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Best SNES jRPGs Ultimate Top 10 List

The SNES era was one of the best times in history for the jRPG genre, and many of the jRPGs released on that system are still considered to be classics today. Despite its inability to keep pace with the graphics of modern day gaming consoles, the charm, storytelling, gameplay and personality of jRPGs on the SNES still live up to many of the multimillion dollar budget projects that come out today.

In this article, I’m going to count down the top 10 jRPGs for the SNES for you.

10. Romancing SaGa 3

top 10 best snes jrpgs romancing saga 3
Romancing SaGa 3 didn’t come out in North America

Romancing SaGa 3 was the third game in the somewhat obscure SaGa series and it did something that few other games were doing: it featured multiple divergent point of view scenarios based on which character you selected at the beginning of the game. This story structure dramatically increased replayability and also made the stories themselves intriguing. It wasn’t the only game to do this — there was also the strong, equally obscure jRPG Live-a-Live — but Romancing SaGa 3 was such a strong game overall that it just barely inches out Live-a-Live in order to make this list.

9. Final Fantasy 4

top 10 best snes jrpgs ff4
Final Fantasy 4 was called Final Fantasy 2 in North American when it was originally released

Final Fantasy 4 was, perhaps, the earliest jRPG produced to achieve a memorable story with characters a player could care about. It invested in its drama, in its characters, and in the overall scenario, and it paid off. While it may not have been as good as Final Fantasy 6 or Final Fantasy 7 from a storytelling standpoint, it set a bar at the time for later jRPGs to emulate and to, ultimately, pass. Aside from its place in jRPG history, it was, taken alone, a very good jRPG that spawned sequels and spinoffs including the surprisingly good Final Fantasy 4: After Years.

8. EarthBound


EarthBound was a beloved, quirky 90s jRPG for SNES that was able to penetrate the American mainstream with its contemporary setting, cast of relatable characters and bizarre humor. Of all the jRPGs on this list, it’s the only one I can think of that the other kids in my school played or had on their radar at all. While it wasn’t my personal favorite, it was definitely an extremely successful game that oozed personality and uniqueness.

7. Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen

top 10 best snes jrpgs ogre battle

Ogre Battle may not be a traditional jRPG — indeed, it’s hard to quantify what it “traditionally” is, at all, as it’s very unique. It’s sort of the evolutionary precursor to the auto-chess games that are popular today, but it’s quite a bit better than many of them due to the function of its storytelling, its maps and its branching class upgrade systems. It didn’t gain a lot of traction in the States because of its extraordinarily esoteric mechanics and unforgiving difficulty, but Ogre Battle packed about as much game as could be packed into an SNES cartridge in the 90s. If you enjoyed the party-planning aspect of jRPGs, Ogre Battle was the ultimate game for that — not only did you get to plan out multiple units, but you got to plan out entire armies and strategies. It’s a shame this genre didn’t take off. I, personally, saw a lot of potential with it, and as much as I love auto-chess, it’s still 20+ years late and, bizarrely, not as good.

6. Star Ocean

star ocean 1
Star Ocean wasn’t released in North America – This box art is a fan rendition

The original Star Ocean, developed by tri-Ace pushed the envelope of what the SNES was capable of. The graphical fidelity of the animations, the fluid real-time battle system, the sheer size of the game — it was an impressive feat of technology, visual art and storytelling that no other jRPG on SNES can match in terms of pure construction quality. Beyond that, it kicked off a fantastic series that combined sci-fi with fantasy elements and a series of iconic gameplay systems, from deep crafting mechanics to driving replayability by limiting character recruitment. While a remake was released for PSP that brought Star Ocean 1 up to the graphical fidelity of Star Ocean 2, there was something incredibly special about having an SNES jRPG with a density and scope of jRPGs from a full generation later.

