Most of my memories of playing the SNES come from downloading ROMs, playing with my friend Drew, and collecting games in the late 90s. I didn’t own this system when it came out, and most of my friends bought the Sega Genesis instead. Drew was the only person I knew who owned one.
I don’t remember renting too many games. Mostly, I would hear about a game from Drew and then go online to see if ROMs were available. This led to some interesting moments where I would play a game for a bit only to realize the fan translation wasn’t finished.
Once I started collecting video games, I found many excellent games I hadn’t heard of before. I also discovered that the games I liked didn’t always match what others liked. So, I put together a list of my favorite SNES games.
Let’s talk about what qualifies for this list. I’m not just going to be putting any random game on this list. Here are the criteria I used to compile this list:
- Has to be in my collection.
- I need to have some fond memories of the game (I played it with friends, Rented the game, Downloaded a ROM, i.e.).
- Can be critically acclaimed, but isn’t necessary.
Review Score: 79% (Game Rankings)
This is a wonderful game that was recently remade. While I like Actraiser: Renaissance, the first game is my favorite of this short series. This is one of the few games I remember renting before I found a ROM online, and then I bought a copy when I started collecting games.
Actraiser is a Multi-Genre game. You have to do some platforming and beat a boss before you can get to the city-building simulation. Each stage has three acts:
- First is a short platformer that clears the monsters from a region.
- Second is a city-building stage where you must clear the monster dens and solve the citizens’ problems.
- Finally, you must go into a dungeon to defeat another boss. This frees the region.
At the end of the game, you have to do a boss rush off all the stage bosses before fighting the final boss. It is a short game but a fantastic one.
This is one of my favorite games on the SNES. I don’t remember if we beat the game when we rented it, but I do remember beating it on an emulator when I was in high school. It would be in my top five if I were going to do that.
Aerobiz: Super Sonic
Genre: Business Simulator
Review Score: 7.2/10 (EGM)
Business Simulation is one of my favorite genres! Usually, they’re relaxing games that let you experiment with ideas that aren’t possible in other games, like being the leader of a thieves guild in The Guild II or running a city like Sim City. I find something about these games more compelling than other games.
Aerobiz: Super Sonic is one of those games. It has you running an airline company and competing against other companies to be the best in the world. It is one of Koei’s more interesting games and a departure from their historical war simulations.
This is one of the many games that I found online. I didn’t know anything about it and decided to try it. I was also happy that the ROM worked when I first tried it because that wasn’t always the case.
Developer: Square (SquareEnix)
Review Score: 96% (Game Rankings)
This was an easy one to put on the list. Chrono Trigger is one of the best games on the SNES and one of the better RPGs overall. It has a great story and very memorable characters.
In Chrono Trigger, you play as Crono and a group of heroes from across time. Your ultimate goal is to defeat the parasitic lifeform named Lavos before it can destroy the world. There are a lot of quests to complete in the game and many ways to beat it the game. It also has multiple endings, which gives the game a lot of replay value if you want to try to see them all.
A friend of mine was obsessed with this game. He is the one who introduced me to it, and I spent most of a summer trying to see as many of the endings as I could. This was also one of the first games I looked for when I started collecting video games in the late 90s.
Review Score: 59% (Game Rankings)
This is my favorite shooter franchise! I’m not sure why I find robotic fish enemies amazing. That isn’t the only thing I like about the Darius series, but it is one of the things that made me want to play the games.
Darius Twin is similar to other arcade shooters. You pilot a ship, collect power-ups, and blast through an endless wave of enemies until you face a giant boss. In the case of Darius, that boss is a huge robotic fish.
I was drawn to the Darius series because it differed from what my friends liked. Specifically, my friend Drew liked the Gradius series, and I wanted to be different. After playing Darius Twin, I started collecting the other Darius games. However, I still return to this one; it is my favorite game in the series and my favorite shooter on the SNES.
Review Score: 87% (Game Rankings)
This is a spin-off of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series. It is part of the Gargoyle’s Quest series, as they have the same main character. Having a game based on a villain from a different series is an interesting idea, but that is precisely what Capcom did with this game.
In Demon’s Crest, you play as Firebrand, and you’re trying to gather the six crests to and defeat Phalanx, who is trying to take over hell. Your character is a demon, and it is fighting other demons who might be eviler than you. There aren’t any good guys in this game.
