What are the ten best SNES games to play now?

November 21, 2011

Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up and play today? This time, we’re looking at one of the best consoles for aging gracefully: Nintendo’s SNES.

Gerry Pagan: It’s Kirby. All Kirby games are incredibly fun, only this game multiplies it by eight by having multiple Kirby sub-games, all of which have their own game format and adventure, while some even interconnect with others. Every power was fleshed out where Kirby now has an arsenal of moves at this disposal, the helper system for co-op play is still brilliant, the game is incredibly charming and it even has kick-ass music. If you’ve never played it before, why are you still reading this? It’s on either the Wii Virtual Console or on the DS as Kirby Super Star Ultra, go pick them up and have a blast.


Matthew Jay: Samus is a girl. Millions of boys across America had their minds blown when they finished the first Metroid on the NES and realized they’d been a girl the entire time on this long, arduous journey. You can bring up all the Claire Redfields and Lara Crofts you want, but Samus is the strongest female character in gaming because at no point does her gender define her. Well at this point in the series it hadn’t. Yes, it informs her character by giving her traits like a motherly responsibility for a baby Metroid, but whether you know Samus is a girl or not, you can have the same gaming experience. That idea permeates Super Metroid. No piece of the story is shoved in your face, but it’s there. It may be your second or third playthrough before you notice the bodies in the background of many of the levels or even why Samus is on this mission. This is the definition of a game that works on multiple levels.


Graham Russell: Time has shown us that platformers age best when they have a charming aesthetic that isn’t reliant on being graphically impressive. Hey, Yoshi’s Island has one of those! Then there’s the elegant level design, the transformations to keep gameplay fresh and the scaled difficulty that relies on collectibles for difficulty. Oh, and Yoshi’s totally adorable, right? Who doesn’t like Yoshi? I feel silly having to justify this game on the list. It deserves a spot here. You know it. I know it. The American people know it.


Andrew Passafiume: Zelda’s formula has remained pretty solid over the years, but very few games have showcased Zelda as perfectly as Link to the Past did back in 1992. Taking what was great about the original Legend of Zelda and improving upon it, Link to the Past is as close to perfect as the series can get. The dungeons are some of the best the series has to offer, introducing elements and items that would become standard in later games, as well as one of the most interesting renditions of the world of Hyrule you’ll ever see. If you have any experience with the series, you’ll feel right at home with this title.


Andrew Passafiume: There are very few games as replayable as Super Mario World. As with most great Mario games, World has aged gracefully, still handling as great as it did during its launch. The level design is nearly flawless and the worlds themselves each feel unique, both compared to each other and to previous titles in the series. This game also features the introductions of ghost houses, which are some of the more interesting levels in the game and feature plenty of hidden secrets. The entire game is jam-packed with tons of secret levels and worlds, and it strikes a perfect balance of fun and difficulty better than most platformers of the era. Oh, and this is also the first appearance of everyone’s favorite dinosaur pal, Yoshi.


Gerry Pagan: The game that reinvented an already fantastic formula, Mega Man X took the classic series and made it edgy and cool for a new generation of consoles. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of stage design, from the boss fights, the music, the levels and even the mind blowing introduction stage that taught you everything you needed to know to beat the game without a shred of text anywhere. The game also introduces changing stage dynamics, with some levels being altered depending on the order in which you beat them. Later games in the series build up on this one, but none manage to pull it all off as spectacularly as X does.


Graham Russell: Do we really think a sports game can age well? No, actually. But we wouldn’t call NBA Jam a sports game. It’s more sports-themed. There are some rarer versions of the game with slightly-upgraded visuals, but the SNES Tournament Edition is the definitive console experience. (No, we won’t have the console-arcade debate right now.) The nostalgia’s nice and thick on the recent revival games, but the reason people remember Jam so fondly is the perennially-fun core mechanics. Dunking from the free-throw line, swatting down a three and slipping by your defender is what was magical, so much that just being around them developed a following for the announcer stylings of Tim Kitzrow and the on-court talents of players like Kenny Anderson and Scott Skiles.


Andrew Passafiume: Super Mario RPG is a game that holds up even better than you might expect. It’s still a very basic tale, but the way it’s written and presented is still pretty timeless. You learn a great deal about characters you thought you knew, meet some new characters that have even more to offer than you expect, and come across some of the coolest villains in any Mario game. The battle system is great as well, which bridges the gap between those who traditionally love RPGs and those who may be inexperienced with the genre. As someone who has only recently played through this game for the first time, I can safely say it’s still one of the best titles the SNES has to offer.


Matthew Jay: Usually in these features I try and find some theme or idea in each title that makes it timeless or impacted the medium in some significant way. I’ll pontificate about what Samus has done for female characters or why Castlevania made games hard. But Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow is just a freakin’ rad game. Most Disney games of the time were really good, especially those made by Capcom. However, they followed a pretty standard formula. Any recognizable Disney character dropped into a cookie-cutter platformer, but Maui Mallard is an experiment. Rather than just play as Donald Duck, he’s put in the role of this globetrotting Indiana Jones-type adventurer with authentic ninja skills. Much in the way many classic Disney shorts would adopt a certain genre, Maui Mallard pulls off the serialized pulp adventure story with flair and does it with beautiful fluid animations. There are better, more solid gameplay experiences in other 16-bit Disney games, but none of them pull it off as stylishly as Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow.


Gerry Pagan: There’s a very good reason why this game constantly tops the many top 10 lists on the internet for either best RPG or best SNES game. Chrono Trigger is the game that popularized many of the features seen in RPGs since then, from the New Game+ mechanic and multiple endings to having side quests everywhere at nearly every moment. The game’s cast and narrative and among the best Squaresoft ever wrote, all the while topping it off with a deep, customizable combat system. Whether it is the best RPG of all time is still up to debate, and that’s just a testament to how good it is.

What do you think? Did we screw up? What do you think stands the test of time?