15 Best SNES JRPGs


If you're looking for great JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games), then look no further than the Super Nintendo. The best SNES JRPGs aren't just great for role-playing games, they are all-time great games – period.

Celebrated titles like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound are still hailed by RPG critics and fans alike to this day. You'll find many of the best SNES JRPGs not only on lists of the best Nintendo games of all time but also just lists of the best video games of all time. And many of these fantastic JRPGs still hold up today. Suffice it to say, many of these are quintessential must-plays.

Please note that this list only includes JRPGs that were officially released in English. There were some great JRPG titles that never made it outside of Japan, but as a recommendation list, we decided not to include them here.

The 15 Best SNES JRPGs:

1. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger
  • GameRankings Score: 95.64%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “The millennium. A portal is opened. The chain of time is broken. A young man is transported into the past, altering the course of history and the outcome of the future. He has to find his way home, but first, he must travel to the outer edges of time to repair the world's chronology. On the way, he encounters strange friends and foes, utilizes incredible devices and vehicles, and penetrates and neutralizes the fortresses of the past, present, and future. A paradox has been created. If he does not restore the order of time, nothing will ever be the same. He is the one who will become a hero. He is Crono.”

What The Critics Say: “Chrono Trigger is one of the best video games ever made. A universally cherished role-playing game… ” – IGN

2. Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III
  • GameRankings Score: 93.96%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “Ages ago, evil beings created powerful creatures called Espers, and unleashed them against each other. The resulting battles left their world a smoldering rubble. Legend has it, the Espers destroyed themselves and most of humanity. Magic disappeared forever. Centuries have passed and a rational world now exists with Espers living only in myths, until one frozen solid since the ancient wars is unearthed. Suddenly, there are reports of magical attacks on civilians. Imperial Commandos launch raids using magic-powered MagiTek weapons. Magic is obviously alive and the world is in danger again. Who or what is behind the rediscovery and redeployment of this legendary power? What chaotic plans exist that will wreak havoc on this orderly world?”

What The Critics Say: “To say that Final Fantasy VI is rivaled by any other RPG of its time, with the possible exception of Chrono Trigger, would be doing it a grave injustice. It brought more heart and love of making the game forward than the huge majority of even recent RPGs, and that love showed through in an amazing way. So, if you're in the mood for a well-told story, and aren't firmly rooted in our current new-school of titles, then wander back to the SNES and play one of the best RPGs of all time.” – RPGamer

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the fact that some of the Final Fantasy titles weren't initially localized in the west, Final Fantasy VI was originally released as Final Fantasy III in North America.

3. Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars
  • GameRankings Score: 89.12%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “Mario returns in this incredible new role-playing adventure! His latest rival is Smithy, a menacing creature who causes fear and treachery in the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario must recover seven stars and repair the Star Road before he can make his way to Bowser's castle for a final confrontation with Smithy. Powerful weapons, sinister spells, and other useful items help Mario to complete his harrowing journey. New friends and old allies support him along the way. Even Bowser lends a hand!”

What The Critics Say: “Whether you're an RPG fan or not, you really owe it to yourself to give this legendary RPG classic a try. Who would have thought that putting Mario into a traditional RPG setting would end up working quite so well? As good as Super Mario RPG was back when it was first released, the game only seems to have gotten even better over time and is a true testament to what Square and Nintendo were able to accomplish with this absolutely amazing and timeless RPG classic.” – Nintendo Life

4. Secret Of Mana

Secret Of Mana
  • GameRankings Score: 87.28%
  • Genre: Action RPG
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Description: “There is one force in the universe that keeps good and evil in perfect balance. It is called the tree of Mana. But a magic sword has tricked a young warrior into upsetting the balance, spreading evil throughout the land. Thus the warrior must undertake a dangerous journey to find the seeds of the Mana tree which has been hidden for centuries. Only then can perfect harmony be restored. In this incredible adventure, things are not as they seem. It's a world turned upside down that you must help the warrior make right. And the only way to succeed is to solve the Secret of Mana.”

