The SNES era was quite an important time for the medium. It took many concepts that had their origins in the NES, expanded upon them, and took them to the next level, while also adding in many new ideas of its own.
Still, after going through many of the old 16 bit classics, I find myself slightly disillusioned with the SNES and retro gaming in general. When it comes to many past eras that people are fond of, they tend to emphasise the points that were good and ignore the points that were bad or mediocre, while doing the opposite when analyzing more recent developments in the medium.
The reality is that no era is perfect, and it’s best to be fully honest when analyzing any era, even if you have nostalgia for it.
Having said that, the SNES library overall has aged much better than the NES library, and there were quite a few games that I enjoyed for the system. Therefore, as you’ve probably already figured out, I’m going to go through my 10 personal favorite SNES games.
Now, before I begin the list, there are a few things I wanted to address. In particular, some may be startled by the absence of any JRPGs on this list, or indeed the absence of any reviews for them on this site. Well, I did actually try quite a number of JRPGs, but found that I just couldn’t get into them. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of good things about them, and I don’t think they’re bad games. But the turn based combat didn’t gel with me, and even the JRPGs that deviated from the standard turn based combat still had enough things that ultimately prevented me from continuing them. Maybe I’ll eventually give this genre of games another shot, but when it comes to the prominent JRPGs for the SNES, I just couldn’t get into them.
So, with that note taken care of, here are a few guidelines for what games made it onto this list. First of all, only games I have reviewed are eligible. If I didn’t review a game, it’s either because I didn’t play it, or I did, but couldn’t stand playing it long enough to give a full opinion on it, as was the case with many JRPGs for the SNES. Secondly, these games were not chosen based on what is objectively the best or most important, but simply on which games I personally enjoyed the most. And finally, only one slot per franchise.
Starting off the list is a lesser known platformer based off of the Disney film of the same name. While not a masterpiece by any means, it’s still a fun and well designed game. What really sets it apart from the multitude of generic platformers for the SNES, though, is just how creatively and competently it pays homage to the film it’s based on. The environments are well designed and match the artstyle of the movie perfectly, all of the character sprites have a ton of personality to them, and hearing the brilliantly done 16 bit rendition of “You’ve Never Had a Friend Like Me” was just fantastic. If you’re not a fan of the Disney version of Aladdin, this game may not carry as much weight, but if you are, you need to check out this game as soon as possible.
9: Megaman X
Another game by Capcom (Back when they were actually good), Megaman X is an ambitious re-imagining of the Megaman franchise that truly stands on its own. It does have a fair number of problems that drag it down, as I noted in my review, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of fun with this title. Smooth gameplay, crisp visuals, and awesome music make this a standout platformer for the system.
8: Donkey Kong Country
Not really sure what to say about this one. Everyone says it’s really good. And…yeah. It is. Can’t really think of anything else to add right now, so I’m just going to move onto the next one.
I was a bit harsh towards this game in my review, but that wasn’t because I didn’t like it. Rather, I was a little disappointed with it, because it could have been so much more. As I said in my review, it would have benefitted the game to either commit to being a great action platformer or a great god game, rather than opting for a mix of the two.
But while not as good as it could have been, it’s still quite good. The platforming sections are memorable and challenging, and the civilization sim sections, while lacking depth, do give you the invigorating sense of building up a human society. Not a perfect game, but for what it is, it’s a pretty great title for the SNES.
6: Star Fox
This is another game that I was not super kind to when I reviewed it, and I still maintain that it’s a bit dated and a bit short. However, after going back and replaying it a few times since my review, I have to say, this game has a lot of staying power. It’s fast paced, it’s invigorating, it’s fun, it’s got lots of personality, and it’s a game that’s kept me coming back again and again.
5: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Is the title weird? Yeah, it is. Is the game itself weird? Absolutely. But it’s also one of the most engrossing games for the SNES I’ve played. Its simple premise is executed brilliantly, and it has probably the most replay value of any game on this list. It may not be the best game about zombies, but it’s certainly one of the most unique.
4: Super Metroid
A lot of people hold this game up as the holy grail of gaming. Me personally, I think it’s…good.
In all seriousness, while I wasn’t blown away by this game like many other people were, I can still recognize the sheer quality of this title. While it can sometimes be needlessly obtuse, the attention to detail is staggering, both in terms of gameplay and environment. Not one of my all time personal favorites, but I did really like it, and it deserves to be at least as high as #4.
3: Yoshi’s Island
If the fact that this was the first and so far only game I have given a 10 didn’t tip you off, I love Yoshi’s Island. All of the previous Mario games were good, but I just didn’t have much of a personal connection with them. Yoshi’s Island, on the other hand, had me hooked from start to finish. The gameplay is fluid and varied, the level designs are unique and memorable, the music is incredibly charming, the visuals are timeless and endearing, and the boss fights are distinct and well put together. Honestly, this game gets just about everything right, and I will be playing this one again and again.
Now some may be confused as to why this is only at #3, seeing as I gave it a 10. Well, while this game did earn a 10 from me, there were actually two games that I find I enjoy a little more.
2: Super Castlevania
This game is not perfect. It held onto many archaic trends of the NES Castlevanias that ultimately dragged down the experience, and in addition it didn’t make the most of its new ideas.
But after playing through it several more times, I find that the flaws matter less and less, and the stuff that’s good just sticks out more and more. The game’s atmosphere is perfect, each level is unique and memorable, and despite its shortcomings it is a well put together game. It’s more fun to play through than any of the NES Castlevanias, and the final showdown with Dracula is probably my favorite in the series so far.
1: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Yeah, kind of predictable, I know, but can you fault me? While I like most of the Zelda games, A Link to the Past is easily in my top 5. It’s by far the best 2D Zelda ever made, and despite being a little dated, has withstood the test of time almost as well as Super Metroid and Yoshi’s Island. An exciting, well put together adventure, it’s my favorite game for the SNES.
So, those were my 10 favorite SNES games. What are your favorites? Do you hate me for not being able to get into 16 bit JRPGs? Be sure to let me know in the comments. If you like what you’ve read, be sure to stick with me as I move onto the N64 classics. Thank you for reading, and have a good day.