Nintendo may have tolled the death knell for the NES Classic Edition, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sit around a metaphorical campfire and compare our lists for what games belong on its seemingly inevitable Super Nintendo followup. Jumping into this season of speculation, I’ve assembled my own list of 30 games I think will go on the SNES Classic Edition.
One quick note about my methodology: the list I’ve come up with isn’t necessarily the 30 best games that came out for the Super Nintendo or even my 30 favorite games. Instead, I looked at the game lists for the NES Mini to get an idea for how Nintendo picked what went in it, and I tried to pick the best SNES games that fit their logic. Here are my rules: 1) I only picked games that got a western release, 2) No games from licensed movie/TV/comic franchises, and 3) Nothing more obscure than a cult classic. So if you’re angry over the lack of Turtles in Time, Live A Live, or Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shōgun Magginesu, sorry, but I just don’t think they’ll make the cut. I’m also going out on a limb that we won’t see Mario Paint. I just can’t see Nintendo forking up the manufacturing power to pack in a mouse peripheral with every console.
Without further ado, here are the 30 games I’m predicting for the SNES Classic Edition.
Super Mario World
If there is a single game that everyone can agree will be on the SNES Classic, it’s Super Mario World. Frequently ranked as one of the best 2D platformers, if not one of the best games of all time, this 1990 launch title introduced the world to Yoshi and a fully replayable world map with more secret exits and shortcuts than you can shake a stick at.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Yoshi proved to be popular enough in his debut game that Nintendo devoted the entire sequel/prequel to the little green dino. Part platformer, part precision shooter, part revenge fantasy for all the times Mario dropped Yoshi in a bottomless pit, Yoshi’s Island stands out as one of the Super Nintendo’s best with a crayon art style, exploratory level design, an unforgettable soundtrack, and one of the best final bosses ever.
Mega Man X
Mega Man X is a nearly flawless video game. It’s as if Keiji Inafune finally realized the inherent coolness of a robot designed to destroy other robots and amped it up for the X series. This game delivers the awesome in droves with the rival/mentor Zero, shredding chiptune guitars, and Sith lord Sigma. The levels also adapt based on the order you complete them in, encouraging replays. X2 and X3 are both good, but X1 is the most iconic.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The evolution across the first four Zelda games is absolutely remarkable, and the jump from Zelda II to Link to the Past is no exception. This is the game that perfected the puzzle-dungeon format and made not one but two full overworlds that both feel alive and give the player plenty to do so they’re not just running from dungeon to dungeon. The atmosphere is somber and the gameplay is tight. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll see this on the SNES Classic.
R-Type III: The Third Lightning
The SNES didn’t have a vast library of auto-scrolling shmups, but almost all of the ones it did have were phenomenal. R-Type III is the cream of the crop, though, thanks mostly to its scenario design. As you fly through space and huge structures designed by the BYDO Empires, the scenery adapts around you with giant rotating engines and bosses that inch closer moment by moment. Of course, it’s all scripted, but it feels like it’s happening in real-time, so that when the massive enemies are finally unveiled, you grip your controller tighter and hang on for the fight of your life.
Kirby Super Star
Picking a game like Kirby Super Star almost feels like cheating, because it’s more like seven games in one. Each of the game’s modes even feels like a totally different game, from the straightforward platforming of Spring Breeze to the Spelunky-esque Great Cave Offensive. There are races, boss rushes, and tense sword duels against Meta Knight. Modern Kirby games have more depth than people give them credit for, and this is where the trend started.
Donkey Kong Country
I only went with one Donkey Kong Country game for the list, and although the second one is arguably the best platformer of all time and the third game is objectively the best, this is the only one that actually stars DK as a playable character. Donkey Kong Country almost seems like it was intentionally designed as a nostalgia engine, with its wistful, whimsical music; memorable barrel-blast mechanics; and some of the richest sprite art ever rendered. Just don’t get fooled by the fake credits during the final boss again.
With Stardew Valley coming to the Switch, the SNES Classic would be remiss not to include the first entry in that OTHER series about growing tomatoes and marrying waifus. This kicked off the Harvest Moon franchise, now known as Story of Seasons. It delivers relaxing and surprisingly deep farm simulation mechanics that can keep you occupied for dozens of hours.
Final Fantasy III (VI)
Deciding between Final Fantasy II (IV) and III (VI) is difficult for a number of reasons, one of which being that the Western numbering system for these two entries makes them difficult to discuss. Ultimately, though, I had to opt for mech suits and killer clowns over spoony bards.
