Super Famicom Games
Image: Time Extension / Damien McFerran

Considered by many fans to be Nintendo's greatest home console, the Super Nintendo (or Super Famicom, if you prefer the Japanese name) arrived on Japanese store shelves in 1990 and went on to sell a whopping 49.10 million units worldwide.

Nintendo's first 16-bit machine was graced with a wide range of amazing games covering a dazzling array of genres, but it is perhaps best known for its stunning RPGs, superb platformers and a fantastic selection of Capcom, Konami and Square exclusives. Oh, and Nintendo's peerless first-party releases, of course.

Below, you'll find a selection of what we feel are the best games the console has to offer. We've tried to avoid picking several games from the same series where possible and have aimed to showcase the wide range of titles on the system across the spectrum of genres. It's also worth noting that these games are not presented in any particular ranking.

Super Mario World (SNES)

Super Mario World (SNES)
Super Mario World (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 23rd Aug 1991 (USA) / 11th Apr 1992 (UK/EU)

Still regarded by many fans as Mario's finest 2D adventure to date, it's remarkable to think that Super Mario World was a launch title for the SNES; few other platformers on the console came close to matching its excellence. Boasting a huge world map which could be tackled in a variety of ways (and a dazzling number of individual levels) as well as new power-ups and the famous Yoshi, Super Mario World is arguably the benchmark by which all 2D platformers were judged back in the early '90s; Sega's Sonic arguably looked and sounded better, but it wasn't a match for Mario's 16-bit debut in terms of pure gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 13th Apr 1992 (USA) / 24th Sep 1992 (UK/EU)

Another early SNES release, Link to the Past built on the first two NES titles to create an action-adventure which still stands proud in the Zelda canon, despite its age. The gorgeous visuals, excellent music and engrossing challenge make this an all-time classic; it's hard to recall a game of this type which fits together so effortlessly. Dungeons boast challenges which are only solvable using newly-acquired items, while the vast, sprawling overworld actively encourages exploration. Then, just when you think you've seen it all, the game offers up an entirely new world to explore – a revelation which remains one of 16-bit gaming's biggest shocks. The GBA port is also worth a look, and the game has been re-released fairly regularly over the years.

EarthBound (SNES)

EarthBound (SNES)
EarthBound (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: 2nd Jun 1995 (USA) / 18th Jul 2013 (UK/EU)

One of the most idiosyncratic RPGs ever made – and, according to director Shigesato Itoi, the first RPG that Shigeru Miyamoto ever completed – EarthBound takes the conventions of the genre and gleefully subverts them in ways that are still refreshing, even after all these years. Set in the nation of Eagleland – which is basically a parody of the United States – EarthBound places you in the role of Ness, a young boy who unearths a plot by an alien race to take over the world. While it sold poorly in the west, EarthBound's cult status has grown significantly over the years, and it is now considered one of the SNES' most accomplished titles. It's part of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, which will save you quite a bit of cash as the original release is very expensive these days.

ActRaiser (SNES)

ActRaiser (SNES)
ActRaiser (SNES)
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Quintet
Release Date: Nov 1991 (USA) / 18th Mar 1993 (UK/EU)

While the notion of fusing genres might not seem all that odd today, back in the early 1990s it was most certainly unusual – but ActRaiser pulled it off with aplomb, creating one of the most memorable SNES releases of the console's formative years. Part action platformer, part 'Populous'-style God Sim, the game places you in the role of a deity who seeks to reclaim the faith of his people. This is achieved by first removing enemies in a side-scrolling action section before taking to the skies and marshalling your followers as they expand their settlements and seal off enemy lairs. Each region offers a different challenge, while Yuzo Koshiro's sublime soundtrack fits the on-screen action like a glove. A sequel was also forthcoming, but it foolishly did away with the God sim sections and is an inferior game as a result, despite boasting some incredible graphics. More recently, the game was remade for modern systems and is well worth a look.

Super Mario Kart (SNES)

Super Mario Kart (SNES)
Super Mario Kart (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 1st Sep 1992 (USA) / 21st Jan 1993 (UK/EU)

It's easy to forget today the mild scepticism that surrounded the release of the original Super Mario Kart; at the time, it felt like Nintendo was trying to shoehorn the character into too many games, and the idea of Mario and his pals tearing up race tracks seemed, for some, like a bridge too far. However, this wasn't some lazy attempt to generate sales based solely on a brand name – Super Mario Kart remains a supremely playable title, and while subsequent iterations of the game have added in visual complexity and additional gameplay quirks, there's something about the simplicity and purity of this one that makes it fun to return to, even decades later. Oh, and the battle mode still rocks.

