The 7 Absolute Best SNES Platformers of All Time

Nintendo SNES

The 7 Absolute Best SNES Platformers of All Time

Known for its large game library of RPGs and action games, the SNES came out in 1991 and was almost instantly a commercial success. Eventually outselling its rival, the Sega Genesis, the SNES is considered one of the greatest video game consoles of all time and certainly helped define the 16-bit era. While it did have competition from NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 as well, only the Genesis came close to the SNES’ success.

The Super Mario series, in particular, helped to popularize the SNES, while the Sonic the Hedgehog series, which debuted on the Genesis, was its main contender. With that said, the Genesis still brought some more unique titles unavailable to SNES owners. The SNES was more expensive than the Genesis, but due to its impressive game collection and graphics, it still performed better. When considering the best SNES platformers on offer, there’s certainly a dizzying number of games to choose from.

The action genre actually consists of a wide variety of games, such as shooters, beat-em-ups, and platformers. In platform games, the objective is usually to reach the end of a stage by navigating past various obstacles and platforms of different heights, sometimes destroying enemies along the way. Unlike shooter games, though, the emphasis is on the movement of the character. There are so many platformers to choose from on the SNES that it would take an almost impossibly long time to complete them all, so we’re going to do some of the legwork for you and round up the best titles to play.

Let’s dive right in!

#7: Kirby Super Star

The 1996 release of Kirby Super Star helped to cement the Kirby series’ place in the video game arena, as it features a remake of the first Kirby game as well as many additional levels and even some minigames. 

Aside from the remake, there are several games within this game, usually consisting of linear levels and a boss to defeat. These include Dyna Blade, Kirby’s famous nemeses, Meta Knight and King Dedede, and even a rather creepy clown-like entity known as Marx. The game is notable for its various gameplay styles; there is a racing game where Kirby competes with King Dedede and a cave exploration game where treasures can be collected for another level of satisfaction. Kirby retains his classic abilities like flying and swallowing enemies, which grants him the enemy’s abilities and even the capability to create a secondary character that can be controlled by a second player, leading to a lot of cooperative fun.

Receiving a perfect score from GamePro and near-perfect scores from many other publications, Kirby Super Star is a standout for the SNES and easily one of the best in the Kirby series overall. The Metroid-esque gameplay of the cave stages is a great addition, and the two-player mode offers hours of memorable content. The game gives a lot of value for such an old title, and Kirby fans in particular will love this title a lot. Kirby Super Star is definitely one of the best SNES platformers ever released.

Kirby Super Star SNES
Discover why Kirby Super Star is such a classic!
Rockman X (aka Mega Man X) Super Famicom (Super NES Japanese Import)
  • Japanese version of Megaman X
  • No language barrier-pick up and play
  • Super Famicom cartridge
  • Expansive game!
  • Super Nintendo (SNES) game
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11/26/2023 03:07 pm GMT

Although the gameplay is not too different from the main Mega Man series, emMega Man X/em did offer a slightly different experience to gamers.

The title came out in 1993 and started the spin-off emMega Man X/em series. Set long into the future of the Mega Man games, X is another robot created by Dr. Light, but with the ability to think and feel, as well as make his own decisions. Other robots, known as Reploids, were manufactured to also have free will much like X, but some of these have developed malicious intent, and are therefore known as Mavericks. X decides to become a Maverick Hunter, which kicks off the events of the game.

A new addition to the gameplay is the armor upgrades available to X, which enhance his abilities like wall scaling and dashing along the ground. Like the Mega Man games, the initial stages can be completed in any order, with a boss Maverick being faced at the end who gives a special skill to X upon defeat. While the stages can be completed how the player likes, the bosses each have a weakness to one of the other boss’ skills, and some hazardous environmental effects are removed by defeating specific bosses, so there is some method to the madness when considering which level to beat next. This adds some interesting options and replayability to the game.

Helping to refresh the Mega Man series as it moved from the NES to the SNES, emMega Man X/em was highly rated for its balanced gameplay as well as its impressive graphics and exciting soundtrack. Considered the 8th best SNES game by both ScrewAttack and GamesRadar, there is a lot to enjoy within this game, especially for fans of the Mega Man series.

As one of the best SNES platformers, Mega Man X is hard to forget. Find out why by picking up a copy on Amazon here!

mega man x
Love a great soundtrack? So do we!
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11/26/2023 05:37 pm GMT

This entry in the Castlevania series was originally released in 1991, but many re-releases have come out since. The story of emSuper Castlevania IV/em is kept rather simple, with the player controlling Simon Belmont as he fights his way through 11 levels, finishing with battling against Dracula himself.

