The Super Nintendo could very likely be my personal favourite video game console ever, and thanks to things like the SNES Classic, Nintendo Store and an increase in the popularity of retro video game shops, it might never have been easier to dip into its great library of games.
I was having a conversation with someone recently who was thinking of dipping into the wider SNES library, and she asked what sort of games to go for. This gave me an idea to list 15 games here that I think would be a good way for a newbie to the console to start. Obviously, there will be great SNES games that I don’t list, but I was looking here to get a good mixture of games so that someone could experience all the different facets of the console.
Thus, you’ll see platforming, RPGs, sports, puzzle and even side scrolling beat ’em up games on this list. Please feel free to list other games in the comments section as well though as it’s always going to be hard to whittle something like this down to just 15 games.
Super Mario World
This is still one of the best platforming experiences you can have on any console, with timeless graphics, delightful music and tremendous gameplay making the game a treat from start to end. This was the game that got packed in with a lot of SNES consoles, and there’s good reason for it. It’s still one of the best Mario games ever made.
Super Mario All-Stars
Once you’ve enjoyed the fourth gen Mario games, you can then dip into the ones from the third gen, with the added bonus of the graphics and music being augmented. Thankfully, the gameplay that made the games so popular to begin with remains intact, and that makes this cart probably the best way to play all four of the third gen Mario games.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Zelda games returned to their top-down only style here, and the result is a great game that gives Link a whole host of new powers and puts him in there with an even more impressive array of scary bosses for him to do battle with. It also both looks and sounds the part two, with the bright and colourful Light World offset by the decaying Dark World. It’s a top notch Zelda experience and well worth your time!
The Super FX Chip gave this game the polygon graphics it is most well-known for, but the game wouldn’t be as well remembered as it was if it wasn’t for the enjoyable space fighting gameplay it employs. The combination of the graphics, gameplay, sound and atmosphere make this a great space romp that you’re going to want to get involved in.
Final Fantasy VI
I recently wrote an article about how I personally didn’t enjoy playing this game, but that’s more down to turn-based RPG combat not really being my thing. I can still accept that this game is a really good example of doing the genre right as I was engrossed in the story and with the characters, even if I wasn’t enjoying the combat that much. If RPGs are your thing, then this is a game you simply need to have in your collection.
This game takes the formula established in the NES game Punch-Out and turns it up to 11 with colourful characters and even more punishing super punches. It’s a supremely entertaining game, and you’ll always be willing to come back to try and improve your times. Watching someone speed run this game can be mesmerising sometimes as there are so many windows that you can exploit to leave the computer out like a light.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest
This game builds on what the first game in the series did to deliver an even better platforming experience. This game looks the absolute business, and it has a kicking soundtrack to boot. I’ve said in the past that this would be my favourite video game of all time, and I stand by it. A definite “must-have” if you want to be an SNES owner.
Super Mario Kart
I went with this over F-Zero when it came to a racing game just because I personally enjoy it more, but you can’t really lose with either. It still kind of blows my mind that this concept has not only produced countless great games, but that it’s also still going to this day. The racing is well tuned, it looks great and multiplayer provides some controller-smashing fun in spades. Check out the original to find out why this series is still so enduring.
International Superstar Soccer Deluxe
This is the first football game I played where it actually felt like a football game. The gameplay is fine-tuned from the previous game in the series, and the players actually look distinctive from one another, which was not a regular thing back then either. This series is technically still going as Pro Evolution Soccer too, so it’s stood the test of time.
Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium
This is a game where you’ll have to either import it if you live out west or even dirty your hands with some emulation. Normally, I wouldn’t encourage such a practice, but if you do emulate it, then people have gone to the trouble of translating it, and it makes an already great game even better. This is also a series that is still going, and advances that were made in this particular release are still being felt in the series to this day. If you love wrestling, then there’s a good chance you’ll love this.
Street Fighter II Turbo
Street Fighter II saw a number of good ports to the SNES as it did a decent job at translating what made the game so great in the arcade into a home setting. This one would be my personal pick for the best Street Fighter II game on the console based mostly on childhood nostalgia, if I’m honest. The boss characters are playable, and it looks, plays and sounds great. If you want to get fighting games for the SNES, then this should be high atop your list.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
I went with this over Final Fight just because I’m a big Turtles fan, but Final Fight is just as good a side-scrolling beat ’em up too. You play as one of the four titular Turtles and have to fight your way through different time periods in order to foil the nefarious Shredder. It’s great fun, and I actually prefer playing it over the arcade version it was based on.
Mortal Kombat II
The original Mortal Kombat was infamously kneecapped on the SNES due to all the blood and fatalities being taken out of it. Thankfully, MK II didn’t suffer from the same issues, and the SNES version is a pretty faithful port, all things considered. I have never been a massive fan of the old 2D MK games, but this is still probably the best one, and the SNES does an excellent job recreating it, so it’s well worth a purchase if you want another fighting game in your collection.
I went with this over Castlevania IV, but both games are good examples of the “Metroidvania” genre, and either are well worth your time. Metroid does an awesome job of creating a really foreboding atmosphere, and it plays well on top of that. It’s highly regarded and for good reason.
Tetris & Dr. Mario
Tetris is possibly the most famous puzzle game of all-time, and it still plays great on the big screen. This game not only combines two of the best puzzle games in one cart, but it also has console-specific modes and plenty of great music. It’s well worth having these games in your library as they provide plenty of challenge and enjoyment, with multiplayer never being easier either.