There's a potent magic to the role-playing games (RPGs) of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Emerging in the 1990s, these games combined captivating stories, significant gameplay advances, and the enhanced graphical capabilities of the SNES to craft immersive experiences. While the console era offered numerous notable RPGs, the SNES stands out for its legendary contributions to the genre.
Let's delve deeper into the top 10 SNES RPGs, exploring the core of what makes each of these classics an essential play for any RPG enthusiast!
The Top 10 SNES RPGs Of All Time
Overview: Embarking on a sweeping journey through time, players guide a group of heroes led by Crono to prevent a looming apocalypse. From prehistoric landscapes to a bleak future, the game blends memorable characters, intricate subplots, and multiple endings, each dictated by player choices. Its innovative combat system and enchanting musical score elevate it from a mere game to a timeless experience.
Why It's Unmissable: Its groundbreaking multiple endings and character-driven subplots offer a level of replayability seldom seen in games of its era. This is one of my favorite games of all time and is covered in more depth here. If you've never had the pleasure, you owe it to yourself to immerse yourself in this classic RIGHT NOW.
Final Fantasy VI (III in the US)
Overview: Set in a world threatened by a power-hungry empire, players traverse a landscape of magic, machinery, and rebellion. The tale introduces a diverse ensemble of characters, each with deeply personal motivations and arcs. The game is celebrated for its intricate storytelling, hauntingly beautiful music, and a villain who remains one of the most memorable in gaming history.
Why It's Unmissable: A diverse cast with intricate backstories and one of the most iconic video game antagonists make this an epic tale of grand proportions.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Overview: In a whimsical twist, Mario enters the realm of RPGs, joining forces with both familiar friends and former foes. Tasked with recovering seven star pieces and saving the Mushroom Kingdom, players experience turn-based battles and a story enriched with humor and depth. The game's unique isometric view and engaging mini-games make it a stand out in the Mario series.
Why It's Unmissable: This collaboration between Nintendo and Square provides a fresh take on the Mario universe, offering depth and humor in equal measure. Nintendo recently announced a remake is in the works and shocked the RPG world with the news. More on that here.
Overview: Following the adventures of Ness and his friends, EarthBound is an RPG firmly set in a modern, albeit quirky, world. Facing off against an alien threat, the group navigates suburban challenges, psychic powers, and a narrative that oscillates between heartfelt and bizarre. Its distinctive charm and self-aware humor have cemented its status as a cult classic.
Why It's Unmissable: Its charm lies in its offbeat humor, contemporary setting, and soundtrack that perfectly captures the game's quirky essence. This game truly deserves your time, as I covered previously here.
Secret of Mana
Overview: A tale intertwined with the power of the ancient Mana tree, the game follows a trio of heroes seeking to restore a once-mighty sword and thwart an empire. With its real-time combat, cooperative multiplayer, and vibrant world, it offers players an action-packed journey. The melding of engaging storylines with real-time battles makes it a pioneering title in the action-RPG genre.
Why It's Unmissable: The real-time combat system and cooperative multiplayer gameplay offer an innovative break from traditional turn-based RPGs.
Overview: Chronicling the resurrection of a desolate Earth, the protagonist Ark navigates between the underworld and surface, unraveling cosmic mysteries. Through exploration, combat, and interaction, players witness the rebirth of continents, flora, and fauna. The game's profound themes and epic scope make it an RPG gem that pushes philosophical boundaries.
Why It's Unmissable: Beyond its captivating story, Terranigma stands out for its philosophical and metaphysical undertones.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Overview: Acting as a prequel to its predecessor, the game recounts the tale of Maxim and his confrontation with the Sinistrals, god-like entities with malevolent intentions. Interspersed with intricate puzzles and turn-based combat, the narrative builds to an emotionally charged climax. The clever integration of puzzle-solving elements alongside traditional RPG mechanics sets it apart.
Why It's Unmissable: For whatever reason, this game was never officially released in the United States back when it came out in 1995, so many of us missed it. Now thanks to the power of the internet, ROMs, and international shipping, we can! The game brilliantly combines puzzle-solving with traditional RPG mechanics, making for a mentally stimulating journey.
Breath of Fire II
Overview: The saga of Ryu, a young warrior with the power of dragons, unfolds as he grapples with religious corruption and the mysteries of his past. This game expands on its predecessor, offering a world teetering between hope and despair. Character transformations, a town-building feature, and an intricate plot make it an unforgettable experience.
Why It's Unmissable: Its transformation abilities and the town-building feature provide layers of depth to the standard RPG formula.
Final Fantasy IV (II in the US)
Overview: As Dark Knight Cecil embarks on a redemption quest, players explore themes of love, betrayal, and self-discovery. This title introduced the Active Time Battle system, revolutionizing the genre with its dynamic combat. With a cast of multifaceted characters and globe-spanning adventures, it remains a foundational RPG experience.
Why It's Unmissable: The introduction of the Active Time Battle system revolutionized RPG gameplay, offering dynamic combat scenarios.
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen
Overview: Marrying real-time strategy with RPG elements, players lead a rebellion against an oppressive regime. The game's morality and leadership dynamics influence the branching story outcomes, offering a layered strategic depth. Its blend of troop management, tactical combat, and ethical decisions crafts a unique narrative journey.
Why It's Unmissable: The morality and leadership system affects branching story outcomes, making each playthrough unique.
These RPGs from the SNES era didn't just define a generation; they sculpted the very foundations of the genre. Each title, with its distinct narrative and gameplay innovations, encapsulates what made this console era a golden age for role-playing adventures.
Did I miss any? What is your favorite? Sound off in the comments below!