The SNES Classic Edition is here! It’s a momentous occasion for video game fans growing up in the 90s. Even though the Big N has released five more consoles since many Nintendo fans would say the SNES is still the best console that the House of Mario has ever released.
There’s a lot more to the SNES library than just Mario, Samus, and Link, and more than two decades later many of these games are still criminally underappreciated. These are the 10 most underrated games on the SNES.
Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen
Ogre Battle is possibly the greatest unfinished saga in gaming. The very first game in the series appeared on the SNES and began with a tarot reading that determined your fitness for leading a revolution against an evil empire. And what a revolution it is, as you spend dozens of hours recruiting and building an army of soldiers, witches, and even griffins in a strategy game that still feels incredibly deep more than 20 years later.
The SNES version is one of the rarer titles on the console, but it’s since been re-released on the Wii Virtual Console. There’s also a quality PlayStation port that’s slightly cheaper, but still one of the higher priced games on that system. Regardless of which version you play, this is a game that all strategy and RPG fans need to experience at least once.
Because Mario and Sonic were such massive successes in the ‘90s, virtually every other publisher assumed that they too needed a mascot to put them on the map. This led to some…unusual creations, most of whom have thankfully been forgotten. Boogerman is one of those characters that are maybe better left in the ‘90s (a 2013 Kickstarter to revive the franchise was a massive failure), but he actually starred in a pretty cool game. It had some of the better graphics and music of any platformer from the era, and while the ability to burp and fart on your enemies is incredibly sophomoric, it still entertains adult me almost as much as 10-year-old me.
Goof Troop was a fairly forgettable Disney cartoon starring Mickey Mouse’s talking dog pal, but at least it gave us a surprisingly good Super Nintendo game. This was a time period when Capcom could do no wrong, and the company put Shinji Mikami, who would later go on to direct much of the Resident Evil series, in charge of Goof Troop. Sadly, there’s no zombies or gore, but there are some surprisingly strong survival elements, like having to defeat enemies with objects in the level rather than facing them head on. If you’ve ever wanted to see where some very early Resident Evil ideas got their start, this is the game to check out.
Phalanx might take the prize for worst box art on the SNES. Despite being a 2D shooter, it features a bearded old man playing a banjo on the cover for some reason. There’s a space ship too, but most of the focus is on the old guy. Maybe there was a mix-up in the art department, and they didn’t have time to fix it. It’s not really clear what happened. Anyway, those who got past the box actually found a surprisingly fun shooter. You could control the speed of your ship, store multiple weapons simultaneously, and even sacrifice these weapons for smart bombs. It’s not the deepest game on the SNES, but it is one of the most enjoyable in brief spurts.
Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures
LucasArts’ Super Star Wars games still get a lot of love, but its lone Indiana Jones game on the SNES is arguably superior. The game takes you through all three Indy movies (let us never speak of the fourth one), as you take out baddies with Indy’s iconic bull whip. While primarily a platformer, there are also a few levels featuring flying, a mine cart, and even a raft traveling down a mountain. Sadly, there have only been a handful of Indiana Jones games released over the years. This one is easily one of the best.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin
Batman: The Animated Series stands up as one of the greatest cartoons of all time, and the SNES game based on the show is the rare ‘90s licensed game to do its source material justice. The graphics and sound are outstanding for their time. This is a game that almost looks and sounds like the cartoon, which was almost unheard of back then. All of the major villains from the series are included as bosses, and you need to use a variety of bat-gadgets to take them out. The Batmobile stages are a little hard to control, but they’re worth putting up with because everything else is of such high quality.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja
Goemon/Mystical Ninja is an absolutely hilarious and brilliant action-RPG series that is sadly so deeply-rooted in medieval Japanese culture that Konami has never quite figured out how to market it in the west. The Legend of the Mystical Ninja was the very first game in the series released in North America, and it’s an almost pitch-perfect beat ‘em up with strong RPG elements. Much of the series’ trademark humor translated fairly well in this version, and it has a wonderful soundtrack inspired by traditional Japanese music. Sadly, Konami seems to have completely lost interest in the series in recent years.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Back in the day, LucasArts was actually known for a lot more than cranking out Star Wars games and dysfunctional development cycles. The developer used to make really innovative games like Zombies Ate My Neighbors, a top-down shooter with tons of weapons, ranging from water guns to bazookas. And it had real personality, too. Zombies contained nods to numerous classic horror movies, and despite the title, monsters included enemies like squidmen, blobs, and even giant demon babies. This is also one of the more difficult games of the 16-bit era, but it’s well worth experiencing just for the creativity on display here.
Illusion of Gaia
Illusion of Gaia is an action-RPG for gamers who want something different from their action-RPGs. While combat remains relatively simple, there are so many new ideas that work surprisingly well, like an experience system that de-emphasizes grinding and a simplified item system. Those might sound like bad ideas at first, but they work surprisingly well in the context of the game. Wrapped in some truly ingenious puzzles and one of the best stories of the 16-bit era, you’ll wonder why more games haven’t tried to copy Illusion of Gaia’s innovations.
Secret of Evermore
Square released so many great SNES games in the ‘90s that at least one of them had to fall through the cracks. Secret of Evermore is unique among Square titles, as the only game ever released by the company that was designed by Americans. This meant a more westernized art style, and a focus on traditional tropes of American storytelling, like the adventure of a boy and his dog. But you can also see a lot of the Square influence at play here too, with combat extremely similar to Secret of Mana (though the two titles are officially unrelated). Evermore may never quite meet the heights of Mana, but it’s still worth tracking down to see how a Square game would turn out with a stronger western influence.
BONUS: Harvest Moon!
On paper, Harvest Moon sounds like the worst game ever. You inherit a farm. You grow crops and take care of livestock. If you’re particularly successful, you get married, too. But anyone who has played a Harvest Moon game knows that while this sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry, it’s actually incredibly addicting watching your farm grow. While later games in the series included much more customization, the SNES original is still one of the most relaxing games around, and well worth a play through for anyone looking for something a little bit simpler than saving the world.