The Best Undiscovered Super Nintendo (SNES) Games

snes-gems

Usually, when you get a new-to-you console, you can usually find or remember the major games to check out. But what happens when you need something different to play? This is where the “Hidden Gems” come in.
Criteria For Hidden GemsSee All The Hidden Gems Articles | Digg This Guide

Looking for The Best SNES Games?

Platformers

Obvious Choices: Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario All-Stars, Kirby, The Lion King, Mickey Mania

Featured Game: DoReMi Fantasy

doremi-1Most of the best platformers on the Super Nintendo received a good amount of exposure of the US, so we’re digging into the Japanese Super Famicom library a bit here.  DoReMi Fantasy is a colorful and whimsical platformer that is a bit ahead of its time.  If you have a way of playing this little gem, you really need to track it down.

From RVG Fanatic’s Review:  “DoReMi Fantasy is a highly polished side-scrolling platformer. There are 7 worlds each with their own theme. In each world there’s a minimum of 6 levels followed by a boss. An overhead map allows you to backtrack. The levels aren’t particularly long, but they possess plenty of detail, quirky enemies, excellent backdrops, ace set pieces and satisfying gameplay moments. Milon is a great character, full of charm and animated brilliantly. The graphics are OUTSTANDING. The game has a real sense of LIFE to it… you really have to see it in motion to fully appreciate it. ”
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Featured Game: Plok

plokSo if we are going to feature a North American gem here, I think we should go with Plok.  I can’t think of a better US platformer that most people haven’t heard of and actually looks like a precusor to Rayman. While it did not have the polish and creativity of a Mario or Sonic, it was a well-rounded game that exceeded in gameplay, colorful graphics, and amazing music (some of the best composed on SNES). It has a very original art style and the visuals and environments are colorful and creative. Strong characters, great controls, and some seriously difficult, yet awesome bosses make this game a sleeper hit

From PressTheButtons’ Review: “One of my favorite games to spring from the great cartoon character game mascot wars of the 16-bit generation has to be Plok for the Super NES. Released in 1992, Plok tells the story of our intrepid hero (Plok), a little fella made up of what appears to be boots, gloves, a hangman’s hood, and a torso. Plok’s self-assigned mission was to drive the nasty fleas from his island, a feat accomplished by shooting his own arms and legs at his targets. Without his limbs poor Plok is defenseless, meaning he must hop around on his torso until he can recover his missing parts. The game is downright hard to complete, as it’s very long and lacks a save feature or password ability. Taking on the world of Plok is one hell of a commitment even today.”
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Featured Game: Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shougun Magginesu

ganbare-goumon-2Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shogun Magginesu (Japanese only release sequel to The Legend Of The Mystical Ninja) I picked it up and have not put it down since.  This game is Konami at there best, so much crazy stuff in this game, really a step up from the first in every way.  Also the game can be played without knowing any Japanese, all you need to know is the third option in the Inn saves your game.

From HG101’s Review: “”Kiterestu Shougun Magginesu”, or “The Mysterious General Magginesu”, takes Goemon straight into platformer territory. You move around levels via a world map stage select (similar to Super Mario World), with some occasional towns to shop in. The character sprites have been enlarged, and while they look fantastic, it makes the game feel a little bit awkward (similar to Mega Man 7.) This is where the series developed the unique art style that’s been used in almost every game afterwards. There are three playable characters – Goemon and Ebisumaru are back, with Sasuke the clockwork ninja making his first appearance. Each character has their own unique attacks, although you can’t switch between them ingame – you’ll have to reset the console. Goemon 2 also serves as the introduction to the legendary Goemon Impact. ”
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Additional Games To Try:

Action/Adventure

Obvious Choices: Super Metroid, Earthworm Jim, Prince of Persia, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Star Fox, Super Star Wars Series, Mega Man, Flashback: The Quest for Identity, Out of This World, Disney’s Aladdin

Featured Game: Phantom 2040

phantom-2049Phantom 2040 has to be one of the most under-appreciated games from the 16-bit era. In fact, I was not even aware of its existence until a few years ago. If you enjoy action games with exploration elements such as Metroid and Castlevania, you need to take a serious look at Phantom 2040.  It won’t have quite the polish of those titles, but it’s dirt cheap and lots of fun.

From Racketboy’s Full Review: “Again, if you enjoy the Metroid style of gameplay, you should feel right at home with Phantom 2040. The focus on shooting, jumping, and ducking throughout the game also reminds me a bit of Vectorman. However, as opposed the the pure run-and-gun style of Vectorman, Phantom 2040 requires more exploration throughout and between level in addition to using a rope-like item to grab onto and swing from ledges.

Phantom 2040 also incorporates some of the item and power-up collection elements from other classic games like Metroid and Legend of Zelda. Items includes things such as a Wave Punch, a shield, and the Shadow Panther, which leaps from enemy to enemy and defeats all that it touches. Some weapons are ideal for beating bosses, while others are better for blowing away enemy biots.”
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Featured Game: Demon’s Crest / Demon’s Blazon

demons-crestThe gameplay formula is also similar to Metroid, but in a different way.  Demon’s Crest is an interesting game-element mix of Ghouls and Ghosts, Magical Quest, and Mega Man X. And who doesn’t like playing as the bad guy?  The graphics and atmosphere of the game are dark, gritty, and overall top notch, and some of the boss battles are phenomenal. Additionally, the game has an excellent sound track that fits its mood perfectly. It’s definitely not as good as Super Metroid, but it’s a similar feeling game with an excellent new look.