What The Critics Say: “Secret of Mana is one of the SNES role-playing masterpieces crafted by the creative minds at Squaresoft in the early '90s. But unlike its 16-bit contemporaries Final Fantasy III and Chrono TriggerSecret of Mana is an active-time RPG – its battles take place in real-time, more like a Legend of Zelda game, as opposed to the turn-based, menu-driven systems seen in those other Square classics. Its unique battle system is one of the factors that made it so memorable – one of the reasons it's still recognized today as one of the best games ever made. And another is that you don't have to play it alone.” – IGN

5. EarthBound

  • GameRankings Score: 83.33%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “Intergalactic terror strikes the small town of Onett as a blazing extraterrestrial object crashes in the night! The earth now faces imminent destruction by the universal evil threat known as Giygas! Armed with a cracked baseball bat, a cookie and an ATM card, a courageous boy named Ness vows to save the planet from hideous destruction. He must first find his heroic companions, Paula, Jeff, and Poo. Will Ness succeed in his attempts to ambush countless frightening monsters as he travels? The ultimate test lies in the impending encounter with the all-powerful Giygas!”

What The Critics Say: “EarthBound succeeds at not only being one of the most unique and refreshing RPG experiences ever created but also one of the most epic and entertaining as well. Combining classic RPG gameplay elements with a heart-warming modern spin, the game somehow feels familiar yet strange all at the same time. With a peerless visual style, soundtrack and storyline, playing EarthBound is like revisiting a vivid childhood memory of fun and adventure. You can't repeat the past, but you can certainly revisit it.” – Nintendo Life

6. Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II
  • GameRankings Score: 87.04%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “In the kingdom of Baron, powerful airships rule the skies. At the head of this elite fighting force is Cecil, Captain of the Red Wings, As our adventure begins, Cecil and his squadron are ordered to steal a powerful crystal from a rival kingdom. Upon their return, Cecil questions the King's orders and is stripped of his command. To prove his loyalty, he must slay a dreadful monster and deliver a mysterious package to a neighboring town. But when the package explodes, destroying everyone, Cecil and his friend Kain vow to fight the King's dark forces. Will you be able to save the world from their evil plan to control the crystals? Get ready for the most challenging role-playing adventure ever.”

What The Critics Say: “Yes, Final Fantasy II is beginning to show its age, which is understandable given that the game is approaching 20 years old, not to mention the fact that console RPGs have come a long way in that time. There's still something quite charming and engaging about the classic, a testament to its staying power, and any RPG fan who might have missed out on this legendary title need only give the game a try to see what all the fuss is about.” – Nintendo Life

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the fact that some Final Fantasy titles weren't initially localized in the west, Final Fantasy IV was originally released as Final Fantasy II in North America.

7. Soul Blazer

Soul Blazer
  • GameRankings Score: 85.58%
  • Genre: Action RPG
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Description: “Money… The root of all evil. King Magridd sold out. Obsessed with the desire for wealth, he cut a dastardly deal with the ruler of evil. Now the Freil Empire is in shambles and you are chosen to save it. Free the kingdom's captive souls. Teach the King a thing or two about integrity. Rescue a beautiful maiden. Liberate an imprisoned inventory. You'll boldly traverse the six complex stages in this action-RPG. An array of weapons, armor, and magic are at your disposal. After you revive the kingdom, you will confront Deathtoll. Then, make him pay… “

What The Critics Say: “Soul Blazer is a fun adventure that should appeal to any fans of the adventure RPG genre, particularly fans of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Actraiser. If you are in the mood for a classic 2-D adventure, give Soul Blazer a try.” – RPGFan

8. Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen

Ogre Battle: The March Of The Black Queen
  • GameRankings Score: 83.61%
  • Genre: Tactical RPG / Real-Time Strategy
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Description: “It's been nearly a quarter of a century since the Zetegenian Empire first conquered the Kingdoms of Zenobia with a wrath of fear and bloodshed. You are the leader of a band of rebels who have fought to preserve the last shred of honor in this desperate time of treachery. This sets the somber scene for Ogre Battle, the first in the superb line of fantasy, roleplaying and simulation sagas from Enix. Manage the ranks of a full-blown rebel army complete with hundreds of characters, magic items, weapons, and mystical Tarot cards. You must succeed in ousting the evil usurpers, as your fate, and that of the entire population depends on it!”

