Gamer Koala

The Best RPGs for the Super Nintendo

The Super Nintendo (SNES) is truly an RPG goldmine that harkens back to the glory days of 16-bit pixel art. With a library bursting with timeless classics, the SNES remains a treasure trove for RPG enthusiasts. The Super Nintendo really did release hit after hit after hit.

Whether you play these games on the original system or pick up one of the many remasters for future platforms, we think all RPG lovers will find something special here. So, without further ado, let’s get into the countdown!

10. Breath of Fire II

Breath of Fire 2 screenshot from SNES

Breath of Fire II is a classic turn-based RPG set 500 years after the first Breath of Fire game. The turn-based combat is almost D&D like, with the characters’ agility scores determining the order in which selected actions occur. While there are random encounters in the game, there is a Monster Meter that lets you know how likely one is to happen.

You follow the adventures of young warrior Ryu (who just happens to share the same name as Ryu from the first game) as he seeks to uncover the mysteries of his world and his past. You’ll be joined along the way by many characters and can swap them in and out of your party of four. Each character also has a Personal Action that can be triggered outside of combat. This is usually to help you navigate the world, accessing new areas or destroying objects.

There’s even a housing system that allows the player to donate to carpenters and create dwellings for his companions. But to us, the coolest features is Ryu’s ability to transform into a dragon-like creature and release destruction upon his foes!

9. Illusion of Gaia

Illusion of Gaia

Illusion of Gaia is a lesser-known action RPG that featured some pretty unique gameplay ideas that turned the typical RPG system on its ear. For example, there are no experience points. Instead, the first time you clear a room you get a jewell which allows you to increase a stat. Monsters also occasionally drop golden spheres that add life points, and if you die with more than 100 life points collected, the death penalty is less severe. There is also no currency or equipment systems in the game. Despite all this, the systems do work well together and the game is still a blast to play.

You take on the role of Will, a boy with unique powers embarking on a journey to save the world from a mysterious comet. The play immerses you in real-time action and exploration. The three playable characters have unique abilities that evolve throughout the game.

One neat thing about Gaia’s setting is that it seems to take place in the real world. You’ll visit places like the Incan ruins and the Egyptian pyramids to pick up essential quest items, and hear about historical figures such as Christopher Columbus.

8. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

Lufia II

Lufia II is a gem that often goes unnoticed but deserves a place among the RPG greats. It’s actually a prequel to the original Lufia game and exceeds it in almost every way.

You play as Maxim, a hero on a quest to save the world from the Sinistrals, a group of malevolent beings. The gameplay involves turn-based combat, lots of puzzle-solving, and an innovative Capsule Monster system (an extra computer-controlled party member). You’ll wander the overland map seeking dungeons full of monsters to fight and puzzles to solve. The game also features unique transportation methods, including a boat/submarine and a blimp!

The game takes some notes from Zelda with the items you can collect, like the bow, bombs, and hookshot, which can only be used in dungeons. Unlike Final Fantasy, there are no random encounters. You can avoid monsters if you can get around them without touching them.

7. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG

Mario was clearly not content to remain a strict platformer series, and we are glad for it! Square developed this genre crossover, you can feel the Final Fantasy elements flowing through the game. The isometric point of view differed from the typical top-down RPG games of the time, allowing some fun platforming shenanigans to be included. Sorry, Mario, you’ll always be a platformer at heart!

This game takes the beloved plumber on an epic quest to rescue Princess Peach from the nefarious Smithy Gang. The play revolves around turn-based combat, timed attacks, and an engaging level-up system. You’ll start as Mario alone, but you’ll find help along the way. There are five total characters you can swap around in your party of three, each with unique abilities. You can even team up with Bowser!

While you can (and certainly should) play the new remake for Nintendo Switch released in 2023, we think the original retains enough charm and fun to strongly recommend checking out the original version.

6. EarthBound


EarthBound is an offbeat RPG that takes place in a quirky, modern-day world. Known as Mother 2: Gīgu no Gyakushū in Japan, the original Mother was unavailable in North America for decades. You can now play it as EarthBound Beginnings on the Nintendo Switch eShop.

In EarthBound, control Ness, a young boy with psychic abilities, as he embarks on a quest with Paula, Jeff, and Poo, to save the world from an alien invasion led by Giygas. The play involves turn-based combat, silly humor, and a unique setting that blends the every day with the bizarre.

