The best SNES games of all time: From $40 | Finder

The best SNES games of all time

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES, is one of the all-time classic retro games systems – and here are the games that every collector and player should own.

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The best SNES games in Australia

The NES/Famicom cemented Nintendo's place in the homes of many worldwide, especially in the US and Japan, but with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES), Nintendo took on the entire gaming world, delivering gaming experiences that were cutting edge.

While some of those titles haven't aged as well as others, and Nintendo fought a hard battle against Japanese rival SEGA for the hearts and minds of Australian gamers at the time, the SNES is now very well regarded as a benchmark console in the retrogaming arena. So much so, in fact, that we already judged it as the best retro game console money can buy.

But which of its games are the very best? Here are our picks.

How did we pick this list?

This list was compiled based both on the personal experience of the author, who owns a library of thousands of retro games, including more SNES titles than any other platform. This was cross-checked against online reviews, both professional and consumer grade, taking into consideration both contemporary reviews and more modern "retro" reviews.

Read more detail on our methodology below.

Best SNES game overall: Super Metroid

Pros

  • A deep, satisfying world to explore
  • Fantastic ambient music and effects

Cons

  • Super Metroid’s been re-released for lots of Nintendo machines since
  • Boxed copies are very expensive

Price (RRP): $100+

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Why we chose it

The SNES took out the award as the best retro console for a reason, and that reason is pretty simple. It has a huge library of classic games with so many titles to play, whether you're playing for nostalgia, collecting for value or poring over the many highly desirable games that never made it out of Japan back in the day. Picking just one as the "best" feels like picking your favourite child – never easy.

It's Super Metroid, though, because it's still the best 2D Metroid game, the emerging seed of the whole "Metroidvania" genre and a damned fine and fun game in its own right. Really, you should pick up and buy every game in this list whether you're playing or collecting, but if you're going to start somewhere, slip into Samus Aran's shoes first.


Best SNES game – Action adventure: Super Metroid

Pros

  • A deep, satisfying world to explore
  • Fantastic ambient music and effects

Cons

  • Super Metroid’s been re-released for lots of Nintendo machines since
  • Boxed copies are very expensive

Price (RRP): $100+

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

By now, the concept of a “Metroidvania” game, where you backtrack, explore, gain new abilities and explore again, is a very well-worn idea. It had to start somewhere, and Super Metroid is one of those benchmark titles that took the Metroid exploration concept and dialled it up to 11, casting Samus Aran against a very hostile, alien-infested rock with secrets lurking under seemingly every platform.


Best SNES game – Platform: Super Mario World

Pros

  • Yoshi is a great addition
  • Plenty of hidden secrets and those tricky star worlds to master

Cons

  • Restricted saving feels like a punishing system these days
  • Some secrets are hidden in insanely obscure places

Price (RRP): $30-$100+

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Why we chose it

Platform games were the bread and butter of the SNES, and there are some absolute crackers to pick from, including Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts, Umihara Kawase, Flashback, Donkey Kong Country 1-3, Super Castlevania, Actraiser, Demon's Crest and many, many more.

Super Mario World was easily the most influential of them all, and it's also a game that still plays superbly today, which is surprising when you consider that it came out before any other game on this list – or indeed any other SNES platform game, given it was a Japanese day 1 launch title.

While Nintendo has rather mined Super Mario World for all it's worth with re-releases and the Mario Maker games, there's something pure and wonderful about the original that makes it a must-play and must-own game for any SNES owner or collector.


Best SNES game – Racing: Unirally/Uniracers

Pros

  • Super-fast trick-based gameplay
  • Challenging for single player and fun for two-player as well

Cons

  • The braking sound can get a little grating
  • Thumb-punishing on some of the tougher courses that you'll have to repeat many times

Price (RRP): $50+

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Why we chose it

You were probably expecting Super Mario Kart to make its appearance here, and truth be told, it very nearly did. While it's been improved on over the years, the mode 7 original is still a great SNES-era racing game, and like other racing games such as F-Zero and Rock 'N Roll Racing, there's a lot of fun to be had there.