What The Critics Say: “If you're at all a fan of strategy titles like Fire EmblemShining ForceAdvance Wars or any modern game with the word ‘Tactics' in its title, you owe it to yourself to check out one of the rarest and most respected entries into the genre from the 16-bit generation.” – IGN

9. Lufia II: Rise Of The Sinistrals

Lufia II: Rise Of The Sinistrals
  • GameRankings Score: 80%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “This exciting sequel to the Lufian legend pits monster hunter Maxim and six adventuring companions against the sinister Sinistrals. The story develops into a complex maze, challenging you with big battles, puzzles and loads of surprises. You can even grow your own monsters! You will enjoy countless hours on a fantastic journey in the world of Lufia!”

What The Critics Say: “Lufia II is easily one of the top tier RPGs for the Super Nintendo console and a game that is challenging, humorous, and an overall joy to play. When you combine the game's unique visual stylings, the efficient turn-based combat system, and the beautifully orchestrated soundtrack, you get one absolutely unforgettable RPG experience. Before we all got spoiled with the full-motion video and millions of polygons per second of today's epic RPGs, we had games like Lufia II that had a lot more to them than flashy visual effects and voice-overs. The Super Nintendo is widely considered to be an RPG fan's dream console and with games like Lufia II, it's easy to understand why.” – Nintendo Life

10. Illusion Of Gaia

Illusion Of Gaia
  • GameRankings Score: 80.17%
  • Genre: Action RPG
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Description: “Journey into the dark side of an ancient civilization. Radiating an ominous light in its path, the Chaos Comet threatens the existence of the planet. Battles erupt and a tentative peace is returned to the lands. Danger lurks as the Chaos Comet orbits and dreadful beasts lie awaiting. In the Age of Exploration, a boy named Will is born. Tragedy strikes during an expedition to the Tower of Babel separating Will from his father. Telekinetic forces awaken as Will returns to South Cape. Armed with his transformation abilities of two great warriors, Will must save the planet. Gaia, Will's guiding spirit bestows magical powers and advice along his journey. With the help of his friends, Will must battle relentless enemies and solve the puzzles of the ancient ruins. Patience and knowledge are essential to reunite this father and son.”

What The Critics Say: “Illusion of Gaia is a good game that borders on greatness. The battle system is very good, the story is substantial for an action RPG, and even the visuals and music are quite good.” – RPGamer

11. Secret Of Evermore

Secret Of Evermore
  • GameRankings Score: 81.14%
  • Genre: Action RPG
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Description: “In Dr. Sidney Ruffleberg's old, decaying mansion, a boy and his dog stumble upon a mysterious machine. By sheer accident, they are propelled into Evermore, a one-time utopia that now has become a confounding and deadly world. A world of prehistoric jungles, ancient civilizations, medieval kingdoms, and futuristic cities. During his odyssey, the boy must master a variety of weapons, learn to harness the forces of alchemy and make powerful allies to battle Evermore's diabolical monsters. What's more, his dog masters shape-changing to aid the quest. But even if they can muster enough skill and courage, even if they can uncover the mysterious clues, they can only find their way home by discovering the Secret of Evermore.”

What The Critics Say: “The high level of difficulty at times might turn some gamers off, but if you've got the mettle to stick it out, you'll find that the quest is one well worth experiencing. There will always be RPG fans who resent the fact that gaming audiences outside of Japan received this game instead of the true sequel to Secret of Mana, but those who can get past that will find a very enjoyable action RPG experience that should challenge even the most seasoned fans of the genre. It goes without saying that if you enjoyed Secret of Mana, you'll likely find a lot to like with Secret of Evermore as it's very similar in style and presentation, not to mention fun factor.” – Nintendo Life

12. Breath Of Fire II

Breath Of Fire II
  • GameRankings Score: 76.25%
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
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Description: “The incredible sequel to the best-selling RPG hit Breath of Fire is here! You are the last member of the Dragon clan, fighting to rid the world of a growing evil. A cast of unusual and exciting companions joins you in your adventures across a wondrous land full of magic and mystery. You'll find strange mystic items, memorable monsters, and exotic locations in your quest to conquer evil. There's strategy and spellcasting galore in the hours of compelling action and adventure that awaits you. Breath of Fire II is the ultimate in RPG excitement!”

