The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) came out at just the right time to take advantage of the burgeoning acceptance of home consoles and video games as a whole. As a result, video game developers took chances, expanded the types of video games they released, and provided the SNES with an incredible library of games.
Although the SNES boasted some of the most memorable video games of the era, not all the games hold up well enough that you would consider playing them today.
However, some games are just as good to play on your console or emulator in the present. Take a look at 15 SNES games that hold up today and feel the temptation to play some retro games once again.
Just to be clear: these games aren’t being ranked.
1. Super Metroid
Super Metroid was a smashing success when it was released. The action-adventure game picked up on the story from Metroid II: Return of Samus and sent the player to the planet Zebes.
Super Metroid amped up the features from the previous installments, improving on the action elements of combat and exploration while also providing high-quality music and graphics. Sure, this game might not be as pretty as Metroid Prime, but there is no denying the sheer playability.
Super Metroid was a genre-defining game, and it holds up today because its controls are sleek, the game looks good for its time, and the gameplay is highly engaging.
2. Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI)
You can call it Final Fantasy III or Final Fantasy VI. It doesn’t matter because the game is incredible no matter what. This sprawling SNES RPG is consistently ranked among the best games in the genre and on the console as a whole.
The story is simply incredible, the magic system and class customization were engaging, and the music was some of the best to grace the console. You could easily pick up this game today and get an amazing RPG experience.
I will say that it’s easier for turn-based RPGs to make this list than other genres. Still, Final Fantasy VI certainly belongs here among the SNES games that hold up today.
3. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
King K. Rool kidnaps Donkey Kong, and it’s up to you to rescue him as Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong. Donkey Kong Country 2 was the 2nd-highest selling game of 1995 and the 5th overall on the SNES.
The game improved on the little things that irked players in the first game, like some of the platforming aspects and hit boxes. Still, the title retained and improved upon a lot of the elements that made DKC great.
The special levels, music, controls, level design, and incredible graphics made it a pleasure to play this game back in the day as well as now. The only sad part is that they haven’t released a new DK game in a while, unless you count his appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series.
4. Super Mario World
Super Mario World is an iconic entry in the series, and it is consistently ranked among the best games on the system. The replayability of the game is unmatched because of its numerous stages and tremendous level design which is improved by the addition of more secrets than you’ll know what to do with.
Yoshi makes his first appearance as a rideable partner, and each of his variations allows for you to approach the game a little differently each time. The controls are responsive and the levels are engaging, so you’ll want to come back for more.
If you find yourself with nothing to do and a yearning for a good platform game, then you could break out Super Mario World and never miss a beat. Just don’t sacrifice Yoshi for a good level finish— you go straight to hell for doing that.
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
You can say a lot about The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Some people have called it overrated and others say it’s among the best entries in the series. Personally, I’m not a big Zelda fan, but I can recognize what the game did right and why it’s earned a place here on the list.
The combat is fun and multifaceted, offering Link many ways to take down his enemies from magic to simple arrows. Sure, you might not have to kill any BotW-style Guardians, but there are plenty of challenging fights that require some thought and timing.
The Light and Dark Worlds of the game were certainly a highlight, expanding the map and investing players in setting the world right. The world map wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t small either.
All in all, if you picked up the game for the first time and played it today, I doubt you would complain too much. The developers invested some serious time in playability, control, and great sound effects, so the title holds up well almost three decades later.
6. Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger is often considered one of the best SNES games and best RPGs of all-time. It’s easy to see why this game is loved with the timeless story (get it?), riveting graphics, and fun combat.
The game really holds up when you consider the various impacts the player can have on the story, making it possible to witness everything from the Apocalypse to Redacted Happy Ending.
I feel like the only thing that might not be well-received these days is the protagonist. I’ve never liked the idea of having a protagonist that doesn’t speak in the story. To me, it only makes sense if you get to make a lot of dialogue choices, and even then it’s hard to pull off.
That has no place in a damn-near flawless video game. But that’s just one man’s opinion.
7. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a highly entertaining run and gun game where you play as Zeke and Julie, two kids who have their suburban neighborhood brought under siege by monsters.
Using improvised weapons, you traverse level after level trying to save people while destroying zombies, chainsaw killers, and more.
Instead of giving you a linear path to travel, you get to roam around each level. That facet of gameplay makes it so you can take a different approach to your playthrough every time, enhancing the replayability of a very fun game.
The game’s music is great, the different weapons are lots of fun, and the zany monsters all make Zombies Ate My Neighbors a wonderful game that you’ll want to play over and over again.
8. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Street Fight II Turbo: Hyper Fighting fixed the few things that limited the original title and cemented the game’s legacy as one of the best fighting games of the 1990s.
Characters got new special moves, levels received some updates, some of the graphics were improved, and mirror matches were finally allowed to happen.
As the game’s name suggests, the game can be played at various speeds, with the faster versions requiring precise timing to land your moves and allowing you to challenge yourself and your friends.
Street Fighter II Turbo is simply wonderful, and it is a fighting game you could feel good about playing today.
