Console Challenge Day 10: Top 7 best SNES games!

Videogames were for everyone; they just didn’t realize it yet.
-Blake J. Harris, Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

 

 

It’s Day X of our daily Console Challenge and I don’t know about you but I have been loving reading everyone’s content so far. If you have too, sorry to throw a wrench in that because today it’s my turn. 🙂

As I predicted, the results of this jocular poll demonstrate that the SNES remains an intensely meaningful console to many people. It’s not so easy to gauge which retro console truly remains the most popular and most talked about, but certainly the SNES is up there, plus it’s my favorite console of all time, too. It is in fact so favorited by me that when we initially came up with this crazy console project, I immediately grabbed the SNES and claimed it for myself because I’m a self-serving and greedy individual just like everyone else. It was cheating since I snapped it up before even announcing the project to our team here but c’mon… I’m not going to miss an opportunity like this.

Then it dawned on me… I was self-afflicted with having to name only 7 of the best games for the Super Nintendo, a system with an incredible assortment of both exclusives and ports. I was told my position I coveted was not particularly enviable. So cut the crap, how are you supposed to name just the top 7 games for what’s often referred to as the greatest console ever?!

Easy: don’t panic, Red.

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The Super Nintendo wasn’t the first to arrive at the 16-bit scene but it was the one that brought the gun to the knife fight. Sega fought dirty, Nintendo fought back with quality. Even with their headstart against the aging NES, the SNES helped ensure that the Big N remained on top against the competition for its generation with powerful hardware, vibrant colors, a diverse library, and unforgettable experiences.

The Genesis vs SNES console war is probably the most famous in gaming history and I do recall that it was intense here in the States, but there was a clear winner. The consumer. Really! Competition in the free market creates great products, even with the market share occasionally lopsided. Without competition, would we have had any of the incredible home console exclusives from Sega and Nintendo? Sega opted to tear down the giant and Nintendo responded in kind. Their battle was legendary so of course their creations were, too.

In the end, it was the SNES that out-paced, out-performed, out-numbered, and (dare I say it) out-classed the competition, no matter how edgy the smear campaigns got. It secured Nintendo at the top before their step(s) down.

 

Here’s an IGN article with more numbers.

That doesn’t prove that either console was fun or not. People love both. It’s just sales figures. It’s also just vindication for the boyhood arguments I endured!

We might have had Sega Day here just a few solar cycles ago but this is the Super Nintendo now. The king has returned.

Let me shut up and get on with it!

 

 

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#7. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Ah, the seventh spot. The sweet spot. It’s the spot that juuust barely made it on the list. Considering the sheer wealth of the Super Nintendo’s library of classics, this spot was incredibly difficult to decide. Dozens of games could have fit in here. I wavered between representation for the system’s strengths with a platformer or an RPG, then I thought about giving a little more diversity to the list. Earthbound was probably the closest contender for this spot; its wit and humor are nearly unparalleled. Ultimately, though, it came down to the nitty-gritty details of what game was superb enough in enough categories and contexts to make the cut.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is that game. The sequel to the first Donkey Kong Country has visually retained better luster than its predecessor, it is musically sublime, it took level design to tremendous heights, had extremely tight and responsive gameplay, and created a more engaging two-player experience than even the Super Mario games had up to this point.

This is only the seventh spot and we’re already talking about a game which some call “perfect”. Rare’s masterpiece was just enough to out-monkey the competition to land on my list. Seriously you need a lot more than 7 games to talk about all the perfect and near-perfect games on this system!!!

 

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#6. Super Mario World

This spot was honestly the hardest to decide for me on this list. It nearly went to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, though I ultimately gave it up to Super Mario World for a few reasons I couldn’t escape: World is a launch title and therefore representative of many of the system’s base capabilities; World is much more accessible to the average player compared to Island; World emphasizes exploration over linearity compared to IslandWorld has more content than IslandWorld has a wider range of challenge compared to Island’s more consistent overall difficulty over the course of the game; World has bigger, taller, multi-layered level design stuffed full of secret areas and exits, generally speaking.