What The Critics Say: “Overall, Breath of Fire II is a solid, enjoyable RPG experience that earns just a little more distinction by the fact that it's arrived with few other competitors when it originally saw release. Though it's not a role-playing masterpiece on the level of Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire II is still a game that fans of those more notable titles would enjoy.” – IGN

13. Terranigma

  • GameRankings Score: 74.14%
  • Genre: Action RPG
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Description: “A boy's curiosity triggers events that leads to the resurrection of life to this planet. In the distant past, a calamitous struggle between light and dark took place on this planet. The clash of the two opposing powers scoured the planet's surface entirely of life, and those two forces fell into a deep sleep… In the world on the inside of the planet, there exists just one small village of Crysta. Ark, a mischievous teenage boy, somehow causes a crisis in the village that makes him necessary to leave. His trip to save his fellow villagers eventually becomes a journey across time to resurrect the planet. On his epic journey, Ark must resurrect continents, revive all forms of life, and re-establish civilization. What fate awaits Ark at the end of his journey?”

What The Critics Say: “The controls are simple and convenient and are easy to master… Overall, Terranigma is an awesome game by Enix and is definitely worth the trouble to look for. The game has its fair share of secrets and characters to keep even the most hardened RPG player engrossed for a long time.” – RPGFan

EDITOR'S NOTE: Terranigma was never officially released in North America. Therefore the only way to play a legitimate copy in English is to obtain a PAL copy – and with SNES consoles being region-locked, a PAL system is also required.

14. The Twisted Tales Of Spike McFang

The Twisted Tales Of Spike McFang
  • GameRankings Score: 78.33%
  • Genre: Action RPG
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Description: “Can Spike McFang, junior magician and vampire in training, rescue his island kingdom from the evil hands of Von Hesler? Help Spike use his magical powers to conquer the sinister leaders of 9 island areas and restore his father, Dracuman, to power. Spike's weapons? A magical hat and cape that spin at high speeds. Sure, they're unusual, but you have to get creative when you're facing killer garlic and zombies! Along the way, Spike will need to find plenty of gold and magic cards to keep going, so keep your eyes peeled. It's Spike's first chance to test his skills in real action!”

What The Critics Say: “When I first saw this game, I thought it would be an Action Earthbound, but it was honestly much different. The outer wackiness is still there, but the insane amount of variety is gone. Spike McFang was made for a younger audience, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it.” – RPGFan

15. Arcana

  • GameRankings Score: 76%
  • Genre: Dungeon Crawler / RPG
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Description: “The art of the Card Masters has gradually died out. None of the young people want to learn the ancient system of casting spells and calling up spirits using the cards. But an evil conspiracy has taken hold of the kingdom. Rooks, descended from the last of the true Card Masters, is recruited to overthrow the sinister regime. Relying on what little he knows of the ancient art, learning along the way, trusting no one. Rooks sets out on a journey to restore order and save his homeland. Only a Card Master can do it.”

What The Critics Say: “While it's unlikely to be considered as one of the format's finest RPG experiences, Arcana is unquestionably worthy of investigation if you're a fan of the genre but crave something a little more unique than the norm. Fans of Shining in the Darkness are likely to view the game as shameless plagiarism, but even they should be willing to admit that HAL's effort manages to outperform Sega's original in practically every department – although the game can be unduly harsh on the player at times.” – Nintendo Life

Honorable Mentions

That's our list, but there are still some JRPGs on the SNES that are worth picking up.

These are just another handful of quality recommendations – if interested, click the links to see pricing at eBay:

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