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The Top 10 Games For The Iconic 16-Bit Console

The Super Nintendo is simply one of the best consoles ever made. It was released in Japan as the Super Famicom in 1990; in North America, with a divisive redesign, in 1991; and the UK and Europe in 1992. As much as it will pain many a SEGA fan from back in the day to admit it, the 16-bit SNES did a lot of things better than its main rival, the Mega Drive (or Genesis, hey America). And many amazing SNES games remain playable today, across subscription services, eShops, mini-console releases and more. 

Here are our top 10 Super Nintendo games to check out – to agree with or, more likely, disagree with. That’s cool – the SNES was genuinely a home for a huge array of incredible games, so yes, we have “missed” several of them, here. These are in no particular order, either, before anyone calls foul that a favourite is “too low”. 

Watch our Perfect 10 SNES games in action in the video below

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)

In many ways, this is where Zelda as a coherent series, with a lore that runs through several games, really begins. This was Hyrule again, but not as players had ever seen it before – and a Hyrule split between two different dimensions, too. A prequel to the two 8-bit NES titles before it, A Link to the Past introduces the Master Sword as an all-important item for players to acquire, and the Hook Shot and Link’s spin attack make their debuts. It remains a special game even 30 years on from its release, with plenty of challenging dungeons to conquer on your way to defeating Ganon.

Play it now on Nintendo: Wii U and 3DS via the Nintendo eShop; Switch via Switch Online subscription service; Super NES Classic Edition mini console

Street Fighter II / Credit: Capcom, mobygames.com
Street Fighter II / Credit: Capcom, mobygames.com

Street Fighter II (1992)

The first home version of Capcom’s huge arcade hit of 1991, Street Fighter II on SNES was an expensive addition to the console’s catalogue, but one that kids everywhere were desperate to get their hands on. While slightly simplified in comparison to its arcade predecessor, this port was still a complete triumph, making perfect use of the controller’s six buttons and towering above all other home conversions of the time. The perfect two-player game for after-school competition in front of the TV.

Play it now on Nintendo: Super NES Classic Edition mini console (Hyper Fighting version); Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection on Switch 

Chrono Trigger (1995)

Probably the greatest-ever pre-Enix Square(Soft) RPG – although, I’ll hear your Final Fantasy VI argument – Chrono Trigger is a time-travelling adventure rich in characters to care about, visuals to get lost in and music to be swept away by. Its mix of on-screen enemies – no random encounters – and turn-based battles allows for exceptional flexibility and experimentation as party members combine abilities; and multiple endings mean that no one playthrough needs to be like the last. With key creatives from the Dragon Ball, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises behind it, Chrono Trigger was always likely to be special – but that it was so exceptional, and plays so wonderfully today, marks it as one of the best games of all time irrespective of genre.

Play it now on Nintendo: An enhanced version of the game released for the DS in 2008, and remains the easiest way to play Chrono Trigger on ‘modern’ Nintendo hardware. PC and mobile versions are available, but this one really needs adding to the Switch.

Super Metroid / Credit: Nintendo, mobygames.com
Super Metroid / Credit: Nintendo, mobygames.com

Super Metroid (1994)

Creepy but so compelling, Super Metroid took Samus Aran’s adventures to a new level of immersion, as the planet Zebes feels alive all around you… positively crawling from the screen and into your bedroom, a fearful festering of menacing magic. If the moment-to-moment mix of finding power–ups to access new areas, exploration mixed with some incredible enemy encounters, sounds formulaic today, it’s because this game laid those foundations and they were so good Nintendo stuck to them. If 2021’s Metroid Dread was your first taste of this series, you really need to rewind in time to this absolutely seminal sci-fi experience.

Play it now on Nintendo: Wii U and 3DS via the Nintendo eShop; Switch via Switch Online subscription service; Super NES Classic Edition mini console

EarthBound (1995)

Released a year earlier in Japan as Mother 2 – and like Chrono Trigger, never in Europe at all in the SNES era – EarthBound is a curious and quirky role-player that feels both comfy and distinctly eerie at the same time. A parody and celebration of rural American values, with a striking vein of silly humour running throughout, it could be dismissed as a jokey affair unfit for comparison to other SNES RPG greats. But it’s actually one of the most uniquely moving and rewarding games on the platform, and while it enjoyed only very modest sales at the time of its release, retrospective coverage has seen EarthBound elevated to a SNES essential.

