9 Greatest SNES Games of All Time
On a home console that boasts the best game library of all time, its elite nine will always be a matter of contention. So, apologies are in order. Many of your childhood favourites have most likely not made the cut. We can offer assurance, however, that the nine listed games are all great. If you disagree, you owe us an apology.
#9. Super Smash TV
Undoubtedly, the arcade version of Smash TV is the best version of the game. However, the SNES release is a commendable port and we’ve lost a lot of time to it. Failing to complete the first level of a game has rarely been this fun. The feeling of elation when you finally beat the boss, Mutoid Man, and make it to Level 2 is one that most modern games can’t replicate. There are no infinite continues. You can’t pick up where you left off. This is a game of skill.
For multiplayer, Super Smash TV is one of your best options on the SNES. Not only does it improve your chances of making it to Level 2, it’s genuinely important that you beat your team-mate’s high score and collect more prizes than they do. The satisfaction of knowing your collection of toasters bested theirs is… well, a lot more satisfying than it sounds.
#8. Super Punch Out
Super Punch Out, at its core, is a pretty simple game. You learn the patterns of your opponents and dodge and attack accordingly. The appeal of the game largely lies in the slew of memorable characters, the comic visuals, the pre, mid, and post-fight taunts of your opponents, and the deeply satisfying sound effects once you crack the code and start to land punches.
Super Punch Out is not a realistic boxing game. 16-bit was not a period of sporting realism. Every system failed when they attempted it, creating slow, boring, and pale messes. Super Punch Out works within the SNES’ limitations, placing you on firm rails, hiding the negatives and accentuating the positives. There is no better boxing series, to this day. If you want realism, you go to Fight Night, but if you judge purely on entertainment, Punch Out is the undisputed champion.
#7. Donkey Kong Country
On a system full of 2D platformers, Donkey Kong Country has few peers in terms of quality. In fact, if it were not for Super Mario World, this would be the best platformer on the system, and we’re not sure any level in Super Mario World was as fun as the mine-cart levels in Donkey Kong Country. And while Super Mario World adopted traditional 2D graphics, extremely well, Donkey Kong Country opted for a new kind of pre-rendered 3D graphics that seemed to really push the console’s visual capabilities.
It was the first Donkey Kong game that Miyamoto took a back-seat for, operating in more of a consultancy role, suggesting minor titbits such as Donkey Kong’s ground-slap move. It was also the first Donkey Kong game by Rare, who would handle the franchise until their purchase by Microsoft in 2002.
Rare followed up on Donkey Kong Country with two successful SNES sequels, selling 5 million and 2.9 million units, respectively, and introducing a new cast of characters.
#6. Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger boasted a then-unparalleled level of freedom for RPG players. The plot shifts with choices you make at key points in the game. You can also time travel to the final boss, Lavos, from relatively early in your play-through.
These decisions change what ending the player is treated to, significantly boosting replay value. The game’s developers anticipated such desires for further exploration, incorporating the first real New Game + mode into the game. This allowed players to keep all their kit from their completed save and trek through Chrono Trigger as many times as they wished, exhausting all detail.
An excellent Playstation sequel followed in 1999, Chrono Cross, which is, unfortunately, the latest release in the series. It’s been speculated for many years that a third game could be in the pipeline, after the copywriting of the name Chrono Break in 2001. However, sixteen years on, still no rock-solid plans have emerged.
Earthbound is actually the second game in the Mother series and the only one released on the SNES. Mother 1 saw its release on the NES and Mother 3 on the Gameboy Advance.
A passion project for the series’ visionary Shigesato Itoi, quality was always at the forefront of development. For that reason, it’s unlikely that we’ll see another game released – Itoi seeming adamant that there’s too much risk of watering down the trilogy.