However, Mario Kart would go on to greater things with more players and fun, while DMA Design's Unirally only ever saw a SNES outing. It's a fast paced game that combines the trick systems later seen in games such as the Tony Hawk's titles with the gosh-darned cutest unicycles you've ever seen, pre-rendered for visuals and slickness rarely seen on the humble SNES.

Problem is, they were a bit too cute, and specifically a little too similar to Pixar's unicycles, and a lawsuit saw Unirally removed from sale, never to be rereleased. It's an utter tragedy, because this is a stellar racing game that deserved far better.


Best SNES game – Shooting: UN Squadron

Pros

  • Serious challenge gives it depth
  • Choice of levels with a moving map

Cons

  • Can get very hectic early on
  • Slowdown when there’s a lot of onscreen action

Price (RRP): $50-$100+

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Why we chose it

If you wanted shoot-em-ups in the 16-bit era, you were slightly better served with the Megadrive, all things considered, but that doesn't mean that the SNES had no great arcade-style blasting titles. Games such as Axelay, Parodius, EDF, Gradius III and Pop n' Twinbee meant that SNES owners had plenty to keep their trigger fingers sated in the early 1990s.

UN Squadron takes that basic premise of a side-scrolling shooting game and infuses it with some really fun RPG-lite elements, allowing you to purchase upgrades as you go, pick paths to take on battles while managing the invading armies and hone your shooting skills. It's not the easiest title to master, but that's why it's still such a great game.


Best SNES game – RPG: Chrono Trigger

Pros

  • Complex and compelling storyline
  • Great combat system

Cons

  • Very desirable – and therefore very expensive if you want the SNES original
  • Lots of Japanese copies and fakes are sold online

Price (RRP): $150+

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Why we chose it

While RPG titles had been the bedrock of the Japanese Famicom experience, once the SNES rolled around, far more role playing titles got a western release, making it incredibly tough to pick the very best of them. There's the obvious fare such as The Legend Of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana or Earthbound, and frankly, any of them could have taken this prize with few regrets on our part.

We'll hand it to Square's Chrono Trigger, a game which combines many of the best features of all of the above games, with a deep and satisfying combat system, amazing soundtrack, stunning visual design and branching time travel storyline that gives it a multitude of potential endings, a true rarity for console RPGs at the time. Once you get intrigued with Chrono Trigger's complex world, you'll be smitten for a very long time indeed.


Best SNES game – Fighting: Super Street Fighter II

Pros

  • Nice, large roster of highly variable fighters
  • Good animation considering the SNES’s limitations

Cons

  • Nearly everyone seems to default to just Ken and Ryu anyway
  • Some missing frames of animation if you're an arcade purist

Price (RRP): $30-$100+

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Why we chose it

Street Fighter II was the game that sold the SNES over and above the Megadrive for the longest time, and while SEGA's excellent 16-bit machine did eventually get to punch and kick with Ryu and chums, the SNES still had the best versions of Capcom's genre-defining combat series, pretty much from the time the SNES launched here in Australia.

Street Fighter II was a super-common pack-in or bundled game, bettered shortly afterwards by the Turbo Hyper Fighting sequel that gave you speed controls and the boss characters to fight as. The Street Fighter II journey saw its apex with Super Street Fighter II, adding even more characters, more moves, more animation – basically more of everything without some of the loading and difficulty issues of Street Fighter Alpha 2, which also saw a SNES release.


Best SNES game – Sports : NBA Jam Tournament Edition

Pros

  • A true Boom-Shakalaka of an arcade conversion
  • AI tweaks mean that every game is close, and fun as a result

Cons

  • Actual NBA players cannot catch fire, despite what this game says
  • No Michael Jordan due to licensing issues – boo!

Price (RRP): $30-$100+

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Like shoot-em-ups, if you wanted sports titles in the 16-bit era, Nintendo rather solidly played second fiddle to SEGA, where EA's titles saw many of their first iterations. Again, there are some solid SNES-era sports titles, such as the Japan-only Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, Super Punch-Out!, Super Tennis or Battle Soccer: Field no Hasha. Well, maybe not that last one, although it's the only way to date that you can play a soccer game as Godzilla. No, I'm not kidding.

