The Super Nintendo Entertainment System turns 30 years old today (at least in North America, where it was released on August 23, 1991). Even now, its influence is omnipresent in gaming: Aside from franchises like Mario and Zelda still pumping out hit titles, countless new games today continue to be inspired by the aesthetics and gameplay of beloved SNES-era favorites.
The console had a ton of games released in North America (720 of them, Wikipedia says), and they sure have been ranked a lot over the years. Most of these rankings reflect how editorial staffs feel about these games, and while it’s great to have experts weigh in, critical opinions often don’t reflect how the majority of people think (for better or worse). Look at the Fast & Furious franchise: On RottenTomatoes, almost all of the movies have a substantially higher audience score than they do critic score (for better or worse). For the latest, F9, about 20 percentage points stand between the thoughts of the Professional Film Critic and the fervent moviegoer who catalogs user ratings on RottenTomatoes.
Furthermore, reviews of SNES titles were mostly published when the games came out, so they don’t indicate how gamers today feel about these games. Given the radically dissimilar context in which retro games are consumed now vs. how they were enjoyed before they were retro, there’s some noteworthy dissonance between reception then and now (especially with one game in particular, as we’ll get to later on). Not to mention, SNES games are too old to appear on most modern review aggregator websites, so it’s hard to find quantified critical consensus.
So, as the SNES turns 30, I decided to come up with definitive, data-driven, crowd-sourced rankings of which games are the most popular and beloved among modern players, the games people are actually still playing and enjoying decades later. I didn’t need to create a poll and drum up interest for that myself, though, as thankfully, the data I wanted already exists in droves and has been collected over the course of many years.
To make this list, first, I browsed the SNES games listed on the websites Emuparadise, Grouvee, IGDB, and HowLongToBeat, all of which feature an average user rating for just about every SNES game ever released and indicate how many users rated the game. For all the North American releases that had at least 100 cumulative ratings across all the sites, I entered them in a spreadsheet. For each game, I added the number of ratings from all the sites, what those ratings were, and calculated an average rating.
The scores that resulted from this process reflect the game’s average ratings, but not how many ratings it had, aka how many people are actually playing the game these days. For our purposes, that’s a problem: a game that one person thinks is a 100 isn’t more popular than a game that ten thousand people rate a 99. So, to take that into account, I used a mathematical formula based on ones concocted by people who know more about numbers than I do. The final score that results from this (which is based on a 0-100 scale) takes into account both how many ratings the games have and what those ratings are.
All of these sites are at least a decade old, and in total, 217,464 total user ratings for 221 games were collected (between July 16 and 18) for this list. Emuparadise launched in 2000, while the SNES was discontinued in North America in 1999, so it could be said that these ratings represent how gamers have felt about the SNES and its games ever since the console went off the market. (That’s assuming Emuparadise featured user ratings since its inception, which I was unable to verify. Either way, we have some finely aged data here.)
To reiterate, these rankings have nothing to do with my opinions or those of anybody else at Uproxx. They would look a lot different if they did; Kirby’s Dream Course and Super Bases Loaded, which would both be somewhere in at least the top 20 of my personal rankings, didn’t even make this list. Rather, these rankings intend to accurately represent how appreciated these games are now based on the thoughts of over 200,000 gamers, not just one or a few.
Now that we’ve established the method used to create the list, let’s get into it, starting with 100 and working through the ranks before getting into more detail with the top 10 games.
- 100. Looney Tunes B-Ball
- 99. Knights Of The Round
- 98. Breath Of Fire
- 97. Ranma 1/2: Hard Battle
- 96. Ninja Gaiden Trilogy
- 95. Battletoads In Battlemaniacs
- 94. Side Pocket
- 93. Kirby’s Dream Land 3
- 92. The Adventures Of Batman & Robin
- 91. Aero Fighters
- 90. Castlevania: Dracula X
- 89. Wolfenstein 3D
- 88. ActRaiser
- 87. International Superstar Soccer
- 86. Arcana
- 85. Secret Of Evermore
- 84. NBA Jam
- 83. Congo’s Caper
- 82. Final Fight
- 81. Prince Of Persia
- 80. R-Type III: The Third Lightning
- 79. Marvel Super Heroes In War Of The Gems
- 78. Hagane: The Final Conflict
- 77. SimCity 2000
- 76. The King Of Dragons
- 75. Robotrek
- 74. Uncharted Waters 2: New Horizons
- 73. Final Fight 3
- 72. Earthworm Jim
- 71. Prehistorik Man
- 70. Ogre Battle: The March Of The Black Queen
- 69. Breath Of Fire II
- 68. Mega Man 7
- 67. Super Bomberman 2
- 66. Tiny Toon Adventures: Wacky Sports Challenge
- 65. E.V.O.: Search For Eden
- 64. Gradius III
- 63. F-Zero
- 62. Illusion Of Gaia
- 61. Sid Meier’s Civilization
- 60. Doom
- 59. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
- 58. Tetris & Dr. Mario
