Considered to be the greatest console of all time, the Super Nintendo was also heavily responsible for the maturation of the RPG genre. While the genre heavily struggled in its early years to get into the U.S. market, that just meant that Japan was able to better appreciate some of these legendary titles.
From cult-classics to one-and-done legends and even the starting point of major franchises, these are the 10 best JRPGs of the SNES era.
10 Soul Blazer
This action RPG had similarities to ActRaiser, but was a strong title nonetheless. Tasked with ridding the world of the evil Deathtoll and his minions, players must save the world one town at a time before a final showdown. After clearing an area and defeating the boss, the townspeople provide power ups and items to help progress through the later stages.
While the combat system isn’t as intense as some of the other entries and its overall presentation a bit basic, Soul Blazer was still a fun game to play and wasn't minimized for the perceived lack of variety.
9 Breath of Fire
Ryu’s first adventure is perhaps his best as the sometimes dragon seeks to rescue his kidnapped sister in the original Breath of Fire. With a great soundtrack and challenging battles as the game’s difficulty increases, Breath of Fire was a unique take on the traditional RPG formula and would spawn future sequels.
Breath of Fire was a hit on release and would stand out as the rare RPG effort from Capcom, and while the series has dropped off the map, the game remains a classic.
8 Secret of Evermore
Borrowing from the popular Mana series, Secret of Evermore featured a magic system where spells needed to be created from scratch, a vibrant set of characters and a memorable world rich with sci-fi overtones. Released late in the life cycle of the SNES, it is a visually impressive game as well.
Oddly enough, Secret of Evermore was developed by Square for release in North America and Europe, but the game’s planned release in Japan was cancelled.
7 Lufia II
A bit of Zelda and even a bit of Pokemon before its time, Lufia II was a fantastic RPG that offered more than the traditional RPG fare. Heavy on dungeon exploration and even allowing players to grow monsters to assist in battles, Lufia II was a unique experience that also had an underrated soundtrack.
This game wasn't a 40-hour soap opera and could be finished relatively quickly due to the nimble combat speed, which meant the game was to be played more than once.
6 Ogre Battle
This tactical RPG tasked players to build their parties and be alert for various combat situations. Ogre Battle is the kind of game that can be different every time it’s played with its heavy focus on customization and multiple endings based off of how battles progress.
Ogre Battle and its sequel Tactics Ogre both share the honor of being among the rarest cartridges to be found for collectors..
5 Seiken Densetsu 3
The third game of the Secret of Mana series was unfortunately never released in the US as the previous two were, which is a shame for the fact that Seiken Densetsu 3 was the most refined title of the trilogy. With six playable characters, multiplayer and some of the best graphics on the console, it was an experience fans of the Mana series could only enjoy overseas.
Fan translations made its way to the US years after release with the game finally being released stateside for the Switch as part of the Collection of Mana.
4 Final Fantasy VI
This is the last 2D Final Fantasy game and still a contender for the absolute best. Final Fantasy VI has a huge cast of characters including legendary villain Kefka, the best story of the early Final Fantasy games and features Nobuo Uematsu's finest work as series composer. With plenty of side quests and numerous ways to customize a party, there was no rush to finish this masterpiece.
Though Final Fantasy VII finally legitimized RPGs in North America and made them a blockbuster genre, it was VI that showed what the series was capable of at its best.
This offbeat cult classic pits a group of kids against an alien force with the fate of the world at stake. Combining a traditional sci-fi storyline with a heavy dose of humor, Earthbound was simply ahead of its time and only kept alive thanks to title character Ness’ inclusion in Super Smash Bros.
Earthbound is actually the second title in the Mother series and has such a loyal following that fans are fighting tooth-and-nail for Mother 3 to get a US release almost a decade later.
2 Chrono Trigger
Along with Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger was a true epic of the genre and a beloved experience that is universally regarded as one of the best games ever made. With a battle system that grants unique attacks based who is in a particular party and a story that has 12 endings, calling it a masterpiece does it a disservice.
Chrono Trigger would later serve as a template for next-gen powerhouse titles such as Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears and its spiritual sequel in Chrono Cross, but like the next title a proper sequel would never be released.
1 Super Mario RPG
On the shortlist of the best games to ever grace the SNES, Super Mario RPG has a solid case for taking the top spot. Putting Mario in a game with a proper story and respecting the legacy of the series to that point was a big gambled that paid off. Mario’s first foray into a genre that could not resonate with American consumers was a critical and commercial success and proved that not only could Super Mario work on anything, but RPGs were not just for Japan.
Still fondly remembered to this day, the legacy of Super Mario RPG would lead to the creation of the excellent Paper Mario series.