What Are the Top 5 Greatest SNES Games of All Time?
Welcome, reader! I have been playing games of all sorts for about as long as I could breathe, and today I wanted to talk about some particularly impactful games from my favorite console: the Super Nintendo.
Now the SNES had many, many great influential games that defined their genres and inspired future games to come — but, to me, there’s just a few that stand out and live beyond the pale of time.
For personal—uhh—insurance reasons… it bears mentioning that these are my own personal favorite games chosen for this list, and you may of course have other opinions. Don’t come after me, now! But do feel free to sound off in the comments if you feel moved to do so.
Without further ado, here is my top 5 list.
5. Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct is the game we all know as the super special one that had the mystical black cartridge and seemed dark and brooding compared to other games. The cover had a literal cyborg medieval knight on it that looked a little like Darth Vader’s cousin. It’s hard to get more intense than that back in the day.
And this game really delivered on that aesthetic. Everything about it was brutal. All the characters were super unique, but also kinda “trope-y,” ranging from hybrid dinosaur people (like RIPTOR), to pirate skeletons with scimitars (like SPINAL), to tomahawk-wielding Native Americans, and elemental alien golems made of ice. There were also werewolves, cyberpunk ninjas, and much more. This game may have been blatantly ripping off the success of Mortal Kombat—but to its credit, Killer Instinct was so much more than just a copy. It was entirely its own thing—even when it straight up copied one of the most iconic fighter game tropes (we’re talking about FATALITIES).
But, what this game did have (that Mortal Kombat and its siblings didn’t) was COMBOS and COMBO BREAKERS. These things left you feeling like the ultimate fighting-strategist-badass even if you were doing nothing but mashing buttons. Back in my prime while playing as Sabrewulf, I was able to get 20-hit-combos and more. It was always so satisfying to win a match and hear the announcer echo “ULTRA! ULTRA! ULTRA!”
This game brings me so much nostalgia, I might just have to download and play it on an emulator right now!
4. Super Castlevania IV
Super Castlevania IV is my JAM! I cannot express how much this game totally enraptured a younger me, and how I stayed up for entire days working my way through the myriad of levels—not just once, but 3 times, because I was sure that the game got harder on subsequent tries. It turns out: yes, the second time through is a harder game, but play any more than that and the added difficulty is just your tiredness level.
Anyway—Super Castlevania 4 is timeless for its simplicity, difficulty, and for its soundtrack. I remember being a youngin’ playing this game and feeling like I was in a music video. On one of the final levels, I was playing in such a way that Simon Belmont’s motions on the screen matched the soundtrack in the background, and I felt like an absolute badass. Every single step was filled with purpose — to defeat the evil vampire lord DRACULA!
It wasn’t until I was pretty much in my thirties that I realized that all the music in this game was composed using a very minimal amount of instruments. I loved the soundtrack for this game so much that I tapped into the SoundFont for it and wrote my very own soundtrack inspired by Castlevania 4’s style. You can check that out here.
3. Yoshi’s Island
Dude—is it just me, or is Yoshi’s Island harder as an adult? I remember as a kid, I was able to get a 100% in this game, find all the secrets and never have to hear poor baby Mario scream at me. But playing it today as an adult? I can barely get past world 2! Wow! This game is so much harder than I remember—but, oh my god, the mechanics of this game were revolutionary at the time.
How weird is it that Yoshi can “eat something” with his tongue, and then turn whatever he ate into an EGG. WTF RIGHT? How does Yoshi even work? You gotta worry about Yoshi’s violent cloaca! It seems problematic at the least. But let’s also talk about this game’s amazing soundtrack, with its beautiful and cute flutes, piano, clarinet, strings, bass guitar, and guitar too. My favorite track has to be at the end of the game when you face off against Bowser. It was an intense experience to suddenly be staring at the background while guitar solos were going off and you had to throw giant eggs at a huge Godzilla-esque monstrosity that was slowly destroying the entire foreground!
2. Tetris Attack
Oh man, Tetris Attack cost me some friendships growing up. I was pretty good at this game and I pissed my friends off — some never forgave me!
The puzzle action of Panel de Pon (as it is sometimes known) was intense. The multiplayer mode was my favorite way to play. I loved stacking combos to drop giant obstacles on top of my opponents. But where Tetris Attack really shines is its aesthetic that it borrowed from Yoshi’s Island, as well as—you guessed it—its epic music. The game was relaxing in its story and puzzle mode, and the infinite mode provided a great way to just shut your brain off and have fun. I deeply cherish this game, and so do a lot of people; in fact there’s even a clone of the game available online where you can play other like-minded peeps in matches. If you want to test your Tetris skills, you check it out here.
1. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Link to the Past has so many hours of my life, it’s ridiculous. I feel a strong need to replay and speed-run this game at least once a year. As a kid, I hunted everything down in a mad quest for 100% completion. Even its remakes on the DS have been extremely entertaining. When it comes to Classic Zelda games, this is by far the best. On emulators, there’s even crazy randomizers that allow you to make the experience even more intense.
I remember relating a lot to young Link when I was a child and his call to adventure. It was nothing short of poetry, even if a lot of it is almost cliche by modern standards — but back then, it was the action puzzle adventure game. This game will forever hold a special place in my heart.
The SNES was a revolutionary console that brought us many hours of entertainment and joy, and we all have our own personal lists of games that influenced our childhood and even stuck with us into adulthood.
What are your top 5 SNES games? What do you think about this list?
If you want to talk more about games, soundtracks, and other creative projects, I would love to hear from you. I have a discord where we can chat, and if you join my email list I will be sending more thoughts on indie gaming and music as well as free tracks and sounds that you can use in your creative projects. You can also find more music and sound effects from me over at my store on itch.io.
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