To be fair, Island has many things going for it, too, better and more interesting graphics, a more complete and developed story, and more unique gameplay for a platformer among them. So while Yoshi’s Island is one of my favorite games, even more so than this one, I have to give credit to Super Mario World here and name it the 6th best on the system!

For many, it is the ultimate 2D Super Mario game and it’s easy to see why. Super Mario World was the first SNES game I ever saw, walking through a Sears as a wee lad and getting so engrossed in it that I got separated from my friend’s mom and had to get an employee to help me find her. And that was with a timed demo that didn’t let me get past the first level, too! It was a colorful, mindblowing introduction to the next generation of gaming and a moment which ensured I would forever be enraptured by this magical realm of entertainment we call gaming.

What is Super Mario about? The character, I mean. While we may be tempted to think he’s so “ordinarily” heroic that he’s bland, recognize that heroism is not common and neither is self-lessness, indomitable cheer, relentlessness, determination, and contagious, infectious joy. I mean, how many people do you know with Mario’s personality? There’s a reason why he’s one of gaming’s most enduring characters.

 

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#5. Mega Man X

This may be a controversial choice ahead of the giant that is Super Mario World but hear me out: Capcom’s Mega Man X is the Ferrari of the SNES. It handles like a dream while wielding an intensely fast pace and demanding gameplay, almost like an invitation for tournament fighting button input speed into platforming turned dynamic. Sleek, streamlined, trimmed of virtually any fat, this is a lean, dense, and razor-edged game.

Mega Man X is also the standard for rebooting a franchise. Comparing the classic Mega Man series with the X series, it’s like night and day in terms of focus, yet the fundamentals of the character and his world aren’t so different so as to alienate the fans. X inhabits a bleakly dystopian world as opposed to the colorful robot-candyland of the classic series, and this first game in the new timeline introduced upgrades to Mega Man’s weapons, armor, abilities, wall-climbing, rechargeable energy tanks, and an entirely new and finally threatening villain, plus let us not forget that Rock Man has always been about the music and Mega Man X has an insane soundtrack, one of the best on the entire system.

And now the top 4 should be pretty predictable…

 

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#4. Super Metroid

Few games can even come close to achieving what Super Metroid did in 1994 in terms of atmosphere. Instead of being outright scary, this game wove an impenetrable fog of isolation, loneliness, solitude, and foreboding that lasted from the title screen to the end credits. It seems as if every game in the Metroidvania sub-genre and every game in the Metroid series has been judged against the gold standard of Super Metroid itself, and with good reason.

Super Metroid took the blueprints of the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus and blows those blueprints up to a macrocosmic scale, rendering the labyrinths of an entire planet into a hollowed oubliette for our space-faring heroine to scour. And scour players have. Super Metroid is about inspecting every nook and cranny, yet it propels the player onward with the inexhaustible energy of the joy of discovery, merged as it is with the addicting power of dread.

It is the definition of a masterpiece, if ever I saw one. When I think of the Metroid series, I inevitably think of this game first and foremost. It understood pacing and knew how to use silence through an experience that plays out without too many cutscenes, constructing instead the narrative and its tension as the player explores. The silence is golden but so is the soundtrack…

 

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#3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Speaking of masterpieces, do you really have any idea what kind of power a game has to possess in order to remain the perennial, popular favorite 27 years and 15 games later? Have you ever stopped to wonder that, even after Ocarina of TimeWind Waker, and Breath of the Wild, why people are still talking about A Link to the Past? That kind of scope and scale in time and peer-context is almost entirely unprecedented. It seems nothing can quench the passion for this title.