From HG101’s Review: “Demon’s Crest is what happens on the oh so rare occasion when Capcom decides to take one of their dying IPs and reinvent it… Capcom took the whimsical and simplistic Makai Mura brand and created something so far detached from it that it’s hard to believe such a game could emerge from such a franchise… Firebrand’s options at [the beginning] are limited, however, as many obstacles lay in his way that can’t be passed without the power of the crests. Demon’s Crest has a similar structure to Metroid and the more recent 2D Castlevanias in this sense, as each power-up you find will open up new parts of the world.
Aside from Firebrand’s innate abilities to shoot fire, cling to walls, and fly on a single plane, each crest Firebrand finds unlocks a new form for him to manifest. The abilities of these forms differ greatly.  On top of the variety that comes with having half a dozen forms, Firebrand also finds various items scattered throughout the demon realm… The best part about the game is the boss fights. There’s at least two in every area, not counting minor mid-bosses. Not only are the bosses huge and intimidating, but also very challenging. There’s quite a bit of strategy involved in every fight, and you’ll need to make very wise decisions. It’ll likely take you several tries just to develop a working game plan during many of these epic battles. One fight in particular is commonly cited as one of the most difficult boss fights ever.”
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Featured Game: The Adventures of Batman & Robin

batman-robinIt could easily be argued that The Adventures of Batman & Robin is the best 2D Batman game, but also possibly the second best Batman game behind Batman: Arkham Asylum. It perfectly captured every aspect of the Batman Animated series from the look, to the sound to even the themes of the stages which borrowed heavily from actual episodes of the show. Konami seems known more for Batman Returns but this was an even better Batman game from them.

From VGMuseum’s Review: ” The graphics are excellent. The sprites are smaller than Batman Returns but their animation is a lot better. It’s very cartoon-like, and up to par with the animation of Disney games like The Lion King and Mickey Mania. The backgrounds are very pretty, dark coloured to fit with the theme of the game and with a lot of details. They are not as good as those in Batman Returns, but they are a close second… It has elements of Beat’em ups but most of the game is platform. Batman can kick and punch his enemies, as well as perform a body slam. There are also a fair amount of weapons to use such the grappling hook, bombs and tear gas. The play control to perform these moves is excellent. There are 8 levels total, and at the end of most levels there is a villain as the boss. You will face classic villains like the Joker, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, Catwoman and Scarecrow. There is also Two-Face, which is the disappointing batmobile stage’s boss, and the Riddler, but unfortunately you don’t get to fight him face to face as a boss. The difficulty is pretty high, but there is a password feature that makes the game easier. If you want to see the true ending, though, you must finish the game in hard mode where there are no passwords. That’s a challenge for you!”
Check for The Adventures of Batman and Robin on Amazon
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Featured Game: The Firemen

firemen-1Before the cult-classic Burning Rangers made it to the Sega Saturn, the Super Famicom was graced with this little-known gem that gives 16-bit gamers the thrill of putting out fires and saving the day. From RVG Fanatic’s Review: “It’s 6 PM on Christmas and a small fire in the Metrotech kitchen left unattended has spread throughout the complex. With the building quickly burning to a crisp and injured people trapped inside, it’s your job to get in and neutralize the situation. There are six floors in all. Thanks to the whole theme and atmosphere, it reminds me of Die Hard the movie, except replace the terrorists with deadly flames, and the guns with a water hose

Your partner carries an axe and helps you in eradicating fires and other enemies, including bosses. He’ll carry out the victims as well. Finding and rescuing victims are not necessary, per se, but finding more means a better score and each time you save someone your health will be restored by roughly 60% (if necessary)”
Check for The Firemen on eBay

Featured Game: The King of Demons / Majyuuou

king-of-demonsIn this Castlevania/Contra style game called The King of Demons (Better known as Majyuuou in japan) Basically your wife and daughter have been taken from you and you’re out to whoop some demon ass. Wierd ass evil creatures get shot in the face constantly by you and after killing enough you can transform into different monsters. Also the sprites on your character and the enemies are very well done.

From RVG Fanatic’s Review: “MAJYUUOU could be described as “Castlevania with a gun” or “Resident Evil meets Castlevania.” But more than throw out lingo’s, let’s delve a little deeper into this morbid action scroller… Initially, the small sprites were disappointing and in general I felt graphically it was a bit of a letdown. The game’s fairly short and not too difficult. It wasn’t the 9+ out of 10 masterpiece a part of me was expecting to be honest (mostly due to hype and word of mouth), but it’s well worth owning. I love the strange and gruesome creatures, the mini-bosses are sweet and it kind of reminds me of Taromaru a little bit. It had that Japanese demonic tone down pat. The gameplay is reminiscent of an old 8-bit game for some reason, which is a plus for anyone keeping score at home. The different demon transformations are quite Altered Beast-esque. I like it.   MAJYUUOU is a good ole fashion ghoulish romp that places itself on the small list of dark action games (worth playing) on the Super NES.”
Check for The King of Demons on eBay

Additional Games To Try:

Run-N-Gun Shooter

Obvious Choice: Contra III: The Alien Wars

Feautred Game: Cybernator

cybernator1Cybernator (aka Assault Suits Valken in Japan) game is an intense side-scrolling, mech shooter that takes you through a steep difficulty curve. In this shmup, your ‘Assault Suit’ can jump, thrust, dash, punch and use various weapons to do your damage. Control is great (but different) with a real ‘chunky robot’ feel.   The cartridge is dirt cheap, so if you’re an action fan that likes a challenge, there’s no reason to skip Cybernator.