There are multiple endings to the game. In two of them, you kill Phalanx, and in the best ending, Phalanx seals himself in the Heaven Crest. Like the other games in the series, Demon’s Crest can be very difficult. However, it is an extremely fun game to play.
Final Fight 2
Genre: Beat’em up
Review Score: 69% (Game Rankings)
I was debating on which Final Fight to put on this list. The first game not having a two-player mode kept it off the list. The second game is the one I like the most, which is why I went with it over Final Fight 3.
The plot is similar to the first game but has some different characters. The worst mayor ever, Mike Haggar, is back, and Maki and Carlos join him. The three of them fight the remnants of the Mad Gear gang.
This is a very good beat’em up that improves on the first game. I’m specifically talking about the SNES ports of the games.
Final Fantasy III (VI)
Developer: Square (SquareEnix)
Review Score: 94% (Game Rankings)
This is my favorite game in the Final Fantasy series. Along with Chrono Trigger, I was introduced to this game through my friend Drew. Initially, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me because we didn’t see much of the game when we rented it one weekend.
However, I kept coming back to the game in high school. As I got further into the game, I started to enjoy it as much as I did with Chrono Trigger. I like this game as much as Final Fantasy VII.
In the game, you play as a group of heroes trying to save the world. Each character has a compelling story; you get to know them throughout the game. Then the world ends, and you have to try to save what is left of it. The music, graphics, and story for Final Fantasy VI are all fantastic!
This is one of the games that I kept buying over the years. I picked up the SNES version first and then bought the game on the PS1 and GBA. It is one of the games that SquareEnix has convinced people to buy multiple copies of.
Illusion of Gaia
Review Score: 80% (Game Rankings)
This was one of the few games that I rented for the SNES. It was one of the more memorable games, as I picked it up as soon as I started collecting for the SNES. It is a wonderful game that reminds me of the fantasy worlds that I used to create when I was a kid.
Illusion of Gaia, known as Illusion of Time in Europe, is an Action-RPG that plays like The Legend of Zelda. It is an imaginative game it leads you around fictional versions of the 7 Wonders of the World. In the game, you play as Will, who has to save a version of Earth from Dark Gaia.
I also played this with one of my cousins, but I have more memories of playing it with my friend Drew. We didn’t get too far into the game, but it made a big impression on me.
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Review Score: 69% (Game Rankings)
I remember playing a demo of the game on my PC back in the 90s. I had no idea this was on the SNES until the late-2000s. While I like the SNES version, the PC is the best way to play this game, as the mouse makes things much easier.
In the SNES version, you play as a General of the Space Colony Forces, trying to free Earth from a military dictator. The plot from the PC version is a little different, with the roles of the army being reversed.
The gameplay has you building a base on an island and using a combination of cruise missiles and Metal Marine mechs to attack the enemy island. The Metal Marines are 50ft tall robots similar to Gundam. They can be equipped with a few different weapons you choose before deploying. Your goal is to destroy the three enemy bases while protecting your bases.
My friend Andy is the person who introduced me to this game. It was on one of the many free demo disks you could get from PC magazines in the 90s. It would be a decade before I discovered and added the SNES version to my collection.
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen
Genre: Tactical RPG
Review Score: 84% (Game Rankings)
This is my favorite game of the series and on the SNES. I find the game infinitely interesting, and I love the challenge of keeping your reputation maxed out. Finding the different combinations of units that work for you is also fun.
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen is the first game in the Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre series. In this game, you lead a rebellion and fight against an empire influenced by demons. You control an army of customizable units and fight through a series of stages until you eventually beat the game.
There are a lot of hidden characters and locations in this game. You can either collect all of the Sky Knights, find demons and angels who fight on your behalf, or rush through the game. Over the course of the game, more of the story about this land is given to you. It gives you the impression that there is more going on that you don’t know about, and the world is much older than you experience in the game.
This was the first game I played on an emulator. My friend Drew introduced me to the game, and I spent a lot of time trying to find it. Before I got ahold of the SNES version, I played the PS1 port of the game. The two are the same. It might not be the best game on the SNES, but it is my favorite game.
Review Score: 7.1/10 (Moby Games)
Run Saber plays like Strider. You play as one of two sword-wielding heroes trying to save a dystopian Earth that a mad scientist has taken over. This plot has been used in so many games that I can’t count them all.
