Skip to main content

The 25 Best SNES Games of All Time

Few gaming platforms have the legacy of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo’s second home console helped usher in the 16-bit era with medium-defining games such as Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid, many of which still hold up great today. 

(Image credit: Robtek/Shutterstock)

Whether you’re a retro collector seeking old cartridges for your aging SNES or Analogue Super NT or just want to go the plug-and-play route with the SNES Classic, all of the games on this list are worth revisiting today. While we eagerly await the SNES library to come to Nintendo Switch, here's our roundup of the 25 best SNES games ever made.

Mario Paint  

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Before Super Mario Maker 2 let us create the devious Mario levels of our dreams, Mario Paint was one of the first Nintendo games to let players run wild with their creativity. On top of letting you create custom drawings and color in preset images of Mario and friends, Mario paint allowed you to compose custom songs using a cute, intuitive and surprisingly robust interface. But Mario Paint is perhaps best known for heralding the Super NES Mouse accessory, which was one of the first in a long line of signaturely wacky Nintendo peripherals. - Mike Andronico 

Play It Now: Not available on modern platforms 

The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse 

Back during the Console Wars of the early '90s, fans fought ad nauseum over whether the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo was the superior console. Even Mickey Mouse got caught in the crossfire, as they argued the merits of Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse on the Genesis versus The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse on the SNES. To be scrupulously fair, Castle of Illusion has held up a little better over the years — but The Magical Quest still has a lot going for it. In this kid-friendly side-scroller, you'll take control of Mickey Mouse as he faces off against recurring Disney villain Pete. A lot of the game is simply running and jumping, which feel good thanks to tight controls and gorgeous level design. But you can also transform Mickey into a firefighter, a magician or a mountain climber, then use his special abilities to fight off foes and traverse the terrain. The Magical Quest is simply a good, old-fashioned platformer, and sometimes, that's all you need. - Marshall Honorof 

Play It Now: Not available on modern platforms 

NBA Jam  

He’s on fire! NBA Jam is one of the most iconic sports games of all time, and the SNES got a pretty solid port of its arcadey 2-on-2 basketball action. The beauty of NBA Jam is that anyone can pick it up and enjoy it -- with only a handful of buttons to worry about, even basketball neophytes can have a good time shooting three pointers and performing ridiculously over-the-top dunks while Tim Kitzrow shouts “boomshakalaka!” from the announce table. NBA Jam has gone on to spawn several sequels, reboots and spiritual successors, but the original is still a blast to play today. - Mike Andronico

Play It Now: Not available on modern platforms

Super Star Wars  

Super Star Wars loosely adapted the iconic 1977 sci-fi film into a solid, challenging 2D platformer that was an excellent technical showpiece of what the SNES was capable of. It certainly took some liberties with the plot -- we don’t remember Luke Skywalker running and gunning his way through a Jawa Sandcrawler -- but it did allow us to relive iconic moments such as the fateful Death Star battle. Super Star Wars’ vehicular sections were particularly impressive for the time, delivering crisp, quasi-3D graphics that brought F-Zero and Star Fox to mind. - Mike Andronico

Play It Now: PS4, PS Vita 

Contra III: The Alien Wars

(Image credit: Konami)

If you like side-scrolling shoot-em-ups, Contra III is about as good as they get. This high-octane action game throws bullet-hell barrages of projectiles and enemies at you at every turn, as well as gigantic bosses that will text your reflexes. It also stands out from the rest of the series with its neat top-down levels that break up the 2D action. If you’re looking for something to play with a friend on your SNES Classic, Contra III is one of the finest co-op games on the system. - Mike Andronico

Play It Now: SNES Classic, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console 

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts  

 

Incredibly challenging, but immensely satisfying, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts stole hours of my life as a kid. The third game in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, this side-scrolling action title lets you play as Arthur, a knight on a mission to rescue his princess from demonic forces led by Emperor Sadius. Armed with a simple suit of armor and a lance, your job is to kill baddies and survive, preferably without taking a hit. If you do get hit, Arthur’s armor shattersm leaving him in his skivvies while the next one turns him into a pile of bones. But never fear, there are plenty of powerups along the way to help keep Arthur alive. But in order to make it to the end, you’ll need an equal mix of skills, memory, powerups and good luck. –– Sherri L. Smith 

Play It Now: SNES Classic, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console 

ActRaiser 

Magic, action, world-building simulations –– Enix’s ActRaiser had it all. The game is a redemption story of sorts. You’re playing as a god who was defeated by the evil one and his six lieutenants long ago allowing the forces of evil to divide the land into six kingdoms. After awakening from a deep sleep incurred while healing from your injuries, you have to fight to free the lands and your former worshippers from evil’s grasp. ActRaiser has two modes of play, a side-scrolling platformer and a city building simulation, each of which is fun in their own right. As you beat back monsters and rebuild the world, you get worshippers. The more worshippers you get, the more powerful you’ll get, letting you put a serious smackdown on the baddies. –– Sherri L. Smith 

