The 14 Best SNES Games on Nintendo Switch Online

Games Lists Nintendo Switch
The 14 Best SNES Games on Nintendo Switch Online

UPDATE (Feb. 16, 2024): So these Nintendo Switch Online releases have kind of stalled out, huh? Almost two years after this list was last updated only a handful of additional SNES games have been rereleased for subscribers, and once again none of them really merit special attention. So, uh, here’s what I wrote about this in 2019, updated in 2022, and updated once again (with almost no actual updates, once again) in Feb. 2024.

Almost exactly three years ago I wrote a piece about the 12 best Super Nintendo games playable through Nintendo Switch Online. A lot has changed in the three years since, and I’m not just talking about the pandemic, the election, the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, or Grimace’s birthday. There were 31 SNES games on Nintendo Switch Online in July 2020, and today there’s 57 (64 if you count the SP games, which are tweaked versions of games already on the system with new specific goals and settings you have to account for). So obviously an update for that list seems a little overdue.

The problem is that, if I’m being honest (and I always am, at least about videogames—this stuff isn’t important enough to lie about), very few of those 26 games that have been added to the service over the last three years are screaming to get added to our list. Yeah, the new additions include some fun Donkey Kong Country sequels, a bunch of Kirby, a good Magical Drop game, some Picross that I spent way too much time on in early 2021, and a bunch of other fun SNES jams, but nothing that really seems like a major omission, or something we’d recommend a player of today to go out of their way to experience. There are really only two SNES games added to Nintendo Switch Online since July 2020 whose absence from this list was glaring, so we’ve added just those two and made this thing a top 14—a mighty baker’s dozen (plus one) of 1990s greatness.

Let’s get to it: here are the best SNES games on Nintendo Switch Online.

fzero_box.jpg14. F-Zero

Part of the appeal of racing games, historically, is their ability to show off a system’s graphical capabilities. Forza and Gran Turismo today pride themselves on their photorealism. F-Zero blew players away when it launched alongside the SNES because it was basically a demo for the system’s vaunted Mode 7 graphics, which simulated a 3D perspective by creating a background layer that could rotate and change in size. The actual game underneath the graphics is a barebones racer gussied up with a slick sci-fi aesthetic and technology that hasn’t broken any ground in over 25 years. There’s nothing terribly bad about F-Zero, there’s just not much to it.


kirby_superstar_box.jpg13. Kirby Super Star

One thing you can be sure of with Nintendo: there will always be more Kirby. Sometimes lots more Kirby, in fact, as with Super Star. Or at least many different iterations of possible Kirbys past and present, a panoply of platforming minigames that place Kirby in a variety of different situations. It’s actually a pretty great little micro-gaming collection, but somehow the whole feels less than its parts. Ranking in this low on a list like this isn’t much of a slight: pretty much every game from here on down is worth at least some amount of your time.


superpunchout_box.jpg12. Super Punch-Out!!

Not nearly as iconic as the NES original, this boxing game is still an addictive rush of pattern recognition and colorful racial stereotypes. It’s a simple formula, one that’s hard to mess up, but also one done so perfectly on the NES that every subsequent version was bound to feel a touch unnecessary. That’s the rub with Super Punch-Out!!: it’s well-designed and exactly as good today as it was when it came out, but it’s still hopelessly stuck in the shadow of its forebear.


pilotwings_box.jpg11. Pilotwings

Flight simulators were big business in the computer software world in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but weren’t really translatable to the consoles of the day. So Nintendo took the general concept and made something light, fun, and traditionally Nintendo with Pilotwings. Structured as a series of trials using four different aerial vehicles, Pilotwings provides the thrill of flying in a streamlined, easy-to-understand package. It’s also a killer showcase for the Super Nintendo’s then-groundbreaking Mode 7 graphics system.


breath_of_fire_box_100.jpg10. Breath of Fire

Capcom was a top developer of action titles in the NES and SNES era—they gave us Mega Man, Strider, Bionic Commando, and more—but with Breath of Fire they branched out into the world of the role-playing game. Japanese RPGs were a big deal on the SNES—it’s where Final Fantasy really came into its own, and gave us Earthbound, a Nintendo original that really should be on Switch Online—and Capcom wanted in on the action. The result is this well-made RPG, which compensates for its lack of ambition with a high level of craftsmanship. Don’t expect Final Fantasy VI, but it’s a perfectly fine RPG evocative of the era in which it was born.


demonscrest_box.jpg9. Demon’s Crest

Ghosts ‘n Goblins is one of those games that seemingly exists on every single gaming system ever made, despite always being kind of terrible. Okay, many people love it, and it has made an indelible impact on the medium, but good luck actually enjoying this brutally tough game. Demon’s Crest, a slightly deeper spinoff for the Super Nintendo, is probably the best thing to come out of the almost 40 year history of Ghosts ‘n Goblins. It’s still a challenging side-scrolling platformer, but with a bit of RPG business tossed in, along with some Metroid-style “return to the scene of the crime” jive. It’s one of the deeper cuts on Nintendo Switch Online, but don’t sleep on it.


