The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was one of the most revolutionary consoles in the early video game market. While this past year has seen the introduction and the success of the eighth generation of video game consoles, including the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, there’s no denying the everlasting mark a classic system like the SNES and its vast catalog have left on the gaming landscape.
While we all have our personal favorites, driven by preference or even just pure nostalgia, some SNES games have had more of an obvious influence on gamers and the industry than others. In this guide, we’ll go over the top 10 SNES games based on overall popularity, acclaim, and influence on the present and future of video games. Does your passion for video games extend beyond a simple hobby? Check out this course on how to develop your career in the video game industry.
When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (called the Super Famicom in Japan) released for the first time on November 21st, 1990, it came with a little game called F-Zero. Racing games of today focus a lot on realism, fueling the love for fast, expensive sports cars and nice paint jobs that fans of the competition hold dear. You’d have to look to an independent game like Nitronic Rush or the upcoming Distance to get your sci-fi racing fix, but long before either of those there was F-Zero.
With the now iconic Captain Falcon as its star character, F-Zero took Formula-1 to outer space, putting players in the driver’s seat of high-speed, plasma-powered, intergalactic hovercar races. F-Zero helped pave the way for the sci-fi racing genre, and had a number of spin-offs and appearances from Captain Falcon in future generation games like Super Smash Bros. Spin-offs and sequels aside, there’s no denying the influence of the original game.
9. Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana was an action role-playing game released by Square, the Japanese company and forerunner of the JRPG that is known today as Square Enix. While Square and Square Enix’s fame has always largely been fueled by Final Fantasy, their 1993 RPG Secret of Mana was an innovative and quality addition to the SNES catalog at the time.
While most role-playing games at the time relied on a turn-based combat system, where each player character and each enemy switches off attacking, defending, or using items during a fight, Secret of Mana introduced a real-time combat system. This, alongside a unique menu system and a cooperative multiplayer option, added to the depth of combat and mechanics that made Secret of Mana so revolutionary.
Are role-playing games among your favorite genres? Learn how to design your own RPG with this course.
8. Star Fox
Next to titles like X, the 1992 first-person shooter for Game Boy, Star Fox for the SNES was one of the first three-dimensional games created by Nintendo. The game was released in 1993, a third-person rail shooter where players take control of the anthropomorphic mercenary and fighter pilot Star Fox. Players fly Star Fox and his Arwing spacecraft through a linear environment, dodging obstacles, collecting power-ups, and taking out enemies.
At the time, this gameplay was revolutionary. It took the action of space shooters like Galaga and other arcade classics, rendered it in a three-dimensional environment, and gave players an extra level of control over the speed and maneuvering of their ship. Barrel rolls and thruster boosts are no strangers to Star Fox, gameplay options that blew minds back in 1993.
Similar to F-Zero, the popularity of Star Fox allowed for numerous sequels and spin-offs, and has seen appearances of Fox and some of his comrades like Falcon in other related games.
7. Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country is known for a variety of things. Having sold nine million copies after its worldwide release, it was the second best-selling game on the Super Nintendo. It also used a never before seen technique involving pre-rendered, three-dimensional character sprites, which gave the two-dimensional, side-scrolling platformer a faux 3D feel.
While the Donkey Kong property originally belonged to Nintendo, appearing first in 1981 on arcade cabinets, Nintendo decided to bring the character back by handing it over to the British game development company Rare Ltd. in the 90s. This resulted in the highly acclaimed spin-off series Donkey Kong Country and its sequels.
The original Donkey Kong Country introduced Donkey Kong’s nephew Diddy Kong (who would become the star of his own game in Diddy Kong Racing), and was known for its fun yet challenging gameplay and multiplayer modes.
6. Final Fantasy III (VI)
There’s some confusion regarding the naming system of the Final Fantasy series between the American and Japanese releases. Final Fantasy III in North America is actually Final Fantasy VI in the larger series. The strange naming convention exists because the first three Final Fantasy games were not released in North America right away. What was Final Fantasy VI in Japan was actually Final Fantasy III in North America.
