The Super Nintendo Entertainment System had some of the best survival games available in the 1990s. While these are nowhere near as graphic or intense as we expect today, they were masterpieces for their time. Even more remarkable is the fact that some of these games landed on the SNES at all, considering Nintendo’s stance on graphic games at the time.
There are so many notable titles that were perfected on the SNES, many of which got their start on the NES. But what is most impressive is just how well most of the games held up over the years. Despite the dated graphics and clunky gameplay, these games are all still a blast to play today.
#1: Super Castlevania IV
By the time Super Castlevania IV came out, the world was already well aware of what the series had to offer. But more importantly, the series was nearing perfection. The game is a 2D sidescrolling platformer, just like its predecessors. It also closely resembles the first game and could be considered a remake.
The additional buttons on the SNES’s controller allow for more complex gameplay and combat. Your main weapon is a whip which is used to take down monsters and to swing across gaps. The whip is also upgradeable as the game progresses.
There are also other items to collect throughout the game, which help by adding extra abilities and weapons. There are eleven stages in Super Castlevania IV, each of which has its own unique style and enemies.
It also fixes some of the wonkiness from the first games that made navigation kind of annoying. The graphics are really good for an early SNES game, and the gameplay is equally great. If you haven’t played a Castlevania game, don’t worry because the fourth one on the SNES is a great place to start.
#2: Demon’s Crest
Demon’s Crest is a spinoff to the popular classic, Ghosts ‘n Goblins. It is actually a sequel to a spinoff, but the premise is still the same. You play as Firebrand, a gargoyle and enemy from the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series. It is a 2D sidescroller that features mostly fighting elements but does contain some platforming as well.
Right off the bat, the game puts you up against a dragon that you must quickly defeat. While the game starts with a similar feel to Ghosts ‘n Goblins, it quickly grows into a game of its own.
Once the first level is complete, you get to see a map of the different worlds, which are all of the levels. There isn’t anything special about the map, but it does give you something to explore. There is also a town where you can make various purchases.
This adds a lot of depth to what would otherwise be an underwhelming spawning between levels. The game was poorly received at launch, in part because of its graphic nature. However, Demon’s Crest is a blast and has some great gameplay and graphics that you should definitely give a try.
#3: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Frankenstein is a basic 2D sidescrolling platformer. While there are many other games from the SNES era that are much better, few fit the bill for a survival game like Frankenstein does. However, not everything is perfect, and the game is largely remembered as a terrible take on the classic monster.
Nonetheless, the game closely follows the 1994 movie, as it is supposed to be a movie tie-in. That is part of the problem, since the movie wasn’t well received either.
In the game, you get to play as Frankenstein’s monster, which is being actively hunted by the local townspeople. They will do whatever it takes to kill you, using a range of weapons.
To combat them, you have a range of weapons that you can use to fight back. In addition, there are several levels to explore, which also feature a lot of platforming mechanics that you must also figure out.
But the most annoying part of the game has to be the lack of extra lives or the ability to respawn. This means you have to start at the beginning every time you die.
#4: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Zombies At My Neighbors is a great run-and-gun action survival game that is one of a kind. The graphics are very good, and you can tell it uses the power of the SNES well.
The game looks and plays like a campy horror movie. Even the box art is exactly what you would expect. You start by choosing between a male or female protagonist; each has its own unique style.
Then, you set off on a quest to free the town that is overrun with monsters. Each level is different than the other and features various places from around town. These include stores, malls, houses, and outdoor settings. As you fight your way through each level, you need to rescue neighbors that are spread throughout.
In order to proceed to the next level, you must save enough people. But you have to hurry because there is also a time limit, and monsters will continue eating the neighbors if you don’t save them fast enough. While Zombies Ate My Neighbors doesn’t look like most survival/ horror games, it still has a survival feel without being overly gory or scary.
#5: Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is a 2D sidescroller that sees the protagonist battling the undead. Many believe the game is too difficult, and they aren’t wrong. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is a great game, but many new gamers fail to get past the first level. Regardless, the game is excellent and a shining gem on the SNES, particularly in the survival genre.
While the game is a platformer on the surface, it has a lot of nuances that require a lot of patience to fully understand. For instance, you will often find yourself backtracking in order to get space from enemies. Therefore, you really need to approach the game from a puzzle-solving perspective.
- You're Arthur, the top swordsman in the land; you must rescue Princess Guinevere; hack and slash your way through all kinds of ghoulish beasts; watch out for the hex; level after level of challenging...
- Players: 1
- Controller: Gamepad
Regardless of how you approach the game, the end result will be a lot of dying. If you do decide to play it, be prepared to die a lot. Then, once you think you understand what’s going on, you move on to the next level, which turns out to be even harder than the last. However, Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is an extremely fun game once you’ve got the hang of it.
#6: Clock Tower
Clock Tower was released only on the SNES in Japan, but it was later ported to PlayStation 1 & 2, as well as PC. It made the list because it is considered one of, if not the best, survival/ horror game for the SNES. The game is a point-and-click adventure, so many people do feel that it plays better on a PC.
The biggest downside is that the cutscenes play out very slowly, although it isn’t a dealbreaker and the story really makes up for it. You play as a character who gets adopted by a family living in a clock tower. Then the siblings disappear, and you go off to find them.
The villain in Clock Tower may be one of the weirdest in a horror game, as it is literally a kid with a giant pair of scissors. The gameplay consists of running and hiding from the kid and searching for clues. Overall, the graphics are good and the game elicits a level of horror and intensity that is rarely seen in this era.
#7: Laplace no Ma
Laplace no Ma is probably the most horrifying game on this list. In Japan, the SNES received tons of survival horror games, but they aren’t as well received in the United States, so most of them never see a release here. Laplace no Ma is a rare exception, and it was originally released on the PC engine about eight years before its release on the SNES.
The game follows three kids who go missing while visiting a haunted house. You play either a male or female with a variety of careers to choose from when playing as either. Then, you get to pick a few people to take along with you on the journey. Each of the characters’ careers comes with its own abilities, which can help you along the way.
The game has a lot of dialog, but it is needed to help explain what is going on and what to do next. As your character progresses, you can level up. The turn-based gameplay does start to feel like a chore after a while. However, you do have the option to flee the mansion, which takes you back to town so you can get more supplies or prepare before reentering.