SNES Classic Games, Ranked

SNES Classic Games, Ranked
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It’s Super Nintendo Classic day, which means it is time for us to crack open the console, take a long hard look at the list of games that comes with it, and RANK THEM ALL.

Here, separated by tiers, are the 21 SNES Classic games, ranked from worst to best.

Mini SNES: The Kotaku Review

The Super Nintendo Classic is a miniature blast of nostalgia, a sleekly packaged piece of hardware that will transport you back to the days of Dunkaroos and denim jackets. Although one could certainly complain about some of the choices Nintendo has made, this is a mostly great package that highlights how well the 16-bit era's classics hold up, especially compared the generation before.

Read more

Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2


These are the games you don’t really need to play in 2017.

21. Super Ghouls’n Ghosts

Best known as one of the more difficult games in the Super Nintendo’s lineup, Super Ghouls’n Ghosts wasn’t even fun when it launched. Now it’s just awful. Combine an unforgiving damage system with clunky controls (that double jump — uch) and you’ve got the worst video game on the SNES Classic.

20. Star Fox

What was once a revolutionary space shooter is today a mess of polygons, with a brutally choppy framerate making Star Fox damn near unplayable.

19. Star Fox 2

As incredible as it is to play a brand new, unreleased Super Nintendo game in 2017, Star Fox 2 suffers from many of the same problems as its predecessor. I found it tough to play, unfortunately. At least the music is really good.

18. Contra 3: The Alien Wars

While it still feels good to jump and roll around as a super-soldier in Contra 3, this is a very short, insubstantial game that makes up for its length by being completely unforgiving. If you’re willing to stick with it and use the SNES Classic’s rewind feature, though, you’ll be rewarded with some spectacles (and wild perspective shifts) that still look pretty cool.

Super Punch-Out

Super Punch-Out


These games are worth a few minutes of poking, especially if you’ve never played them before, but you don’t need to spend much time with them.

17. Super Punch-Out

Like Punch-Out before it, Super Punch-Out puts you in a boxing ring and asks you to read your opponent’s moves, dodging and punching and countering along the way. It’s fine.

16. Kirby’s Dream Course

This is a Kirby golf game. I guess it’s also fine.

15. F-Zero

Worth looking into for historical purposes, but if you want to play a racing game on your shiny new SNES Classic, you’ll want to go with F-Zero‘s spiritual successor, Super Mario Kart.

Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania 4


Here is where we start to enter “you should actually play these!” territory. This tier includes games that are good but not great.

14. Kirby Super Star

This collection of platformers and minigames never quite reaches the heights of Kirby’s Adventure, but it remains fun(ish) today.

13. Super Castlevania 4

The platforming in the fourth Castlevania feels clunky today, but dangling your whip like a dead fish never gets old.

12. Street Fighter 2

In the 1990s this game was phenomenal, and today it still feels really neat, if a bit rusty. Dhalsim is OP.

11. Super Mario Kart

Doesn’t hold a candle to Mario Kart 8, but if you’re in the mood for some old-school racing, Super Mario Kart is significantly better than F-Zero. And there’s something really fun and authentic about driving around 16-bit versions of the Ghost House, Bowser’s Castle and, of course, Rainbow Road.

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country


These games are excellent, full stop. They aren’t in the upper-upper echelon, perhaps because they have a few niggling flaws or they have grown a bit wrinkly over the past two decades, but they’re still worth your time.

10. Yoshi’s Island

Although it never got as much attention as its perfect predecessor (coming up later), Yoshi’s Island is still a very good — if slightly too easy — platformer.

9. Donkey Kong Country

There are a few technical problems preventing Donkey Kong Country from feeling as perfect today as it did back then. For starters, something’s wonky about the way the screen scrolls when you run through levels. This is still an excellent (and tough!) platformer, but it hasn’t aged quite as well as, say, #4 on this list.

8. Mega Man X

Why has Capcom given up on such a great action-platforming series? I don’t know. But Mega Man X is the best of them all, and you should definitely play it. It’s challenging but not as infuriating as the NES Mega Mans, and the bosses are pretty damn cool. (Storm Eagle is a highlight.)

7. Secret of Mana

Weird bugs and hit detection errors prevent Secret of Mana from being the PERFECT action-RPG, but between the music, the vibe, and the awesome variety of characters and settings, this game is definitely worth your time. You get to fight Santa Claus! You might want to wait for the remake, though.

6. Super Mario RPG

None of Nintendo’s very good Paper Mario or Mario & Luigi role-playing games have lived up to the original. Super Mario RPG is hilarious, charming, clever, and full of smart ideas that still hold up today. The only reason this game isn’t in the top five is that in 2017 its age has really started to show. Combat can be sluggish, and the lack of proper feedback on some of the timed moves can be frustrating for new players. Still, you should play this game.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World


These five games could basically go in any order. They’re all masterpieces.

5. Earthbound

Even today, it’s hard to find an RPG that can hit your emotions as hard as Earthbound. Telling the story of a psychic kid named Ness and his three buds who must save the world from a nasty alien named Giygas, Earthbound is weird, quirky, sad, hilarious and beautiful. You probably have heard this before.

