On a recent gametimeshowbro podcast, the bros were asked to provide a ranked list of their top five Super Nintendo games. The conversation that followed was illuminating, lengthy, and provocative. It continued after the microphones went off and as the number of games mentioned continued to grow we soon realized that limiting ourselves to five games each was an impossible task.
So here’s our newest feature. We’ve asked all of the bros for ranked lists of ten to twenty-five of their favorite Super Nintendo games. Ten responded, listing sixty-six games in total. After combining, comparing, and smoothing out the ten lists, we’ve reached a consensus opinion on the thirty greatest SNES games of all time. Though our tastes and takes were wide and varied, together we have created a list much stronger than the sum of its original parts. Today, we proudly present the first ten games on that list – our first ten inductees to the gametimebro Hall of Fame.
Perhaps no game on this list better illustrates the early-to-mid ’90s heyday of the Super NES than this one, a platformer based on a kids’ cartoon that ran from 1990 to 1995. There’s not much about the design or the gameplay of Buster Busts Loose that make the game a good history lesson or an old gem of any kind, and revisiting this side-scrolling hop-and-bop today would largely be a nostalgia farming exercise. Still, the graphics here are solid – excellent for 1992, even – and though the overarching plot is forgettable and meaningless, several of its stages – a Star Wars parody, a football game, a puzzle-filled haunted house – are remembered fondly to this day. Above all, Buster Busts Loose did justice to its source material. Just like Tiny Toon Adventures itself, the game was light-hearted, creative, and fun.
#29 – The Lion King
(1994, Westwood Studios)
Second on our list, it’s another licensed platformer, and one based on what’s arguably the most iconic Disney movie of the 1990s, at that. The video game adaptation of The Lion King tells more or less the same story as its forebear and includes most of the film’s most memorable moments. The younger and older versions of Simba having different movesets was a nice touch. It’s a bit more challenging than a game based on a family movie has any business being, but it looks pretty and it sounds prettier and, all things considered, it’s one of the best movie tie-in games on any system from any era.
#28 – Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
Maybe it’s because the game features neither Donkey Kong nor Diddy, or maybe it was released on the wrong side of the Nintendo 64, or maybe there just wasn’t a high demand for a third Donkey Kong Country game in the same two-year time period, but for whatever reason, Donkey Kong Country 3 is an oft-forgotten and easily overlooked game in the Super Nintendo’s repertoire. That’s really a shame, as it’s quite possibly the best-looking game on the system. The Donkey Kong Country series and its pre-rendered 3D sprites look better today than almost anything on the PlayStation or the Nintendo 64. Beyond the graphics, it’s just an excellent platformer with a variety of levels. What’s not to love?
#27 – Primal Rage
Picture this. A meteor strike and ensuing cataclysms render the world almost inhabitable. The continents merge into the shape of a skull, primordial rainforests and supervolcanoes sprout up into being, and mankind has devolved into a collection of stone age tribes. This world is known as “Urth,” and it’s the setting for Primal Rage, a 2D fighter ported over from the arcade. Dinosaurs, giant apes, and other massive demigods battle for world supremacy and also occasionally break into volleyball matches. As absurd as it was controversial, Primal Rage remains one of the most unique experiences on a console teeming with memorable fighting games.
#26 – Kirby’s Dream Land 3
(1997, HAL Laboratory)
It was brought up above that Donkey Kong Country 3 was one of the last games released on the SNES, even after the Nintendo 64 had launched. Kirby’s Dream Land 3 came out a full year later, far and away the last first-party Nintendo game for the system published in North America. Indeed, while the gaming industry was blowing up with clunky-looking 3D games and blocky polygons, the Super Nintendo’s 2D swan song opted for a soft and muted aesthetic reminiscent where the environments, enemies, and menu screens all looked hand-drawn by crayons or pastels. It was an elegant send-off for the system that had pushed 2D gaming to its absolute limits, and it’s still a treat worth enjoying today.
#25 – Captain Commando
The year is 2026 and Metro City, once a thriving bastion of commerce and industry, is now little more than a cesspool filled with delinquency, crime, and large-scale villainy. If there’s any hope at all, it lies with Captain Commando and his Commando Companions – a mummy, a ninja, and a baby piloting a giant robot. Captain Commando is a port of an arcade beat-em-up from Capcom in the same vein as Double Dragon and Final Fight. The core gameplay consists of kicking, punching, and hammer-tossing through locations such as circuses, aquariums, and spaceships. And after a sentence like that last one, there’s really nothing left to say.
#24 – Kirby Super Star
(1996, HAL Laboratory)
Take a few distinct side-scrolling adventures, surround them with mini-games, tie it all together with crisp design and a high quality soundtrack, and you’ve got Kirby Super Star. This eight-pack of games was loved by those who played it but missed entirely by so many others, which is part of the reason Nintendo released an updated and even more jam-packed remake on the DS in 2008. Super Star laid the groundwork, in all its variety, for a number of games that would follow in the coming years, particularly for several of the different modes in Super Smash Bros. – also made by HAL – like the All-Star gauntlet introduced in Melee and the Subspace Emissary in Brawl. More than anything, Kirby Super Star is still a fun game to play with plenty of gameplay variety to offer.
#23 – Mortal Kombat
It would be tough to bring up the Super Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat without acknowledging Nintendo’s infamous decision to censor out the blood and gruesome finishers, arguably the two characteristics of the game that had made Mortal Kombat so popular in arcades in the first place. Nonetheless, no ported version of the popular 2D fighter looked better than the Super Nintendo’s, and even in its limited goriness, Mortal Kombat still contained enough brutality to make quite an impact on many young gamers.
#22 – Killer Instinct
When you take the move sets from Street Fighter, the idea of finishers inspired by Mortal Kombat, and the pre-rendered 3D graphics from Donkey Kong Country, you end up with a unique and beautiful fighting game. Killer Instinct featured characters like Cinder, a man whose body was made up entirely of flames; Riptor, a velociraptor-human hybrid; Fulgore, an advanced hand-to-hand fighting cyborg; and Chief Thunder, a Native American wielding dual tomahawks. Tack on a skeleton, a boxer, a werewolf, and several others, and it’s easy to see why Killer Instinct became such a memorable fighting game. That its cartridge was jet black instead of standard SNES gray may have helped.
#21 – EarthBound
(1995, HAL Laboratory)
It is difficult to appreciate EarthBound in a vacuum. It’s a Japanese role-playing game in which the heroes aren’t knights and mages fighting for castles and crystals, but instead a group of kids from the suburbs using baseball bats and frying pans to save the world. So much of it is so utterly silly, which only makes several of the deeper and more poignant moments stand out more. The game lampshades JRPG tropes at every turn and yet for so many people remains the quintessential 16-bit offering for the entire genre. Its bosses range from sentient piles of vomit to full-on Lovecraftian-style nightmare monsters. Its predecessor and sequel have never seen an American release, which is at once both astounding and understandable. EarthBound is for a very specific subset of gamers, but it’s an absolutely essential experience for any JRPG fan.
Ten games in, and we’re only scratching the surface of the Super Nintendo’s greatness. Come back later this week for #20-11, where the gamut ranges from vikings to androids and from wrestling to basketball.
Hall of Fame Time Bro is a recurring multi-part feature in which the bros put their heads together to create a collaborative list of games that deserve canonical recognition as all-time greats.