And it’s not as if we’re talking about any old game franchise. This is The Legend of Zelda, people! This isn’t even my favorite Zelda game… as much as I love the others, many of which have been giants in their time, if I had to recommend a single Zelda game as the most defining, most representative of the spirit, the nucleus, and the heart of what the series is about, I would cite A Link to the Past every time, without fail. Its size, grandeur, puzzles, secrets, exploration, and ability to challenge the player to think outside of the box are quintessentially Zeldean concepts. This is a game you can sink your teeth into and all these years later, its flavors are still profound.

It frequently tops lists of best SNES games all across existence.

 

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#2. Final Fantasy VI

If we’re talking Super Nintendo, we’re talking bomb RPGs and many name Final Fantasy VI (III) as their favorite FF ever. The question which arises in my mind is “Why?”

Oh I dunno, maybe it’s the ensemble cast, the story, the music, the villain, the fact that the world ends and the game keeps going, the touches of comedy, drama, and tragedy, the balance between linear and open progression which the most recent entries have botched! This one pulls no punches and it’s tough to find a better 16-bit role-playing experience. Literal tears have been shed over this game. Zillions of hours have been spent exploring its realm. Hours of jaw have been devoted to figuring out who is the main character. Seek traditional JRPG perfection no further. You’ve arrived.

Is it the best Final Fantasy? That’s up to you to prove or disprove (I’ve done my time) but I am comfortable saying it’s easily one of the best titles on the SNES and in its series.

 

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#1. Chrono Trigger

What a surprise. If there’s a ranked list, the top answer is always Chrono Trigger and I wrote a 17,000-word slog to attempt to prove it. Hyperbole, nostalgia, and the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity taken into consideration, I still consider Chrono Trigger to be one of the greatest games on the system, if not absolutely of all time. It is the number one game to play on the Super Nintendo. I mean the premise alone is utterly unique: some kids get lost in time trying to fix their own paradoxes and end up discovering a planetary parasite that causes doomsday.

Chrono Trigger’s sense of scale, its secrets, its multiple endings and plot threads to explore, its charming characters, its emotional reach, its timeless music, its iconic graphics, its gameplay minimizing turn-based battles with the ATB and non-random encounters, its original experience which has only been degraded and not improved in recent times by ports like the Steam mobile fiasco… there’s so much to enjoy in Chrono Trigger. It’s undoubtedly the kind of project that could only be born out of dreams… the brainchild of Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, and Akira Toriyama. Never before and never again.

I’ve said enough about this game to satisfy an encyclopedia so I’ll leave you with this. Now go play it. Lavos beckons.

 

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That’s my list! Is it similar to yours? Is your roster of top 7 best SNES games completely different than mine? DO YOU SNES?

Some honorable mentions… geez this is going to be a long list. This is the Super Nintendo, after all! These are some games I wanted to include but couldn’t. This library is just too great.

Mario KartSuper Castlevania IVSuper Ghouls ‘n GhostsF-Zero, Star Fox, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in TimeZombies Ate My NeighborsSuper Mario All-StarsMega Man X2 and X3, Sunset RidersEarthworm JimSuper Double Dragon, Out of This WorldMega Man 7, Harvest Moon…

*gasps for air*

Gradius IIIDonkey Kong Country, The Lost VikingsMario PaintActRaiserTiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!, Fatal Fury, Top Gear 3000, Sparkster, Maximum Carnage, Illusion of Gaia, Kirby Super StarChessmasterChuck RockEarthBound, E.V.O.: Search for Eden, Magic Sword

*turns blue*

Aladdin, Captain CommandoDonkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, Earthworm Jim 2Tetris & Dr. Mario, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter IIThe King of Dragons, Mystic Quest, The Lion KingSuper Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (of course), Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven StarsFinal Fantasy IV

*HP begins depleting*

…Secret of EvermoreAero the Acro-BatSoul BlazerSimAntR-Type IIIWordtrisDemon’s CrestContra III: The Alien WarsBart’s NightmareThe Adventures of Batman & Robin,  Super Adventure Island, and Secret of Mana and Breath of Fire II (both of which I excluded for major localization issues).

I’m certain you could add even more! But if I didn’t include the games that I ultimately did in my top 7, then I couldn’t live with myself, and I’m the one who has to do that, at the end of the day, not you.