4. Super Mario World

Perhaps the perfect 2D platformer, Super Mario World is the game that introduced us to Yoshi, the best dinosaur in video game history. It’s also a marvellous puzzle box full of hidden secrets, gruelling platforming challenges and infectious music. It has not only held up well — it’s better than just about any other sidescrolling platformer you can get today. (Read more here.)

3. Super Metroid

Super Metroid is a game about secrets, about paying attention to the world around you and remembering where to return once you’ve gotten new abilities. It remains as mysterious and fascinating as it was when we first played it. And rolling up into a Morph Ball just never gets old.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past

Link to the Past would be the best Zelda game of all time if Breath of the Wild hadn’t come around. But with 10 dungeons, two big world maps full of secrets to find and items to collect, and combat that still feels smooth, this game is a gem. Must-play.

1. Final Fantasy 6

Still the perfect role-playing game. (Read more here.)


  • I just booted up FF6 and holy shit the glorious feels. That intro music alone will keep me playing until at least the opera. Its stupid how happy I am right now considering I could just play this on an emulator whenever I like.

  • Be interesting to see how I feel with regards to my own personal list after playing some of these again – maybe Mario Kart and SF2 a bit higher for me with Mario World a bit lower (just because I hate platform games as I always have)?

    The only point of contention I have with the list at all is;

    Link to the Past would be the best Zelda game of all time if Breath of the Wild hadn’t come around.

    BOTW doesn’t even make my top 5 Zelda games so will have to respectfully disagree – to each his own though of course 🙂

    Very much looking forward to playing FF6 again on a SNES pad and trying Mario RPG for the first time – given my disdain for platformers it may well become my favourite non-kart/golf/soccer/rabbids Mario game!?

    • Most Zelda fans loved BOTW, but it’s almost not a Zelda game, so I can see why you might not like it.

  • Or just emulate them like everyone has been doing for 20 years.
    I mean; it’s a Nintendo branded closed system with a smattering of great games. I guarantee 90% of the people that bought this will never play it and simply have it as some weird consumer status symbol.

    • A lot of us just can’t be arsed with all that. $120 for a trip down memory lane with the added bonus of my kids having an easily portable gaming device that i dont have to stress about getting damaged/lost. Works for me. Might not for you, but it’s important to remember that there usually more than one perspective on these things.

      Also, it’s a bit rich to call out anyone buying this as doing it for the “status”. It’s a relatively cheap toy for a bit of fun. Not everyone has the time or inclination to mess around with Roms etc. I’d be willing to counter “guarantee” that a large % of purchasers are adults who want to play old school games for kicks and to show their kids.

  • In other words, the best games are ones that have been on the Wii/WiiU VC for years if you actually cared about official releases.

  • First thing I did was play Super G&G’s and lost 2 hours laughing and cursing… I’m with The Dude on this one man

  • First thing I did was play Super G&G’s and lost 2 hours laughing and cursing… 21st? I’m with The Dude on this one man

    • Mine isn’t here yet either. I went to BigW and waited out front to get one on release. They are selling on ebay for just over cost it seems so it won’t be hard to get rid of the extra one. There are way more around too, EB did a second round of pre orders, and there were 48 at Big W vs 17 of the NES (which I was too late for sadly).

  • I played Contra III recently and IMHO it’s still amazing.

    I am interested to see how Star Fox holds up tho.

  • Another example of the this article being borderline rubbish is for poor old Mario Kart being subjected to the line “Doesn’t hold a candle to Mario Kart 8” really man? really?

  • “11. Super Mario Kart

    Doesn’t hold a candle to Mario Kart 8”

    Turn it up! Sorry no AI catchup makes it a bit challenging for you rookies

  • Contra 3: The Alien Wars aged badly? I found it fairly balanced, easier than I remembered (it’s certainly easier than Contra), the controls are perfect and and the visuals are phenomenal. Yes it’s a bit short, but you cannot say it’s “unsubstantial”, since it was one of the staples of the Super NES library, and rightly so.

    And I advise not to use the rewind function, unless you want to finish it in under an hour without having learnt how to play (but what’s the point of it? If all you care it’s to see “how’s gonna end” just watch a youtube let’s play).
    In the option menu you can choose the number of lives and the difficulty: choose 5 or 7 lives and the difficulty that suits you, after a while you’ll see that you’ll come pretty far with the given amount of credits (3 or 4. Also, the game gifts you with extra lives when you reach certain amounts of points).

    F-Zero is a masterpiece (a 2D racing game where you can drift!) and very playable still today (I finished it in expert mode, and I’m on my way on the master class, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to beat it).
    I found Mario Kart pretty much unplayable, but maybe it’s because I didn’t have it at the times, it’s an entirely new game to me.
    And I’m sure that it’s the same for the reviewer in regards to Contra 3: did he have the cartridge? Is he familiar with the game? Because you can’t judge it after having played it for 5 minutes. After a bit of practice, what initially seems unforgivingly hard becomes fairly balanced in the long run. Remember that this games costed a lot of money at the times (they weren’t 5$ indie titles), you couldn’t afford it to finish them in a couple of hours and then get bored immediately after (in fact, after you finish Contra 3 the game restarts with a higher difficulty setting).

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