5. Trials of Mana

top 10 best snes jrpgs trials of mana
This is the original box art for Seiken Densetsu 3 (Secret of Mana 3, later released as Trials of Mana). The Super Famicom art has been edited to the Super Nintendo box art format

Unfortunately for America, most people didn’t get to experience Trials of Mana, better known as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan, which was the much-improved sequel to the much-beloved Secret of Mana. While I’m not sure why this game didn’t get localized in the US until over two decades later, experiencing it during the era it was released was something to behold because the novelty of what the game was able to do really felt revolutionary at the time. The character select affecting the plot, the multiple class changes, the storytelling — Trials of Mana so vastly improved upon Secret of Mana that it was hard to believe, and that’s not an experience you really glean from playing it via virtual console two decades later. Luckily, as of this writing, a remake is on the way.

4. Breath of Fire 2 – Best SNES jRPGs

The North American box art for Breath of Fire 2 was highly Americanized to reflect what marketing people thought the American audience wanted (He-Man, I guess)

Breath of Fire 2 was a solid entry into a fantastic series. Though it wasn’t the best Breath of Fire, a designation that belongs indisputably to Breath of Fire 3, it was excellent, and featured a number of imaginative mechanics. It was, as far as I know, the first major jRPG to incorporate a townbuilding mechanic wherein you get a home-base which you can populate with various villagers you find throughout the world. That mechanic became popular in the PS1 era with games like Suikoden and Skies of Arcadia (for Gamecube), but, try as I might, I can’t think of another jRPG from the SNES that managed to pull that off in quite the same way. Breath of Fire 2 also featured a really cool shaman fusion system that allowed you to transform your party members into even cooler versions of themselves that, in a lot of ways, felt like it expanded the roster significantly.

3. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

super mario RPG

Mario RPG is a shockingly good jRPG, especially when you consider that, in concept, it’s little more than a Mario spinoff game. Developers tried a couple of times to recreate the magic of Mario RPG with Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, but they just couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. This game executes the jRPG formula so well it’s really hard to describe. It has a great cast of characters, a vibrant world, all sorts of sidequests and minigames, an inventive turn-based battle system that featured a sort of QTE mechanic before QTE mechanics were commonplace and had perfect pacing — exactly the right length to replay every once in a while and beat in a weekend. What a treat.

2. Chrono Trigger – Best SNES jRPGs

top 10 best snes jrpgs chrono trigger
I guess Marle can cast a fire spell in the box art, which is not quite right, but whatever

Chrono Trigger is extremely close to being the best jRPG available on SNES but it just doesn’t quite make it there due to the expansiveness, seriousness and epic nature of Final Fantasy 6’s plot. Still, Chrono Trigger is a masterpiece that is colorful, fun and whimsical. Its soundtrack, especially, is amazing and has proven itself to remain iconic even after decades have passed. It’s unfortunate that the Chrono series seems to have been put on ice, but we’ll always have the original Chrono Trigger which, for its time, I can’t imagine having possibly been executed any better.

1. Final Fantasy 6 – Best SNES jRPGs

top 10 best snes jrpgs ff6
Such class and sophistication for an SNES game

Final Fantasy 6 is not only the best jRPG on the SNES, it’s in contention for one of the best jRPGs ever made and definitely nearly as deserving of a modern remake as Final Fantasy 7. The characters are memorable, the story is a classic and the soundtrack is amazing. The structure of the plot was extremely innovative for its time and provides for multiple satisfying playthroughs. The game is full to the brim with optional sidequests and secrets, and learning the ins and outs of everything it has to offer is a joy.

That about covers it when it comes to the top 10 best jRPGs for the SNES. Be sure to check out the Games Section for more articles like this.


  • Ryan Night

    Ryan Night is an ex-game industry producer with over a decade of experience writing guides for RPGs. Previously an early contributor at gamefaqs.com, Ryan has been serving the RPG community with video game guides since 2001. As the owner of Bright Rock Media, Ryan has written over 600 guides for RPGs of all kinds, from Final Fantasy Tactics to Tales of Arise.

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