20 Best SNES RPGs From Nintendo’s Vault of Classics

As someone who grew up in the 90s, there’s something distinctly heartwarming about the best SNES RPGs from yesteryear. 

Inspired by pen & paper tabletops games like Dungeons & Dragons, the Super Nintendo’s RPG library was filled with action, adventure, and magic abound. Not to mention oodles of breathtaking pixel art and chiptune melodies.

I fondly remember all the early mornings and late nights spent playing RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. The way they’d transport me to another world — where was the chosen one destined to save the day — was incredibly fulfilling. Those games were truly special, and they christened my love for the genre that extends to this very day.

If you want to relive the nostalgia and learn more about the best SNES RPGs, you’ve come to the right place!

20 Best SNES RPGs

Let’s start at number 20 and work our way down to the best of the best SNES RPGs!

20. Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire - #20 Best SNES RPGs

Developer: Capcom
Release Year: 1993

First on our list of best SNES RPGs is Breath of Fire. Breath of Fire may not be the greatest RPG ever made, but it does offer fantastic gameplay with action that never dies down. 

The story follows Ryu, a young member of the Light Dragon Clan, whose town was ransacked and destroyed by evil enemy forces. Transform yourself into a mighty dragon, and take down every foe that stands in your way. It’s up to you to save the world from malevolent forces.

Breath of Fire offers a decent story with atmospheric gameplay. The music is amazing, too. This one definitely deserves a lot more hype. 


19. Terranigma 

Terranigma

Developer: Quintet
Release Year: 1995

Terranigma tells the story of a boy named Ark who’s tasked with resurrecting Earth’s inhabitants from their frozen slumber.

The game plays with a top-down perspective view of the world and utilizes an action-based real-time battle system. With each victory against enemies, you gain XP and enhanced powers. Terranigma’s controls are intuitive, but the game can still be difficult for newcomers.

If you’ve played this game before, consider firing it up again. If you haven’t, get ready to enjoy one of the best challenges Nintendo has to offer. 


18. The 7th Saga

The 7th Saga

Developer: Produce!
Release Year: 1993

Next on our list of best SNES RPGs is The 7th Saga, a traditional turn-based RPG by developer Produce!

Assume control of one of seven different heroes and journey across the world of Ticondera on a quest for the lost runes. Along the way, you’ll encounter the six other heroes that you didn’t choose at the beginning of the game (in NPC format), whom you can team up with to aid on the adventure. Pick the right partner, and destroy every demon who tries to stop you from finding the lost artifacts! Your benefactor, the noble King Lemele, is counting on you.

The 7th Saga received good ratings from major outlets, with critics praising its creative graphical transitions and crystal bar radar system that detects enemies. While it’s not entirely groundbreaking, The 7th Saga is still one you’ll want to check out.


17. Paladin’s Quest

Paladin's Quest

Developer: Copya System
Release Year: 1992

Paladin’s Quest follows a boy named Chezni on a quest to destroy an ancient machine called Dal Gren before it destroys the world. 

Travel through different dungeons and towns, battling in random encounters all the while. Can you make it to the Dal Gren before it’s too late?

Paladin’s Quest’s graphics are pretty neat, and the gameplay is smooth and easy to master without taking away the challenge. While it isn’t as magical or adventurous as the others on this list, it’s still one to enjoy due to its compelling and oft-humorous story.


16. Dark Half

Dark Half

Developer: Westone Bit Entertainment
Release Year: 1996

In Dark Half, you play as a man named Falco on his way to stop the return of an evil force sealed away long ago. 

What makes Dark Half worthy of this list of best RPGs for SNES? In addition to its challenging gameplay, Dark Half features a unique storyline. When you fail your quest during the prologue, you get reincarnated as Rukyu, the game’s antagonist! This dichotomy sets the pace for the rest of the game, wherein you swap between the hero and villain throughout the adventure. Acting as the antagonist also means you’ll be forced to perform evil actions like killing entire villages (including helpless women and children).

If you’re looking for an RPG with a dark, disturbing theme, this one is for you. It’s one that’s simply too unique to miss out on. 


15. Front Mission

Front Mission - #15 Best SNES RPGs

Developer: G-Craft
Release Year: 1995

The world of Front Mission is quite complex, especially for its time period. In a nutshell, it’s a tactical role-playing game complete with giant robots. How freaking cool, right?! 

Since this is a mech game, you can customize your player with various robot parts, computers, backpacks, and weapons. Once you’ve created the perfect masterpiece, send your bot into battle (with you at the helm) to see if you’re worthy.

If you’re not a very big fan of robots and science fiction, this one might change your mind. It’s a beautiful game with brilliant storytelling and execution. 


14. Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon

Developer: Amccus
Release Year: 1996

If you aren’t particularly fond of guns, magic, or monsters, we’ve still got a game for you. 

Harvest Moon is a farm simulation SNES RPG that follows a young man who inherits a farm from his grandfather. Unfortunately, the farm has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Your job? To revitalize and maintain the ‘ol farmstead by planting crops, raising animals, foraging, and building relationships with the town’s villagers. 

Harvest Moon is one of those games that never gets old. It has a beautiful soundtrack and infinite gameplay that allows you to be as creative as you want. This one’s certainly a gem.


13. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys

Ys III Wanderers from Ys

Developer: Nihon Falcom // Advance Communication
Release Year: 1991

Despite its strange title, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys is among the best Super Nintendo RPGs on this list. Don’t believe me? Just look at how many systems you can find it on — Ys III has been ported to seven different consoles since its initial release on PC back in 1989. This includes, of course, the SNES.

While Ys III: Wanderers from Ys is the third in the Ys series, it still stands on its own. Part of this is due to the new visual format, which incorporates a platform (rather than top-down) perspective. But the storyline also features its own arc that’s as immersive as the overarching series itself.

Enjoy Ys III’s delightful fantasy-inspired storyline, stunning pixel-art graphics, and delightful soundtrack as you go on an epic quest of magnitude importance.


12. Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen

Ogre Battle

Developer: Quest
Release Year: 1993

Next on our list of best SNES RPGs is something a little different. Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen is a real-time RPG, meaning combat takes place among you and the AI enemies simultaneously. This combat system deviates from the traditional turn-based one found in most of the other games on this list, but it adds in an extra element of challenge — not to mention some cool tactical possibilities!

Take control of the Liberation Army to free the continent of Zetegenia from the evil Empress Endora! Think strategically as you move through a series of battles, attempting to take out Endora’s forces battle by battle. Do you have what it takes?

One of the neatest things about the game occurs at the very beginning. You’re presented a set of questions, and depending on your answers, you gain different abilities and units to use on your journey! Staying true to this personalized approach, the game even offers alternate endings, depending on the choices you make as you march upon the capital.


11. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past

Developer: Nintendo
Release Year: 1991

Despite the on-going debate over whether A Link to the Past is an RPG, we couldn’t help but include it on this page. Sure, it doesn’t feature classic XP-based leveling and genuine turn-based combat. But factor in the upgradable equipment and stats, hack ‘n slash combat, and overall fantasy-feel, and it’s safe to say it’s an RPG-lite.

It’s difficult to put into words how great The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past truly is. It’s undoubtedly one of the most popular and influential games ever put out on the SNES. 

A Link to the Past focuses on Link as he journeys to save Princess Zelda and six other maidens from the dark lord Ganon (with the aid of the Master Sword, of course).

This game plays with a bird’s eye view, just like the original Legend of Zelda released for NES. Link uses a variety of weapons to defeat enemies and solve puzzles, all while exploring the mysteries of Hyrule.

To all you gamers out there looking for a retro, classic game to play, this one won’t disappoint. 


10. Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV - #10 Best SNES RPGs

Developer: Square
Release Year: 1991

This list wouldn’t be complete without Final Fantasy. 

That said, it was a challenge to choose which Final Fantasy game to include on this list. In the end, I chose Final Fantasy IV, as it’s considered to be a good introduction to the series. It also introduced many mechanics that went on to become series staples.

The plot is a little complicated to explain, but it’s basically about four youths whose parents were killed by the evil emperor Palamecia while fleeing from the imperial forces.

The Final Fantasy series is a staple of the RPG genre, and one you don’t want to miss!


9. Shadowrun

Shadowrun

Developer: Beam Software
Release Year: 1993

Shadowrun is a cyberpunk/fantasy RPG based on the novel Never Deal with a Dragon

It follows Jake Armitage, a man suffering from amnesia, as he attempts to find the truth about his identity. Kind of like Jason Bourne, but this one has zombies, orcs, and magical talking dogs. 

This game follows a kind of tabletop, real-time gameplay. You can control Jake using your controller and a cursor that allows you to scroll a pointer across the screen and perform various actions.

This game is one of the most innovative RPGs ever made. Its storyline often feels more like a movie than a video game. Worth checking out if you’re looking for something new.


8. Soul Blazer 

Soul Blazer

Developer: Quintet
Release Year: 1992

Next on our list of best SNES RPGs? Soul Blazer is an action RPG where you play as The Master’s servant, helping him destroy monsters to release the captured souls of the world you inhabit. 

Like typical role-playing games, you gain experience for every monster you kill, and you can equip different armor and swords through your travels. It also has a magic system that lets you use a wide variety of spells.

