10 SNES Hidden Gems You Should Check Out

Putting the super in Super Nintendo.


Most of us haven’t played the over 1,000 games that were released for the SNES across its lifespan. Even if you think you know this iconic console pretty well, the odds are fair that there’s a bunch of fantastic games for this system that you haven’t even heard of.  You don’t even have to leave the west to find some games that are still pretty underrated.

Even with a system as discussed and picked apart as the SNES, there’s still a wealth of potentially great games that you haven’t discovered. We’ve already gone over the best SNES games ever released to the console, but what about the games remembered only by the seriously committed? From forgotten RPGs and neglected brawlers, to weird platformers and other strange titles that never had a chance to truly shine, we’ve collected 10 SNES hidden gems that you need to play as soon as possible.


1. E.V.O.: Search for Eden

Developer: Almanic
Publisher: Enix

Quite frankly, the premise for E.V.O.: Search for Eden is extremely ambitious for 1992, the year in which the game was released by publisher Enix. Known for RPGs like the Dragon Quest series, the mechanics of leveling up a character as you do in E.V.O. makes a little more sense given Enix’s experience in releasing RPGs like Dragon Quest. However, developer Almanic created something very different that used the RPG mechanics as a jumping point to something very interesting.

Divided into several distinct geological periods, each period consists of several stages. You begin the game as a sea organism that must evolve into something developed and powerful. This is where the RPG portion makes sense, with players using points to evolve their character as they progress in the non-linear story. Evolving your character in this fashion is fun and was pretty unique for a console game in the early 90s.

While perhaps a little slow-paced at times, E.V.O.: Search for Eden is a fully realized premise with surprisingly addictive gameplay. It’s not a huge surprise this game slipped under the radar in 1992, given its decidedly odd premise and clunky title, but it’s one we’d love to see more people talk about.


2. The Ignition Factor

Developer: Jaleco
Publisher: Jaleco

The Ignition Factor is a good case in point that Jaleco sometimes made really good games, offering a release that’s both a shooter and technically a firefighter sim. Each level pits you and your firefighting gear against massive burns across multiple rooms, in large areas, or even across the entire floor of a building. Your task is to put out the fire, yes, but as you’ll soon discover after a few minutes, there’s a lot more to it than that.

The Ignition Factor offers some surprising variety in the fires you’ll be fighting, with a number of environmental challenges to keep the straightforward, addictive gameplay fresh. You’ll also find yourself exploring your dangerous surroundings a good deal more than you might like, and the game is good at creating an atmosphere of tension as you battle the flames and look for people to rescue.

Good graphics, especially for a Jaleco game, highlight playing through the different missions Ignition Factor throws at you. It’s not the deepest game of all time, but there’s a lot of unique challenges here, and it’s available to play on the Switch’s SNES Virtual Console.


3. X-Kaliber 2097

Developers: Fupac, Winds
Publisher: Activision

While the gameplay is a bit uninspired, and you should get ready for some of that cheap 90s video game frustration we all know and love, X-Kaliber 2097 is a visually striking, action-packed hack-and-slash that’s well worth a look for fans of that kind of frenetic experience. Set in the dystopian hellscape of 2097, players control the appropriately named Slash across a series of stages that will have you battling relentless hordes of enemies, not to mention bosses that even someone with experience in these sorts of games will find challenging. Hope you’re a fan of visually horrifying monsters that block most of your attacks!

It’s not hard to see why X-Kaliber 2097 didn’t quite find its audience in 1994. You have to experience the game in motion to appreciate its unique art style, stiff challenge, and that utterly fantastic soundtrack by Psykosonik. While experienced run-and-gun fans may find less of a challenge than others, anyone who appreciates steady action and great character designs will want to check this out. We just wish the game went on for a little longer, although there’s a bare bones 1-on-1 fighting mode that lets you play as Slash or any of the game’s bosses. Not too shabby at all.


4. Phantom 2040

Developer: Viacom
Publisher: Viacom

It makes sense to find Phantom 2040 among a list of underrated SNES games, since it’s based on the also extremely underrated 1990s cartoon inspired by the 1930s newspaper comic strip. While you absolutely do not need to watch Phantom 2040 to appreciate this action adventure platformer, it wouldn’t be a waste of your time to go check out this dark, brooding, and surprisingly deep two season series.

Phantom 2040 as a game will be of particular interest to Metroidvania enthusiasts. Much of your time here will be spent running around elaborate, challenging areas, with different paths connecting you to different story beats that can have dramatic influence upon the ending you receive. That and the heavy exploration this game prioritizes gives Phantom 2040 an impressive degree of depth. The gameplay is easy to pick up, and there’s something satisfying about the combat and destruction you can cause.

Again, Metroidvania fans do not want to sleep on Phantom 2040, as it’s another SNES game with a stellar soundtrack, memorable character designs, and a sense of fast-paced fluid action that impressively feels right at home with the slower, more exploratory portions of the game.


5. Harley’s Humungous Adventure

Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: Hi Tech Expressions

While the box art for Harley’s Humungous Adventure might suggest some pretty standard, even cringey 90s fare, the actual experience of playing this unique platformer is something else altogether. An unimaginative title is no doubt one of the reasons why this game got so little attention in 1993, and still isn’t mentioned nearly as often as we’d like by SNES fans.

Delivering on its promise of a humungous adventure starring a guy named Harley, players find themselves shrunk down to the size of a bar of soap. It’s your job now to find the pieces of your shrinking machine strewn about your house, in order to return Harley to his normal size.