 

 

A fan,
Well-Red-Mage-Black-sm
-The Well-Red Mage

 

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26 thoughts on “Console Challenge Day 10: Top 7 best SNES games!

  1. I love the SNES but I think if push came to shove, I’d probably choose a Genesis over it. This probably stems from the fact that I had a Genesis first and it was seemingly the console of choice in my area as a kid (I actually only knew 1 person that had a SNES). Also, the EA Sports games were categorically better on the Genesis and I played a lot of NHL, Madden, and FIFA as a kid.

    Anyway my top seven SNES titles would probably go as such: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Final Fantasy II (IVjp), Final Fantasy III (VIjp), Chrono Trigger, and either Mario Kart or Street Fighter II Turbo… probably Mario Kart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree! Those two are masterpieces that should’ve been included instead of multiple Kirby games…

      You’re gonna get me in trouble haha! I like Turtles in Time as a smooth and high tier beat ’em up but I think it drags a little over time and doesn’t aspire to much. It’s a great game but probably wouldn’t make it on my top ten. If I expanded my list, I’d include Yoshi’s Island, Earthbound, and …

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  2. Another wonderful list. But I have to be that guy. I’m sorry. To me Mega Man X, as a series deviates far from what Mega Man is all about. Yes it keeps the rock paper scissors boss formula, and involves platforming. But beyond that it’s a different animal. Different gravity. Different movement speed. An emphasis on chasing the dark, and brooding atmosphere more than delivering character, and personality. I like Mega Man X, but Mega Man 7 is a much more *Mega Man* game. The characters. The pixel perfect platforming. The tight controls. The sound track. The Classic series is the best series IMHO, and a lot of others feel the same way. Which is probably why Mega Man 11 is showing up before another X or Zero spinoff. Of course this is all opinion so nobody is really wrong. But I had to point out your error. All of that said, Mega Man X IS a great game, and series that took the brand into the even further flung future. And just because it isn’t part of the classic series doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm I dunno, I’m skeptical of that. They are different series but I think X has more in common with Classic than not. Different gravity is fairly minimal though the speed/pace is a huge difference. Not much else is concrete. Delivering character and personality is also a vague statement, considering MMX had in its first entry characters with personalities and dialogue (Zero, Vile, Sigma, X) and the cast only grew whereas the strongest games in the classic series, the earliest ones, didn’t have any characters or dialogue barely at all. The bosses too have plenty of personality in their design. Recall the “you’re going down” gesture from Launch Octopus?

      When you say MM7 is a much more Mega Man game, what you mean is it’s a much more Classic Mega Man game, with which I agree, but at that point it was slower than even its own predecessors. Tight platforming and controls and soundtrack easily describe X, as well. So I’m not sure what the error is? I don’t think MM7 is astounding but at the same time I think it’s good enough for an honorable mention among the other SNES greats, so at its core that’s a nuanced and balanced perspective, I think. Nobody here ignoring MM7, at all. I listed it.

      As far as the BEST series, that’s not a question I’d enter into. That’s not my original point to say that X was better than Classic, either, just that MM7 isn’t the best of the Classic series (which I don’t think you believe?). On the Classic scale, MM7 isn’t all that high up, in my mind. X and Classic are pretty dang similar. I prefer the pace of X but the simplicity and straightforwardness of Classic. Both series burned out hard eventually and I’m still skeptical of MM11 as much as I’m excited for it. I love Mega Man but the same game yet again is at risk of feeling stale but too big a departure can alienate fans. I definitely don’t envy Capcom the task of resurrecting that series, if that’s even their intention! 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Sounds like you could have made a top 50! Here’s mine:

    1. Super Metroid
    2. Chrono Trigger
    3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
    4. Final Fantasy VI
    5. Super Mario World
    6. Super Castlevania IV
    7. TMNT IV: Turtles in Time

    It killed me not to include Contra III, DKC2, and Final Fantasy IV!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’ve mentioned this to you before, but the SNES RPGs were the big reason I really kicked my collecting habit into high gear and took off with it a few years ago. I’m happy to say I’ve finally rounded out a sizeable collection in the SNES realm by this point, but I’m sure you’d be disappointed to hear that I’ve only played half your list! I’m working on it. 🙂 This was a great list, and you certainly had a really tough task of seeing which of the best nuggets here floated to the top. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was tough to make this list! The bottom five filled out immediately and then it was a matter of deciding the 6th and 7th spots. That is where it was really hard!