Play it now on Nintendo: Wii U and 3DS via the Nintendo eShop; Switch via Switch Online subscription service; Super NES Classic Edition mini console

Super Mario World / Credit: Nintendo, mobygames.com
Super Mario World / Credit: Nintendo, mobygames.com

Super Mario World (1990)

One of the greatest 2D releases to feature Nintendo’s stalwart mascot, Super Mario World was the first game many new SNES owners played, as it came bundled with the console. And what a way to begin, as World builds on the success of the NES hit Super Mario Bros. 3 with brilliant level design and slick and responsive controls, and throws the all-new Yoshi into the mix, too. Super Mario World is the best-selling SNES game of them all, and an absolute cornerstone of any collection.

Play it now on Nintendo: Wii U and 3DS via the Nintendo eShop; Switch via Switch Online subscription service; Super NES Classic Edition mini console

Star Fox (1993)

As the early 1990s gave way to the middle of the decade, flat-looking pixel art games were looking a little old-fashioned – ironic, really, given how abundant they remain today. Nevertheless, polygons were in, and Star Fox (Starwing in the UK) utilised the Super FX chip to deliver 3D gameplay on a 16-bit console, way before the arrival of the 3D-capable Sony PlayStation. It’s not a long game, but as a tech showcase it was mesmerising, and still plays pretty sweetly today while offering a decent challenge.

Play it now on Nintendo: Switch via Switch Online subscription service; Super NES Classic Edition mini console

NBA Jam (1994)

Another terrific port of an arcade classic, NBA Jam on SNES is a wonderfully accessible and intuitive sports game that is enjoyable both solo and with up to three other friends all on court at once. While it features real NBA stars, it’s a wildly exaggerated version of basketball, with its spectacular dunks and vocal samples – is it the shoes? – now the stuff of legend and untold memes. Score three shots in a row and you’re on fire: time to rack up an unbeatable lead.

Play it now on Nintendo: I’m not sure you can play the SNES version anywhere, officially, but 2010’s Wii release of (an updated) NBA Jam will play on a Wii U and still delivers some of the same thrills

Mortal Kombat II / Credit: Acclaim, mobygames.com
Mortal Kombat II / Credit: Acclaim, mobygames.com

Mortal Kombat II (1994)

Another one-on-one fighter that electrified playground arguments over which version was better, the SNES or the Mega Drive, Mortal Kombat II took the gruesome pugilism of its predecessor and upped the ante in almost every way. (For what it’s worth, the game’s designer John Tobias prefers the SNES release.) On its home console release, MKII became the fastest-selling game of all time, and week-one sales revenue hit $50 million – indicative, indeed, of the appetite for this sequel (or rather, the bloodlust for it). Without the censored splatter of the first game’s SNES release, Nintendo players could enjoy lashings of the red stuff as they pulled opponents limb from limb. Naturally, it’d all be for nothing if the game was no good beneath the gore – but MKII was, and remains, a top-tier fighting title.

Play it now on Nintendo: no dice I’m afraid, but there are plenty of modern Mortal Kombat games to choose from

Super Mario Kart (1992)

Here’s where it all began for Mario’s spin-off racing series. It sure doesn’t play as well as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Switch’s best-selling game, but 1992’s game is still a fun slip and slide across several familiarly themed tracks. Its Mode 7 visuals keep progress around each course crystal clear, while the array of items to use against other racers is absolutely iconic, from speed-up mushrooms to red shells. As the first non-platforming game in the (Super) Mario franchise, this release went a long way to establishing both the mascot himself and his supporting cast as characters who could appear across a wealth of gaming genres, and beyond. 

Play it now on Nintendo: Wii U and 3DS via the Nintendo eShop; Switch via Switch Online subscription service; Super NES Classic Edition mini console

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