Top 10 Most Iconic SNES Games of All Time
A SPECIAL THANKS to Nerd Bacon’s co-owner theWatchman for his contributions to this Top 10 article!
Ah. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System – or more commonly referred to as the SNES. The SNES: A timeless piece of machinery with an endearing history that singlehandedly crafted many a child’s youthful years. You will always remember the weekend nights with your neighborhood friends huddled around the cabinet-cased television sitting on the floor, or the small tabletop set with tinfoil-wrapped bunny ears, a UHF/VHF switch knob, and a large numeric dial for changing channels. These memories don’t just come to you when something reminds you of them; You remember them with great passion. The SNES was a special system for millions, but no matter how special the console is, the now-classic games created a bevy of cherished memories.
While everyone’s memories are vastly different – maybe you played all your games on Saturday morning before chores, or maybe you could only play weeknights after homework was done – we all share the same fondness and affection for this lovable little 16-bit magic box. That is something that we all have in common. And it really was like magic at the time, wasn’t it? No matter your age, you just knew something was special about it. For the most part, less a few shovelware titles, the software developers seemed so inspired! I could go on for hours about how much I absolutely adore the Super Nintendo, but let’s get real for a minute.
From what I can tell in my research, there were just over 700 games released in North America (721 to be exact). Holy cow. But how many of these games are memorable to you? To others? To America? You’re not likely to find a single person who can list all 721 games off the top of their head. And you’d still be hard-pressed to find a soul who could rattle off even 100! But if you asked anyone with a decent amount of SNES knowledge to give you their favorites, they could give you at least 10. And that’s what we did. We thought, why not put together a sweet little Top 10 List of the Most Iconic SNES Games Ever Made… Of All Time…? And then we did it. Boom.
Below is a list of the Top 10 Most Iconic SNES Games of All Time. This isn’t a list of which games are the absolute best, or which ones are most ingenious, or which ones still hold up today. This list is about which ones have the longest lasting positive legacy and are most remembered by fans or onlookers. Enjoy this list. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll walk down memory lane and remember the first time that you…. okay, I’m getting off track. Just read the list.
*Note: All release dates mentioned or specified in the title refer to North American release dates.
One of the most unique titles released on any system during the 16-bit era, Pilotwings eschewed the intense aerial dogfights found in most flight games. Instead, players were challenged with obtaining their wings through a series of licensing tests, spread out across 4 different vehicles: Biplane, Parachute, Rocket belt, and Hang glider. These tests ultimately prepared you to participate in two top secret helicopter missions for a secret government organization.
Pilotwings provided a perfect showcase of the SNES’ Mode 7 scaling and rotation techniques while enchanting players with a whole new approach to the flight genre. Twenty-five years later, there’s still nothing quite like it.
While there are millions who had the pleasure of experiencing F-Zero and its top-notch Mode-7 capabilities, there’s no denying that this sci-fi racer has been mostly forgotten for newer and greater titles such as the Wipeout series. But anybody who appreciates futuristic racers can thank F-Zero for it.
Would the futuristic racing subgenre even exist without F-Zero? Of course it would. Much in the same way that the platforming genre would still exist without Super Mario Bros. (1983). But F-Zero had a tremendous influence on future developers. And guess what? It’s still a great game today! No lie, the music is fantastic, but the way in which they created so many different levels on a single flat plane is just amazing.
Chrono Trigger (1995)
Imagine how cool it would be to see Superman facing off against Spider-Man? Or the insanity that would have ensued if a show like Full House had crossed over with The Nanny? Similar fanboy dreams came true in the mid-nineties when the two greatest Japanese RPG titans, Squaresoft and Enix, teamed up to create a dream project.
The result was Chrono Trigger; an innovative, heartfelt tribute to the spirit that made that particular period of RPG’s so grand.
Chrono Trigger took players on a journey through time and space, in a struggle to defeat a parasitic entity from beyond the stars that had burrowed itself into the planet thousands of years ago.
