The SNES played a huge role in popularizing RPGs in the US, with classic hits like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI, Earthbound, and so many more.
But there were plenty of excellent non-RPGs for the SNES as well—and these games may have had an even bigger impact on gaming culture than the aforementioned RPGs.
As the very first gaming console I ever had, the SNES holds a special place in my heart. I often reminisce about simpler times when I could plop down in front of my TV, grab a controller, and let the world melt away. Nostalgia is a powerful drug.
Here are some of the best SNES games that weren't RPGs. How many of these did you play? Hopefully they bring back as many wonderful memories for you as they do for me!
15. Mario Is Missing!
What a dumpster of a game. Little did I know before I spent my hard-earned money on this game, Mario Is Missing! is actually an educational game without much actual gameplay.
You basically run around, talk to people, gather clues, and answer trivia questions related to history and geography. But as bad as it is as a game, I can't help but remember it fondly.
I played this way too much as a youngster, dashing from street to street in search of the next clue—and funny enough, I did learn a few things! I just can't remember what they are.
14. Star Fox
Seeing it now with modern eyes, Star Fox is a clear contender as one of the ugliest SNES games ever made. The portrait sprites are actually pretty good, but the simulated 3D graphics are awful.
But hey, props to Nintendo for trying something new! The gameplay itself was a blast for its time.
13. Mega Man X
Mega Man X is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the action-platformer genre. Seriously, this game was so good that it's hard to think of a successor that did it better.
The blast-and-dash gameplay was itself amazing, but more than that, the ability to acquire new fire modes (by defeating bosses) and to upgrade various armor pieces (by locating capsules) made for an exciting sense of progress.
This is the kind of game that would be well-received if it were released as an indie game today. Plus, it's one of the first games I remember playing with true speedrunning potential.
12. Harvest Moon
Is Harvest Moon an RPG? I guess it could be. But it's so different from the usual brand of SNES RPGs that I think it deserves a spot on this list. To me, it will always be my first farming simulator.
I sank so many hours into Harvest Moon as a kid, obsessed with the planning and cultivation of my farm, the exploration of the world around my farm, and the fun dating side game.
Whew, I almost want to break it out again! Even with all the newer farming simulators that have come out since, Harvest Moon will always hold a special place in my heart.
11. Mortal Kombat II
I'm not much of a fighting game fan these days, but I loved Mortal Kombat II when I was kid simply because it was so gruesome.
There are so many iconic moves in Mortal Kombat II that remain to this day, including Raiden's Flying Thunder God, Liu Kang's Bicycle Kick, Scorpion's Hand Spear, Sub-Zero's Ice Puddle, Kung Lao's Hat Throw... I could go on!
The best part of Mortal Kombat II were the fatalities, which are impressively animated (given the limitations of SNES visuals) and even hilarious despite the graphic violence.
10. Street Fighter II Turbo
Many fighting game fans still think Street Fighter II Turbo is the best entry in the entire Street Fighter series.
I personally wasn't very good at it—no matter how much I practiced, the moves were impossible to execute consistently—but my friends loved it so we ended up playing it way too much.
It really perfected the core gameplay of what a fighting game should be like, and it's easily the best fighting game on the SNES (with Mortal Kombat II being a close runner-up).
9. Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!
Buster Busts Loose! wasn't a particularly good game, but it was a challenging one—and it taught me a lot about resilience, dedication, and not giving up in the face of failure.
Plus, the fact that it featured the cast of Tiny Toons appealed very much to me at the age when I was playing it. I still think the "feed Dizzy Devil" minigame is some of the most fun I've had on SNES!
Pilotwings sticks out in my mind as the only flight simulator on the SNES, and what a joy it was to be a kid and feel like I was actually flying a plane! Or jet-packing! Or hang-gliding!
Of course, it was more than just a simulator thanks to its various gameplay elements that changed depending on which type of pilot license you were trying to achieve.
It's a shame this series never really took off, ending with Pilotwings 64 on Nintendo 64 and Pilotwings Resort on Nintendo 3DS. I would love to play a modern remake with next-gen graphics!
7. Top Gear
As one of the first racing games to hit the SNES—this game was actually released in the same year as Super Mario Kart—Top Gear proved quite fun with its nitro boosts and fuel management.
With a choice of four cars and a set of 32 different racing tracks, the replayability was out there. It was eventually succeeded by Top Gear 2, which also released on the SNES.
6. Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country brought a new kind of platformer experience that felt more immersive and looked completely different from sibling platformers like Mario, Kirby, and Sonic.
Sporting one of the best SNES soundtracks and a unique visual style that worked to its advantage, it's no wonder why Donkey Kong Country is often considered one of the greatest games—not just on the SNES, but of all time.
5. Kirby Super Star
Kirby was already a known face by the time Kirby Super Star came out, but this particular game made new waves with its creative "eight games in one" design.
Each game in Kirby Super Star had its own unique twists on gameplay, but they all came together to tell pieces of a greater story involving Dream Land and its inhabitants.
More importantly, the ability for a friend to tag in as second player led to some really fun gaming sessions, and the game's AI wasn't half-bad when a second player wasn't available.
4. Super Bomberman
Not only was Super Bomberman the first of its franchise, it was the first four-player game available on the SNES—and that unlocked all kinds of fun that couldn't be had in previous games.
Even afterwards, there weren't many four-player party games on the SNES, leaving Super Bomberman as a top pick for most sleepovers and after-school hangouts.
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
For me, Turtles in Time is easily the finest beat-em-up game on the SNES—possibly of all time! The music in every single level is catchy, unforgettable, and really gets you going.
And while that alone accounts for 90% of this game's nostalgic power, the quirky animations, responsive controls, and hilarious voiceover lines made for an exciting playing experience.
2. Super Mario Kart
Super Mario Kart introduced us to the first Mario spin-off game—and became so successful that it jump-started its own series of racing games that's still hot today.
With a cast of eight characters playable across three game modes and 24 unique racing tracks, Super Mario Kart offered endless replayability. But the most memorable thing about it might just be its jamming soundtrack!
1. Super Mario World
Is there anyone who hasn't heard of Super Mario World? Sure, Mario Bros may have launched the franchise and Super Mario Bros may be the most recognizable entry in the series...
...but Super Mario World expanded the possibilities of what a platformer could be and truly lived up to the "World" in its name. For a kid before internet times, this game could offer hundreds of hours of bright, whimsical entertainment.