If you're looking for an utterly timeless sports game that really hasn't been improved on in any significant way in the past 25 years, you cannot go past NBA Jam Tournament Edition. It plays fast and a little loose with the rules of basketball if you're a purist, but it does so in a way that keeps it fresh and fun. As the sequel to regular NBA Jam, it's got tightened gameplay, updated rosters (relative to the time) and that classic set of Tim Kitzrow play calls.

More than a quarter of a century later, this game is still ON FIIIIIIIIIIIRE!!!


Best SNES game – Puzzle: Lemmings

Pros

  • Starts simple, but gets complex quickly
  • Lemmings are adorable, even when exploding into pixel chunks

Cons

  • Complex password save system hasn’t aged all that well
  • Technically, it's a game about killing innocent rodents en masse. You feel bad now, right?

Price (RRP): $40-$100+

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

There's no shortage of excellent puzzle games on the SNES, including great Tetris, Bust-A-Move, Puyo Puyo, King Arthur's World and Lost Vikings games to consider.

While Lemmings wasn't originally a SNES title – its heart belongs to the classic Commodore Amiga – the SNES port is a superb representation of the core Lemmings gameplay that competing consoles couldn't match. Subsequent Lemmings games tweaked the formula, but never came as close to matching up to the simple, brain-bending beauty of the original.

There's just something timeless about having a group of inexplicably green-mop-haired idiots to guide to an exit while killing as few of them as possible in increasingly complex ways. The SNES version manages that jump from mouse to controller with aplomb, and if you ever do get too frustrated with a level, there's always that tempting nuke button waiting to be pressed.
The tempting, red, shiny, lemming-annihilating button. Go on. You know you want to press it, at least once.


Buying SNES games

What to consider when buying SNES games:

  • The PAL SNES wasn't your PAL: We got the European model of the SNES here in Australia, and it's still by far the most common one you'll see up for sale online. On the plus side, that means we didn't get the hideous purple US brick design – seriously, that thing is horrible – and instead a design based on the superior Japanese original. Based on it, but with one big difference: Japanese and US SNES consoles used NTSC/60Hz signals, but European/Australian models were PAL/50Hz, which means games ran slower, or were "optimised" for PAL machines, generally for the worse. We didn't really feel it as much at the time, but if you want to make the most out of the SNES library, look for a modified PAL machine – or converted NTSC model.
  • Region lockout: Once again, Nintendo controlled when and where games would be sold with lockout chips on the SNES motherboard. Most games could overcome this with the use of wobbly converter cartridges, but these days you'd be better served with a fully modified, switched machine so you can take advantage of the best of every SNES library, PAL and NTSC alike.
  • Big in Japan: If you're thinking the SNES library didn't get further than Mario and his friends and you've played it all… you're wrong. Badly wrong, in fact, because there's a huge library of Japanese-only SNES games that are seriously worth your time. Some of them are pricey, but a lot of them don't need much (if any) Japanese language ability to play.
  • There are a lot of fakes out there: Piracy was a thing back when the SNES was shiny and new, but it's a sign of just how old the SNES is that pirate SNES systems involved copying game ROMs to multiple floppy disks. Really, that's how it was done, and there's a minor collector's market in those "backup" devices, despite their dubious legality. These days, with some SNES games worth serious money, there's a lot of pirate SNES carts, with ROMs burnt to stock layouts out there. You'll often lose out on battery backups, quality of build and of course ongoing collectible value if you opt for a "reproduction" cart – or unwittingly get sold one.

Methodology

1
Brands considered
150+
Products compared
9
Best products chosen
  • Our picks are based on price, game ratings, availability and user and professional reviews.
  • The writer has 30+ years of game collecting and curating experience.
  • The products on this list are chosen by our editorial team and are not selected based on commercial relationships.

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