From Nintendoland’s Review: ” Cybernator is playing in the same league as Konami´s other action games like Super Castlevania andContra 3, but at the same time it’s very different because the emphasis of the game is laid more on strategic thinking and accurate shooting than on quick reflexes and fine tuned jumping skills. You are a pilot of a 100 ton battle mech equipped with a trusty shield and an upgradeable vulcan cannon, that later on can be upgraded to an flamethrower, a lasercannon or a missile launcher. The shield is an essential piece of equipment because it will protect you from almost any enemy attack, even from behind. This mean that you don’t have to avoid enemy gunfire, you can just pick up the shield, and that´s lucky for you because your battlemech is all other than fast, slim and movable….

The thing that makes Cybernator so special is the shield that makes this game less hectic than other action games. Instead you must study each enemy and learn their patterns so you know when to take down the shield and attack and when not to. This handy shield doesn’t make the game to easy if you think so, even if I would rather recommend games like Contra 3 if you want a real challenge. Both Contra 3 and Super Castlevania is better choices than Cybernator but when they are finished then maybe you should start thinking about getting yourself a copy of Cybernator ”
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Featured Game: Metal Warriors

metal-warriorsThis shooter from Lucas Arts is actually an unofficial follow-up to Cybernator (some refer to Metal Warriors as “Assault Suits Gideon”).    The graphics were amazing, the missions were bad ass, It was full of secret areas, the cinematics were gorgeous, and the mech design was wicked.  Of course, the multiplayer is really what makes it great, and there can be some pretty intense matches when you play with a friend.

From Syffer Bidan’s Review on GameFAQs: “Unlike Assault Suits Valken, where you level up your weapons through item collection, or Assault Suits Leynos, which allowed you to collect weapons through points and kills earned in missions, Gideon allows you to pick up weapons and shoulder mounts from crates and ports. Yes, these weapons do have ammunition limits, but they usually aid you in your infiltration or mission objective, whatever that may be. The unique aspect of this game is that there is no life bar. To judge how well you are fairing, look at your Assault Suit or Assault Armor. If you have bullet holes and tattered paint, I suggest you find a new suit or armor to board. Yes, stealing Assault Suits was a neat aspect of this game, but you must be wary when doing so, or you may just be annihilated by the enemy. ”
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Featured Game: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

zombies-ate-my-neighborsThis game got a bit of exposure when it was released, but many younger gamers might not be aware of it.  It also showed up on the Sega Genesis, but the SNES port is regarded as the better version. Has a great soundtrack and really cool b-movie/horror vibe and recognizable movie villains.  “Zombies” also serves as some of the best co-op on SNES.

From NintendoLife’s Review: “Your goal in Zombies Ate My Neighbors is simple: you have to locate and rescue ten of your neighbors before the zombies and other ghouls get their hands on them. Along the way, you’ll be chased by everything from tiny axe murderers to chainsaw-wielding madmen. Under normal circumstances this might seem impossible, but you have the unique distinction of being armed to the teeth, which will make it at least a little easier to accomplish your task. Your main weapon is a water pistol filled with holy water that can take down most of the weaker enemies, but you’re going to need the big guns to take down the stronger monsters. You’ll find dynamite, a bazooka, not to mention a potion that can turn you into a huge scary monster, to aid you on your quest. Once you’ve managed to rescue all of the neighbors, a door will open up that will warp you to the next area where you must start the entire process all over again.

The control in the game is rock solid and the large selection of different weapons gives the game plenty of variety. The levels start out fairly easy, but they’ll soon become much more complicated and finding the neighbors will become increasingly troublesome, not to mention the fact that the monsters become more aggressive. You’ll really have your work cut out for you in the later levels of the game when the action gets insanely intense. The good news is the game’s responsive play controls give you every chance you’ll need to be successful, although you’ll have to supply the skills of course.”
Check for Zombies At My Neighbors on Amazon
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Additional Games To Try:

Shmups

Obvious Choices: Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius, Gokujou Parodius, Gradius III, R-Type III, Super Smash TV , Super R-Type, Darius Twin

Featured Game: Space Megaforce (aka Super Aleste)

spacemegaforce-1The SNES is a wonderful platform for shooters, so anybody dedicated to the genre is probably well-aware of most of the games here, but Space Megaforce is probably one of the best that would slip by the more casual retro fan’s radar.   While it is techically part of the rather well-known Aleste series, the title of the North American release probably won’t grab most shmup fan’s attention.

From SHMUPS! Review: “Back in time when gamers weren’t convinced of the Super Famicom’s processing speed – justified because of serious slowdown cases in almost every shooter on the machine – along came Super Aleste, also known as Space Megaforce in the US…

Perhaps Super Aleste’s best feature is it’s weapon system. Besides the obligatory smart bombs you can pick up, there are eight different upgradeable gadgets at your disposal. Also very welcome is the possibility to change their attack mode at will; for example you can switch between regular or less powerful homing missiles, or lock the position of the Gradius-style multiples. The bottomline is that not many other shoot ‘em ups provide a comparable amount of destructive firepower, especially on a ‘mere’ 16-bit machine. It could do with some better balancing, though – Super Aleste is a bit too easy on the standard difficulty setting, because the enemy just can’t keep up with the damage you’re capable of doing. ”
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Feautred Game: Wild Guns

wild-gunsThere aren’t a ton of Western-based video games or really good Cabal clones (shooting gallery-style shmups) to my knowledge. Wild Guns also delivers in every area from graphics, music, controls and challenge. Frankly, it’s just a perfect game. Personally, I can’t see any best of SNES list not include this game and yet it’s quite obscure