- 57. Strike Gunner S.T.G
- 56. Star Fox
- 55. Lufia II: Rise Of The Sinistrals
- 54. Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel
- 53. SimCity
- 52. Harvest Moon
- 51. The Lion King
- 50. Aerobiz Supersonic
- 49. Mortal Kombat 3
- 48. Street Fighter Alpha 2
- 47. Super Double Dragon
- 46. Goof Troop
- 45. Tetris Attack
- 44. Top Gear 3000
- 43. Drakkhen
- 42. Super Bomberman
- 41. International Superstar Soccer Deluxe
- 40. Dragon View
- 39. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
- 38. Rock N’ Roll Racing
- 37. Super Street Fighter II
- 36. Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
- 35. Sunset Riders
- 34. Super Punch-Out
- 33. Super Castlevania IV
- 32. Mega Man X3
- 31. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
- 30. Mortal Kombat II
- 29. Secret Of Mana
- 28. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
- 27. Top Gear
- 26. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
- 25. Kirby Super Star
- 24. Contra III: The Alien Wars
- 23. Ultimate Fighter
- 22. Final Fantasy IV
- 21. Mega Man X2
- 20. Mortal Kombat
- 19. Shaq Fu
- 18. Killer Instinct
- 17. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
- 16. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time
- 15. Disney’s Aladdin
- 14. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
- 13. Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars
- 12. Final Fantasy VI
- 11. Super Mario Kart
10. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Release Date: October 4, 1995
Final Score: 64.39
Average Rating: 88.38/100 (19th)
Total Ratings: 4,712 (10th)
Yoshi’s Island was one of the best-looking SNES games when it came out in 1995, and it remains so now thanks to its casual, hand-drawn art style that has aged better than the crayon scribblings of my youth. Aside from that, though, the gameplay is really unlike many other games that were out during the SNES era or are available now (save for the Yoshi games that followed it, like the superb Yoshi’s Wooly World).
The egg mechanic is all its own, and Baby Mario essentially serving as a hybrid health-meter/death countdown/escort mission hasn’t to my knowledge been duplicated since, or at least not as well as it’s done here. Meanwhile, the game’s level designs are engaging and intuitive, the world and those who inhabit it are vibrant and beautiful, and that final Bowser fight was one of the most intimidating and epic moments of my childhood… and it’s honestly still a thrilling nail-biter.
9. Top Gear 2
Release Date: August 8, 1993
Final Score: 68.08
Average Rating: 96.77/100 (1st)
Total Ratings: 4,629 (11th)
Admittedly, this one was, to me, a surprise entry on the list, especially this high up; It’s the only one in the top 40 or so that I had never heard of. Regardless, the game today has a relatively large fan base who feel passionately about it. Actually exploring the game, it makes sense that that’s the case.
Based on my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the swath of SNES racing games, Top Gear 2 has to be one of the most intricate. Even just when first booting up the game, players can choose whether they want an automatic or manual transmission, or miles or kilometers per hour for the speed display. There are five control schemes available to pick and even different engines from which to choose. As far as SNES driving experiences, it appears this is as deep as they get, a thinking man’s answer to the more cartoony Super Mario Kart.
8. Super Metroid
Release Date: April 18, 1994
Final Score: 72.72
Average Rating: 90.04/100 (10th)
Total Ratings: 7,118 (8th)
Remember this summer, when the Nintendo fan community collectively lost its sh*t over the announcement of Metroid Dread, the first new 2D Metroid game in some time? A big reason for that is the legacy and expected level of quality that Super Metroid helped establish.
Perhaps more than any game on this list, Super Metroid was critical in the creation of a genre that’s still prevalent today. Heck, the genre is partially named after the game: Metroidvania. Super Metroid is all about exploration, and it offers quite the world to peruse. Combine that with a fun-to-control protagonist in Samus, a gorgeous art style that still looks surprisingly modern, and other superlative elements not mentioned here, and you have a game that’s — and this isn’t hyperbole — genuinely timeless.
7. The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Release Date: April 13, 1992
Final Score: 75.86
Average Rating: 90.85/100 (6th)
Total Ratings: 8,125 (7th)
The Nintendo Entertainment System title Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link is a definite outlier in the Zelda series, as it notably boasts side-scrolling platforming gameplay, which isn’t all too common in Hyrule. Nintendo made a return to the top-down RPG format, though, with its follow up, A Link To The Past, and what a return it was; Any game that introduces an item as iconic as the Master Sword is a non-debatable winner. On top of that, it has one of gaming’s greatest secrets/Easter eggs, the Chris Houlihan room.
The game is one of the best-selling in the SNES library, and thusly, its legacy has been well-preserved over the years with its Game Boy Advance port, current presence on Nintendo Switch Online, and various tributes and honors prior and in between. Based on the elements of the game that live on today, and just how good the game is, Link To The Past could be considered the defining entry in the storied franchise.
