Retrogaming is a fun hobby that everyone should try. This isn’t the same as winning competitive MOBA games or popping virtual candies. Instead, retrogaming lets you shift your attention to the works of the past. It will let you see the immersive scale of games without the need for high-end graphics.
When it comes to retrogaming, the SNES is a DeLorean of memories, heart-rending stories, and even episodes of frustration. To avoid getting overwhelmed with SNES games, you can start with the most popular category – RPG.
Here are the best SNES RPGs that you can choose from:
It’s undeniable that Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is a better game than Lufia I. The story is gripping, and the combat system is satisfying enough. Even though it has many contenders, Lufia II managed to drive a wedge in the market and in the hearts of thousands of players worldwide.
There are lots of dungeons and puzzles to be solved in Lufia II. You won’t just grind until your heart withers because of boredom. Yes, you will still grind but the challenge will push you to the edge. The puzzles range from easy to difficult, so you won’t be overwhelmed.
In terms of combat, you need to utilize the IP system to deliver strong attacks against your enemies. Some equipment will help your characters gain IP faster, while others do not – except that they deal heavy damage from the get-go. This level of customization blends properly with a deep sense of strategy, and you should always try new approaches.
Strength: Nostalgic factor and an explosive, fun-inducing combat system
Weakness: Low quality environment visuals and monster sprites
Secret of Mana
Action adventure games have been a staple of the 16-bit gaming era. These games have strong RPG and customization elements but they’re not turn-based. Everything happens in real-time, so players need to think on their feet. One popular action adventure game is Secret of Mana.
Your goal in Secret of Mana is to uncover the secrets behind the Mana Sword and energize it by visiting different palaces all throughout the world. Just like in other RPGs, you will encounter different characters and enemies. You will also gain companions such as a girl and a sprite. These companions will help you in battle by casting healing spells and ‘nerfing’ enemies.
Perhaps the defining factor of Secret of Mana is the action bar mechanism. Take note that other games have also used this mechanism, albeit represented with a different style. It’s just that Secret of Mana’s action bar is easier to understand and use. You just need to time your attacks and let them charge at 100%. All of your weapons will grow through constant usage, and you can switch easily because of the ring menu system. But before you go around and hit monsters, always remember to study their behavior first. Otherwise, you might go down in just a few hits.
Strength: User-friendly action bar system that keeps you immersed and interested
Weakness: Slightly weaker storyline compared to other action adventure RPGs
Final Fantasy IV
The Final Fantasy Series is already considered a major part of gaming culture. A gamer who didn’t encounter any Final Fantasy title is probably living under a rock or virtually too young to play RPGs. In the sphere of SNES, Final Fantasy IV is a powerhouse. But don’t get carried away too soon – this powerhouse has created a ripple of division among SNES players.
For starters, many players hated the tedious grinding aspects of Final Fantasy IV. Some purists were also disappointed with the flow of the story. On the bright side, players admired the visuals and the iconic musical score. These players believed that grinding is just part of the progression or a hint of challenge.
Final Fantasy IV retained its standard turn-based RPG system. But the Active Time was introduced, forcing players to think hard and fast. If you’re slow, enemies will get to attack first, nullifying your strategies on a whim. You also have an arsenal of spells that can change the tides of battle with the right timing.
Strength: A great combination of challenge, discovery, and intense combat
Weakness: Weak story and poor character development
Turn-based RPGs are interesting because they allow you to come up of different strategies and tactics against many foes. As your party levels up, you will gain new things such as skills, feats, combos, and attribute points. Action-adventure RPGs, on the other hand, are all about quick thinking, reflexes, and surging forward without pause. If such factors matter to you, then you should try your hand at Terranigma.
Terranigma is a fast-paced game where your character unleashes numerous combos after pressing the action button continuously. Aside from that, you can even utilize directional buttons to make your attacks stronger. To support your journey, you can purchase different items and equipment, as well as Rings. These Rings contain spells that are useful against mobs of enemies and specific bosses. And of course, your main character will also level up.
Graphics-wise, Terranigma is ahead of its time. It utilizes depth perception, granting a realistic appearance for all assets involved. You will notice this improvement during boss battles. The musical soundtrack is also engaging – perfect for those difficult boss battles ahead.
Strength: Action-driven combat, interesting story, and excellent musical score
Weakness: Difficult bosses and enemies
Making RPGs with a modern setting is like a gamble. Why would players choose realistic RPGs if they want to escape the humdrum of everyday life? But then again, a few outliers can prove this notion wrong. Earthbound, for example, is a contemporary RPG that has an easy pacing and a rather unique combat system.
In Earthbound, you control a young boy named Ness (his name can be changed though) with a mission to find eight melodies and destroy a cosmic baddie known as Giygas. Throughout the adventure, you will encounter friends that will make your journey worthwhile. Most of the time, you must fight enemies but you have can try peaceful options in specific situations.
Earthbound’s musical score also hits a decent spot. The battle music will liven up the experience, and different neighbourhoods have separate music themes as well. If you want a relatively new RPG experience, Earthbound is the answer.
Strength: Unique RPG in a modern setting with a remarkable combat system
Weakness: Lackluster visuals that can throw off many unwary players
Breath of Fire
With a number of highly popular SNES RPGs in the market, Breath of Fire somehow struggled to reach the peak spot. However, popularity alone isn’t a deciding factor. Over time, Breath of Fire carved a niche of its own and gave way to an even better sequel. You can consider Breath of Fire as a gateway to 16-bit retrogaming.
In Breath of Fire, you take the role of a boy who needs to bring down a baddie and save the world. If you think that’s a cliché story, well, it is! But what the story lacks, the game makes up to its battle animations. Almost every battle is immersive because of numerous skill combinations. As a cherry topper, your party members can even use their skills outside battle, thus unlocking important areas necessary to advance the plot.