From HG101’s Review: “At its core, Wild Guns basically plays exactly like every other variant of the genre, so anybody familiar with Cabal or NAM-1975 will be able to get into it very easily… What few original techniques are available to you in Wild Guns seem relatively minor, but they’re what really make it such a great game – they take the genre’s conventions and refine them to the point of perfection… Wild Guns tends to be a very obscure game, even among more intense SNES fans, and it hasn’t been sequeled, ported, rereleased, or remade. If you aren’t familiar with this you’ve missed out, because it’s honestly among the best games for its console”.
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Additional Games To Try:

Fighting

Obvious Choices: Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Primal Rage, Samurai Shodown

Featured Game: WeaponLord

weaponlord This is one of the most complex 2D fighters ever created, as well as one of the most brutal and gory.  Despite its limited character roster of six, WeaponLord featured a parry system, deflections, disarms, knock downs, weapon-to-weapon struggles, weapon breaking, destructible clothing and armor, a “fatality combo” system, 10 or more special moves per character, multiple endings, and some of the least forgiving AI in any game.

From Sega-16’s Review [of the Genesis version]: “The computer AI can be rather aggressive, and players will struggle with the sluggishness of the controls. That’s not to say the fighters are unresponsive, but dealing with the number of schizophrenic special move inputs and variety of situations WeaponLord throws at the player will make all but the most fanatic fighting game players’ heads spin. The game uses the standard six-button fighter control scheme, but with all six inputs devoted to various types of weapon slashes, thrusts, and strikes, the overall sameness of the attacks can make it difficult to comprehend how to approach the game. For the players who just want to dragon punch and fireball their way to victory without understanding that the fighting engine is not as fast nor as cross-up and throw heavy as Street Fighter II, WeaponLord will disappoint. WeaponLord is all about taking one of the seven Boris Vallejo characters and completely annihilating the opponent… Though the gameplay holds up well even compared to modern fighters which is an impressive feat in itself, I suspect most will tire with the lack of characters and poor presentation when compared to Super Street Fighter II. That’s not to say there can be only one when it comes to fighting games, but getting the most out of WeaponLord’s dizzying array of commands and strikes will take some serious commitment, which unfortunately I don’t see happening for most players willing to give the game a try.”
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Featured Game: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition

Power Rangers The Fighting EditionWhile it may be difficult to consider playing a game with Power Rangers all over it, this actually turns out to be a solid game once you get past that.  Control is smooth, characters are well animated, and there’s a unique special move system utilizing a timing mechanism.  Execute one while the power gauge is full, and you’ll be bumped up to the next level, until you finally unleash an uber-powered version.  And wandering around the battlefield in giant megazords or as a massive monster is a lot of fun.  It’s not surprising, considering this game uses the same engine as another title on our list where giant robots duke it out.
Check for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition on Amazon
Check for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition on eBay

Gundam Wing: Endless Duel

battle-tycoonIf you were wondering what title I was referenced in Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition, this is it. It is extremely unfortunate this never made it outside of Japan, because it’s one of the best fighters on the Super Famicom. Players take control of various Mobile Suits from the popular Mobile Suit Gundam Wing anime series. Endless Duel featured the ability to boost twice, air block, and hover for a limited time, and some Suits are capable of air throws and aerial super moves. To accommodate this, stages scroll both horizontally and vertically. Players must also rely on building high energy levels via blocking and attacking to use special moves or fire their machine guns.

Featured Game: Battle Tycoon: Flash Hiders SFX

gundam-wing-endless-duelThe pseudo-sequel/remake of Battle Tycoon on the PC Engine, this game dropped the cinematic sequences of the original, and swapped out four cast members, but added an “Advance” mode where players can travel between different cities, fighting opponents and using money earned from fighting and betting to upgrade equipment.  Characters tend to gravitate between large cyborgs, long-range mages, and up-close werebeasts and swordsmen.  Opponents will sometimes be much more powerful or much weaker than the player, adding a nice touch of realism, though the game is largely balanced.  It’s also interesting to note that both this and its PC Engine predecessor feature guard cancels, offensive dashes, and defensive hops.  Some characters can also slide or triangle jump off stages.
Check for Battle Tycoon: Flash Hiders SFX on eBay

Additional Games To Try:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters – AmazoneBay
  • Power Instinct – AmazoneBay
  • Kidou Senshi Gundam W: Endless Duel — eBay
  • Dragon Ball Z Super Butouden 2 — eBay
  • Tae Kwon Do — eBay
  • SD Hiryu no Ken (Galactic Defender) — eBay
  • Dragon Ball Z Hyper Dimension — eBay
  • King of Monsters  – AmazoneBay

Beatemups/Hack-N-Slash

Obvious Choices: Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania Dracula X, Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

Featured Game: Knights of the Round

kotr-1“This little-known game is a sentimental favorite of mine. It plays like a classy Golden Axe with no monsters and better visuals. The beautiful graphics feature majestic castles and picturesque medieval landscapes. A lavishly orchestrated musical score fits the theme perfectly. You can choose from one of three legendary characters, including King Author. You’ll gradually increase your experience level as you battle knights, barbarians, jesters, and magicians. And of course each stage ends with the obligatory boss.