While the player starts the game with 5 lives, these are lost if the player falls down a hole, has their health reduced to zero, or doesn’t finish a level within the given time limit, adding a certain intensity to the gameplay. Health can be restored though, through picking up food items or completing a stage by defeating the boss. The iconic whip is used as the main weapon, with upgrades to its power and range being available. Secondary weapons can also be picked up, such as an axe, dagger, and even a watch that temporarily stops time. These consume “hearts,” which are dropped from enemies and collected by destroying candles. Simon can jump as well as crouch, which is necessary for hitting some enemies.

The game was acclaimed by critics on release, with the music and graphics receiving particular praise from Nintendo Power. Often listed as one of the greatest video games of all time, the game separates itself from other platformers of the time through its mature narrative and challenging difficulty. Being one of the best SNES platformers on offer, Super Castlevania IV will delight long-time Castlevania fans and SNES fans alike.

You can find your own copy on Amazon here.

super castlevania iv
Think you have what it takes to defeat Dracula in this classic?
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
  • Single-player game pits you in battle against Kaptain K. Rool and his army of Kremlings, who have kidnapped Kong
  • Advanced Computer Modeling (ACM) graphics are specially optimized for Game Boy
  • It's up to Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong to rescue their kidnapped pal
  • Over 40 levels, each filled with special traps, hidden items, and dastardly Kremlings
  • Second installment of Donkey Kong Country 2
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11/26/2023 04:07 am GMT

emDonkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest/em was the second in the Donkey Kong Country series, sitting between Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!

Released in 1995, the antagonist is the same as the first game, King K Rool, but this time he has kidnapped Donkey Kong who must be rescued by Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong.

As well as the two protagonists, several others in the Kong family make an appearance. As such, Cranky Kong offers advice as well as game world secrets, Wrinkly Kong also gives guidance, Swanky Kong runs a quiz where players can earn extra lives and Funky Kong operates an airplane that can transport players between worlds that have already been completed. Animal companions also return to this game, giving the player a hand in navigating the levels by allowing special abilities to be used, like jumping extremely high, flying, or charging at enemies.

The gameplay is very similar to the first game, where the playable characters have different attributes; Dixie can jump higher than Diddy and glide with her hair, while Diddy is faster and more agile when running. The end of each world brings a boss that must be defeated, similar to many platformers.

Even though the original Donkey Kong Country received widespread acclaim and set a new precedent for the series, the sequel essentially topped this, and demand was higher than supply on the release of the game. Diddy’s Kong Quest was the second-best-selling game of 1995 and was praised for the length of its story and smoothly animated graphics. In an odd case where the sequel is arguably better than the original, Donkey Kong Country 2 has a lot to offer to retro gamers and must be considered among the best SNES platformers available.

Grab it from Amazon right here!

donkey kong country 2 diddy's kong quest snes
Diddy’s Kong Quest is a fan-favorite for a reason!
Cool Graphics
Super Metroid (Renewed)
  • Authentic Super Metroid
  • Does not come with original case or manuals. Cartridge only
  • Cartridge and label are in nice condition
  • Fully tested and guaranteed
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11/26/2023 05:57 pm GMT

emSuper Metroid/em, the 1994 entry to the Metroid series, follows the protagonist Samus Aran, this time revolving around her bringing the last Metroid to her space colony to be studied. However, she soon finds the scientists all dead, and the Metroid has been stolen by Ridley, a dragon-like extraterrestrial who is the leader of the Space Pirates. Samus follows Ridley to the planet Zebes, where most of the game takes place.

Adding some new features to the previous games such as a map that automatically fills in and the ability to shoot in all directions, the gameplay retains the elements common to the Metroid series. Exploration of the planet is largely open-ended, but certain areas are only accessible after acquiring specific power-ups. As well as crouching, running, and jumping, Samus can also scale walls and eventually use her famous Morph ball, where she curls into a ball and rolls, allowing her to fit into confined spaces. The new inventory screen also allows Samus to use different weapons and skills at will. While exploration can be enjoyed at your own pace, the game is notable for only giving the best ending when the player completes it in under 3 hours.

