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.
GAMES THAT HAVE NOT AGED WELL
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 III: The Alien Wars
While it still feels good to jump and roll around as a super-soldier in Contra III, 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.
GAMES THAT ARE KIND OF INTERESTING
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.
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.
GAMES THAT ARE WORTH CHECKING OUT
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 IV
The platforming in the fourth Castlevania feels clunky today, but dangling your whip like a dead fish never gets old.
12. Street Fighter II
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.
GAMES THAT ARE ASTOUNDINGLY GOOD
These games are excellent, full stop. They’re not in the upper-upper echelon, perhaps because they’ve got a few niggling flaws or they’ve 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 5 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.
GAMES THAT YOU MUST PLAY BEFORE YOU DIE
These five games could basically go in any order. They’re all masterpieces.
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 marvelous puzzle box full of hidden secrets, grueling 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 ten 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 VI
Still the perfect role-playing game. (Read more here.)