You’ll collect money and food that fall from enemies you slay. Actually it looks pretty funny when you kill a knight and a big salad falls out of him.  By far the best feature is your ability to knock a knight off of his horse and mount the horse yourself. It’s a cool but underused trick – there are only 2 or 3 opportunities to do it in the whole game. The two player simultaneous action is fun enough, but slowdown is rampant at times. And while the music is excellent, the sound effects are horribly muffled. Knights of the Round is no classic, but fighting fans should take a look.”
The Video Game Critic’s Review of Knights of the Round
Find Knights of the Round on eBay

 

Featured Game: The King of Dragons

king-of-dragonsWhile Knights of the Round was a solid fantasy Hack-N-Slash in its own right, Capcom went for a more Dungeons & Dragons-esque feel with The King of Dragons, a game that holds similar themes and styles to their later D&D titles Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. Characters choose from a group of classes at the start, picking between Warrior, Wizard, Cleric, Elf, or Dwarf. As characters continue to battle hordes of monsters, they gain experience for leveling up and more powerful equipment. While many of the enemies(and a couple of bosses) consist of pallet swaps, the game is pretty, controls well, and the audio is well done. The bosses are well designed, culminating in a fierce battle against a massive red dragon that was a lot of fun for me.
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Featured Game: Magic Sword

magic-swordAnother Capcom fantasy Hack-N-Slash, Magic Sword takes the player on an epic journey to climb the 50-floor tower known as Dragon Keep to defeat the dark lord Drokmar, whose control over the Black Orb may enable him to conquer the world. You play as the Brave One, an able fighter who must use keys to unlock new equipment and free imprisoned sidekicks while navigating traps, fending off hordes of monsters, and slaying magical bosses. The game also features two endings, offering the player a choice at a key moment to decide which one. While it’s not as pretty as Knights of the Round or The King of Dragons, it was also released in arcades a year before either, and the SNES port was released two years before the ports of the other two.
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Additional Games To Try:

  • Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage  – Amazon |  eBay
  • Battletoads & Double Dragon – Amazon |  eBay
  • Super Double Dragon  – Amazon |  eBay
  • The King of Dragons — eBay
  • Gegege No Kitarou – RevieweBay
  • Shin Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun – Kunio Tachi No Banka — eBay
  • Shodai – Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun — eBay
  • Legend — eBay
  • Iron Commando – RevieweBay

RPG

Obvious Choices: Chrono Trigger, EarthBound, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Secret of Mana, Dragon Quest Series, Breath of Fire Series (See Full Guide to the SNES RPG Library)

Featured Game: Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

lufia2-1The Lufia Series is a set of currently four fantasy RPGs all set in the same world across multiple centuries, though only two were released for Super Famicom.  While America would get both Lufia & The Fortress of Doom and Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals, Europe and Australia would only see Lufia 2(called Lufia in Australia).  The two titles are actually out of order in the time line, with the ending of Lufia 2 serving as the intro to Lufia.  In the Lufia games, random encounters occur on the world map, but in Lufia 2, dungeon enemies are represented by sprites similar to one of the enemies in the group, and only move when the player moves, making it possible to dodge them.

From RPGFan’s Review :“Lufia 2 is actually a prequel to the first Lufia game; the story of Lufia 2 takes place 100 years before the first game… Like its predecessor, Lufia 2 uses a turn based battle system with rounds…

Puzzles are a very big part of Lufia 2. Each dungeon contains several puzzles. Some puzzles must be solved in order to complete the dungeon and open new rooms leading to the goal, but there are also a few puzzles which are optional and yield special items and armaments to those who solve them. Some of the puzzles are simple in design, such as hitting switches and levers, luring enemies to step on switches, and killing certain monsters, but there are also several very original and clever puzzles in Lufia 2. The puzzles are all very simple early in the game, but in later dungeons, some of the puzzles are very difficult….

All in all, Lufia 2 is an enjoyable game, and a nice classic 2-D RPG. Fans of Lufia 1 would be the people who would enjoy Lufia 2 the most. Although Lufia 2 is technically a prequel, the story is best experienced by playing Lufia 1 first and Lufia 2 second. Lufia 1 left several mysteries unsolved; Lufia 2 reveals the answers.”
Check for Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals on Amazon
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Featured Game: Shadowrun

shadowrun-snes-1Based on the popular pen and paper role playing game, Shadowrun is a cyberpunk RPG set in Seattle in the year 2050.  The player follows Jake Armitage, a courier and shadowrunner, who suffers amnesia after an attempted hit on his life.  So now he has to find out who he is, found out why people want him dead, and get them back.  The game is an Action RPG with battles and assassination attempts occurring in real time.

It does feature a leveling up of sorts.  As Jake kills enemies he gains Karma, which can be spent to boost stats, power up abilities, or unlock new ones.  Jake can also speak with NPCs through a large database of terms that gets added to every time someone says a new keyword to him.  But finally, in a hark back to its roots and the novel Neuromancer, Jake can enter cyberspace to hack computers.  This gets him money and key information, though if you die in cyberspace, you die in the game.
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Featured GameTales-of-Phantasia: Tales of Phantasia

While the first title in the Tales series of RPGs, Tales of Phantasia wouldn’t see a release outside of Japan until 2006 (on the Gameboy Advance), which is a shame considering the quality of the game.  This title would be the first 46 Megabit game to be released on the Super Famicom, as well as the first game to feature streamed audio voices, thanks to the power of the “Flexible Voice Driver.”  This includes full vocals for the song “Yume Wa Owaranai.”

The plot follows two young men, Cless Alvein and Chester Burklight, who are out hunting when their village is destroyed.  When they return, they find their families killed, and Cress vows revenge.  Along the way, they make new friends and allies, adding to the party in skill, power, and capability.  It sounds stereotypical, yes, but the battle system goes above and beyond.  It’s an early build of the Tales combat system, known as the Linear Motion Battle System.  Combat is on a 2D plane, similar to a fighting game, where characters can run around attacking one another.  The player generally controls one character, while the computer handles the rest.  In Tales of Phantasia, the system is not as refined as it would be in later games, so the player never has total control over their character.  But they can make general selections about the AI of other characters, improving the party’s survivability.

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Additional Games To Try:

Action RPG

Obvious Choices: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario RPG

Featured Game: Illusion of Gaia

illusion-of-gaia-1This is another Action RPG, known as Illusion of Time in Europe.  The game takes place in a psuedo-historical setting, with many well known locations like the Egyptian Pyramids serving as locales.  The player takes control of an explorer named Will and have them wander different areas attempting to reach new places and kill enemies.  In a bit of a twist, Illusion of Gaia features no experience system.  Instead, a jewel appears after clearing an area that will raise the characters’ stats.  Money and equipment are also not present in the game, and there are few healing items.

From Flying Omelette’s Review: “Gaia looks like Zelda on the surface, but its gameplay is a bit more action-oriented. Its relatively linear style of play seems to encourage fighting over exploration and puzzle-solving, although the game somehow manages to keep a good balance. The amount of enemies in each area is always about right and they don’t respawn, so fighting never becomes repetitive. Will’s powers of transformation really liven things up! When you begin a dungeon, you’ll usually play for awhile as Will, but eventually you’ll discover a Dark Space, in which you can transform into the Dark Knight, Freedan, who is stronger than Will. Freedan makes plowing through enemies even faster and easier.Gaia has a unique level-up system in which you gain a level by defeating all enemies in a given area. This is simple to do because you can follow your monster radar to find enemies you’ve missed. There is no monotonous level-building or searching for “heart containers” or anything in that mold. ”
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Featured Game: Terranigma

TerranigmaOne of the console’s greatest and most overlooked Action RPGs, Terranigma was released only in Japan, Europe, and Australia.  So while PAL owners got to experience the joys of this title, most Americans went on with their lives, never knowing the greatness that lay across the oceans.  Terranigma tells the story of the resurrection of the world, progressing from millions of years ago to the near future.  The main character, named Ark, is a bit of a trouble maker, who just so happens to open a box that causes the inhabitants of his village the freeze.  The village elder, the only person besides Ark not to be frozen, then tells him he has to fix things, and sends him on his way to bring life back to the Underworld, and then the Overworld.

As an Action RPG, the title also features an unusual combat system, where attacks differ depending on whether the character is running, standing still, or jumping.  There is also the option to block, though this does little more than stopping small projectiles.  The game also uses a magic system involving “magic rings,” which are made from Magirocks found in the game that the player takes to magic shops and has turned into rings.  Once a ring is used, it’s destroyed, though the player will get the items used to make it back in their inventory to make more rings.

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Additional Games To Try:

Strategy RPG

Obvious Choices: Fire Emblem Series, Super Famicom Wars (both Japan only)

Featured Game: Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen

ogrebattle-1” The story is not full RPG quality, but there’s enough in it to make you want to care. In it, you build an army from a various mix of humans, imps, and other assorted creatures, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. You then put 10 units (of up to 5 characters each) on the map and use them to liberate towns, and take out the Empire’s forces on that particular map…

The complex structure of this game is what makes this a true SNES classic. If at all possible, get the SNES version as it runs much faster than the PS re-release. The infinite possibilites of what your army can be made up of is half the fun. You have the troops you’re given, basic at first, but cheap and eventually powerful. You also have friends along the way who may command higher salaries but give results sooner (like the two generals), or you can recruit lesser troops later on to fill in your weaknesses. Taking them to battle in the game means they all use up their turns, and whoever deals more damage that battle “wins” the battle and pushes the army back some. Of course, one can eradicate the opponent which is a certain win. You can’t allow the base to be taken, or your main character to die. Much has been written about what kind of manaGameent this game involves and what I’ve said barely scratches the surface.”
StageSelect’s Review of Ogre Battle
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Featured Game: Bahamut Lagoon

Bahamut-LagoonAnother Strategy RPG that was never released outside of Japan, Bahamut Lagoon is a squad-based game where squads are moved one by one over battlefields in an attempt to destroy the enemy or finish specific objectives.  However, the defining thing about Bahamut Lagoon is that the squads also have dragons.  That’s right, dragons.  The game’s all about them.  You can fight with them, feed them to increase their stats, and by feeding them enough, get them to evolve into various forms to make them more effective at combat.  In general they have minds of their own, though they will accept simple commands.