9. Mega Man X
Action/Platform games are kind of hit or miss when it comes to holding up over time. In the case of Mega Man X, this one is still good these days.
The game is a no-brainer on this list for lots of reasons. For a title that requires so much platforming, the developers really put in some serious time on the controls. It’s possible to learn them rather quickly, but it can take some time to become a master at using various powerups and movements to their fullest potential.
The level design is linear, but the variations in gameplay through armor upgrades, terrain alterations, and boss fights provide enough variety to keep the player interested.
The overall art style of the game, both visual and audio, makes the game worth playing and replaying. Lastly, the game has a nice storyline and a very memorable villain. All these things make for an interesting, fun, replayable game that you should check out.
Among the SNES games that hold up today is Shadowrun, a game so far ahead of its time that playing it now will provide any RPG-lover with a window into the development of modern, must-have elements.
Unlike other RPGs that were taking place in fairytale kingdoms, Shadowrun was set in the grimy streets of 2050 Seattle. This game was based on a tabletop RPG that bears similarities to DnD, but it has its own world, lore, and combat.
The game was gritty. It required you to do some hardcore investigating while dodging assassins. You were constantly under attack from regular people as well as fantasy creatures, and you also had to rub elbows with them.
The game isn’t pretty by any measure, but the game is worth playing today because it’s a beautiful pastiche of fantasy, cyberpunk, and RPG.
11. Contra 3: The Alien Wars
Contra 3: The Alien Wars goes from 0-100 really quickly. You start out on foot with a rifle and it’s not long before you’re riding a scrap motorcycle and shooting at alien ships. I don’t remember if there is a story attached to this or whether you just have to “get some” like a 90s action film.
Anyway, this game certainly holds up today for lots of reasons. First, the action is never ending and the pace is swift. You’re gunning from the start to finish, and you are facing all sorts of enemies.
Also, the game keeps you engrossed with the good graphics, great controls, and music that is way too good for a shooting game. Seriously, the final boss music sounds like it belongs in an RPG.
This title is very entertaining, and it’s probably one of the best examples of a run and gun game on the SNES.
12. Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen
Although the SNES is known for producing amazing JRPGs, it also had this tactical RPG that was an absolute gem. Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen was a simple game on the surface but surprisingly deep if you let yourself get sucked into the world.
The vast number and attributes of the characters you can recruit for battle makes the game worth checking out, but the combat system and overall gameplay make this title a standout. The story requires you to pay attention a little, but you’re basically leading a revolution.
You could pick this game up and feel right at home if you’ve been playing some of the newer tactical RPGs over the last decade. The timeless quality of the game and the sheer depth ensure it holds up today.
13. Harvest Moon
Now known as Story of Seasons, the original Harvest Moon’s formula was so effective and successful that it has been used as a template for everything from the Farming Simulator to Stardew Valley.
The basis of the game is that you inherit your grandfather’s farm and you need to get it in shape if you want to keep the land. Every day gives you limited time and energy while also providing you with an increasing number of tasks to do as you try to clear land, sow fruits and vegetables, and raise farm animals.
You also need to find time to pursue some romance and friendships, too.
The game is equal parts entertaining and rewarding. You must invest time to get things running smoothly, but it’s hard to beat the sense of satisfaction you gain from perfecting your operation. Job simulator games are hard to do right, but Harvest Moon nailed it on the SNES.
This game is just as fun now as it was way back when it was released. Also, several more games have been released in the series. Harvest Moon: Back to Nature is probably my favorite, but a brand new one just released in 2021.
14. Super Castlevania IV
Super Castlevania IV has a certain timeless quality about it, and not just because you’re killing the undead. This platforming title had you take on the role of Simon and tasked you with killing Dracula.
The graphics aren’t exactly gorgeous; there’s no getting around that. However, the thing about SNES games that hold up today is that the experience matters more than the looks.
The platforming elements of the game were fantastic, allowing the player to use Simon’s whip to swing from area to area while fending off various creatures. In fact, you could also use the whip defensively to stop projectiles from hitting Simon. It’s a multi-tool of pain that you use for smacking down the evil undead.
The game was fast-paced and somewhat challenging, and it’s great music and background art maintained the dark mood. It’s easy to see why this game is so popular among fans and why it’s a very commonly emulated game.
F-Zero is a racing game that introduced the incredible racer/bounty hunter Captain Falcon to the world. Where Mario Kart went with a slower pace and some cutesy graphics, F-Zero went as fast as possible and thrust the player into futuristic worlds with cities, deserts, and jungles.
The graphics weren’t exactly incredible, but the high-speed racing more than made up for it. As the player, you’ll have to learn the maps and how to effectively navigate them while turning on a dime and wisely using your speed boosts.
Just playing against the computers is thrilling, but adding a second player can turn into a downright addictive competition. This game is still worth playing today.
More SNES Games That Hold Up Today
The SNES was probably the best all-around retro console in terms of its game library and the sheer number of hits that were released on the system. It’s no wonder that these 15 games are just a few of the SNES games that hold up today.
With that in mind, tell me what you think. What games hold up well? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!