There are five levels in this game. Each level has a few mini-bosses and one big boss. Your goal is to defeat the mad scientist who turned the people of Earth into mutants and defeat a renegade “Saber” who was supposed to be on your team.
This was one of the gems I came across while collecting video games in the late 90s. I don’t remember if Drew told me about it or not. Either way, Run Saber is a spectacular game!
Tecmo Super Bowl III
Genre: Arcade Sports
Review Score: 7.2/10 (Moby Games)
This is the best version of Tecmo Super Bowl. It improves on the arcade football formula and includes some features from Madden without radically changing the game. It was a game that my friends rented for both the SNES and the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.
Tecmo Super Bowl III is an arcade football game that doesn’t try to be a realistic simulation of American Football. You can play a full season, an exhibition, or a playoff tournament. This game version lets you create players, but no career mode exists.
My friend Joe rented this game a few times when it came out. I also looked for it when I started collecting video games. I spent many weekends playing the game with my friends and on the PC when I found a ROM of it.
The Pirates of Dark Water
Genre: Beat’em up
Review Score: 6.6/10 (Moby Games)
I wasn’t expecting much from this game when I first played it. I picked it up because I liked the cartoon and thought a game about it might be fun. I expected something like the Batman, Aladdin, and Lion King games. However, I liked Pirates of Dark Water more because it is a beat’em up, not a platformer.
This is a surprisingly good beat’em up! You play as one of the main characters from the show, and you fight a bunch of enemies with questionable AI. The graphics are excellent, the gameplay is great, and it is one of the better beat’em ups on the SNES.
The Pirates of Dark Water is a property that I would love to return in some form. I remember watching the show when I was a kid, and I was a little disappointed that it ended without coming to a resolution. Even the comic book didn’t give the readers a satisfying ending. A re-release of this game would be fantastic!
Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
Genre: Beat’em up
Review Score: 83% (Game Rankings)
Turtles IV is one of Konami’s spectacular beat’em ups. Originally released in the arcades in 1991, Turtles in Time was given a number when brought to the SNES. This is one of the games I wish I had experienced in the arcades, but that wasn’t an option for me back in the early 90s.
This game has nothing to do with the TMNT movie released in 1993, aside from both dealing with time travel. I felt like I needed to mention this. The TMNT console games from the 90s aren’t connected, but they’re all great!
This was a game that I played with my friend Drew after he bought it when we were both collecting video games. I don’t remember much from that experience, but I went out and picked up the game shortly after that. It is a spectacular beat’em up, and it is as good if not better than Hyperstone Heist on the Sega Genesis.
Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
Review Score: 7.4/10 (Moby Games)
The Uncharted Waters games are awesome! They’re as close to open-world games as possible on the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. These are also historical games, which Koei seemed to be obsessed with.
In Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, you play as one of several characters, each with its own storyline that occasionally overlaps with one of the other characters. My two favorite characters to play are Ernst, who is mapping the world for Mercator, and Ali, a merchant helping a young girl find her way home.
There are endings for the characters, but you can do whatever you want to do in the game. You can be a pirate captain, a merchant, or work your way into the nobility of one of the nations.
This is another game that I found on the internet when I was in high school. It was like discovering gold as I got lost in the game. When I started collecting games, this was one that I looked for, and I was overjoyed when I found it.
Best of the Rest
I couldn’t put everything on this list. Some of the great games on the SNES had to be left off for one reason or another. Here are the other games I considered putting on my list:
- Secret of Mana
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Super Mario World
- Final Fantasy II (IV)
- Street Fighter II
- Fatal Fury II
- Sunset Riders
- Final Fight III
- Gradius III
These are my favorite SNES games. I have fond memories of playing each game with my friends or searching for it in one form or another. Sometimes the story behind my search for the game is better than my experience with the game.
Game collecting was where I discovered and played a lot of games for the first time. The internet wasn’t a big part of my childhood, so I didn’t know about the other people who were collecting these games. If I had been online, I might have learned more about these games before I bought them.
There are tons of great games on the SNES. Many had to be left off this list for one reason or another. It might be that I don’t like the genre, or I never played the game. It doesn’t make those games bad; it just means I have more memories of playing these games.