Harvest Moon8. Harvest Moon

The long-running farm-sim series debuted on the Super Nintendo, introducing many of the basic concepts and mechanics that would recur over its many, many sequels. Its influence continues to loom large over that genre, and without it we wouldn’t have the beloved modern hit Stardew Valley. It arrived late in the SNES’s lifetime, especially in America, where it first arrived after the release of the Nintendo 64. It’s worth playing today if you want to see where the franchise (which has since been renamed to Story of Seasons for boring copyright reasons) started, or if you just want to jump into some (generally) relaxing farm work in-between playing other games on your Switch.


donkey_kc_box.jpg7. Donkey Kong Country

Nintendo pumped these monkey games out on the SNES, releasing Donkey Kong Country in 1994 and then two sequels over the next two years. Only the first of Rare’s platformers are on Nintendo Switch Online, though, which is a smart call—they’re all pretty similar. The original’s still a tough, tricky run-and-jump game, with then-groundbreaking 3D graphics and a great musical score. You can see why this wound up being the second-best-selling game on the entire system.


supermarioworld2_yoshi_box.jpg6. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

This game’s absolutely gorgeous, with an art style that still stands out today. It’s less of a true sequel than a stealth pilot for a new gaming concept built around Yoshi. It’s like when a sitcom would introduce a new character and then have an episode entirely about them and their wacky family and then four months later suddenly they have their own show. Yoshi’s Island is the Just the Ten of Us of Nintendo games. That little bit of bait-and-switch might not rest well with those expecting a traditional Mario game, but this unique little number remains a true gem.


supermariokart_box.jpg5. Super Mario Kart

The first Mario Kart can be hard to go back to after all the additions and expansions of the last two decades. If you can look past what’s not here, you’ll find a compulsively playable competitive racing game that transcends mere nostalgia. Mario Kart won the checkered flag on its very first attempt, and only got better from there.


supermarioworld_box.png4. Super Mario World

In which the former Jumpman and notorious dinosaur abuser goes on his biggest adventure ever at the time. The flagship SNES game might not stack up to the near-perfection of Super Mario Bros. 3, but it’s an amazingly crafted delight with just the right amount of challenge.


Earthbound3. Earthbound

The history of Earthbound and the Mother series has been notoriously thorny here in America, but we now live in a time where anybody with a Switch and an online subscription can play it whenever they like. That’s truly some progress. Shigesato Itoi’s brilliant role-playing game showed that the genre could be about so much more than the fantasy and sci-fi elements that had largely defined it up to that point; it’s not just a fun, sprawling adventure, but a parody of American culture whose clever commentary and observations remain incisive today. The Switch might be the best possible home for it, as now you can take Earthbound on the road, while still marveling at its colorful, beautiful imagery on your TV set when you’re at home. If you’ve never played this one before, it justifies a Nintendo Switch Online subscription all on its own.


zelda_linktothepast_box.jpg2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Before Link went 3D on the Nintendo 64, he marched throughout Hyrule with a camera pointing down at him from above. A Link to the Past returned to that original perspective after the side-scrolling detour of Zelda II, while also introducing concepts that have recurred in almost every Zelda since, from parallel timelines / dimensions to the Master Sword itself. Many consider this Link’s greatest adventure, and it holds up better today than most of the 3D Zelda games.


supermetroid_box.jpg1. Super Metroid

The big theme with the Super Nintendo was that it did what the NES did but better. Super Metroid summarizes that more than any other single game. Metroid was a revelation in 1987, but 1994’s sequel remains the best example of how to improve an already great game in every possible way. Its drip-feed of progress and waves of initially unattainable goals mastered the balance between temptation and reward that drives all games. If you’ve never played it, it’s the best single reason to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online. You know, outside of playing games online, and whatnot.

Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.

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