The SNES was an absolute unit when it came to releasing great RPGs. Not all the SNES RPGs got the same attention as Final Fantasy titles or Chrono Trigger, though. Some of them didn’t get a widespread release or otherwise failed to get much attention at all.
If you want to stray from the biggest names and play some of the most underrated SNES RPGs, then you’re in luck. I’ve come up with a list containing some very good to great games that were not appreciated in their time and deserve a second look.
That doesn’t mean these games were all considered trash, but they were certainly not appreciated for all that they offered. So, let’s get down to it.
1. Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
Uncharted Waters: New Horizons was a very unusual RPG by any measure. Instead of the typical JRPG formula, you took on the role of a ship captain and sought to increase your riches and power.
The game was a lot of fun because you could choose from six different adventurers to start out, such as a privateer under Henry VIII or the son of Leon from the first Uncharted Waters.
Every sailor’s story was a tad different, but the gameplay was the same. You had to earn and manage money, power up your characters and capabilities by completing quests, and fight against others on the open sea.
Uncharted Waters: New Horizons was ahead of its time in terms of the concept, but didn’t nail the execution and presentation. Nevertheless, this game was a ton of fun and a very good RPG.
2. The 7th Saga
The RPGs of yesteryear were built differently. They were not afraid to absolutely mud-stomp you until you quit. That’s probably why 7th Saga was not such a popular game.
If you chose one class over another at the outset of the game, you could radically alter your gameplay for the worse. The beginning of the game was very difficult for squishy characters until you got another party member to help you in battle.
Beyond the difficulty, the story was decent and featured each of the playable characters trying to find a series of runes. You would actually run into these other characters throughout the game, and you could recruit them after a fight. Everyone had their own reasons for gathering the runes, and some would do anything to keep them.
The combat graphics were very good and the game’s music was also a high point. The game had a lot going for it, but I think the difficulty turned away a lot of people.
Although it was never released in the U.S., it was released in Europe, so you could get an English version of the game. If you were willing to go through all that, then you probably already know about Terranigma and why it’s so great.
This highly underrated game features a very unique, great story set in a world that features a light and a dark side. It’s too long to explain here, but I’ll say this game’s story is superior to many contemporary RPGs.
The gameplay is another element that makes this game shine. Terranigma features a top-down perspective and an action-based combat system that has drawn comparisons to Zelda titles. You can use magic and your trusty sword to wage war on the enemies.
Unlike most Zelda titles, though, this game is an actual RPG. You kill enemies and gain experience points and levels. The graphics are good for the time and the only real drawback is the sounds in the game. The game is easier to get a hold of these days, and you should try it.
4. Secret of Evermore
Although it’s similar in name and gameplay elements to Secret of Mana, this game is distinct, fun, and a tad underrated as evidenced by its sales.
Secret of Evermore features a young protagonist who gets caught up in an adventure that transports him to Evermore, a nexus between several unique worlds that see you go into castles, ancient worlds like Greece and Rome, and a prehistoric world.
Your character storms that battlefield with swords, axes, magic, and even a bazooka. The combat is action-oriented just like Mana, and it flows very well. Also, you get to fight with your loyal dog all along the way.
Solid combat, a good story, and a great world design— how did this game not strike it big? If I had to guess, I would say it entered into a tough market with Square dominating the decade and the PlayStation console pending release.
5. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Some people may consider this game rated perfectly as an average JRPG, but I urge you to take another look. Many elements of this game make this teeter on greatness.
For one thing, the game is a sequel, and we all know how hard it is to pick up the pieces in the same world and do something great. I would say very few games on the SNES managed to do that at all, let alone RPGs.
The game had solid turn-based combat, improved monster encounters in dungeons (you could mostly avoid them), a fantastic armor system, and the game had The Ancient Cave, a 99-floor dungeon that extended playability and tested your skills.
Lufia II even had distractions in the form of minigames to explore and spend time playing. It was more than just another good RPG, at least in my opinion.
6. Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom
Diehard tabletop RPG-lovers should already be familiar with this title, but a lot of people missed out on this fantastic game. It’s a dungeon-crawler RPG, so you put together a party and go into the caverns for your quest.
Many things made this game great, starting with the music that could evoke dread or a feeling of intensity while you fought your way through the caverns. Another great thing about this game was the party generation.
You rolled for your character’s stats, determined if they were good, neutral, or evil, and selected the best group of classes to suit your needs. A balanced party was always a good idea, though.
Wizardry V’s art style wasn’t great, and the graphics were dated on the game’s release. People also hated when their party members suddenly had their alignment changed, but it made your actions have consequences.
Overall, I think the game’s lack of direct explanations to newcomers along with the difficulty of Wizardry V made the game less popular than it should have been.
7. Breath of Fire II
Breath of Fire II is another game that some people regard as properly rated. After all, the graphics and combat were about average for the time but the game featured elements that made it borderline great.
For one thing, check out that story. Go ahead and read the synopsis or play the game and then get back to me. Was that just so-so? Sure, it might not be complex like A Song of Ice and Fire or something, but it’s pretty darn good for a video game.
In particular, I like the potential for multiple endings because that shows the player was able to impact the world to some degree. That’s a hallmark of a good RPG, and it’s present in Breath of Fire II; in fact, one of the endings is downright world-rending.
The gameplay is also fun in other respects, too. The ability to build and populate a town is awesome and the special moves in combat (namely turning into a dragon) are nice.
Even if you skipped past this game and went to the PS1 games, you should give it a shot.
8. Brain Lord
Brain Lord is another underrated action-RPG that probably doesn’t get as much love as it should. The game has a big emphasis on solving puzzles along with dungeon-crawling, so it drew comparisons to Zelda games even though it was a tad bit harder.
Brain Lord allowed the player to take many approaches with weapons including flails, swords, bows, and boomerangs.
Unlike the Zelda games, this game lets you level up, but it requires some grinding. Also, you don’t have to go through the game alone. You could bring along one party member at a time.
The combat is fun and the game’s different dungeons are varied and well-designed. The music is simply fantastic, too. Yet, somehow this game managed to garner tepid reviews. It deserves better.
9. Ultima VI: The False Prophet
I have a nagging suspicion that people see the graphics in Ultima games and immediately discount the whole game. If you can look past that, then there is a very nice classic game waiting beneath that.
You take on the role of the Avatar (not Aang) and have to fight back against invading gargoyles.
Much like the other games in the series, the story encourages the players to take a different perspective and consider the enemy as intelligent creatures rather than mindless monsters that must be destroyed.
Although the story alone makes this game worthy of more praise than it got initially, I also feel like the game’s atmosphere and music are high points. The combat is not representative of the system’s best, but considering that the game was originally made in 1990, it’s not bad.
If you’re looking for an RPG that is less demanding and intense but still lots of fun, then Robotrek is the title for you. This wasn’t some world-shattering RPG like Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger; you could sit back and just enjoy the ride.
You play as the son of an inventor looking to become an inventor in their own right. When an evil group called The Hackers strikes, it’s up to you to use your inventing skills to save the day.
Again, the story isn’t heavy, but it’s serviceable. The gameplay is downright superb with a Pokémon-like feel to it as you build your own robots to fight on your behalf.
The customization is a ton of fun and allows you to build a team that suits your needs while also creating their skill sets. Critics attacked the trial and error that went into developing the best robots, but the experimentation and inventions are what make the game fun.
The graphics are nice, the battles are fun, and the true detriments, like the music, aren’t that serious. This is a bit of a hidden gem, and it’s worth playing.
Are There More Than 10 Underrated SNES RPGs?
Sure, you could say that many other RPGs on the system were underappreciated, too. In some cases, like Star Ocean, great games were never released around the world so they never caught on.
In other cases, very solid RPGs were drowned out by the big names and changing landscape of video games at the time that saw the inception of 3D games starting in the mid-1990s.
I might have missed some underrated games, and it’s up to you to fill me in. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!