Play It Now: Not available on modern platforms 

Super Mario Kart 

Let's be honest — Super Mario Kart's successors best the original in every conceivable way. The Nintendo 64's polygonal capabilities would later allow for unprecedented track designs and immersive gameplay free of the SNES' 16-bit shackles. That said, there wouldn't be any kart racers if not for Super Mario Kart, which demonstrated to the world that recognizable characters whipping around zany amusement park locales flinging all manner of hazards at each other was a recipe for multiplayer gold. Other kart racers — some even touting Mario's fiercest rivals — have improved on the formula, but they'd never have the chance if not for Nintendo's landmark, genre-creating achievement. — Adam Ismail

Play It Now: SNES Classic, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time 

If you’ve ever been to an arcade, chances are you have fond memories of mashing away at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game with up to three friends. And while the Super NES port of TMNT sequel Turtles in Time wasn’t exactly arcade-perfect, it still brought much of that great experience into the living room. While the SNES version of Turtles in Time was limited to two players instead of four, it still had the same crisp, colorful graphics and fun beat-em-up gameplay, and even had exclusive levels and a special versus mode. Cowabunga dude, indeed. — Mike Andronico

Play It Now: Not available on modern platforms 

F-Zero

Sega's Genesis may have had Blast Processing — whatever that meant — but the SNES had Mode 7. And it was Mode 7 that allowed for the faux-3D sprite scaling and manipulation that titles like F-Zero used to deliver the kind of blistering, high-speed gameplay you'd previously only find in arcades. Like other racing franchises, F-Zero didn't have the opportunity to truly flourish until future polygon-pushing home consoles could do the vision justice. Although many fans fondly remember F-Zero GX on the GameCube as the zenith of the series, the original was a technological tour-de-force early in the SNES' life that previewed where racing games would go next. And if that wasn't enough, it also had a gorgeous soundtrack. — Adam Ismail

Play It Now: SNES Classic, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console 

Mortal Kombat II 

Mortal Kombat II improved on its notoriously gory predecessor in every way, adding more refined fighting, richer digitized graphics, and now-iconic fighters such as Mileena, Kitana and Jax. Better yet, it got one heck of an SNES port, one that retained all of the controversial blood and guts (which were left out of the SNES version of the original game) and crisp combat of the arcade game. While Street Fighter II is largely considered to be the Super Nintendo’s defining fighting game, Mortal Kombat II was a good alternative for fans who liked their brawling with a healthy side of dismemberment. — Mike Andronico

Play It Now: Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection (PS3/Xbox 360/PC) 

Secret of Mana 

Considered a classic by fans of role-playing games, Secret of Mana offers a sprawling story with plenty of high fantasy action and RPG goodness. Throughout the game, you can play as any member of your three-person party (the hero, the girl and the sprite) leaving the remaining players on support via AI. Instead of the regular turn-based action, Mana utilizes a real-time battle system with Ring Commands which pauses the action in order for you to utilize items or spells. As for the story, you start of playing as an unnamed oprhan boy, banished from his home for removing an old sword from its hiding place and unleashing monsters in the town. You team up with a girl searching for her missing love and a sprite searching for its lost memories. Their journey becomes a mission to save the world as its revealed that the Mana Fortress and the beast who destroyed it and the world are about to reemerge into the world. It’s such a popular title, it’s been ported many times to several different mediums. Do yourself a favor and find out why. –– Sherri L. Smith

Play It Now: Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch  

Earthbound 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Not everyone gets Earthbound, and there are reasons for that. Visually it’s a bit dull, the humor can be nonsensical, and the entire premise of four kids embarking on an adventure to stave off a vague, formless otherworldly threat in a modern American setting may seem lacking in imagination. However, those who do get Earthbound realize it’s about so much more than it may seem on the surface. Directed by a respected Japanese writer who had no prior experience in making games, Earthbound is a JRPG that subverts every JRPG convention. The setting lampoons Western culture, certain items and enemies are openly mocked in a fourth wall-breaking fashion for being utterly useless to the plot, and the eclectic soundtrack brazenly samples everything from The Beatles, to Chuck Berry, to the theme song from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And despite how silly that all may sound, Earthbound also goes to astonishingly dark places — particularly in its final battle, which has been the subject of too many Creepypastas over the years, and was in fact inspired by a traumatizing experience said writer-turned-game designer suffered as a boy. That’s the wonderful thing about Earthbound: whatever you think it is, it always manages to surprise you. — Adam Ismail

Play It Now: SNES Classic, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console 