Although both the NES and GBA games are worth a play in their own right, Earthbound is without a doubt the series’ best entry. The storyline is incredibly engaging, becoming increasingly bizarre, to the point where the final fight is theorised to have allegorical links to abortion. But it’s not all serious. In fact, it’s barely ever serious – a welcome shift in tone from the uniformly fantastical, melodramatic settings of its RPG peers. It’s unlike any other game on the SNES, and that includes the graphics. Kind of jarring at first, looking almost like an educational game for the under-10s, but the more you play, the more you appreciate their charm.
#4. Super Mario World
Super Mario World was the most popular game on the SNES, meaning that if you had a SNES and you didn’t have Super Mario World, you were pretty weird. In fact, through a series of successful re-releases, Super Mario World has surpassed the SNES’ 49 million sales, currently resting as the fifth best-selling game of all time, with close to 56 million buys.
This was the video game début for Yoshi, a character that Miyamoto had first designed for the original Super Mario Bros. The NES lacked the capabilities to do the character justice, however, and so they shelved Yoshi until hardware could handle Miyamoto’s intent.
#3. Super Metroid
Following immediately on from Metroid 2 (of which there is a fantastic fan remake, AM2R), a Metroid hatchling has been stolen by the Space Pirate Ridley and it’s up to you to search high and low on planet Zebes to find it. Along the way, you must power up your suit, and kill Ridley and Mother Brain.
It’s the blueprint for an entire genre, and although Zero Mission and Fusion are superb follow-ups, its strongest creative off-chutes exist outside the franchise. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Axiom Verge, Guacamelee – all games that, arguably, would not exist if it were not for the impression Super Metroid made on their developers.
At release, Super Metroid, in terms of data, was the largest game on the SNES and the first to need a 24-megabit cartridge. Higher-ups nearly cancelled it three times during its development, believing the budget couldn’t justifiably match the developers’ ambition. In the end, the risk proved successful, with consumers buying 1.4 million copies.
In the twilight years of the SNES, Star Ocean and Tales of Phantasia surpassed Super Metroid’s storage plumpness, finding homes on 48-megabit cartridges.
#2. Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana is the ultimate multiplayer gaming experience of the ’90s. The game’s lasting legacy is not its pretty generic storyline about stones and dragons and mysticism and swords, but its ability to unify people under one 20+ hour struggle towards communal achievement. Fellowship was at the heart of the game. Two-player was great, three-player was greater.
The game was initially planned to be a launch title for the SNES-CD add-on. When the project was scrapped, Secret of Mana was trimmed down to fit on a SNES cartridge. This meant an estimated 40% of the game’s content was lost, including the ability to choose different paths in the game and to experience multiple endings. What sometimes feels like an underdeveloped storyline is also, potentially, a result of this change, with large amounts of the game’s script being lost in the English localisation, due to the space limitations of SNES cartridges.
The music, composed by Hiroki Kukuta, is some of the best on the SNES and just by sheer volume of memorable songs, is one of the best video game soundtracks of all time. There may be better slivers out there but consistent combined quality propels Secret of Mana to rare heights of audio brilliance
#1. Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy II, III, and V didn’t get a Western release. IV did, under the name of Final Fantasy II. This meant that children of the 90s’ initial exposure to Final Fantasy VI was under the less confusing (and now much more confusing) name of Final Fantasy III. Additionally, Square changed the main character’s name from Tina to Terra, deeming the former not exotic enough for a Western audience.
Accompanying Terra is a slew of memorable, fleshed-out characters. Too many to name here, without sounding like a verse from Genesis but it would be a tremendous oversight not to name the game’s big baddie, Kefka. His whooping laugh and clowny appearance are deeply entrenched in our cranial crevices, as well as his unbalanced personality – torturing dogsbodies with requests for sand to be removed from his shoes while waking in the desert… and also destroying the world.
The game was one of the first to successfully combine deep plot, engrossing cinematic cut scenes, and gorgeous, rich music, owing to the collaborative vision of franchise creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, composer Nobuo Uematsu, and co-directors Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Itoi – who begat… sorry. Standout moments include the sprawling opening credits, watching snow fall from the night sky as Terra’s Theme plays, and the impressively layered opera scene.