20. “Yoshi’s Cookie” (1993) — The most enduring type of game today is the puzzler (see: everyone’s obsession with Candy Crush a few years back), and while “Yoshi’s Cookie” may be sort of a lost gem, it remains a standout on the Super Nintendo.
19. “Super Mario World” (1991) — “Super Mario Bros” x1000 is what “Super Mario World” felt like, a natural escalation of a formula. If nothing else, Nintendo has proven incredibly adept at evolving the core “Mario” franchise in that way, and “Super Mario World,” which was packaged with the Super Nintendo at the console’s launch, was just the start.
18. “Contra 3” (1992) — So many nerds have attempted to replicate the excitement of “Contra’s” run and gun formula. And so many have failed horribly.
17. “Earthbound” (1995) — This role-playing game template no longer works when developers try to replicate it in the modern day (and believe me, many have tried), but the fundamentals of “Earthbound” struck just the right balance of grind and actually staying interesting. There’s definitely something to be said for pulling that off.
16. “NHL ’94” (1993) — Sports simulation video games may have gotten exponentially more complicated over the last couple decades, but “NHL ’94” remains a standout for being what feels like a modern game in a 16-bit shell.
15. “Earthworm Jim” (1994) — Esoteric and eternally interesting, “Earthworm Jim” certainly does have its faults. But the way it sought to push the boundaries of creativity in the very by-the-numbers platformer genre endears it to us even today.
14. “Mario Paint” (1992) — It’s difficult now to articulate the appeal of what was basically a combination of a primitive drawing app and primitive music creation app. But at the time it was a revelation, especially with its inclusion of the SNES mouse, bringing these tools to an audience that wouldn’t have thought to try out those tools in any other setting.
13. “Super Mario Kart” (1992) — One of the earliest examples of a game that was good for a party that also felt like it was intended for a party, being far more accessible than sports or fighting games.
12. “Kirby’s Dream Land 3” (1997) — Kirby is weird, man. It’s about a pink blob who inhales enemies, sometimes gaining abilities from them, and can float around like a balloon. It is, in a word, perfect. The series’ lone entry on the Super Nintendo, “Kirby’s Dream Land 3” is a default pick for this list.
11. “Star Fox” (1993) — PC gaming was far from mainstream in 1993, which meant that “Star Fox,” with its primitive 3D polygonal design, was a revelation as one of the first breakout 3D games on home consoles. Oh, and it was plenty fun, too.
10. “Super Metroid” (1994) — The 2D side-scrolling adventure genre is best left in the past, for the most part. But if we’ve gotta keep one, “Super Metroid” is probably all we’ll need.
9. “Donkey Kong Country” (1994)– Nintendo tends to be defined by Mario, but I’d say “Donkey Kong Country” is the seminal platformer franchise for the Super Nintendo, both for its shocking visuals and the more interesting way it handled. There was simply more going on here.
8. “Mortal Kombat 2” (1994) — When it comes to fighting games in the 3D era, “Mortal Komba 2” was the be-all-end-all. The graphic finisher moves were just a disgusting bonus.
7. “Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest” (1995) — Took the standard set by the first game and one-upped it in every way. A textbook example of how to take a sequel to a whole new level.
6. “Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island” (1995) — There were a lot of platform games on the SNES. A whole lot. The ones we remember now tend to be either a standard-bearer (like the first “Super Mario World”) or some kind of bizarre variation on the norm. “Yoshi’s Island” manages to be both.
5. “NBA Jam” (1994) — Two-on-two basketball, in which players can jump 30 feet in the air and if you play well enough the ball will actually catch fire. And you could play as Bill Clinton. It’s no wonder “NBA Jam” was the biggest arcade game ever and a smash success on every platform it was released for.
4. “Chrono Trigger” (1995) — In the annals of “serious video games,” “Chrono Trigger” is a defining entry, thanks in no small part to its accessibility. Japanese RPGs are known for being overly complicated mechanically, but “Chrono Trigger” told its deep story while lessening the struggle of the “play” part significantly.
3. “Super Mario RPG” (1996) — An inspired mashup of “Super Mario Bros” with “Final Fantasy,” it’s still kinda hard to believe “Super Mario RPG” exists. Somehow its formula hasn’t been endlessly copied in the decades since it released, though Nintendo did produce a vaguely similar spiritual successor int he form of “Paper Mario.”
2. “SimAnt” (1993) — The 16-bit era has sort of been defined by its piles of identical games copied and pasted under different franchises, but “SimAnt” remains entirely its own thing. Whereas “Sim” games were and still are common on PC, the SNES never saw anything else like this little work of genius.
1. “Shadowrun” (1993) — The console role-playing game scene in the early ’90s was dominated completely by Japan, until “Shadowrun” made its shocking departure from that norm. It was crude in a lot of ways, but in hindsight that’s to be expected from a game that was so far ahead of its time.