Final Fantasy III for the SNES was released in 1994 to critical acclaim. Some gamers, RPG fans in particular, consider it the best game in all of game history. This is due to its vast and complex story, a depth of narrative that had not been seen before in role-playing games prior. It is often considered the best Final Fantasy of the series.
Do you have an interest in Japanese role-playing games? Why not learn the language with this Japanese for beginners course?
5. Super Mario Kart
Mario Kart 64 is one of the most undeniably popular video games of all time, but when it comes to the classics, how do you compete with the original? 1992’s Super Mario Kart for the SNES was not only the first of the Mario Kart series, of which there are numerous sequels and multi-platform spin-offs, but it also invented the competitive, “kart” style racing game genre, where players use a number of power-ups to gain an advantage over their fellow racers.
When it came to competing against your friends on the Super Nintendo, not many games could beat the thrill of Super Mario Kart, which is a truth upheld by the rest of the series as well.
4. Super Mario World
Super Mario World is one of the best-selling games of all time. With Bowser as the primary antagonist, as usual, the game put Mario and Luigi in charge of saving Dinosaur Land. As you can guess, the game introduced Yoshi, who later became one of the key characters in the franchise. The player being able to ride Yoshi through Super Mario World’s many stages lent an extra layer of depth not seen before in Mario games.
It was a solid platformer, as Mario had mastered in the past, with added abilities that gave it that extra edge the series needed to move forward. The game also contained countless Easter eggs and secrets, adding layers of replayability on top of the solid hours of gameplay its main story offered.
Learn how to make your own computer games with this course on the game development application Stencyl.
3. Super Metroid
Super Metroid was one of the most innovative games of its time. Whereas many action platformers from the early 90s were generic, linear adventures without much structural depth, Super Metroid had a complex, multi-layered level design that allowed for exploration rather than basic, side-scrolling travel from point A to point B.
This style of game design became so iconic, and Metroid gained so much acclaim from it, that it actually lends its name to half the term Metroidvania, a term used to describe 2D platformers with a focus on action and exploration. The other half of the term comes from Castlevania, a series that launched on the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
The Metroid series is also known for having one of the most famous female characters in all of gaming, with its hero Samus Aran having her gender revealed at the end of the original Metroid.Before that, the mysterious, armor-clad bounty hunter had been assumed a man, a testament to the lack of female characters in the game industry during that time. Even now, the ratio of male to female heroes is imbalanced, so it’s good to see the Metroid series still going strong, from Metroid, Super Metroid, and beyond.
The sequel to Mother and the first in its series to release in North America, EarthBound is a bizarre, surreal, unusual and wholly unconventional Japanese role-playing game released for the Super Nintendo in 1994. It saw poor commercial success in the United States, but became a cult classic for its strange take on suburban America. With its cast of weird characters, peculiar dialogue, and its dreamlike tone, it’s easy to see how the game – which puts you in the role of a young boy named Ness in the fictional, America-like country of Eagleland – differs from traditional Japanese RPGs and its fantasy settings and characters.
The unusually modern setting actually makes its more traditional RPG elements seem that much stranger, though this style has become quite popular in the past couple of years with independently produced games like Yume Nikki following its lead. Yume Nikki and by direct influence EarthBound have spawned dozens of fan made, exploratory role-playing games in RPG Maker, though nothing can beat EarthBound and its original, classic strangeness.
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which released for the Super Nintendo in 1992, was the first and only Zelda game for the SNES, a fan favorite in the Zelda series in general, and one of the most undeniably famous video games of all time. The game introduced several elements which would become trademarks of the Zelda series, including the use of parallel worlds that the player can switch between.
It was also one of the first Zelda games to lend significant thought to the backstories of several locales, including dungeons. This reliance on story carried on to other Zelda games, and the series is today known for having some of the most beloved stories and one of the most developed worlds and characters in any franchise to date.
Are you interested in designing and developing your own video games? Check out this course on Android and iOS mobile game development if you want to get started small, or make a full fledged 3D game using Unity with the help of this Unity3D course.