Donkey Kong Country 2 

The original Donkey Kong Country showed fans what they could expect from the nascent series, from ambitious 3D-ish graphics to tough-but-fair platforming across a series of long, involved levels. Donkey Kong Country 2 took the first game's formula and built on it. This time around, players took control of sidekick Diddy Kong and newcomer Dixie Kong, as they mounted a rescue for Donkey Kong, who had been imprisoned by recurring villain King K. Rool. It's not exactly a story for the ages, but as an excuse to traverse almost 50 levels, face down huge bosses, discover well-hidden secrets and recruit a variety of animal sidekicks, it gets the job done. From its ambitious visuals to its satisfying secret world, Donkey Kong Country 2 is one of the best platformers that the SNES has to offer. - Marshall Honorof

Play It Now: New 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console 

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island 

Releasing across most of the world at the tail end of 1995, Yoshi’s Island wasn’t just a masterful swansong for the SNES — it was a beautiful, triumphant sendoff to Mario’s side-scrolling heyday. It was also a reaction to titles like Donkey Kong Country, and the industry-wide push toward futuristic, pre-rendered sprites at the expense of cartoony visuals and exquisite animation. Yoshi’s Island looks and moves unlike other games, because it was produced differently from other games. Graphical assets were hand-drawn and scanned to maintain their pencil-and-paper aesthetic. It was an inspired thematic decision that perfectly married Yoshi’s quirky mannerisms and fast-but-floaty control scheme. Couple all that with yet another magnificent Koji Kondo score and special effects that took advantage of Nintendo’s bleeding-edge Super FX 2 chip, and the result is arguably the finest 2D platformer ever made, and one that took gaming’s greatest franchise to the absolute limit of artistic expression. — Adam Ismail

Play It Now: SNES Classic 

Street Fighter II Turbo 

(Image credit: Capcom)

Street Fighter II is the most iconic and influential fighting game ever made, and Street Fighter II Turbo was the definitive way to play it for SNES owners. This port of Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting delivered faster, more fluid combat, fresh colors for the whole cast and, for the first time on console, the ability to play as boss characters like M. Bison and Sagat. There’s a reason Street Fighter II Turbo is the version you get on the SNES Classic -- this is one of the best fighting game console ports of all time, and one that’s still a blast to play today. - Mike Andronico

Play It Now: SNES Classic, New 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection 

Super Mario All-Stars  

Super Mario All-Stars is one of the finest collections of games ever made, and arguably one of gaming’s first true remakes/remasters. This package contains spruced-up versions of NES hits Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3, as well as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels -- the “real” sequel to Super Mario Bros. that was previously unavailable in the states. If you got the 1994 reissue that tossed in Super Mario World, you had possibly the single best lineup of games ever pressed to a single cartridge. From the sheer enduring quality of the older Mario games to the love that went into bringing them to the 16-bit era, All-Stars is a must-have for any SNES fan. - Mike Andronico

Play It Now: Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition (Wii) 

Final Fantasy III/VI 

Don't let the name fool you: Final Fantasy III on the SNES was known as Final Fantasy VI in Japan. (Only two other Final Fantasy games had come out in the U.S. at the time, hence the unusual localization.) But whatever you call the game, Final Fantasy VI is one of the very best RPGs on the SNES — or any other platform, for that matter. You take control of a young mage named Terra, as she recruits a motley crew of freedom fighters in an engrossing steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy world. The story goes to some very dark places, courtesy of its villain, the delightfully evil Kefka Palazzo. (Even all these years later, his laugh still haunts us.) Where the game really shines, though, is its open-ended gameplay. By allying with summonable spirits called Espers, each character can learn whatever skills or magic the player chooses, leading to some fascinating party combinations. - Marshall Honorof

Play It Now: iOS, Android, SNES Classic 

Super Mario RPG 

There's something to be said for Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga. But when it comes to role-playing games starring Nintendo's favorite mustachioed plumber, nothing comes close to Super Mario RPG: a collaboration with Final Fantasy creator Squaresoft. It's a sharp deconstruction of the Mario mythos; it's an hilarious romp that pokes fun at Nintendo's history; it's a heartfelt adventure that evokes genuine pathos. And, on top of that, Super Mario RPG is simply a fun, well-designed game, full of strategic turn-based combat and big, colorful levels to explore. When Bowser kidnaps Princess Toadstool (yet again), Mario sets off to rescue her. Then, everything goes awry when a giant sword descends from the sky and scatters Mario, Bowser and Toadstool to the far corners of the world. In the adventure that ensues, all three of them must team up with some new friends to face a threat unlike anything they've encountered before. - Marshall Honorof