The control system in Soul Blazer makes it a joy to play. It’s atmospheric and has that charming, nostalgic SNES feel. It’s one of those games that never truly loses its magic, even years after its release. 


7. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

Lufia II Rise of the Sinistrals

Developer: Neverland
Release Year: 1995

Lufia II follows the story of Maxim, the main character’s ancestor, and details the origins of the war between humanity and the Sinistrals. 

This game has an incredible combat system with a unique twist: you can spawn capsule monsters! Once spawned, these monsters are yours forever, and they can evolve to become great allies in challenging combat situations. It’s kind of like Pokémon, but with a medieval fantasy vibe and several playable characters!

Lufia II is an adventure that’s just as fun today as it was 25 years ago. 


6. Illusion of Gaia

Illusion of Gaia

Developer: Quintet
Release Year: 1993

Like many of the best SNES RPGs, Illusion of Gaia follows a young man (named Will) who’s tasked to save the world from evil.

Illusion of Gaia contains a large cast of characters, three of which are playable. Each character has an array of abilities useful for specific areas in the game, meaning you’ll need to think strategically to make the most of each encounter.

Illusion of Gaia is considered unique due to its unconventional approach to leveling up your statistics. Instead of XP, you gain jewels that enhance your power! Pretty neat, eh?

With a world so masterfully made, Illusion of Gaia is sure to leave every RPG lover wanting more. 


5. Secret of Evermore

Secret of Evermore - #5 Best SNES RPGs

Developer: Squaresoft
Release Year: 1995

Secret of Evermore follows a boy and his dog after they’re mistakenly transported to the world of Evermore.

The game consists of an aerial view setting, where the boy and his pup travel along different terrains while fending off random monsters they encounter. 

This game borrows many elements from Secret of Mana, like the battle controls and the 16-bit world mechanics. 

Secret of Evermore is far from an easy game, which may turn off some gamers. However, with enough determination, you’ll find that the experience this game offers is well worth your time.


4. Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG

Developer: Square
Release Year:
 1996

Before the falling-out of Square and Nintendo, both managed to create one last game together. And boy, what a game it was! 

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is centered around defeating Smithy, a corrupt tyrant who stole the Seven Star Pieces of Star Road to deprive Mario’s world of wishes.

It’s one of the few games, if not the first, to introduce timed attacks. The battle sequences are triggered only when Mario comes in contact with a visible enemy, which means there are no random encounters. 

If you wish to experience the beginning of the Super Mario RPG franchise, this is the game you should definitely check out. It’s one that paved the way to a lot of other RPG games made after.


3. Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana

Developer: Square
Release Year: 1993

Secret of Mana is a sequel to the hit Japanese title, Seiken Densetsu. The story follows three heroes from a high fantasy universe on their quest to prevent an evil empire from conquering the world. 

Assume control of this trynamic trio as they forge their own path in the world of Mana. Use all the items in your vast arsenal to overcome every enemy that stands in your way, and be sure to take time to enjoy the spoils (read: loot) while you’re at it.

If you’re a huge RPG fan, Secret of Mana is one that you should never miss.


2. EarthBound 

EarthBound

Developer: Ape & HAL Laboratory
Release Year: 1994

EarthBound (known as Mother in Japan) takes place in the fictional country of Eagleland, a decade after the events of EarthBound Beginnings for the NES.

You start as a young boy named Ness who’s warned by a time-traveling bee-like creature about what the future holds if they don’t stop the evil Giygas. This prompts Ness and his gang to search for eight melodies to help defeat Gigyas and prevent worldwide devastation. 

EarthBound features many of the traditional role-playing elements we know and love today. You control a player in a 2D world filled with villages, cities, caves, forests, and dungeons. You battle different enemies along the way, and with every victory, you gain XP. 

EarthBound is a brilliant game sprinkled with humor and unexpected heartwarming moments. It’s no wonder it still has so many dedicated fans!


1. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

Developer: Square
Release Year: 1995

Chrono Trigger’s story is simple enough — a group of adventurers travels through time to prevent a global catastrophe.

The twist? Each different timeline provides an entirely new set of gameplay mechanics. The prehistoric age contains primitive humans and dinosaurs. The middle ages are crammed with knights, monsters, and magic. And the post-apocalyptic future is packed full of sentient robots and mischievous humans.

Throughout this adventure, you’ll gain allies, gather equipment, and acquire information to aid your quest. 

Chrono Trigger is an enjoyable experience that’s widely considered one of the best SNES RPGs ever made! If you haven’t played it yet, whip out that retro game box and give it a whirl!

%d bloggers like this: