SNES turns 20 - Game Guys rank its 20 best games

8:17 AM, Aug 24, 2011   |    comments
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System
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Twenty years ago, Nintendo released its Super Nintendo Entertainment System in North America.  Better known simply as SNES (pronounced S-N-E-S), some of the best video games in history saw their own release on the 16-bit gaming console.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the console's North American release,'s Game Guys have ranked the system's 20 top games.

20. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (Nintendo - 1995)  Have you ever wondered how Mario and Yoshi became friends?  Well, it happened a long time ago...  Okay, so it happened AFTER the original Super Mario World came out, but aren't prequels all the rage?  Save for the ultra-annoying crying of Baby Mario, Yoshi's Island had fun platforming gameplay along with some very creative puzzle solving.

19. Earthworm Jim (Playmates Interactive - 1994) Kudos to Doug TenNapel for coming up with the outlandish idea to turn an anthromorphic earthworm into a sci-fi super hero.  Earthworm Jim, with all its quirky humor and fun platforming, became an instant fan-favorite.  The game spawned not only numerous ports, but also three sequels and a cartoon series.

18. Contra III: The Alien Wars (Konami - 1993) How does a game publisher improve upon one of the best games on the original NES?  Give it positive gameplay tweaks and upgrade the graphics and audio to 16 bit!  Contra III did all that without losing the run-and-gun appeal of the original games.

17. Kirby's Dream Course (Nintendo - 1995) Who knew that golfing with Nintendo's inflatable cream puff would be so much fun?  I mean literally golfing WITH the little guy.  Kirby takes the roll of a Nintendo-fied golf ball across a Dream Land- themed miniature golf course.  A quality video game Scandia?  Yes, please.

16. Mega Man X (Capcom - 1994) Mega Man games have always been loved for their charm, theming, and challenging difficulty.  X turned down the difficulty a bit (while still keeping it challenging) while adding a touch of bad-assness.  Let's just say that this is the game where everybody's favorite blue-suited robot boy finally grows a pair.

15. F-Zero (Nintendo - 1991) When it comes to racing games, taking top-three is usually considered a challenge.  When it comes to F-Zero, completing the race is the challenge.  With speeds so fast even blue hedgehogs would have trouble keeping up (they'd probably smack into one of the many nonsensical obsticals anyway), F-Zero punishes players then leaves them begging for more.  Only a special kind of game can get away with that.

14. Mortal Kombat II (Midway - 1993) Anybody who was alive and consious in the mid-1990's probably remembers all of the controversy the gory original Mortal Kombat game created.  Well, Mortal Kombat II had all that, more characters, and refined gameplay.  It also sold like hotcakes.

13. Street Fighter II Turbo (Capcom - 1992) The fighting craze was going full-tilt in the early-to-mid 1990's both in the arcades and (finally) on home consoles.  While kids and teens alike were forming lines at the 7-Eleven to pump quarter after quarter into the arcade machine, SFII Turbo let players bit the pixelated you-know-what out of each other with no coinage necessary.

12. Super Metroid (Nintendo - 1994) Super Metroid has the unique gift to be the old-school 2D side-scrolling action/platformer that can knock the spacesuit off of all of its more-modern sequels.  The game's soundtrack is among the best of its time and the game is absolutely huge in terms of level design and overall sandbox feel in a time where sandbox games were very uncommon.  Just when you thought it was safe to venture into the heart of Brinstar...

11. Earthbound (Nintendo - 1995) Technically, Earthbound is the second game in a trilogy that never made it to the States (it's called Mother 2 in Japan).  Regardless, Earthbound is a game that took a long, hard look at all of the conventional rules for a successful RPG (and a video game in general) and disregarded them all.  The end result?  Success - plain and simple.

10. Star Fox (Nintendo - 1993) Finally a game both furries and non-furries alike can agree on.  While not the first third-person sci-fi shooter, Star Fox was definatly the best of its time.  It also was the first to fully utilize the SNES' FX Chip technology, which explains its then-unique graphical style.  And after all, had Star Fox not wowed gamers like it did, there would never have been a reason to introduce Krystal two consoles later.

09. Secret of Mana (Squaresoft - 1993) Let's add Squaresoft's RPG success, mix in a bit of hack-and-slash combat, and...oh yeah add a friend, and BOOM!  You have Secret of Mana, a JRPG that's not.  The game supplied its players with a then-advanced tactics system, a beautiful art style, and streamlined radial menus -- all of which had varying levels of rarity back then.

08. Donkey Kong Country (Nintendo/Rare - 1994) Once upon a time, Rare made games for Nintendo.  Simply put, they were good.  Conker's Bad Fur Day and GoldenEye 007 were great, but if it weren't for the success of Donkey Kong Country, Rare might never have had the chance to even develop those other titles.  DKC took Nintendo's barrel-throwing, kart-driving ape and gave him the video game version of a soul.

07. Final Fantasy II (Squaresoft - 1991) Okay, so technically this is Final Fantasy IV, but the North American Final Fantasy II pretty much set the mold for many of the JRPGs to follow in terms of storyline and mechanics.  It also wasn't shy on killing off main characters, which was bold for the time.

06. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Nintendo - 1992) There are two Zelda games that are in the discussion of best Zelda game ever.  Ocarina of Time is one.  This is the other.  Honestly, you could argue that Link to the Past is better simply because had it not existed, Ocarina never would have become a reality.  That's due to the fact that Link to the Past introduced much of what's considered to be a Zelda staple in terms of modern gameplay.

05. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Nintendo/Squaresoft - 1996)  This is one that might start a few fights, seeing as there are some people that not only believe Super Mario RPG to be the best RPG of its time, but also the best SNES game ever.  Well, top five isn't bad.  Part of the reason this game was so good is Squaresoft's involvement.  The other reason had to do with Mario, but not simply because he was there -- it's because of what he and his friends were able to do.  And what they did looked great, because SMRPG's graphics were well ahead of its time.

04. Final Fantasy III (Squaresoft - 1994) Like Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III wasn't actually III -- it was VI.  Confusing?  Well, back then the Japanese weren't too sure the American audience would buy video game RPGs.  It's a good thing they decided to export this one to the States, because it might very well be the best Final Fantasy title of all time (Nihilistic clowns are much more terrifying than one-winged angels any day.).

03. Super Mario Kart (Nintendo - 1992) Super Mario Kart is similar to the movie 'Wayne's World'.  How?  Because of 'Wayne's World 2', that's why.  That stated, it's hard to tell whether SMK or SMK64 is the better game.  Lucky for the original, 64 wasn't released onto the SNES.  Either way, Mario Kart is just as addictivly fun today as it was 19 years ago.

02. Super Mario World (Nintendo - 1991) For most original SNES owners, Super Mario World is the game they've had from the very beginning.  After all, it came included in the box (back when an actual video game would come with the console -- a concept that's making a comeback).  Good thing it was such a darn good game!

01. Chrono Trigger (Squaresoft - 1995) When you have a game that's still regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) video games of all time, how can it NOT be number one on this list?  Chrono Trigger takes a great storyline with interesting characters, time travel, amazing (for its time) anime-style visuals, and gameplay works so well that there are few games that feel this right to play.  Writing from experience, Chrono Trigger is simply one of those games that you don't stop playing -- not because it doesn't end (because it does), but because you can't help but play it again.

Does your personal SNES top-20 list not match ours?  Discuss it by clicking the comment link below.

- Game Guy Barry White


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