Super Mario Kart
Not satisfied with innovating just the platformer genre, in 1992 Nintendo decided they wanted to use their mascot to revolutionize the racing genre as well. The result is Super Mario Kart, a game as much about ruining your friendships with well-timed red shell throws as it is about executing tight turns with drifts. On a technical level, the game holds up great and the Mode 7 graphics are stellar, so I hope to see this on the SNES Classic.
Bubble Bobble was a pleasant surprise included on the NES Classic, so it seems only natural that its very good but very different 16-bit brother should have a slot on the SNES Classic. Foregoing the “like Pac-Man, but you can jump” gameplay of Bubble Bobble, Bust-a-Move combines Breakout with the tile-match genre to make a bubble-shooting gallery game starring Bub and Bob, two of the doggone cutest mascots in game history.
Anyone who’s read my author blurb should know that I have an immense soft spot for the Star Fox series, even at its worst. Adventures is one of my favorite games ever, and I even ranked Zero pretty highly. However, I’m going to rewind here for a minute to talk about a Star Fox game most people agree is pretty good, and that’s the very first one. Taking full advantage of the criminally underutilized FX chip, Star Fox actually looked like the low-res polygonal representations of Virtual Reality in movies and TV shows of the day. Your mileage may vary on how well the visuals hold up today, but there’s still something special about seeing the hulking mechs walking in the distance on Corneria while those metallic synths punch out a beat.
Nintendo sure has a thing for mercenaries and bounty hunters in space. Honestly, Super Metroid needs no introduction: Samus’ isolated investigation of Planet Zebes frequently tops “Best Of” lists for its haunting atmosphere, intuitive exploration, and versatile controls. Despite being nearly a quarter of a century old, the game is a technical marvel that has yet to be surpassed—probably because Nintendo refuses to make more real Metroid games.
To be frank, I haven’t actually played Chrono Trigger before, but I know that it involves time travel, lots of people adore it, and it has a freaking frog with a sword and a cape like a character straight out of Redwall. That alone is enough reason for me to want this on the SNES Classic.
Compared to other JRPGs on the system, EarthBound really stands out. Whether it’s the urban, sci-fi setting, the surreal tone, or the absurd sense of humor, EarthBound really is a one-of-a-kind game. Sure, it’s a little unbalanced in the early game, but the poignant, almost poetic moments that punctuate the plot drive it home as a perfect narrative experience for the SNES Classic.
Another Nintendo game, another space bounty hunter. Captain Falcon may not be the sole protagonist of this SNES launch title, but his pulpy eight-page comic in the game’s manual made him an instant icon. F-Zero is a racing game all about speed—a ridiculous amount of speed. So much speed that careening into a wall or flying off a boost pad into a rocky canyon is a very real risk that results in a race-ending explosion. So, yeah, it’s pretty hard too.
Honestly, all of Quintet’s Super Nintendo titles deserve a place on this list: ActRaiser, ActRaiser 2, Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, and yes, even Robotrek all pushed the envelope by creating unprecedented combinations of platformers, RPGs, and god games. ActRaiser only edges out the others by being perhaps the most well-known. In it, you play as a god that hacks and slashes his way through monsters, then instructs a baby cherub to build cities over their corpses. Fun for the whole family!
I admit this one may be a stretch due to licensing, but it would be so very worth it. NBA Jam is the perfect sports game: it appeals to basketball fans with its notable names and teams, but it also appeals to non-fans as an unexpectedly bonkers sidescrolling brawler with players that can leap twice their height and demolish the backboards with their devastating dunks.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Don’t you just hate it when that happens? It’s even worse when all you have to defend yourself against the living dead is a squirt gun and some sick 3D glasses. Zombies Ate My Neighbors didn’t sell too well on its initial run, but its fanbase has blown up over the years for good reason: the top-down shooting against B-movie horror villains, combined with one of the best co-op modes in a non-beat-em-up game, makes for a heck of a good time.
Super Castlevania IV
The quintessential “classic” Castlevania, Super Castlevania IV, is nothing less than a triumph of action-platformer design. This entry finally cured Simon of his tunnel vision, allowing him to aim his whip in 8-directions. Not only that, but you can change direction in mid-jump! The icing on the cake? It still presents a solid challenge, except now you feel well-equipped to handle it.
Contra III: The Alien Wars
For some reason, Super Castlevania IV and Contra III: The Alien Wars always go together in my head. Maybe because they’re both Konami games, but in any event, these two games really do make the perfect double feature for a gaming all-nighter. There’s a distinctive Terminator 2 vibe to the game’s backdrop of ruined cities and burning Earth. The gameplay is constantly adapting from standard run-n-gun to overhead shooter and vehicle combat. You’d better hold onto your few lives though, the Konami Code doesn’t work in this one.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
These days we kind of take IP fusions for granted. Disney and Final Fantasy together? Okay! Sonic and Danica Patrick? Why not? Mario and Rabbids? Uhh, maybe. However, back in 1996, throwing Mario, Peach, and Bowser into the same RPG party was a bold step forward for the franchise that paid off in dividends. Taking classic Mario moves like jumping, hammering, and fireballing and pitting them against giant talking swords sounds like a fever dream, but Super Mario RPG drove it home with a great, self-aware sense of humor, plus the greatest character in video game history: Geno.
