The Super Nintendo is one of the greatest video game consoles of all time, if not the hardest, but some of its titles can be profoundly difficult for modern or younger gamers to revisit. The gaming landscape has changed so much since the fourth generation of gaming that the fact that games were more often than not hard by default can come as a bit of a shock.
It can also be overwhelming, as it potentially means players are locked out of dozens of games due to their skill level. But always remember that skill can be built, and learning how to play a game is just as much a part of the experience. It might result in immediate and frequent deaths, but sticking it out with these games reveals some of the most skill-based titles in the SNES library.
10 Super Castlevania IV
Of all the titles featured on this list, Super Castlevania IV is the easiest to actually sit down and finish. It’s a forgiving game with an incredibly generous continue system and mechanics that can make competent players outright overpowered. That said, reaching that point requires skill, patience, and mechanical mastery.
The whip is tricky to get used to, as holding the attack button too long activates the flail, ensuring that whip presses need to be precise and true with no error. Not just that, Super Castlevania IV is still hard even with continues. Virtually every stage after the fifth is bound to kill fresh players at least once–to say nothing of the endgame boss rush and New Game Plus.
9 Super Mario Kart
It’s easy to take for granted just how easy modern Mario Kart is. Go revisit Super Mario Kart and see just how much the franchise has evolved since 1992. While a game like Super Mario Kart should suggest that it’d be accessible for all audiences, it’s one of the most mechanically nuanced titles on the Super Nintendo.
Between drifting, hopping, maintaining speed, and generally just avoiding the game’s aggressive CPUs, Super Mario Kart demands complete mastery should players even think about challenging 150cc. This is a game so hard, even longtime fans of the series never manage to do better than 100cc.
8 Super R-Type
Super R-Type is easily the most frustrating game on this list. While other titles might be much harder, Super R-Type requires that players operate on another level entirely. Devoid of any checkpoints whatsoever and full of slowdown, Super R-Type is a Super Nintendo game that only veterans of the genre will be able to get through.
In spite of its glaring flaws, however, it is a good game–for those that have the patience to actually memorize patterns and learn how to play. It’s incredibly demanding, and a good chunk of game time will be spent just surviving the beginning, but Super R-Type can be rewarding for those masochist gamers.
Half side scroller action RPG, half life simulator, ActRaiser is one of many games Quintet released for the SNES and one of their harder titles. While ActRaiser II is tougher and requires more skill, it isn’t as well designed and omits the life simulator aspects entirely. ActRaiser is a far more unique and polished game that uses its difficulty better.
Where ActRaiser II opts for hair-pulling frustration, ActRaiser settles on regular frustrating, requiring players really understand how to make the most of the life simulator as any bonuses they obtain carry over into the brutally hard side-scrolling stages.
6 Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a defining cooperative title for the Super Nintendo, but it has some serious balancing issues that start to crop up in the latter half. Perhaps it’s not fair to call them “balancing issues,” but Zombies Ate My Neighbors is an incredibly easy game to fail in, where just about any mistake can cause a game over.
The repetitive stage layouts can also confuse new players, making this a game that gradually gets better the more it’s played. That’s true of just about every game on this list, though. Often, the hardest games are the ones that players will be able to build an affinity for if they just focus and try to improve their abilities.
5 Super Star Wars Trilogy
To be honest, all three Super Star Wars games deserve their own spot on this list, but they’re derivative enough (by no means in a bad way), where they can comfortably be considered one title even if that’s inaccurate. What’s great about Super Star Wars, though, is that getting good at one game usually transfers over to the next.
Again, these games are very similar, but that just means that audiences can see themselves improve from A New Hope to Return of the Jedi. It’s a fantastic way to experience the Original Trilogy, and it’s a rather faithful adaptation, to boot. All three games are viciously hard to the point where most reading this will let overconfidence best them, but they’re worth a try.
4 Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
One of the last games released for the Super Famicom and the last Fire Emblem game directed by the series’ creator, Thracia 776 is a great note to end the series’ 16-bit run on, even if it is brutally hard even by the franchise’s standards. Thracia 776 is unforgiving, relentless, and downright cruel at times.
But it rewards strategy better than most games in the series, and a lot of its harder and more “unfair” elements create an oppressive atmosphere that end up adding to the experience on a whole. Thracia 776 is really only for fans of the series (and even then, only hardcore fans), but Genealogy of the Holy War is an easier SNES alternative that’s just as good.
3 Contra III: The Alien Wars
Mentioning Contra is basically cheating when it comes to discussions on the hardest games of all time. Contra III: The Alien Wars is one of the most immediately overwhelming games on the SNES, but one that has an accessibility that keeps it engaging even for video game novices. That doesn’t mean it isn’t oppressively hard, but Contra III is fun even in death!
While beating Contra III alone is certainly doable (albeit by no means easy or simple), The Alien Wars shines best when played cooperatively. It not only lightens the load, it just makes getting through a game a potentially more enjoyable experience.
2 Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts inexplicably puts Contra III to shame, making The Alien Wars look like the first half of Super Mario World. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts demands perfection, patience, and mastery. This is a game where replaying each stage is basically a part of the gameplay loop. Death just isn’t possible, it’s inevitable.
Now, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts isn’t an unfair game, but it really toes the line. Slow down ironically ends up helping a lot of the time, but this is still a game that requires perfect platforming at such an intense scale. There’s really nothing quite like Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the SNES, though that doesn’t quite make it the hardest game.
1 Hagane: The Final Conflict
That title belongs to none other than Hagane: The Final Conflict, an action side-scroller that uses every single button on the Super Nintendo controller, creating a level of mechanical depth that frankly rivals most games released today. This is a game that did as much as Devil May Cry years before Capcom reinvented the action genre.Hagane is also punishingly hard, actually requiring players to make use of their entire skillset. At the same time, all challenges are sensible, all bosses are fair, and the checkpoint system is surprisingly forgiving given just how difficult some stages can be. Hagane’s a hard game to track down, but it’s absolutely worth a playthrough.