Ranking the SNES Classic Games – From Perfectly Fine to True Masterpieces

It’s finally here! The SNES Classic is flying off store shelves, and if you’re one of the lucky ones who preordered it, you’re probably waiting for that UPS truck right now in anticipation. In honor of today’s release of the SNES Classic, we’ve gone ahead and ranked all 21 games included (and one shamefully not included). It’s not a definitive ranking, but we here at The Game Fanatics have strong feelings about almost every game in there. Here’s our ranking of the SNES Classic games: from perfectly fine to true masterpieces.

Honorable Mentions:

Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2 SNES Classic

Star Fox 2 is a curious beast. It was reportedly finished in 1995 and set to be released on the SNES as one of its swan songs. Unfortunately, it seems that Shigeru Miyamoto didn’t want the 3D graphics it displayed pushing up against the Nintendo 64’s launch. So, it was canceled. Just like that. But there’s good news! What was once one of the great lost games is now a reality on the Super NES Classic Edition. We can’t definitively rank this one, considering it was never really given the chance to breath and exist in its own time. But it’s a big reason to try and track down one of these cute little consoles and give it a shot for yourself.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger The End of Time Hub World Fanatical Five

Chrono Trigger isn’t on the SNES Classic. This is a travesty and an affront to the gaming gods. It’s one of the greatest games of all time (like, mathematically). Its absence is a tragedy even Shakespeare would be impressed by. Sure, we’re being overdramatic, but come on Nintendo. We’re sure there were some legal issues involved, but you get the best lawyers in the world to sort that stuff out. It has one of the best hub worlds in it, for heaven’s sake! So just download it on any number of Nintendo’s Virtual Consoles (except not on the Switch, because it doesn’t have one as Nintendo doesn’t like making money) and enjoy.

Perfectly Fine Games:

Kirby’s Dream Course

Kirby's Dream Course SNES Classic

Kirby’s Dream Course is a fine game. It’s an isometric miniature golf game where Kirby is the golf ball. How cute is that!? But it’s not really a classic, and there’s already another, better Kirby game on the SNES Classic. So… we’re not entirely sure why this game took up a slot on the machine’s roster. You know what would have been a good replacement? Chrono Trigger.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts SNES Classic

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is hard. Like, infamously hard. But it’s also fun! It’s got a double jump, upgradable equipment, and creative enemies. The difficulty is, graciously, mitigated on the SNES Classic by way of the rewind feature and suspend points available in the hardware. The game is lower on this list, not for being a bad game, but for having such stiff competition. You’ll see just how good it gets.

Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III SNES Classic

Contra III: The Alien Wars is probably the best game in the series, and that’s saying something. This third installment pushed the gameplay forward with complex level design, destructible environments, and vehicles ripe for commandeering. It was praised for coming much closer to the arcade version of the game than its NES predecessors ever had. Though this classic isn’t an absolute must-play, it’s still a fun, post-apocalyptic romp. And it can be played with your best bud on the couch using that second controller included in the box. What’s not to love?

Star Fox

Star Fox SNES Classic Love for the original Star Fox is warranted. It was, after all, the first Nintendo game to use polygonal graphics and had an immediately lovable cast of characters. Contrary to popular belief, the game did not use the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 3D capabilities. Instead, it used the Super FX graphics acceleration coprocessor powered GSU-1 chip present in the cartridge itself to achieve its cutting-edge graphics. Though Slippy is an annoyance that we’ll never be able to rid from existence, it remains a great game.

Kirby Super Star

Kirby Super Star SNES Classic

Kirby Super Star is actually eight games in one. And all of them are closer to your typical Kirby game than Dream Course ever was. Six of the games took the classic gameplay from the original Kirby’s Dream Land on the GameBoy and made them fit for the Super Nintendo. They were side scrolling adventures staring the pink fluffball we all know and love. He floats, inhales objects, and copies enemies abilities. With so much content in a single game, Super Star deserves its spot on the SNES Classic.

Super Punch-Out!!

Super Punch-Out!! SNES Classic

Man, the memories. Nintendo decided to follow up the Classic Mike Tyson’s: Punch Out with a fun and familiar entry worthy of the series’ name. Though the original is perhaps more fondly remembered, Super Punch-Out!! still held its own in the history of the franchise. With improved graphics, a translucent, behind-the-player perspective, and some inventive competitors, it’s a worthy edition to the SNES Classic that stands toe-to-toe with many of the other titles on this list.

Classics Territory:

F-ZERO

F-Zero SNES Classic

F-Zero is fast. Super fast. As one of the Super Nintendo’s launch titles, this one knocked it out of the park right from the get-go. It’s set in a futuristic world where the mega-rich created a highly dangerous Formula-1 type race  (hey! That’s where the name comes from!) to keep from being bored. It’s considered one of the greatest racing games of all time and inspired the likes of Wipeout on the PS1. Unfortunately, the game was single-player only, and F-Zero begs to be played alongside a buddy.

Mega Man X

Mega Man X SNES Classic

Mega Man X is the first game in the series to really take things up a notch. It introduced upgradable weapons and armor, letting the player customize the Blue Bomber’s legs, chest, helmet, and blaster with parts found throughout the various stages. Like the classic Mega Man games, allows the player to choose the order that they’ll tackle levels and bosses, and will give them the boss’ weapon upon defeat. But he became much more nimble in his SNES debut, with the ability to slide down and jump off walls, for example. Capcom attempted to return to the classic Mega Man series with Mega Man 7 a year after this gem came out, but it was too late. The series had already changed for the better.

Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV SNES Classic

Super Castlevania IV is considered by many to the be best in the series – a bold statement when Symphony of the Night is a contender. While we may not agree with that sentiment, SC4 is an absolute classic that shouldn’t be missed. As the first SNES Castlevania, it utilized Mode 7 graphics, a bevy of new weapons unseen in the NES games, and some darn pretty sprite work. Its plot is also the basis of the fantastic Castlevania Netflix series, and it’s worth digging into for that alone.

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country SNES Classic

The only problem with Donkey Kong Country being on the SNES Classic is that Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! aren’t in the box. We could argue about which DKC is best all day (Hint: It’s Diddy’s Kong Quest), but any of the three deserve a spot among SNES Classic games. Praised for its graphical prowess upon release, Donkey Kong Country has gone down in history. And for all its creative level design, notable difficulty, and mine cart levels, it’s not hard to see why it was included.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG SNES ClassicSuper Mario RPG shouldn’t exist, but thank the gaming gods that it does. A collaboration between Nintendo and Square, Super Mario RPG took gameplay elements from Square games like the previously released Final Fantasy VI, and characters and settings from the Mario franchise, and Frankensteined them together to create a classic. The game is a hilarious adventure that allows the player to not only control Mario, Bowser, and Peach, but also adds two newcomers for their first (and only) adventure – Mallow and Geno. Full of irreverent references to both Nintendo and Square games, Super Mario RPG set the stage for the Paper Mario series on the N64.

Indisputable SNES Classic Games:

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana SNES ClassicThe Mana series is hard to explain. It started its life as a GameBoy game called Final Fantasy Adventure in North America, but called Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden in Japan – a sort of side story that took on its own life. Secret of Mana was Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan, but as Square is prone to do, just renamed it willy-nilly for the West. Ultimately, the game has nothing to do with Final Fantasy. It’s an action based RPG with customizable AI, an amazing soundtrack, and gorgeous sprite work. It also incorporated cooperative play. Up to three people could play as the main characters at any time, which legitimizes the existence of the SNES Classic’s second controller alone. Though many of its sequels never came to America, this one shouldn’t be missed.

Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart SNES ClassicMario Kart has become one of Nintendo’s best-selling and most beloved franchises, and it all started on the SNES. Super Mario Kart was one of the first games to bring together various Nintendo characters and let them play together in a strange, singular universe. Packed with single player and multiplayer modes aplenty, the game is deceptively complex. Power sliding and hopping still exist in the franchise, as well as the infamous battle mode that pitted brother against sister, friend against friend as they hurled shells at one another. It single-handedly created the kart racing subgenre. We’re pumped to play this one on the couch alongside someone who we’re totally gonna crush in the Star Cup on 100cc.

EarthBound

EarthBound SNES ClassicMan, EarthBound is a weird game. It has everything: dirty hippie enemies, a party member named Poo, yo-yos, a final boss that might be an evil fetus, rock candy, aliens, a grandma wearing a bikini, and psychic abilities. One one of those is a lie, and you probably wouldn’t even be able to guess which one it was if you’ve never played the game. It’s actually a sequel to Mother, a Japanese-only RPG for the Famicom that was nearly as weird. Another Japanese-only sequel was made for the GameBoy Advance, and the West is still collectively outraged that it never got an English translation.

Yoshi’s Island

Yoshi's Island SNES ClassicYoshi’s Island (which is really Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island), doesn’t get half the respect it deserves. Though critically acclaimed upon and following its release, what most people think of when they hear “Yoshi’s Island” is Baby Mario’s ear-piercing cries. Which, to be fair, is easily the worst thing about this amazing game. In it, you play as Yoshi in a wonderfully hand drawn, pastel-tinged platforming world full of wonder and delight. Yoshi is tasked with escorting Baby Mario through 48 increasingly challenging and whimsical levels. And sure, Baby Mario is the worst, but if you get a SNES Classic and don’t play this game, you’re a sucker and don’t deserve that SNES Classic.

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper FightingStreet Fighter II SNES Classic

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting is just one of many, many versions of Street Fighter II. It is, however, perhaps the best version to reach the SNES, and has faster fighting speeds, a huge roster of fighters, and also happens to include Street Fighter II: Champion Edition within it. What matters is that it’s Street Fighter II to its core: the greatest fighting game ever made. Everyone knows Ryu and Ken, everyone tries to fire off Hadoukens as often as possible, and everyone knows someone who can wipe the floor with any competitor. That second controller that comes with the SNES Classic was  100% put in there so we could play this game against our current friends and future enemies.

Contenders for the Greatest Games of All Time:

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy VI SNES ClassicFinal Fantasy III (aka, Final Fantasy VI by real-world standards) is maybe the greatest RPG of ever made. It’s the absolute culmination of Square’s experience in the genre, taking everything the preceding five Final Fantasy games did and just blew it out of the water. It has an ensemble cast of characters, each with riveting backstories that the player can choose to suss out for themselves – or not! Nobody’s forcing you enjoy more of the best thing ever.

It’s got a story that keeps on giving, starring the world’s worst court jester as its astounding antagonist, an opera scene that people still cry over to this day, and a twist where the entire world is destroyed and the heroes just have to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and try again. Its magicite system for leveling up characters has influenced nearly every subsequent Final Fantasy game, and every other RPG for that matter. It’s got so many Espers (i.e., summons) that it’ll make your head spin. Don’t just take our word for it. Even if you can’t get your hands on an SNES Classic, simply download it on literally anything that has a screen and enjoy.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid is maybe the greatest side scrolling action-adventure game ever made. It was released eight years after the NES original, and the team led by Yoshio Sakamoto took that time to craft perfection. It took everything the first Metroid did and injected it with a perfect cocktail of adrenaline, dread, and creativity. In it, our Heroine Samus Aran returns to planet Zebes alone to take down her nemesis Mother Brain once and for all.

The game introduced elements still prevalent in the franchise, including the screw attack and various blaster and suit upgrades to help the player navigate the hostile environment. It established the Metroidvania formula where the game design constantly returns the player to previous areas that change and are more accessible with subsequent items acquired. The game sold less than 1.5 million copies since its release, which is a fraction of what it deserves. Nintendo tragically never released a sequel on the N64. But the series is growing strong with Metroid Prime 4 coming to the Switch in the future, and the recently released a remake of Metroid II on the 3DS.

If you’re interested in the complicated and unique release history of the franchise, look no further. Also, if you want to see where Samus came from before Super Metroid, check out this and this. You won’t regret it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past SNES ClassicThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is maybe the greatest action-adventure game ever made. Though the original Legend of Zelda on the NES is fantastic in its own right, this is where the franchise we know today was born. It introduced dungeons centered around new items acquired in said dungeon. This is a gameplay loop that lasted all the way up to A Link Between Worlds and this year’s amazing Breath of the Wild. It’s full of quirky NPC’s that will make you laugh, bosses that will make you want to pull your hair out, and some of the best music in video game history.

ALttP cemented Link as one of the most famous video game characters of all time. And it turned the series into a juggernaut that continues to grow strong. Though many claim the N64’s Ocarina of Time (and now Breath of the Wild) to be superior, A Link to the Past has a purity that can’t be matched. Sure, this Link has pink hair for no discernible reason, but he’ll always have our hearts. If you’ve somehow never played this gem, now is the perfect time to check out one of the all-time greats.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World SNES ClassicSuper Mario World is maybe the greatest platformer ever made. It’s a monument to pitch-perfect game design, filled with more creative levels and enemies than the human mind can comprehend. It’s perhaps the best launch title in existence, kicking off what is (as evidenced by this entire article) one of the most prolific and accomplished game consoles ever.

Every mainline Mario game after this had an insanely hight bar to attempt to leap over, with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, and hopefully Super Mario Odyssey making good cases for themselves as proper successors. Super Mario World introduced Yoshi, the cape feather, and 96 brand new levels for players to jump, spin, and fly their way through. It doesn’t get much better than Super Mario World, and the video game world is a better place for having it.


So there you have it! And what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already, find a SNES Classic as soon as possible. With some of the greatest games of all time, there’s little reason not to grab one of these suckers.

Enjoy our list? Disagree with our ranking? Are you also infuriated that Chrono Trigger isn’t on the SNES Classic? Then sound your opinions off in the comments! And for all your gaming news, reviews, and more, stay tuned to The Game Fanatics.

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