The plot of the game centers around Byuu, head of the Resistance.  His aim is to defeat the Granbelos Empire, who recently conquered the world after a long and terrible war that destroyed Byuu’s home kingdom.  They start by stealing a giant ship called the Farnheit, and set about on their open rebellion.  Now there isn’t much in the way of land in the game.  The world seems mostly composed of caves and floating continents, as well as ships made of land, including the Farnheit.  Flying around on a ship made of dirt and feeding dragons may not seem that interesting, but the game actually ends up rather fun.  Later on, mission modes become available, allowing the player to level themselves and their dragons without advancing the plot.
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Additional Games To Try:

Simulation Strategy

Obvious Choices: SimCity, Populous

Featured Game: Aerobiz Supersonic

aerobiz-1“The goal [in Aerobiz is] to win the game is pretty simple on the surface of things: become the #1 airline in 5 continents. Each turn in the game equals to a financial quarter and the player gets to make decisions such as where to negotiate to open hubs for new flight destinations, how to tweak existing flight routes to strike a balance between profit and consumer loyalty, and order the most cost-effective planes possible.

Wow, what a boring description. How the hell is this a good game? I have no idea, but somehow Koei makes it work… If you have ever enjoyed a game from Maxis’ popular Sims series, or are a statistics maniac, or a turn based strategy game fan in general, try and track down Aerobiz Supersonic for a spin. It’s well worth your time and a bit more innovative than a lot of current games that are out..”
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Additional Games To Try:

Puzzle

Obvious Choices: Tetris & Dr. Mario, Kirby’s Avalanche

Featured Game: Tetris Attack

tetrisattack-1Even through it bares the “Tetris” brand name on this SNES release, it neither has a whole lot in common with the original Tetris (other than stuff falling), nor did it get nearly the exposure.   Tetris Attack is actually better known on other platforms and regions as Panel de Pon or [Pokemon] Puzzle Challenge.   But Tetris Attack is actually one the must-play titles for puzzle fans regardless of the console or handheld.From Nintendoland’s Review : “This game’s title is very misleading. It has not one single thing in common with Tetris at all (Yoshi’s Panels or something would’ve been a better name). Oh, all right, one thing: both games feature a lot of blocks. And that’s where the similarities end. In Tetris Attack, a stack of colorful blocks slowly scrolls up your screen. If it reaches the top, you die, and oblivion will descend upon earth. Probably.  You can remove blocks by making lines of four or more of the same color. To achieve this, you can “swap” two blocks around. I’ll try to explain. You control a small cursor with which you can highlight any two blocks that touch sideways. Press a button, and the two blocks your cursor is on will change position (I know, it sounds mighty warped on paper, but you’ll get the hang of it in a matter of seconds). And of course, by making large combos and chain reactions, you will be able to launch devastating attacks on your enemyies.”
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Additional Games To Try:

Action Puzzler

Obvious Choices: Super Bomberman

Featured Game: Otoboke Ninja Colossum

otoboke-1“Nothing is quite as sweet as lurking about the screen, waiting for others to do the dirty work. And when you find a dazed opponent, sending the chain ball twisting and curving some twenty feet away… makes for great enemies and Ooooh-I’ll-get-you-next-round!battles!

Otoboke lacks the finishing touches and isn’t nearly as customizable as the Bombermen games. There’s no option for CPU AI – the default is quite laughably horrible. There’s no tag team option. Thankfully the rest is status quo – pick between 2-4 players (from a character choice of four females), 1-5 wins and one of the any eight colosseums…”
RVG Fanatic’s Review of Otoboke Ninja Colosseum
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Additional Games To Try:

Racing/Flying

Obvious Choices: Super Mario Kart, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Stunt Race FX

Featured Game: Rock ‘N Roll Racing

rocknrollracing-1“Set across six planets each with a whole host of tracks, Rock N Roll Racing is good over-the-top racing fun. After selecting your racer of choice players must battle against three other opponents, with the aim of collecting enough points at the end of the season to qualify for the next planet. Far from being a simple case of racing around the circuit, tracks are often reminiscent of a battleground with both cars and terrain capable of blowing an opponent into a different universe.

Cars come in four different types, starting with a sand buggy-type contraption and working up to a full-on battle hovercraft. Each vehicle can have numerous things added to it in order to help you through – these include mines, missiles, nitros, better tires, and thicker armour. But the real skill comes in being able to take on opponents with as little as possible, as when you reach a new planet one of the opponents will have a new car meaning you need to upgrade – and rest assured these contraptions do not come cheap.”
GameStyle.net’s Review of Rock N Roll Racing
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Featured Game: Uniracers / Unirally

Additional Games To Try:

Sports

Obvious Choices: Madden, NBA Jam, Tecmo Super Bowl, etc

Featured Game: Super Baseball 2020

superbaseball2020Even though this title originated on the Neo-Geo, the SNES port of this interesting baseball title is still worth a look.   While some people might find weaknesses in it, I personally spent a lot of time with this game back in the 90s and I still enjoy going back to it.   I loved regular baseball games like Sega’s World Series Baseball, but Super Baseball 2020 gave a fast-paced and fresh spin on the sport and combined it will a futuristic, sci-fi theme.  Good stuff!

From Nintendo City’s Review: “Super Baseball 2020 really shines if you’re looking for a sports game that isn’t cliche. The futuristic look and feel to the game give the player an opportunity to get away from realistic baseball games…The in-game field is much different from tradition baseball fields. There are bases and a pitcher’s mound, but everything in the outfield is quite different. One of these includes the fact that the only way a player can hit a homerun is to strike the ball high and far over an opening in center field. If the ball is hit left or right, the ball will bounce off a barrier and fall back into play.”
Check for Super Baseball 2020 on Amazon
Check for Super Baseball 2020 on eBay

Additional Games To Try:


176 Comments

Anonymous says:

If you like Cybernator be sure to check out it’s massively better sequel Metal Warriors.

kevinski says:

Man, back in the day, my mom was a force to be reckoned with when it came to Tetris Attack. Then again, she was amazing at pretty much every Tetris game that she ever played.

Anonymous says:

Agreed on everything, R’N’R racing was incredible! my brother and I would play that for days…

Thanks for this. While I had a mate who owned a SNES, he only really picked up the popular stuff, and I never owned one myself. This is one system’s library I have never really looked into that deeply for some reason. If only a perfect dreamcast SNES emulator came about (AKA one that doesn’t take six hours of noisy buffering to load all the titles). I say this, because I don’t enjoy PC emulation too much.

Ken says:

This is a great list. The only addition I’d make are the fantastic Battle Clash (that Super Scope 6 never really caught on), and Front Mission – Gun Hazard, which was Japan only, but has had a translation done for it. It’s like a Cybernator RPG, one my fave SNES titles.

pakopako says:

Love the inclusion of games like Umihara Kawase and Ogre Battle, Terranigma, Spike McFang and TMNT: TF.
You also may want to include “King of Dragons” for Beat’em Up (I think it’s a step up above Capcom’s own Knights of the Round, but not as funny). I’m not sure if I want to include the “Rushing Beat” series (Brawl Bros, etc.); while fun, aren’t quite as polished.
What about Wanderers from Ys III? It was like the Zelda 2 of the Ys series, and a pretty good first-wave title.
“Faceball 3000” and “Spectre”, while old ported titles, are always fun.
B.O.B. needs more credit in the run-n-gun category. At least put up Super Valis IV. (a faster-paced, watered down version of the Valis series — it should have been more Castelvania 3-esque)
Skyblazer needs its own page!
Macross: SDF Scramble Valkyrie could be put up here. It has a GBA translation to English.

-=PakoPako=-

Chaos32 says:

Nice list. You should think about adding Sunset Riders 🙂

Hernan says:

Awesome list! i luv Rnr racing and river city ransom =)

Seth says:

Another favorite Puzzle Action game for snes, and possibly a hidden gem, is Q*bert 3.

Nick says:

The Ignition factor and the firemen are not the same game. the former was released in the US while the latter wasn’t. They’re both firefighting games though.

racketboy says:

I was told they were, but Ignition Factor had some things taken out of it…

??? says:

Ehhhm, you fogot to put DKC in the obvious choices for platformer.

And you should add Hagane it’s A great game.

Strider says:

I’m disappointed to see two of my favorites missing from this list.

The Ninja Warriors (Occasionally named “Ninja Warriors Again”) is a sadly oft-overlooked side-scrolling beat-em-up, featuring three characters who play radically differently. Although it’s a beat-em-up at its’ core, one interesting aspect is that it confines you to a plane like a platformer.

The wiki page is here, but it’s not very informative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninja_Warriors

Run Saber is also worth mentioning. It plays very similarly to the Strider games, and is a lot of fun as an action/platformer. It was actually put under the Strider banner on HG101: http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/strider/strider3.htm

Overall, though, this is an intruguing list- I’m glad to see Shadowrun and Lufia 2- a pair of my own favorite obscure SNES games- included on this list. Super Aleste is another excellent game that I only jsut recently discovered.

I should really try King Arthur’s World one of these days…

– HC

Covarr says:

You only need to line up 3 in Tetris Attack, not 4. Doesn’t change the fact that it is perhaps the best puzzle game of all time, or at least pretty high up there.

Steve says:

Hey man, I just saw this list… wow, I had no idea how much my work has been highlighted here by you! I was directed to it today and I just want to tell you THANKS. I’ll have to remember to add you to my LINKS section next time I update my site. Thanks for the pub, it’s very much appreciated. DoReMi Fantasy is indeed SICK 🙂

-Steve

racketboy says:

Well, you definitely deserved the links!
I was very impressed with your work — it’s hard to find such detailed writing on Super Famicom imports 🙂

dewfish says:

another game missing from this list is Saturday Night Slammasters. One of the coolest wrestling games ever made.

subassy says:

An apparently *really* obscure one is MechWarrior. I had a lot of fun with it. Perhaps it’s rare, all I know is I loved it.

zerone! says:

I would’ve really liked to have seen Robotrek somewhere on the RPG list, it was fantastic! Robotrek paved the way for the custom robot battle games we have today, like Chibi Robo.

Kiro says:

Put “King’s Arhthur World” in strategy, it’s a horizontal-scrolling strategy game, I played it a lot when I was 10, it was one of my favourite game =)

i didn’t see zombies ate my neighbors anywhere on this page! dang…what has the world come to. what about earthworm jim? might and magic III? c’mon, guy. get with it! 😉

furthermore, i have a huge collection of snes hidden gems that i’m thinking of selling off. do you know where i could do that?

favian says:

great post, although this article a sequel, since you still missed on a lot of gems. as far as classics go

PS1 had the most
SNES had the second most amount
NES had the third most (especially notable because it was home to the birth of many franchises)

King Arthur’s world is missing! amazing title. (Puzzle/Strategy)

Realm is also a phenomenal side stroller action, reminded me of gunstar heroes.

Lawmmower Man was unexpectedly good run & gun game, and featured SuperFX mini levels in the VR missions.

favian says:

sorry i noticed you put in king arthur’s world, my mistake, good to see the game getting some shine after the snes era was over. and i meant lawnmower not whatever i put there.

Let’s not forget shadowrun.

Paul M says:

So how do you fit a game like Uni-Racers into all of this?

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