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (SNES)

International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (SNES)
International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Nov 1995 (USA) / 25th Jan 1996 (UK/EU)

FIFA might be the most well-known name in console football, but true connoisseurs of the sport will have been playing Konami's take back in the '90s. International Superstar Soccer has its roots in the Japanese Jikkyō World Soccer series and offered a much slicker and fast-paced alternative to EA's franchise. The introduction of a spring button in the first ISS was a game-changer, while the crystal-clear speech was a close to 'real' commentary as you were likely to get back on cartridge-based consoles. ISS Deluxe also saw the return of the original game's unique 'scenario' mode which placed you in various matches – often based on real-world encounters – with the aim of reversing the scoreline or winning with only a fraction of time remaining on the clock. ISS would spawn several sequels before Konami eventually shifted its attention to its incredibly popular Pro Evolution Soccer series.

Cybernator (SNES)

Cybernator (SNES)
Cybernator (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Masaya
Release Date: 4th Apr 1993 (USA) / 8th Jul 1993 (UK/EU)

Known in Japan as Assault Suits Valken, this side-scrolling action title offers a unique alternative to the intense 'run and gun' antics of Konami's Contra, because this time around, you're piloting a hulking robot which is blessed with a convincing sense of weight and inertia. Inspired by the likes of Mobile Suit Gundam, Cybernator is a relentlessly polished experience with top-level visuals, sound and gameplay – all wrapped up in a wonderfully dramatic storyline. Assault Suit Leynos (known as Target Earth in the west) is part of the same series, and Valken would get a Japan-Only PlayStation sequel in 1999 which adopted a turn-based strategy approach.

Super Metroid (SNES)

Super Metroid (SNES)
Super Metroid (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date: 18th Apr 1994 (USA) / 28th Jul 1994 (UK/EU)

One of the earliest examples of what is now known as a "Metroidvania", Super Metroid boasts a huge world to explore, with gear-gating opening up the map as you work your way through the game. A hugely influential release, it has stood the test of time much better than many of its contemporaries, laying down a blueprint which is still being copied and iterated upon today by developers all over the world. Effortlessly one of the best games of the 16-bit era, and an essential play for all SNES fans.

Super Tennis (SNES)

Super Tennis (SNES)
Super Tennis (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Tokyo Shoseki
Release Date: 2nd Nov 1991 (USA) / 4th Jun 1992 (UK/EU)

The history of tennis video games goes all the way back to the dawn of the industry with Pong, so it's remarkable that in all the years since, a game like Super Tennis has managed to remain at the top of the pack. Sure, more recent titles have introduced better visuals and more complex gameplay, but this early '90s offering is effortlessly one of the best two-player titles on the SNES. With four different shot types, loads of players to master (each with different stats) and some of the tightest and more compelling gameplay the genre has seen, this is a solid-gold classic, even if you don't have the slightest interest in the sport.

Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting (SNES)

Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting (SNES)
Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting (SNES)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Aug 1993 (USA) / Aug 1993 (UK/EU)

When Nintendo secured the first home port of Capcom's Street Fighter II, it caused shockwaves in the industry; it was the hottest game on the planet at that point, and a valuable asset in the 16-bit console war with Sega. While the Mega Drive / Genesis eventually secured its own version of the game, the SNES is arguably the system most gamers associate with Street Fighter II – and this iterative outing is perhaps the most beloved version. Offering the ability to play as the four boss characters – and the chance to pit the same fighter against themselves in two-player – Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting was a solid upgrade on the original, and its adjustable speed settings made it even more tense and dramatic. While Capcom has tirelessly evolved the core concept of Street Fighter over the decades, this is still an amazing playable experience.

F-Zero (SNES)

F-Zero (SNES)
F-Zero (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: Aug 1991 (USA) / 1992 (UK/EU)

While Super Mario World is arguably one of the best launch titles of all time, the game it released alongside is no slouch, either. F-Zero was perhaps the game that best demonstrated the SNES' capabilities; the smooth Mode 7 scaling and rotating allowed for a more immersive and realistic perspective on the racing action, putting all previous console racers well and truly in the shade. It would also do much of the pathfinding for Super Mario Kart, a title which used the same technique to even more impressive effect a few years later.

Soul Blazer (SNES)

Soul Blazer (SNES)
Soul Blazer (SNES)
Publisher: Enix / Developer: Quintet
Release Date: 27th Oct 1992 (USA) / 27th Jan 1994 (UK/EU)

Developer Quintet made quite an impression with its SNES debut ActRaiser, and followed it up with a top-down action-adventure that was just as appealing. The player must enter various dungeons to defeat enemies, which causes liberated souls to reappear in the game's many towns. These souls then impart advice and guidance which allows the player to progress. Despite being quite an early entry in the SNES library, Soul Blazer is nonetheless one of the console's most charming titles and forms part of an unofficial trilogy with fellow Quintet games Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 1992 (USA) / 1992 (UK/EU)

Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was nothing short of a revelation when it first launched, and was to be found in amusement arcades, leisure centres, public houses and fish & chip shops all over the globe. Turtles in Time is essentially a sequel to that game, and while it doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to basic gameplay mechanics, it's still one of the most fun belt-scrolling fighters on the SNES. Sure, the lack of combat options can be a little frustrating – especially when compared to the likes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage – but it's impossible to play this game without a big, broad smile on your face.

