a game be without a well-built world and well-defined gameplay controls? Super Metroid has all that covered, too. With perfect storytelling and gameplay mechanics, Super Metroid stands the test of time.

Any video game-playing boxing fan should check out Super Punch-Out!! The game features satisfying gameplay with all the hooks, super punches, and uppercuts you could hope for. When you master the controls and learn your enemy’s weak points, taking them out becomes doubly satisfying. There are even points enemies have that will instantly KO them.

Puzzle games on consoles rarely come in this kind of package. Usually, they come in some narrative-based titles with more complex gameplay (which doesn’t necessarily equal good). Tetris Attack is an outright puzzle game that started off as a Japan-exclusive Panel de Pon. It evolved into Tetris Attack later on. While its puzzle game mechanics are already addictive, perhaps the most exciting part of the game is its competitive feature. You can play with friends and crush them with evil blocks—absolutely exciting.

If you’ve played Zelda games before, no doubt you have a certain image in your mind about them. They feature Link rescuing and teaming up with Zelda to rescue Hyrule from Ganon. 

Apart from the story, the series also has an immense focus on open-world exploration unmatched by other titles. Most of the series will give you a sense of freedom as you explore Hyrule with childlike wonder and curiosity. This curiosity is even rewarded with in-game secrets and discoveries. The best part of this SNES Zelda is certainly the adventure coupled with some action and clever puzzles and dungeons. 

This game also adds many twists to the story, making some of its features long-standing in other Zelda titles. Things like the Dark World, the Sages, and other common Zelda tropes began here. Not only is it an important game to the SNES but to the Zelda franchise as a whole.


Final Word

Modern-day games are certainly more graphically intensive and complex. However, going back to the roots of some of those video games is certainly refreshing. Not only are they a treat to experience, but they also enrich your understanding of current franchises and games.

15 Best SNES Games That You Cannot Miss

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