Among video game consoles, the Super Nintendo is a strong contender for Best of All Time. It had its run before consoles connected to the internet, so it didn’t have online multiplayer. It couldn’t stream media to your TV. You couldn’t download anything to it, or update your games. What it did was let owners play amazing games — and it did that very well.
One could easily jot off a list of 50 or 100 must-play SNES games. But here are our eight favorites, most of which are available to download on the Wii U or other modern systems.
1. Final Fantasy VI
It was a toss-up whether to include this game, Final Fantasy II, or Chrono Trigger. All three of these Square role-playing games of the SNES era are masterpieces. Final Fantasy VI (originally called Final Fantasy III on SNES) may be the most memorable, thanks to its huge cast of sympathetic characters and the bombshell it drops halfway through the game. Video games have gotten bigger since its 1994 release, but they haven’t gotten more epic.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Of all the games in this long-running series, A Link to the Past is the platonic ideal of a Zelda game. It drops you in a richly detailed world and has you conquer a series of puzzle-filled dungeons, confronting enemies of all types along the way. As you progress you fill out your inventory with iconic weapons like the hookshot and boomerang, all of which are fun to use and key to solving puzzles. Even the boss fights are like puzzles, as each one has a unique vulnerability you have to figure out before you’ll be able to succeed.
3. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
It wasn’t the first Street Fighter II game on SNES, but Turbo: Hyper Fighting cranked up the bone-cracking action. Unlike the original, it also let you play as all 12 of the characters, including the bosses like Vega and M. Bison. And if the standard game wasn’t fast enough for you, it let you pick the game’s speed, which could be set to a ridiculously high level to test your reflexes. To top it off, the gameplay is so timeless that you’ll feel right at home jumping straight to Street Fighter V, which launched 23 years later.
4. Super Castlevania IV
If you’re looking for a top-notch action platformer, look no further: Super Castlevania IV has everything you need. From its booming soundtrack to its ghoulish cast of enemies, this game delivers enough Gothic action to make Bram Stoker jealous. Sure, it retains the series’ stiff movement and characters without faces, but that’s just how Konami did things back then.
5. Super Mario Kart
In addition to being dangerous, driving in real life is usually boring. Not so in Super Mario Kart. The danger is there — just try to complete Rainbow Road without falling off the side — but this game is a blast. With tons of classic tracks and memorable environments like the Ghost Valley, Super Mario Kart keeps you on your toes, especially when the driver behind you has a red shell.
6. Super Mario World
One of the great video game debates is whether Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World is the better game. It’s close, but my vote goes to Super Mario World, a game so big, colorful, and full of secrets that it takes dozens of hours to see everything it has to offer. And unlike its NES predecessor, you can save it and pick up where you left off. Oh yeah, and it has Yoshi. Checkmate.
7. Super Metroid
This is the game that kicked off the often-copied “Metroidvania” mode of game design. You play as Samus, a space bounty hunter who finds herself on Planet Zebes and sets about exploring its deep, complex system of caverns. As you find new gear and acquire new abilities, you can reach areas that were previously inaccessible. This SNES classic is a brilliantly designed game that no one should miss.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
The SNES didn’t have online multiplayer, but if you had a friend over, you didn’t need it. All you needed was two controllers and Turtles in Time. This beat-‘em-up took one of the most popular brands in the world and created an extraordinarily accessible game that was a blast to play, whether you grew up gaming or you’d never touched a controller before. I’ve probably played through it 50 times over the years, but I still want more.