Play It Now: Wii U Virtual Console, SNES Classic 

Super Metroid 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

When you consider just how good Super Metroid was, it seems criminal that we've only had one direct sequel since 1994. In Samus Aran's third adventure, you take control of the bounty hunter as she fights off an invasion of space pirates, intent on using the last Metroid for their own fell purposes. Since this is the series that put the "Metroid" in "Metroidvania," expect to do plenty of exploration as you hunt down new gear and gadgets to help you explore the enormous world of Zebes. At the beginning of the game, Samus can simply move and shoot; by the end, she'll be able to grapple across chasms, fire devastating super missiles, explore tight spaces in a tiny morph ball and blast her way through airborne enemies with an electrified screw attack. Super Metroid isn't just a satisfying side-scroller; it's also a gorgeous game, with fluid animation and plenty of colorful environments. - Marshall Honorof 

Super Castlevania IV 

Castlevania was never a series to rest on its laurels. The first game was a tough side-scroller; the second game added exploration and adventure elements; the third game presented players with a whole cast of playable characters. Super Castlevania IV got back to basics, but with a level of polish that would have been impossible on the NES. The game retells the events of the first Castlevania game, wherein vampire hunter Simon Belmont, armed with his trusty whip, traverses Dracula's castle and obliterates any monster that looks at him funny. This time, though, there are tons of new stages to explore and bosses to fight, as well as eight-directional whipping and the ability to swing over chasms. Combined with ambitious background art, detailed character sprites and a soundtrack that you'll be humming for the next few console cycles, Super Castlevania IV was as good as the series would get until Symphony of the Night debuted. - Marshall Honorof

Play It Now: Wii U Virtual Console, SNES Classic 

Chrono Trigger 

Chrono Trigger is heralded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. There’s good reason for the high praise. When it launched back in 1995, it had multiple endings, actual character development dealt with via side-mission and some seriously pretty graphics. Trigger introduced co-op attacks and was one of the first RPGs have visible enemies on the map instead of random encounters. Chrono Trigger is the story of six friends from different times thrown together via time travel to fight the world-ending threat Lavos, a parasitic alien. But with any good time traveling tale, there’s a lot of twists and turns before you get to the final goal. Despite its age, Chrono Trigger stands the test of time and is worth a playthrough or two. –– Sherri L. Smith

Play It Now: Android, iOS, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, PC  

Mega Man X 

The Mega Man series on the NES was a fun, tough side-scroller with plenty of interesting enemies to fight. The Mega Man X series on the SNES was all of that, along with a bevy of hidden secrets and a story that was more Terminator than Astro Boy. You play as Mega Man X: a thinking, feeling android called a Reploid, in the distant year 21XX. A corrupted Reploid called Sigma has been building up an army of like-minded androids, and only X can stand in his way. That requires X to traverse eight huge stages, ranging from forests, to oceans, to techno-towers, as he defeats animal-themed bosses and adds their weapons to his own arsenal. With fast-paced, challenging gameplay and vibrant, memorable character designs, Mega Man X kicked off one of Capcom's most beloved series, and the first game is still one of the best. - Marshall Honorof

Play It Now: Mega Man X Legacy Collection, SNES Classic 

Super Mario World  

In this game, the princess is not only in another castle, she’s in another world –– Dinosaur Land to be exact. Mario’s latest dustup with Bowser put him in the prehistoric Dinosaur Land where he must face dangerous new enemies in Bowser’s minons, former children (don’t ask, it’s a long story), the Koopalings. But Mario’s not alone in his crusade as World is the first game with Yoshi, glutinous, sticky-tongue dinosaur is there to lend a much-needed assist. And if that wasn’t enough, you also have the Cape Feather, a new powerup that gives the plumber a snazzy cape and the ability to fly and float. Combine that with Yoshi’s ability to gain power from swallowed Koopa shells and you’ve got a fun, innovative game that’s a fan favorite decades later.  –– Sherri L. Smith

Play It Now: SNES Classic, Nintendo Wii, Wii U, 3DS 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Lately, a favorite argument among Zelda fans is whether Breath of the Wild is really better than Ocarina of Time, or whether something shiny and new is better than something tinted by nostalgia. With respect to both sides of the debate, I humbly submit that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, suprasses both of those titles. Link's SNES outing put him on a quest to rescue Princess Zelda from the clutches of the evil sorcerer Ganon. So far, so good. But this game also sent players on a much bigger adventure than it initially promised. Completing the first three dungeons isn't enough to rescue the princess; instead, it catapults Link into a Dark World, which resembles a corrupted mirror image of his own Hyrule. As the game progresses, Link gathers new armor and equipment (including, for the first time, the Master Sword), conquering bigger and more challenging dungeons, as he navigates his way through two worlds and inches closer to defeating Ganon. A Link to the Past is a gorgeous, ambitious, unforgettable game that provides both satisfying combat and inventive puzzles in equal measure. - Marshall Honorof

Credit: Nintendo

Play It Now: SNES Classic, Nintendo Wii, Wii U, 3DS