      I think we have talked about it, but delightedly it’s a favorite subject! I’m likely into RPGs at all because of the impact of the SNES. I am someone who definitely knows there is so much to play out there so I’m not surprised you’ve missed a few games. You may be shocked at what games I haven’t played.

      Which games have you not played from this list? What would your top 7 look like?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t played DKC2 (any of them, not just the one you mentioned), Super Metroid, FFIII, and I also haven’t come close to beating Mega Man X. I’m generally pretty bad at Mega Man games! I really appreciated your lengthy honourable mentions list because it’s going to help me fill in any gaps in my collection that I might be missing.

        I don’t think I could even make a top 7 list for SNES since I don’t think I’ve completed 7 SNES games (yeah, it’s that bad!) I’ve played SMW, Yoshi’s Island and dabbled in All Stars quite a bit. Other than that, I just recently finished Mystic Quest, and I’ve played Chrono Trigger and FFIV in the past, but I played those on PS1 and not on SNES. I’m really, really behind in this system.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very tough to narrow down. I had half a month to get this going and I kept coming back to “finalize” it. I really wish I could’ve fit more games but it’s only a top 7 in the end. Earthworm Jim is one of my favorite games so it was on my original idea for this list but I had to nix it quick since we had a rule that the games had to be either exclusives or timed exclusives only. Darn Genesis!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The BIG ONE, as far as I’m concerned, of the consoles. Excellent list, too, I think that’s pretty much spot on. I prefer Yoshi’s Island to Super Mario World, but we can have a six month flame war about that on Discord so as not to annoy everyone else.

    I really love Super Castlevania, too, but didn’t play Mega Man X much, so must give that a proper whirl pronto.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here. SNES is king when it comes to consoles. I don’t think I’ll ever not love this system. My old, yellow box crossed two oceans with me and if my house were on fire and I could only save one of my consoles from the conflagration, it’d be the SNES in a heartbeat. No issue.

      Thanks for checking out my list! I prefer Yoshi’s Island, too, so that was a really hard choice. I tried to break down why I went with SMW over Island, and the accessibility and launch status were the two big points for me there though Island improves upon SMW in a lot of ways.

      I hope you definitely do get to play MMX! That game is crazy good! Well… top 7 best SNES games good.

      Like

    1. This library is incredible. It’s not as big as some modern libraries but my goodness is it full of incredible games. I left out some good ones in my hon. mentions because they weren’t my favorites, personally.

      When we originally came up with this event, we opted for a Top 7 because we felt that was a “just right” number. Not too many so that obscurer systems with smaller libraries would be impossible, but not too small so as to miss out on some games with the bigger systems, but in the case of the SNES I really wish it was a Top 30 haha!

      Thanks for reading! How would your own Top 7 SNES list look?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This was a tough nut to crack for sure, as a Twitter friend so eloquently put it “there are the 5 obvious choices and then 2 more slots to left”. Trying to crunch dozens of other amazing games into those 2 spots is what kept me up at night! 😛

      Earthbound was originally my 7th. I really love that game. DKC2 eventually edged it out and when you play it someday, you’ll see why from the technical/impressive standpoint. Play it with co-op and it’s amazing, tight controls, the soundtrack is beyond impressive, the graphics hold up pretty well for that style from DKC, etc.

      And hey, you weren’t too far off with this list when you guessed it, huh?

      Liked by 1 person

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