To fully enjoy Breath of Fire, you need to have a wider view of SNES gaming. Understand that SNES games come with little hurdles that can be easily dealt with. Otherwise, you’d end up comparing this title to other SNES RPG titans.
Strength: Immersive and notable battles
Weakness: Poor story and some translation problems
Considered as one of the hardest RPGs in the SNES system, 7th Saga is as old as it is brilliant. This game tells the story of seven different adventurers tasked to recover seven powerful runes. Each adventurer has his/her own abilities and stats, thus allowing diverse gameplay. Some of these adventurers will help you, while others will plot to kill you and steal any rune you’ve collected.
If you’re going to look at 7th Saga today, you might be disappointed with its graphics – unless you’re a retrogamer or someone who craves an immersive challenge. Most of the time, your character will walk over the map and everything will zoom in once you’ve encountered enemies.
7th Saga begins with a small ripple, and then it will change into a wave of nearly unfair difficulty. It’s also easier to say that 7th Saga is a meat grinder. You have to spend countless hours grinding to level up your character and party. Before playing this game, make sure that you’re ready for the commitment.
Strength: 7th Saga has a great challenge curve and an extensive selection of monsters to slay
Weakness: Apparently, the challenge curve as well – you need to grind a lot.
Bahamut Lagoon takes place in a world known as Orelus where people live in massive floating continents. Dragons are common because they’re often used as battle steeds or companions. The long era of peace ended when civil war broke out and the Granbelos Empire began its merciless advance. You take the role of Byuu, a protagonist who must save his homeland from the strife of war.
Throughout the course of the game, you will encounter numerous characters that can be a part of your retinue. In battle, you control the characters as well as their dragons. You don’t have to micromanage the dragons because they only have basic commands. The AI will do the rest.
Strategy is the meat of the game, and you can even utilize the environment to your advantage. Terrain can be set on fire or frozen, and enemies have weaknesses that you must exploit. Be careful – the enemies will exploit your squad’s weaknesses as well!
If Bahamut Lagoon is just a plain RPG game, it won’t be highly popular in Japan. There are lots of contenders, especially Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. But thankfully, the game introduced a unique game mechanic where you get to feed your army’s dragons and watch them grow. The dragons’ appearance and power will change depending on the items that you’ve fed them.
Overall, Bahamut Lagoon is decent enough to take 30+ hours of your gaming time. And even then, you will probably retry the game for a new approach and different class combinations!
Strength: Unique dragon-feeding mechanic and strategy-driven combat
Weakness: Somehow predictable storyline and no official English translation
Final Fantasy VI
Also known as Final Fantasy III, FFVI is a respectable throwback to the 16-bit era. It’s one of the best SNES RPGs that you really shouldn’t miss because of different factors. If you’re feeling nostalgic for 16-bit RPGs, FFVI will serve a nice platter and perhaps even more. The game retained the classic Final Fantasy touch – great story, intense combats, and consistent levelling progress.
In FFVI, you take the role of Terra Branford – a half-esper girl who was a slave to the Empire because of a mind-controlling device. As you embark on a special mission, you will eventually gain freedom and side with a rebel organization known as the Returners. From there, your real journey will begin. You will meet different characters and lots of battle encounters. Perhaps, too much battle encounters to begin with! Once your party is in a specific location, any step can lead to a fateful encounter. This is a well-known Final Fantasy standard that’s somehow revamped in FFVI.
Combat-wise, almost nothing is changed in FFVI. The formula is still the same but you will feel the excitement all the same. If you’re new to Final Fantasy, then FFVI’s combat system is a real treat. The game’s visual style is also ahead of its time, taking the caliber of Mode-7 to a different level. As you ride vehicles, you will notice some visual glitches but they’re tolerable.
Prepare to lose dozens of hours finishing FFVI. Whether you’re a completionist or a casual RPG player, the story will draw you in for a long time.
Strength: Great story, remarkable gameplay, and eye-catching graphics
Weakness: Unbalanced encounters and some graphical glitches while moving
Many players believe that Chrono Trigger is the best RPG ever made. Well, that statement is considered subjective but there are numerous proofs that pinpoint the game’s awesomeness. First, Chrono Trigger has a five-star storyline that can still hold strongly today. Only a handful of games can do that. Second, Chrono Trigger’s aesthetics emphasize the peak of Mode-7 and the fantastic balance of colors. And lastly, the game has a high-octane combat system that can keep anyone hooked for many hours.
In Chrono Trigger, you get to control a young protagonist named Crono. Your companions are Marle and Lucca, and they can aid you in battle and propel the story forward. Since time travel is a major plot device of the game, you will encounter many characters, enemies, and sticky situations. The story is captivating enough, especially for players who want to find rare secrets. There are multiple endings to the game, as well as additional scenarios.
Chrono Trigger’s combat system is similar to Active Battle Time albeit with a major tweak. You can utilize Crono’s Tech (kinda like abilities) and combine it with other characters’ Techs. This creates a devastating combo that can turn the odds of battle. But before you clear one area and leave monster corpses behind, you have the option to evade combat.
As one of the forerunners of SNES RPGs, Chrono Trigger’s influence is definitely here to stay. We recommend that you try it out before playing other RPGs.
Strength: Story, gameplay, musical score, and overall replayability
Weakness: The game can be challenging for first-time SNES RPG players
The best SNES RPGs will keep you entertained for dozens of hours, and you will now see why nostalgia is a strong factor in the retrogaming community!
A Quick Recap of the best SNES RPGs:
1. Lufia II
2. Secret of Mana
3. Final Fantasy IV
6. Breath of Fire
7. 7th Saga
8. Bahamut Lagoon
9. Final Fantasy VI
10. Chrono Trigger