6. Donkey Kong Country
Release Date: November 21, 1994
Final Score: 75.86
Average Rating: 88.31/100 (22nd)
Total Ratings: 8,622 (4th)
In 1994, Donkey Kong Country looked stunning, and honestly, it’s still impressive today. That’s thanks to the game’s sprites and visual assets that were made to look like 3D models, which made the game appear as futuristic as any console game at the time.
Good graphics are great, but if the gameplay isn’t there, then who cares? Donkey Kong Country is of course a stellar platforming experience that, like its visuals, holds up in 2021. Aside from the game’s inherent value, it’s also the seed for other phenomenal side-scrolling Donkey Kong games, like the SNES Donkey Kong Country sequels and the more recent Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
5. Super Mario All-Stars
Release Date: August 11, 1993
Final Score: 77.26
Average Rating: 88.36/100 (20th)
Total Ratings: 9,187 (3rd)
Just because the NES came to an end and was followed by an advanced new console, that didn’t mean fans were totally over the original Mario adventures. Those NES games were still fun and worthwhile in the ’90s, so Nintendo kept them alive during the decade with Super Mario All-Stars, a compilation that went on to become the SNES’ second-best-selling game.
If you know the original Super Mario Bros. games, there’s not much need to explain the appeal of All-Stars. The collection isn’t entirely a re-hash, though, as it features Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which previously wasn’t released in North America because Nintendo thought it would be too challenging for US players and therefore not a welcoming direct sequel to the original SMB.
4. Mega Man X
Release Date: January 19, 1994
Final Score: 77.55
Average Rating: 92.78/100 (3rd)
Total Ratings: 8,406 (6th)
Mega Man was one of the defining and omnipresent franchises on the NES, thanks to the six games that were released on the platform. When it came time for Mega Man to establish itself on the SNES, though, it did so with a left turn: Mega Man X.
The game was a departure for the franchise, but one that paid off big time. Aside from key plot changes — the game has a new protagonist and futuristic setting — the game offered players more mobility thanks to X’s ability to scale and jump off walls. That said, the game didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken: The new elements keep it interesting, but at the core of Mega Man X is the classic Mega Man gameplay that made it a hit.
3. Chrono Trigger
Release Date: August 11, 1995
Final Score: 78.60
Average Rating: 94.22/100 (2nd)
Total Ratings: 8,536 (5th)
Chrono Trigger was positioned for success even before it was released: It was helmed by a three-person team consisting of Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series), Yuji Horii (creator of the Dragon Quest series), and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Quest‘s character designer and the author of the Dragon Ball manga series). Yeah, that’s a lot of game-making firepower.
Indeed, the game was a success upon release and has resonated consistently over the years since: The 2008 port for the Nintendo DS is one of the platform’s most highly rated games, and fans were excited to hear music from the series played during this year’s opening ceremony at the Olympics. Chrono Trigger may not have the name recognition of Mario or Zelda among casual gamers, but it is nonetheless an essential SNES experience that continues to excite players a quarter of a century later.
Release Date: June 5, 1995
Final Score: 83.58
Average Rating: 92.21/100 (4th)
Total Ratings: 11,150 (2nd)
If, a year after its release, you told SNES fans that EarthBound would become one of the platform’s most beloved games, you’d have raised a lot of eyebrows. While players today know that the game is a favorite, it actually wasn’t a hit in the US when it was initially released. It sold poorly, but as the years went on, a fervent legion of fans helped the game earned its deserved acclaim, and now it routinely appears near the top of lists like this one.
The game stands out because it’s not like most other RPGs of its era. It’s comedic in tone and based on regular American life, meaning it’s not so steeped in RPG tropes like dragons and spells and whatnot. It’s a unique and refreshing entry in the SNES library and it’s no wonder why it is beloved today, despite being unjustly undervalued in its time.
1. Super Mario World
Release Date: August 23, 1991
Final Score: 94.91
Average Rating: 90.46/100 (7th)
Total Ratings: 18,762 (1st)
I’m far from the first person to toot Super Mario World‘s horn. It’s regarded as one of the greatest games ever and is far and away the best-selling title on the SNES: It sold over 20 million copies, and that’s not even counting the 5.7 million copies the Game Boy Advance port (Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2) moved. To put that into perspective, the next best-selling SNES game, Super Mario All-Stars, sold about 10.5 million units. (That actually closely mirrors the difference in Total Ratings between SMW and All-Stars on this list, too.)
It spawned an animated TV show and a manga series. It’s a major part of the foundation for Super Mario Maker 2, one of the most popular Nintendo Switch games. It’s one of the most active games in the world of speedrunning. There’s an active community of fans who warp the game into their own original playable Mario adventures.
None of those things would be possible if there wasn’t a fantastic game behind the hype, and SMW‘s gameplay is still so tight and fun today. There’s a reason virtually every new platformer today is modeled at least in part after SMW and its predecessors on the NES. So many SNES games have aged poorly, but Mario and his world remain super.
If you want to see that list again in infographic form, here you go: