The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) might just be the greatest video game console ever made. It dominated the market, made the adjective “super” a staple of every millennial’s vocabulary, and was home to some of the best games ever made. When the SNES hit, the video game industry was breaking new ground in terms of what home consoles were capable of. With the introduction of the SNES, the lines between arcade-quality games and home consoles began to blur. The original NES had a legendary lineup of games, but its successor took things to a new level. The best SNES games played and looked better than anything else in existence.
Some of the biggest video game franchises — Zelda, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, etc. — achieved levels of quality that have yet to be surpassed nearly 25 years down the line. With the impending release of the SNES Classic, a small emulator box that follows the wildly popular NES Classic, we think it’s a good idea to revisit some of the titles that put the now-iconic console on the map. So, without further ado, below are our picks for the best SNES games of all time.
Developer: Midway Games, Sculptured Software
The original Mortal Kombat made waves because of its gruesome and theretofore unseen levels of violence, but the second installment made waves because it was a damn good fighting game. Admittedly, the early Mortal Kombat games have been long-since surpassed in terms of gameplay, but at the time they were something special. The hyper-violent gore was novel, but it also was one of the first game to feel like an “adult” experience. In hindsight, they were certainly more juvenile than “mature,” but along with games like DOOM, the Mortal Kombat series pushed the appropriate-content envelope and made video games appealing to older audiences. In the context of the series, Mortal Kombat II was an important game because it brought quicker gameplay and new combos that would go on to define the way subsequent games series played. Of course, Mortal Kombat III introduced new characters and expanded the series’ fiction, but from a gameplay standpoint, Mortal Kombat II was the progenitor for what the series has become today: a pillar of the fighting game genre.
For a genre as emblematic of the late ’80s and early ’90s, it may come as a surprise that this list features just a single beat ‘em up. The sad truth is, of the classic gaming genres, beat ‘em ups simply haven’t aged well as others. A product of a time when arcade games were difficult and sought to continuously milk gamers of their pocket change, beat ‘em ups often feel repetitive and flat by today’s standards. Even by the late ’90s, video games had for the most part evolved past the “beat everyone up and move right,” design philosophy. That said, there are some games that overcame the trappings of their genre to live on as something worthwhile. Turtles in Time is, bar none, the best beat ‘em up on the SNES, and potentially the best game the genre has ever produced.
Taking up the bandanna of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, or Raphael along with a friend and testing your mettle against Shredder and a host of enemies plucked from different eras of history was every ’90s kid’s dream. The SNES version was minor step down graphically from the arcade version, but otherwise it was a near-perfect port. The controls felt smooth and responsive, and maintained the speed and fluidity of the arcade version. This is an integral part of what made Turtles in Time so great and why it remains a joy to play.