Super NES RPG Edition
Did you notice a lack of RPGs on the first Super NES Classic Edition proposal? That's because there were so many RPGs on Super NES they should stand alone in their own device. The 30 games listed here represent about 1,000 hours of play time and about twice as many dollars if you were to buy the actual carts, so this little device would be a heck of a deal...
This RPG isn't one of the Super NES's most fondly remembered entries in the genre, but it featured a surprising amount of ambition and some innovations that make it feel in some ways a few years ahead of its time. An interesting curio, at least!
One of the first games to truly hint at the creative potential of 16-bit games, ActRaiser combines hard-as-nails platforming (a la Rastan Saga) with world-building sim (a la Populous). Neither aspect of the game was best in its class, but together they add up to something wonderful.
HAL's first-person dungeon crawler, as its title suggests, revolved around the use of Tarot cards — and the game's commitment to that conceit helped elevate it from average to excellent.
Developed by the folks behind 7th Saga, Brain Lord is one of the lesser-known action RPGs for Super NES, in the Ys and Zelda vein — and it's still pretty darned playable even today.
A real love it or hate it kind of prospect, Brandish's top-down dungeon crawling literally revolved around the player, with the world (not the hero) rotating 90 degrees with every turn. Dizzying, but there was a solid adventure in there.
Breath of Fire
Capcom didn't produce a great many role-playing games in their time, but as Breath of Fire demonstrates, the ones they did create were pretty memorable. For that you can thank its cast of furry heroes, its unique navigation skills for each party leader, and — oh yes — its ability to turn the hero into a dragon.
Breath of Fire II
A bigger, more elaborate rendition of the previous game's concepts, which adds into the mix a more grandiose scale, a town-building simulation, and a barely coherent English translation. Well, they can't all be winners.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and for good reason: Chrono Trigger saw the creative leads of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest teaming up to create a game that, improbably, combined all the best traits of each series.
A Super NES sequel to a Game Boy game? Yes, and this follow-up to Gargoyle's Quest took full advantage of the improved hardware, giving players a dark, brooding realm full of demons to conquer with nonlinear metroidvania-style play.
This was one of the all-time biggest fan requests Nintendo ever fielded, so they could win a lot of friends by choosing to include this uniquely charming journey through a surreal version of America to their mini-console lineup.
E.V.O.: The Search for Eden
One of the most inventive RPGs on a system brimming with them, E.V.O. saw players take control of a simple organism and fight their way to the top of the food chain with the red tooth and claw of Mother Nature.
Eye of the Beholder
A better-than-you'd-think console conversion of the classic PC dungeon crawler, Eye of the Beholder was arguably the best Dungeons & Dragons ever got on the system.
Final Fantasy II
Cool kids know it as Final Fantasy IV, but even if you play this watered-down and barely coherent adaptation of the game, it's still an all-time classic role-playing adventure that set the tone for the 16-bit RPGs.
Final Fantasy III
In many people's estimation, this was the pinnacle of Super NES RPGs: A massive, technically accomplished epic featuring a dozen characters and a cataclysmic plot. And wow, that music!
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
This game had more in common with the SaGa series (aka Final Fantasy Legend) than with its namesake. While hilariously simplistic, having been designed for children (or Americans, take your pick), it's still pretty fun and is worth playing for the soundtrack alone.
Illusion of Gaia
The sequel to SoulBlazer, this excellent 16-bit action RPG paired its meaty gameplay with weighty philosophical questions, and the ability to transform into two different powerful warriors.
Legend of the Mystical Ninja
It's Goemon! Or Kid Ying, if you prefer. Whatever you call him, the noble thief of classical Japanese lore starred in a rollicking Super NES adventure.
Lufia: The Fortress of Doom
A dense, challenging RPG that remains well-regarded by fans, the original Lufia still has plenty to offer for today's gamers.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Forget about the weird action RPG "remake" from a few years back — the original sequel to Lufia was one of the Super NES's finest moments, and it deserves another chance to shine.
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen
It can take some time to wrap your head around this strategy game, which took a hands-off approach to combat and judged players harshly by the morality of their actions. There were no easy victories here!
In Japan, this was called "Slapstick," and indeed it may have been the world's first "comedy RPG." It was pretty weird, but it was from Quintet, the cool people behind Soul Blazer and ActRaiser... so it's pretty solid.
Secret of Evermore
The American-developed follow-up to Secret of Mana gets a whole lot more guff than it deserves. Brimming with pop culture (and Final Fantasy!) references and some unconventional mechanics and pacing, this look at a Western take on a Japanese franchise deserves a fresh look.
Secret of Mana
As a three-player action RPG, this classic would require Nintendo to build a multi-tap feature into its Super NES Classic Edition. But it would be worth it!
There were multiple completely unique Shadowrun games released for different 16-bit consoles, and this arguably was the best of them. A gloomy, open-ended RPG set in a Neuromancer-esque urban future, it's like no other game on the console.
While not quite as meaty or inventive as A Link to the Past, Soul Blazer offered a wonderful complement to Zelda, with creative settings and the sense of moral contemplation Quintet's games were known for.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
A collaboration between Nintendo and Squaresoft, this isometric role-player set the stage for Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi, and every other RPG that uses timed combat mechanics to liven up a turn-based battle system.
The conclusion to the loosely connected series that began with Soul Blazer, Terranigma never came to the U.S.... but in our post-TV-formats reality, we could happily get by with the European PAL version, thank you very much.
Ultima VII: The Black Gate
A radically overhauled conversion of the PC classic, this console adaptation featured many changes from the source material but didn't feel compromised… thanks in large part to the fact that the conversion was put together by original Ultima developer Origin.
Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
The second Uncharted Waters game sat somewhere between trade simulation and role-playing game. It's an unusual combination of design philosophies, but with six different heroes' stories to explore, it has more than enough substance to support its ambitions.
Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom
The brilliant fifth chapter of the long-running first-person RPG series marked a significant change from the first four games in the series, modernizing the franchise to a degree that this adaptation remains perfectly playable even now.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
After two top-down chapters of Ys, Falcom switched things up by going for more of a side-scrolling platformer perspective — think Zelda II. While this port can be a big rough in places, it's a solid chapter in an RPG franchise that's still going strong even today. Special thanks to VG Museum and Hardcore Gaming 101 for the screens. Console photos by Evan Amos.