And when we say silly humor, we mean it. The game was created as a parody, and there is plenty of goofy fun to enjoy. You’ll battle piles of vomit, walking nooses, taxi cabs, and more. The marketing in North America featured the tagline, “This Game Stinks.” We clearly disagree, however, since EarthBound is in our Top 5 picks for best SNES RPG!

5. Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana is a unique action RPG combining real-time combat and traditional RPG elements. It was released as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan, technically making it a sequel. The original Seiken Densetsu did come out in North America, but you would know it as Final Fantasy Adventure. It has been marketed as part of the Mana series ever since.

Featuring some of the brightest and most colorful 16-bit graphics of its era, Secret of Mana was also unique for its real-time combat. It features a power bar and the ability to pause combat to make decisions. And while most of its contemporary games were strictly single-player, SoM featured a fantastic cooperative multiplayer system that allowed little brothers and sisters to pop in and out of the game to fight alongside you anytime.

The game is set in a high fantasy world where the characters must stop an evil empire (shocking, I know!) from taking over the world using a flying fortress. There’s a bit of an Arthurian element featuring a sword in a stone and plenty of intrigue, betrayal, and fantastic creatures to battle.

4. Ultima: The False Prophet

Ultima 6
Origin Systems

Talk about a game that flew under the radar for the Super Nintendo. Ultima: The False Prophet is an incredibly faithful port of the same game released for PC, Ultima VI: The False Prophet.

You play the game as the Avatar, a character from the real world who occasionally crosses over into the world of Britannia (formerly known as Sosaria) via magical moongate, to help the land overcome threats from within and without. In Ultima VI, you are unexpectedly brought back to Britannia by the gargoyles of the underworld who prepare you as a sacrifice.

You are rescued from this threat by your companions from the earlier games, Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre. You then take up a quest from the ruler, Lord British, to rid the world of this gargoyle scourge. However, all is not what it seems, and you face a troubling dilemma when you find out what’s actually happening.

The biggest downside is that the game may be a little confusing for players who did not have the chance to experience some of the previous chapters. The graphics are charming, and the setting is very European compared to many of the JPRGs on this list. I think it’s an outstanding game, and despite the clunky menu system, it has actually become my preferred way to play Ultima VI despite the original PC release.

3. Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III in North America)

Final Fantasy VI
Square Enix

Of course, there is no conversation about the best RPGs for Super Nintendo without this legendary franchise coming up. Final Fantasy VI (released in the U.S. as Final Fantasy III) is a masterpiece in the world of RPGs. The game boasts an ensemble cast of 14 characters, each with their own unique abilities and stories, in a steampunk-inspired world.

Your quest is to stop the evil empire and a malevolent sorcerer from taking control of the world. The play immerses you in turn-based combat, character customization, and a narrative that pulls at your heartstrings. It deals with some heavy subject matter like chemical warfare, personal redemption, teen pregnancy, and more.

It was the first Final Fantasy not directed by legendary creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and was instead helmed by Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito. Despite the change-up, Final Fantasy VI stands the test of time as not only the best in the franchise for the SNES, but also one of my favorites from the whole franchise.

Read More: The Best NES Games Of All Time

2. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger
Square Enix

Chrono Trigger is often hailed as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and for good reason.

You play as Crono, a young adventurer who finds himself embroiled in a time-traveling epic to save the world from destruction. The play involves turn-based combat with unique dual and triple techs, character development, and decisions that influence multiple endings.

Chrono Trigger set itself apart from other RPGs with its deep and captivating story and multiple character endings. It also draws high praise for the innovative time-traveling mechanics that are seamlessly integrated into the gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past screenshot from SNES

While the Legend of Zelda series is sometimes classified as action-adventure, A Link to the Past embraced enough RPG elements for us to include it here. And honestly, it’s hard to put the perfection of this game into words. It was the best 2D Zelda ever created and the last for non-handheld consoles before Nintendo jumped into 3D with Ocarina of Time.

You play as Link, of course, who takes over his uncle’s quest to save Princess Zelda from the dark wizard Agahnim. But that’s just the beginning! You’ll also discover a darker side of Hyrule and eventually face off against the infamous Ganon.

The gameplay combines exploration, puzzle-solving, and action-based real-time combat. Compared to many of the turn-based RPGs at the time, the combat in A Link to the Past was where it truly continued to shine.