Few would argue with the assertion that Nintendo's Super Nintendo (SNES) system is one of the greatest platforms in the history of the industry. Between launching dozens of franchises and hosting some incredible first and third party content, the SNES might still be Nintendo's crowning achievement – even 27 years after its debut.
That's why we've assembled our picks for the Top 100 SNES games of all time. Our criteria were simple – quality upon release, originality, replayability, and impact upon the i8ndustry. After fighting with each other over a span of weeks and many, many hours, we managed to dig through our childhood memories – and modern Virtual Console experiences – to arrange our ranking. No doubt you'll have some disagreements. That's why we have comments. Be sure to leave your thoughts!
Kicking off our countdown is a Capcom classic, a game that came to the SNES by way of the late '80s arcade scene — Final Fight. It was an evolutionary brawler in its original coin-op form, taking the beat-'em-up structure of earlier titles like Double Dragon to the next level. Then, on the SNES, it helped define what 16-bit home console brawlers would be — and inspired two SNES-exclusive sequels. Well, kind of three. "Final Fight Guy" came out a few years later to bring ninja fighter Guy back as a playable option — he'd been cut from this first version, leaving only Cody and Mayor Mike Haggar to beat the Mad Gear gang out of Metro City.
Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!
They were tiny. They were toony. (And they were all a little looney.) Just as Nintendo's 8-bit NES had lived alongside some of the best pop culture brands of the '80s, the SNES enjoyed its peak of popularity at the same time as some of the greatest '90s cartoons – like Steven Spielberg's classic Looney Tunes spin-off, Tiny Toons. Buster Busts Loose adapted the animated hijinks of that Saturday morning staple into an impressively varied hop-and-bop platformer, each level of which had a different theme featuring characters and settings from several of the show's episodes – including spoofs of Back to the Future and Star Wars (starring Plucky Duck as Duck Vader). Read more about SNES:
Did you know that Nintendo was once sued by Pixar? It's true – before Toy Story ever put them on the map, the young film studio took offense to this game's use of computer-generated unicycles, sued the Big N and won. That bit of legal trouble kept Uniracers from having the larger print run it deserved, which means there's a good chance you never got to experience its inventive design that combined high-speed racing on wild, looping courses with a unique stunt system. So just remember that, the next time you're enjoying a Pixar flick. There's bad blood between Mario and Buzz Lightyear.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
One of the SNES' last releases before the Nintendo 64 stepped into the spotlight, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 effectively summed up the era that preceded it – offering a definitive, jam-packed, nothing-held-back edition of one of the two franchises that most defined the early '90s fighting craze. Nintendo famously wimped out with the first Mortal Kombat, forcing Midway to censor its violence while Genesis players enjoyed all the blood and gore intact. By the time Ultimate MK3 came around, though, the Big N let the carnage unfold unchecked.
Street Fighter Alpha 2
And now the other franchise that most defined the '90s fighting genre. Street Fighter Alpha 2 was released even later than Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and was the kind of late-to-the-party release that seemed just a little nonsensical – but, when you played it, it felt like a real labor of love. Capcom had crafted some truly excellent Street Fighter titles for the SNES in earlier years, and this port of Alpha 2 felt like a fond farewell to an old friend. It pushed the 16-bit system to its limits, and actually a bit too far beyond – it had to make some significant compromises to run on the aging console. But it's hard to fault the effort, and that's why it deserves this rank and recognition.
Top Gear 2
The first racing game to make the cut for our countdown, Kemco's Top Gear 2 represented a step up from what racing games had been in the previous generation – but not too drastic a step. Top Gear 2 looks, feels and plays a lot like NES titles like Rad Racer did years before, with the boost of 16-bit processing power giving the whole experience a fresh coat of paint. A selection of courses set around the world, a vehicle upgrade system and new weather effects kept Top Gear making progress toward what more traditional racing titles would eventually offer in the future, but in the end the SNES was more defined by its all-new takes on racing (like F-Zero's futuristic hovercrafts and Super Mario Kart's item-shooting go-karts).
The Adventures of Batman & Robin
I am vengeance. I am the night. I. Am. BATMAN! Bruce Timm's bold and bar-setting Batman: The Animated Series was unquestionably the best cartoon to come out of the '90s, and its license thankfully wasn't passed over for adaptation into a game. Even more thankfully, the resulting game was a great one. Konami, who'd previously proved their worth at handling Warner Bros. toon properties with Tiny Toons Adventures: Buster Busts Loose, capably crafted a Batman platformer that captured the dark, iconic style of the animated series. The level design, like Tiny Toons, took its cues from the show's most memorable episodes. Batman's been a character who's had as many misses as hits in video games over the years, but this SNES effort was one of his best.
Super Turrican 2 (romsemulation.com)
Nintendo fans who were around for the company's N64 and GameCube eras all know the name Factor 5, as the studio's technical mastery of both of those consoles became household knowledge after the release of several incredible Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games. In the generation that preceded those, though, they were cutting their teeth on Turrican. Super Turrican 2 was Factor 5's SNES side-scrolling shooter sequel, a follow-up to their first Super Turrican. Both games were packed with inventive ideas and impressive action, but 2 beat out 1 for our countdown thanks to its memorable vehicle sequences – in hindsight, a clear precursor to Luke Skywalker hopping into Rogue Squadron's variety of vehicles.
Super Double Dragon
Capcom's Final Fight kicked off our countdown in the #100 position, a spot which it earned by evolving the Double Dragon formula for side-scrolling brawlers. The success of that rival series didn't mean Double Dragon itself was done, though, and in 1992 this SNES-exclusive sequel arrived. In it, Billy and Jimmy Lee lay claim to the genre's advancements themselves with their own new gameplay mechanics and distinctive fighting styles. Super Double Dragon unfortunately served as the last traditional title in the series for Nintendo systems, though, so we never got to see the Lee brothers go much further than this – Double Dragon V ended up being a wholly different head-to-head fighting game like Street Fighter II, and their last actual brawler had them oddly teaming up with Rare's Battletoads.
Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
The second of a trilogy of Star Wars film adaptations for the SNES, Super Empire Strikes Back threw 16-bit players headfirst into frantic fights for their lives across all of the movie's most memorable set pieces. You rode Tauntauns across the frozen wastes of Hoth, flipped and dashed your way through the bogs of Dagobah and tried not to lose your footing and fall to your death from the precipitous heights of Cloud City. Only things here weren't quite the same as they were on the silver screen, since Hoth now had a 10-story-tall ice beast that tried to freeze you with arctic breath, Dagobah was lorded over by an enormous swamp thing and this version of Cloud City made you actually fight against the giant freezing chamber machine that encased Han Solo in carbonite. "Super" Star Wars indeed.