While many crossover events can stumble, Chrono Trigger shined, incorporating the best elements from both companies’ flagship titles – Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, to create a beloved classic that many regard as one of the greatest games ever made.
Star Fox (1993)
While Star Fox 64 obviously outdid the original and became one of the most iconic 3D shooters / rail shooters ever made, where would Star Fox 64 be without its predecessor? Exactly. The original Star Fox saw an introduction of one of Nintendo’s mainstay characters, Fox McCloud. Fox is the creation of one Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto (maybe you’ve heard of him), much like other Nintendo characters on this list.
Many many rail shooters, 3D shooters, and more owe their success to Miyamoto and the folks at Nintendo for taking the plunge into the 3D world at a time when it was truly experimental and risky. Sure Pilotwings may have come first, and it showcased much of the same maneuverability in open 3D spaces, but Star Fox featured fully polygonal 3D graphics, a first for Nintendo’s development team.
Although the animations and graphics haven’t aged all that well, they’re still a great amount of nostalgic charm associated with it. And there’s no denying how damn visually impressive this was for its time. All history lessons aside, Star Fox is still awesome today. There’s just something exciting about flying through giant rings.
Mega Man X (1993)
Prior to the launch of the SNES, Capcom released no less than six Mega Man games for the NES. That’s a lot of titles for any series; however, the power of the SNES helped Mega Man X feel like a completely fresh rebirth for the series.
The added muscle of Nintendo’s 16-bit console facilitated an explosion of color, sound, and action which allowed Mega Man X to pulsate with an exciting energy. Mega Man X built upon the basic gameplay elements that it retained from its predecessors while adding new ingredients to the formula, such as upgradable armor and greater mobility for X.
While there were two additional SNES entries in the Mega Man X series, (as well as a Mega Man 7) both of which were quite good, none of them achieved the same impact that Mega Man’s SNES debut was able to reach.
Donkey Kong Country (1994)
While this spot is mostly interchangeable with Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, obviously neither of those 2 games would be here if it weren’t for the original. Donkey Kong sure made a big 180 since his days kidnapping Jumpman’s girlfriend Lady in the arcades in 1981. He triumphantly returned to the scene after a long hiatus to star in the timeless and iconic Donkey Kong Country. The rest is history.
The Super Nintendo is such an amazing gaming system, but so was the 3DO. The difference is that Nintendo knew how to make incredible games for it! Nintendo and Rare harnessed the power and capabilities of the SNES hardware creating one of the most graphically impressive games ever up to that point.
“3D? Is it really 3D??” Things being in “3D” seemed to be all the craze in the early to mid 1990s. The technology was on the brink, but it just wasn’t quite there yet. So instead of full-blown 3D, we got an awesome 2D platforming game with design elements that made it feel three dimensional. While it might sound archaic and boring by today’s standards, it was a very mind blowing experience in 1994/1995.
Sure, the game looks good. But c’mon… Riding rhinos, small easy puzzles, bonuses, climbing vines, the introduction of Diddy Kong… What more does a platforming game need? Donkey Kong Country will always be remembered for its exciting and lively stages and scenery, strong gameplay, and fun music!
Super Mario Kart (1992)
No discussion of iconic SNES games could be complete without Super Mario Kart.
Released in 1993, Super Mario Kart pioneered an entirely new genre of racing, which would go on to be mimicked and imitated for years.
Super Mario Kart transported the whimsy of the Mario games into a fantastically intense go-kart racing experience. Many of the items that aided Mario in his platforming adventures found their way into the wide variety of race tracks. Mushrooms would give you a quick burst of speed, Stars would make you temporarily invincible, and of course, Turtle Shells acted as missiles that could take out your foes.
As if the intensity of the racing itself wasn’t enough, Super Mario Kart also offered a brilliant battle mode, which let two players face-off in closed, maze-like courses, in a battle for supremacy.
Super Mario Kart was a masterstroke of genius that is now one of the pillars of Nintendo’s extensive repertoire.
Super Metroid (1994)
There are many, many outlets that would argue that Super Metroid is the best game ever crafted for the SNES.