The game lived up to everyone’s expectations and then some, being given critical acclaim by nearly all critics. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave Super Metroid its Game of the Month award, and Nintendo Power said that it may well be the “best action adventure game ever.” While some criticized its relatively short length, the game packs in a lot of exciting gameplay and is a very memorable entry within the Metroid series. Even those unfamiliar with Samus Aran should give this title a go since it’s often considered one of the best SNES platformers.

You can find it for yourself on Amazon here.

super metroid snes
Super Metroid is considered to be one of the best platformers ever.
Our Pick
Super Mario World (Renewed)
  • Help our heroes Mario and Luigi save Dinosaur Land from the villainous Bowser
  • Classic 2D action-adventure platformer
  • Released for SNES in 1990
  • Has a number of hidden boards and levels for high replayability
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11/27/2023 09:07 am GMT

Released in 1991, emSuper Mario World/em set new standards for the series. Players can choose from either Mario or Luigi as the playable character, and make use of Yoshi throughout the game, in his first appearance in the series.

The story follows the ever-so-familiar plot of rescuing Princess Peach (known as Princess Toadstool in this game) from Bowser, who attempts to stop Mario and Luigi along the way with his minions, known as Koopalings.

The game progresses mostly in a linear fashion, with one world having to be cleared before the next, culminating in castles where Koopalings are defeated to complete the world. Bowser is encountered in the final castle, unsurprisingly. Players move through stages by running, jumping, or swimming, and are aided by power-ups like the Fire Flower, Cape Feather, and Super Mushrooms. Yoshi allows the player to use abilities such as shooting fireballs and flying, depending on which type of Koopa is eaten by him. The game is notable for including some alternate routes; if special keys are obtained during particular levels, Star Road routes can be unlocked which allows for quicker completion.

When thinking of the Mario series, many consider Super Mario World to be one of the best games ever made, let alone a standout in the series. The replay value and visuals especially received universal acclaim; AllGame and GameSpot praised the game’s characters and animations as highlights, while Nintendo Life claimed Super Mario World to be the “graphical holy grail” that set the standard for retro games.

As one of the best SNES platformers and a timeless entry for the series, retro gamers will not regret picking up a copy from Amazon here.

super mario world snes
Discover one of the best Mario games in existence!
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11/26/2023 05:57 pm GMT

The 1995 release of emYoshi's Island/em brought a new experience to the Super Mario series, with Yoshi being the primary protagonist. Following Yoshi and baby Mario on a quest to rescue baby Luigi from Bowser’s clutches, Yoshi journeys across Yoshi Island, visiting various locales and defeating Bowser’s minions along the way.

Rather than featuring the traditional Mario power-ups, Yoshi’s Island involves some abilities that are unique to Yoshi, such as swallowing enemies, producing eggs that can be bounced off walls and damage enemies, and the ability to hover through the air for a limited time. The player loses a life when baby Mario becomes separated from Yoshi for a certain amount of time after Yoshi is hit by an enemy; this mechanic was different from previous games and brought a welcome change to the gaming experience.

The levels progress in quite a typical Mario fashion, with the goal being to reach the end of the stage while collecting stars, flowers, and red coins. If a perfect score is achieved, Yoshi is rewarded with a Special Star, up to a maximum of 6 throughout the game, which gives access to secret levels in each world.

The game was essentially considered excellent by many publications, and to have stood the test of time very well. Nintendo Power thought Yoshi’s Island was “one of the biggest, most beautiful games ever made” at the time of its release, and many gamers consider it one of the best SNES platformers to this day.

Definitely grab a copy if you’re a fan of the console or the Mario series from Amazon here.

super mario world 2 yoshi's island
You won’t regret grabbing a copy of this title!

Frequently Asked Questions

When did the SNES come out?

The SNES was released in America in August 1991.

What was the first platformer released for the SNES?

The first SNES platformer was Super Mario World, which was released in August 1991.

What was the last SNES platformer released?

The last platformer on the SNES was Kirby’s Dream Land 3, which came out in November 1997.

Which SNES platformer was the best?

It’s hard to say since SNES platformers are of such a quality and quantity it would be a mammoth task to attempt to play through them all. But with that said, its contributions to the Kirby, Mario, Metroid, and Donkey Kong series are excellent choices, and fans of the Mega Man series will thoroughly enjoy the Mega Man X series. Fans of Star Wars should definitely try out Super Star Wars, while those who enjoy a prehistoric setting should check out Joe & Mac.

Which SNES platformer sold the most units?

The best-selling SNES platformer was Super Mario World, which sold an impressive 20.61 million units.

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