It’s been a long time coming, but finally, I have decided on a list of some of the best SNES shooters to grace the super console. This list only contains four entries, but four entries worthy of being called some of the best SNES games. There will be some great titles left off this particular edition, so keep in mind that they may appear in a future entry. With that being said, let’s get on to an interstellar battle for the ages.
When you think of Super Nintendo shooters, the first game that probably comes to mind is Star Fox. Star Fox was a magnificent achievement in 3D visuals on the SNES back in the early nineties – even if I could barely play for five minutes without getting motion sickness. Looking back now, it’s obvious that the graphics don’t hold up well, however, that doesn’t matter because its gameplay does.
Star Fox is a pretty basic on-rails shooter with a few interesting mechanics. You’re able to gain some control of your Arwing which is mainly used for dodging attacks, such as performing barrel rolls to deflect enemy bullets. You can also brake and use your booster rockets to speed past obstacles. Of course, you’re also joined by three wing men: Slippy Toad, Peppy Hare, and Falco Lombardi. These wing men fight alongside you, and will sometimes bug you to save them; luckily, Slippy isn’t nearly annoying as he is in later iterations of the series.
Lastly, Star Fox has a high replay value because it offers three different paths to Venom. Each path is more difficult than the previous, but also offers brand new stages to play, if you’re up to the challenge.
Pocky and Rocky
Pocky and Rocky is a game that I used to see at the video rental store, but for some reason, never actually bothered to rent. I have only recently played the game and I can firmly say that I have been missing out on one of the Super Nintendo’s shiniest gems. At first glance, Pocky and Rocky might not seem like a shooter, but play for about ten seconds and you’ll encounter waves of enemies like any good shoot ‘em up game should have.
Pocky and Rocky is a unique shooter because it allows you to control the pace, like most Action Adventure games, instead of forcing auto-scroll down your throat. You play as either Pocky, or Rocky, and must shoot down enemies as you progress through each stage. Enemies attack in formations similar to those seen in shoot ‘em ups, plus you can obtain power-ups to make the battle a little easier. Adding to its appeal is the option for two-player co-operative play, a gameplay variant seldom seen in shoot ‘em up games.
Contra 3: The Alien Wars
Bigger and meaner, Contra 3: The Alien Wars takes everything you loved from Contra and plasters it with the power of the Super Nintendo. Bigger bosses, meaner difficulty and more weapons all play a huge role in this classic run and gun game, however, Contra 3 also introduces more elaborate sequences such as the boss where you constantly need to jump between multiple rockets to survive, plus the addition of overhead Mode 7 stages.
While a lot of gamers seem to dislike these overhead stages, I actually find them to be both fun and challenging. You rotate your character by pressing the L and R shoulder buttons, an interesting and innovative control method for its time, and must destroy five control points to face the stage boss. The stage bosses for these levels are also fought in the overhead view.
Speaking of run and gun Shooters for the Super Nintendo, who can forget the Wild West shoot ‘em up known as Sunset Riders? Well, to be honest, Sunset Riders is a game that I discovered long after the days when the Super Nintendo ruled retail, but it would be a disservice to the credibility of this a series of best SNES games without including this title.
Similar to Contra games, Sunset Riders sees you running and gunning (I know, not the cleverest analogy) down enemies, except now you’re traversing the Wild West instead of the futuristic alien wars of the Contra series. Players choose between four different bounty hunters and embark on a mission to wrangle up the bad guys for a sweet cash reward. Each character has a different weapon which can be upgraded during the side scrolling stages and shot in all eight directions. The game is quite challenging and its Wild West theme really lends an incredible charm to Sunset Riders. This game also supports two player cooperative gameplay, a feature that would make any retro game a must own during its time.
Was your favourite SNES game left off this list? Check the rest of our Best SNES Games series to see if it’s represented elsewhere.