Mortal Kombat II
Alright, I’m not 100% sure on this one, but picking a de facto fighting game for the SNES Classic is difficult. You can’t choose Street Fighter II, because Nintendo won’t want it to compete with Ultra Street Fighter II for Switch. I doubt Killer Instinct because Microsoft has their paws all over it. It came down to this and Fatal Fury, but the latter just doesn’t have the instantly recognizable branding of this blood-and-guts brawler, though licensing might still be an issue. Ultimately, I’d be happy to see any of these titles make an appearance, but to be honest I’m secretly hoping for ClayFighter.
If you’ve ever found yourself desiring an excuse to dive into the rich lore and mythology of Nintendo’s preeminent hang-glider franchise, seek no more, my child, for I feel very confident Pilotwings will return for the SNES Classic. Take to the skies in a jetpack! Soar your biplane through floating rings! Hurl your body at terminal velocity towards the Earth’s crust with only a parachute to buffer your fall! Most importantly, though, have fun out there, slugger.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Sorry to disappoint you Demon’s Crest fans, but I think the only way we’ll see Firebrand on the SNES Classic is if he’s playing the role of villain. Don’t fret too much though. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is still one of the console’s best platformers. Arthur’s epic quest to save the Princess and remain clothed takes him through graveyards, ghost ships, tall spires, icy mountains, and the twisting bowels of hellspawn. Beating the game once is hard enough, but don’t forget you have to do a second playthrough to get the true ending!
If there’s one thing this list is lacking, it’s bombs, and lots of them. To satisfy the demand, I’m including Super Bomberman, one of the most addicting action-puzzlers on the Super Nintendo. Super Bomberman requires you to constantly be on your toes. You have to keep moving, not only to avoid the enemies but the blastback from your own detonations. Things get even more intense in the multiplayer battle mode where you have to predict the other player’s movements while keeping them from blocking you in.
Final Fight 2
The first Final Fight may be a classic, but Final Fight 2 cuts the fat (i.e., Guy) and makes Metro City’s meaty mayor Mike Haggar the main protagonist. It was also developed specifically for the Super Nintendo, so I have a feeling the Big N will tap this one for the SNES Classic out of favoritism. It plays with the same tight control as the first game, with even more detailed sprite art so you can practically see every ripple of Haggar’s pulsating musculature.
Secret of Mana
Given its growth and evolution, it’s easy to forget that the storied Mana franchise started off as a spin-off of Final Fantasy; the first game in the series even being called Final Fantasy Adventure. With its second game, Secret of Mana, the series really carved out its own niche in the JRPG field with plenty of innovations to freshen up the stagnating genre. The real-time combat plays out like a more in-depth version of A Link to the Past, and the Ring Command mechanic allows players to access a full menu of items and commands with minimal interruption to the action. Not only that, but it even allows for two or three player co-op!
Now with 100% less Mike Tyson, Super Punch-Out!! follows up the NES tale of boxing underdog Little Mac as he takes on sixteen more opponents. Anybody who has played a Punch-Out!! game knows that it’s more than a fighting game. It’s like a detective puzzler, a psychological study where you have to observe the other boxer’s tics and patterns in order to develop a strategy to beat them. Super Punch-Out!! is basically a video game adaptation of The Art of War.
A criminally underplayed game, Wild Guns is the space western shooting gallery game you never knew you wanted. It hits all the tropes of a proper western: a young woman hires a grizzled bounty hunter to help her fulfill her revenge plot. Train chase? Check. Mine shaft shootout? Check. Giant robot space cowboys? Just the icing on the cake. Since there’s no way in heck we’ll see Tin Star on the SNES Classic (the other western robot shooter on the console), I’ll happily take Wild Guns instead.
So there you have it, my prediction of the 30 games that should go on the SNES Classic. Sorry if your favorite game didn’t make my list. Heck, given my druthers, I’d love to have Plok, Shadowrun, and E.V.O.: The Search for Eden on the console. In a perfect world, maybe they’d even include the best Super Nintendo game ever made: The Firemen. Sadly, Nintendo can’t satisfy everyone. They just released too many good games for the system to showcase each one all over again.
That being said, feel free to share your own predictions in the comments! What would you keep from this list? What would you swap out? We’d love to hear your opinions!