The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was obviously the follow up to the NES, which pretty much single handedly revitalized the video game industry. Moving from 8-bit to 16-bit meant better graphics, better sound, and more complicated games, but it also meant bigger competition in the form Sega Genesis. The 16-bit era will go down as one of most closely contested console wars of any generation, and this competition lead to some truly outstanding games for both systems. This was a time before the rise of multiplatform games, meaning the majority of games were exclusives. At some point I’ll get to my top 10 Genesis games, but this week I’m going to count down my Top 10 favorite Super NES games.
10. F-Zero (1991)
When F-Zero first came out, it was a technical marvel, and a showcase for just what the SNES could do, and how much more advanced it was the Genesis from a pure tech standpoint. F-Zero made use of the SNES’s “mode 7” technology to create the illusion of 3D graphics. Obviously today this technology is not quite as impressive anymore, but underneath all of that lies what is still a really fun racing game. What set this game apart from other racing games was the sense of speed and the health mechanics. The game was not simply about being the fastest, you had to worry about avoiding hazards and managing your ship’s health. F-Zero would go on to have 2 sequels (one on N64, one on Gamecube), and would also inspire other games like the Wipeout series.
9. Secret of Mana (1993)
Squaresoft may have had tons of success with the Final Fantasy games on the NES and SNES, but that didn’t stop them from trying new things, and Secret of Mana couldn’t be further from a Final Fantasy game. For one, instead of the traditional turn based combat, Secret of Mana had real time action based combat on par with a top down action game like The Legend of Zelda. However, the action based combat wasn’t the only thing that set this game apart from other RPGs of the era, this game is one of the few JRPGs ever to have cooperative play throughout the entire game. Because the game had action based combat, your two other party members were controlled by AI, that is unless you had friends playing with you. These unique gameplay elements combined with the type of story and characters you’d expect from SNES era Squaresoft and you’ve got a truly memorable game.
8. Donkey Kong Country (1994)
Like F-Zero, Donkey Kong Country is probably best remembered for being a very impressive technical achievement. This game utilized pre-rendered 3D graphics for characters sprites, making it arguably the best looking game ever at the time of it’s release. Obviously, like F-Zero, the visuals are less impressive today, but also like F-Zero, the game behind all the technology is still strong. Rare successfully revived the Donkey Kong series after a decade of silence and added their own unique spin to the character. Donkey Kong Country’s best attribute is the extremely difficult but fair challenge. This is a true platformer in the sense that reflexes, memorization, and dedication are the only things that will get you through the game. It can get frustrating, but that only makes success that much more satisfying.
7. Final Fantasy IV (1991)
Known as Final Fantasy II outside of Japan, FFIV was a revolutionary entry in the long running series. FFIV leaned heavily into its story, much more so than any previous Final Fantasy games. There was a strong emphasis on characters, and this game truly paved the way the for the story focused future of the role playing genre. It was also great from a gameplay perspective, with the introduction of the “active time battle system”, which would become a staple of turn based RPGs.
6. Yoshi’s Island (1995)
Though it was officially titled “Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island”, Yoshi’s Island didn’t have a whole lot to do with Super Mario World other than it’s name. Technically a prequel, the game had you in control of Yoshi, who was introduced in Super Mario World, as he tried to protect a baby version of Mario and rescue Baby Luigi. Unlike Super Mario World where Yoshi was simply a side kick, in Yoshi’s Island he takes center stage. The gameplay differs greatly from other Mario games, with most of Yoshi’s iconic moves being established for the first time in this game. Though it wasn’t quite the Super Mario World sequel many were hoping for, it is a fantastic game in its own right.