Axelay (SNES)

Axelay (SNES)
Axelay (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 11th Sep 1992 (USA) / 30th Sep 1993 (UK/EU)

The SNES is often compared rather unfavourably to the Mega Drive / Genesis and PC Engine when it comes to shmups, largely due to the console's slower processor, but there are titles which buck this trend – and Axelay is at the top of the pile. A stunning technical accomplishment which pulls off visual tricks that other systems couldn't hope to replicate, this is undoubtedly one of Konami's best 16-bit releases; it's a crying shame that we never got the sequel that was promised during Axelay's ending sequence.

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)
Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 26th Mar 1992 (USA) / 12th Sep 1992 (UK/EU)

Konami really was untouchable in the early days of the SNES' life, and launched some of the console's very best games in those formative years – one of which is Contra III (known as Contra Spirits in Japan, and rebranded as Super Probotector in Europe). The gulf between this title and the NES versions is remarkable, and even the original arcade Contra pales in comparison; visually, Konami uses every trick in the book to make this a memorable experience, while the gameplay is both addictive and challenging, making for a game that requires serious skill and perseverance to complete. Top it off with top-down sections that make superb use of the console's Mode 7 talents, and you have a run-and-gun blaster that is practically timeless.

Star Fox (SNES)

Star Fox (SNES)
Star Fox (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 1st Mar 1993 (USA) / 3rd Jun 1993 (UK/EU)

While Star Fox's 3D visuals might look crude by modern standards, it's important to remember what a seismic event it was back in the early '90s. Thanks to the Super FX chip found inside the cartridge, Star Fox was populated by immersive, jaw-dropping graphics that really placed you right in the action – but it was also backed up by the typically polished Nintendo gameplay. This was thanks to the marriage of western technical knowledge (via UK studio Argonaut, which also designed the Super FX chip) and Nintendo's crack team of producers and artists. A sequel was finished by cancelled, only to eventually turn up as a bonus game on the SNES Classic Edition micro-console.

Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 4th Dec 1991 (USA) / 23rd Nov 1992 (UK/EU)

Arguably one of the best entries in the long-running Castlevania franchise, Super Castlevania IV is essentially a retelling of the very first game, with Simon Belmont once again the protagonist of the tale. What's different this time is the fact that the SNES offers so much more power than the NES; the visuals are gorgeous (with great use of scaling and Mode 7 rotation), the gameplay is engaging without being frustrating and the music is so good it's hard to believe it's not being streamed from a compact disc. Of all of the 'classic' Castlevania instalments, this has to rank as one of the very best.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 4th Oct 1995 (USA) / 6th Oct 1995 (UK/EU)

Producing a follow-up to one of the most acclaimed 2D platformers of all time was always going to be a stern challenge, and while you could argue that Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island isn't quite up to the standard of Super Mario World, it's still one of the finest platformers you could hope to play. Mario's a baby this time around, and the player assumes control of a Yoshi who is tasked with guiding him to safety. The Super FX chip – previously used to allow the SNES to manipulate polygons in Star Fox – lends a hand with 2D trickery here, resulting in a game that takes the genre in new and unexpected directions.

Secret of Mana (SNES)

Secret of Mana (SNES)
Secret of Mana (SNES)
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Squaresoft
Release Date: 3rd Oct 1993 (USA) / 24th Nov 1994 (UK/EU)

Whenever you mention the very best SNES RPGs, Secret of Mana is sure to pop up at some point in the conversation. One of Square's most beloved 16-bit efforts, it mixes fantastic storytelling with stunning 2D visuals and a beautiful soundtrack, as well as throwing in gameplay innovations like its famous circular menu system. A recent remake did a good job of updating the game for modern audiences, but to be perfectly frank, this is a solid-gold classic that remains as compelling and appealing now as it did decades ago. A must-have.

Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Squaresoft
Release Date: 11th Aug 1995 (USA) / 20th May 2011 (UK/EU)

Crafted by the "Dream Team" of Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest) and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Chrono Trigger is one of the most celebrated and beloved JRPGs in existence. Set across multiple time periods with a cast of vibrant and appealing characters, it uses Final Fantasy's "Active Time Battle" system to great effect and boasts many hours of gameplay, with a storyline that some would argue has never been bettered. A commercial and critical smash hit at the time of release, Chrono Trigger's reputation has grown over the decades thanks to a series of ports, including one for the Nintendo DS and smartphones. A masterpiece.