It’s hard to argue against that assertion.
Super Metroid was vastly different in tone and atmosphere than any other title created by Nintendo.
The late Gunpei Yokoi and his team crafted a moody, suspenseful classic that gave a sense of mystery and impending danger around every corner; quite an accomplishment in the years preceding the 3D revolution.
The design of the game tantalized players with glimpses of area’s and items that could only be explored or obtained after necessary upgrades, creating an obsessive need to push forward on the path of unlocking Super Metroid’s myriad secrets.
No discussion of Super Metroid is complete without its haunting soundtrack. Its use of a digitized voice sample created an eerie, unnerving sense that you were descending deeper and deeper into the depths of evil, as you delved deeper into planet Zebes.
Every aspect of Super Metroid personifies the brilliance of the Super Nintendo era, easily earning its praise, and standing as inspiration for a multitude of titles today.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
The first entry in the, ahem, “legendary” franchise (pun very much intended) was a well-liked classic on the NES; however, its sequel, Zelda II, was enough of a radical departure from the style established in the first game that it cast some doubt over the direction the series would take.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was a return to form, expanding upon the sense of exploration and discovery afforded by the top-down perspective introduced in the NES original, while capitalizing on the exponentially greater horsepower found in the SNES.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past helped the series find its proverbial groove, establishing many of the tropes that would be found in later entries in the series and even retained after the series made the jump to 3D in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.
The combination of lovely graphics, a twisting plot, and fantastic music, coupled with an expansive rendition of the world of Hyrule, catapulted the Legend of Zelda Series from a couple of good games to a beloved classic franchise.
Super Mario World (1990)
One of the best platformers ever made. Review done.
Super Mario World is one of those games that need no introduction. It is one of the most tight and rocksolid games ever made. Dare I saw flawless? What makes Super Mario World stand the test of time is the absurd amount of fun to be had from start to finish. You may break your controller from sheer frustration in a castle somewhere, but you’ll never want to stop playing.
The secrets (Rainbow Road anybody?), the action, the graphics, the music (omg the music) and more. It was the definition of perfection in gaming. It was easily the peak of the platfoming genre until Mario outdid himself with his first foray into 3D gaming with Super Mario 64. The sheer variety of stages, their themes, and the ways you can play them (swimming, flying, Yoshi-back riding, etc.) make Super Mario World a special one-of-a-kind experience.
What more can be said about Super Mario World that hasn’t already been said? Super Mario World was designed in a way that keeps it from ever becoming outdated. Nintendo provided some of the best memories to children around the world. Thank you Nintendo.
It should come as no surprise that 7 of the games on this Top 10 list were developed by Nintendo! Nintendo was really on fire during this gaming era, and there’s a good reason why they eventually beat out the Sega Genesis in the 16-bit wars.
As for the choice of the #1 game on this list: It really wasn’t a question as to whether Super Mario World would make the top 10 or not. The real question was whether Link to the Past or Super Mario World should take the crown. But we find these games to be the correct choices, and we strongly believe them to be in proper order.
Do you feel differently? Did we miss something? Check out the honorable mention list below, and then throw in your 2 cents in comments!
If this could have been a Top 15, we wouldn’t have struggled so much. There were a number of great titles that didn’t make the cut, but it was tremendously hard taking out these three absolute classics in the SNES world: Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy II, and Mortal Kombat II. Here’s what Nerd Bacon owner and lead news director theWatchman had to say about Super Mario RPG:
Super Mario RPG (1996)
Squaresoft’s final game for many years on a Nintendo platform provided an expertly crafted combination of Square’s RPG sensibilities, with a dash of the action and charm for which Nintendo’s flagship series was known.
Super Mario RPG’s combat system and story was deep enough for RPG enthusiasts, while at the same time approachable enough to pique the interest of platform fans who may not normally be attracted to the role-playing genre. Perhaps one the most beloved SNES titles among the diverse Nerd Bacon staff, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars served as the final landmark release for Nintendo’s 16-bit wonder machine.
Share This Post