It’s a cute premise, and Harley’s Humungous Adventure doesn’t let you down on exploring that idea to its potential. The stages of the game take you to different parts of the house, with everything appropriately made to scale. You’re going to be driving a toy tank, battling a giant rat, and just trying to survive amidst the game’s bizarre sense of humor and singular blend of digitized Claymation and traditional pixel art.


6. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

Developer: Neverland
Publisher: Natsume

Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is a clever, winning example of the role-playing game genre, and deserves to be considered in the same breath as the more well-known RPGs that came to the SNES in the 90s.

Despite being set 99 years before the first game, Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, you really don’t need to play the first game to have fun here. Playing as an ancestor of the first game’s protagonist, players will learn the origins of that game’s antagonists while exploring complex, often baffling dungeons. Most RPGs emphasize solving puzzles to some degree, but Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals makes much more out of them, meaning you’ll be exploring and searching for a variety of items to help you move along.

Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals also has a “Capsule Monsters” system to run alongside its traditional turn-based structure. Monsters you find along your journey can become invaluable allies, made even stronger by giving them certain items, such as armor and fruit. The soundtrack by composer Yasunori Shiono is also a highlight, underscoring an RPG that just wasn’t graphically flashy enough to be a hit in its day.


7. Soul Blazer

Developer: Quintet 
Publisher: Enix

We’re back again with Enix for Soul Blazer, which feels at times like a spiritual relative to the Legend of Zelda games. Enix really seemed to have a knack for publishing unique games that seemingly no one wanted to play. We can perhaps blame the failure of Soul Blazer on poor distribution, but the truth is that there were just too many freaking games for the SNES at the peak of its lifespan. Most of us just couldn’t keep up, and that’s a shame where this fantasy action RPG is concerned.

Soul Blazer starts to feel like its own special thing once you start getting into the meat of the game, which sees you traveling to exotic places, slaying demons, saving souls, and rebuilding the world in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. You’ll be traveling back and forth between the six worlds of the game quite a bit, destroying the seals found throughout to release the souls trapped inside. Each seal you encounter influences the game in some way, and while this formula doesn’t change much, it never stops being deeply engrossing either.

Soul Blazer is a surprisingly dark game for the SNES, as it’s not every day you have to rescue cursed souls to refill a completely depleted world, but the somber premise helps Soul Blazer stand apart from the hordes of other RPGs on the console.


8. Gemfire

Developer: Koei
Publisher: Koei

While Gemfire may not be as famous as Koei titles like Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Dynasty Warriors, it’s interesting to see one of their strategy games in a traditional fantasy format. Six wizards are freed from a gemstone and are each tasked with restoring order to a kingdom under tyrannical rule. Each wizard has sided with one of the powerful families of the region, and it’s up to you to marshal magic and tangible resources to bring peace to the land by any means necessary.

Gemfire is definitely a game that came from the developers of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, with players leading their armies into combat with careful attention being necessary to every detail of the campaign. However, compared to the Romance system, which has very similar mechanics to Gemfire, the latter is much more streamlined and accessible. It’s easy to get a sense of what you have, including melee, mounted, range, and most interestingly of all magic units, and build something that will bring the other houses down.

There’s still a lot to absorb here, particularly for newcomers to this turn-based strategy genre, but Gemfire has addictive gameplay against a fascinating narrative backdrop. The diversity in monsters alone speaks to this game’s depth.


9. Uniracers

Developer: DMA
Publisher: Nintendo

Uniracers is pure, simple joy, as video games go. You control a unicycle along a 2D course that’s filled with obstacles. That’s basically it. There’s a level of accessibility here that makes it something that almost anyone with even a vague interest in video games can enjoy. It’s a relatively beloved game, but it still doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the best racers on the SNES.

Uniracers is simple in concept and execution, but it’s when you begin to rely on increasingly elaborate tricks to score the points necessary to beat the clock or your opponent. It’s here that Uniracers suddenly becomes a shockingly inventive and challenging racer. You’ll be pushing yourself to come up with better and better tricks.  Not surprisingly, the two-player mode is spectacular fun.

So, what happened to Uniracers? While the game sold its initial run of 300,000 copies, the game was suddenly pulled from production due to a freaking lawsuit from Pixar. The animation studio argued that Uniracers stole its concept from their 1987 short film Red’s Dream. The judge’s ruling seemingly coming down to the fact that yes, both of these things did have a unicycle in them is arguably the biggest reason why this game didn’t go further. Uniracers then and now deserves a hell of a lot better than being the victim of a frivolous lawsuit.


10. The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

Even if you didn’t play The Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize the box art as soon as you see it. That kid and that tiger are ready to kick some ass, and we should probably just get the hell out of their way.

Part of the very long-running Ganbare Goemon series, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a fantastic hybrid of overhead-view action games and fast-paced platforming. Controlling either Goemon, an iconic Japanese folk hero dating back to the 16th century, or his partner Ebisu-Maru, players split their time between brawling and throwing items in the aforementioned overhead sections and managing some very tricky platform mechanics in the second part. It’s a good formula that keeps the proceedings from ever getting stale.

Not only is The Legend of the Mystical Ninja a lot of fun to play, but it’s also a lot of fun to look at. Bright, vivid graphics and some memorable character designs makes it easy to play through the entire game and wish there was even a little more at the end. Maybe someday we’ll get that Ganbare Goemon collection we all suddenly find ourselves wishing was really a thing.

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