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Square Enix SNES Games Ranked

Secret of Mana key art

Square Enix SNES Games Ranked

Long before the two companies would strategically merge in 2003, Square and Enix represented two halves of Japanese RPG royalty. While Enix would develop and publish the first JRPG with Dragon Quest, Square would follow suit just a year later with Final Fantasy to form the other half of the subgenre’s design template. Together, both publishers would direct Western audiences’ perception of what Japanese role-playing games were supposed to be like, informing entire generations of fans and future game developers alike. Though Enix and Square’s libraries on the PS1 are each legendary in their own right, it’s both publishers’ output on the SNES that arguably sees each at their creative peak. A ranked list of the Square Enix games on SNES is practically a list of the greatest RPGs ever made, with just a few exceptions.

Unfortunately for Western gamers, the SNES would not see a single new Dragon Quest game thanks to the series’ relative obscurity in North America following the middling performance of the first four titles as Dragon Warrior games on the NES. As a result, the Japanese Super Famicom library is chock full of Dragon Quest titles that American gamers missed out on entirely until much later. What Enix would deliver instead, though, is a legendary run of action RPG games (each of which is loosely connected) from developer Quintet, with the first of these being the iconic action RPG/city-building hybrid ActRaiser. And, of course, it would be Square and Enix’s first collaboration that would deliver both one of the SNES’ great games and one of the greatest games of all time, period.

16. King Arthur & The Knights of Justice

King Arthur & The Knights of Justice gameplay

©CheatCC

  • Release Date — July 1, 1995
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Manley & Associates
  • Review Aggregate Score — 54% (Mixed or Average)

One of the few licensed games to come from either Enix or Square, King Arthur & The Knights of Justice is a strange one. This title shares its name and premise with the animated series of the same name that debuted in 1992, with a group of modern-day football players finding themselves trapped in Camelot and needing to rescue the real King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Unfortunately, that premise is about as interesting as the game ever gets, as playing King Arthur quickly reveals how uninspired it is from a gameplay perspective.

Players control the false King Arthur and two knights at any given time but only have direct control over the king as their player character. There are buttons for attacking and blocking using a shield, but enemies never exhibit behaviors that make blocking a necessity and can easily be waylaid through some quickly-timed button mashing. The game’s overhead perspective also doesn’t do it any favors with all the environments looking the same, and the fact that the in-game map is completely useless also doesn’t help. This is one title in the Enix catalog best left unplayed.

15. Robotrek

Robotrek gameplay

©Robotrek gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — July 8, 1994
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Quintet
  • Review Aggregate Score — 67% (Mixed or Average)

One of several collaborations between Enix and developer Quintet, Robotrek (also known as Slapstick in Japan) is a lighthearted and kid-friendly monster-taming RPG that subs in robots for collectible creatures. Other than its inclusion of the monster-taming element (years before the arrival of Pokemon, no less), Robotrek is a fairly rote RPG that plays it safe, though its sense of humor and charm carry the game further than its mechanics are capable of doing. The true highlight of Robotrek is its fairly robust crafting system, with players needing to collect parts and invent better weapons and defenses for their robot army that battles for them.

Unfortunately, the weak reception of Robotrek in the West would have a significant impact on both Quintet and Enix’s North American business. Enix would use the low sales of Robotrek as an indicator to only publish games in Japan, resulting in new Dragon Quest games not coming to the West. Additionally, Quintet would take Robotrek‘s poor reception as a sign to only release Terranigma in Japan and PAL regions, with North American gamers not receiving the final installment in the “Soul Blazer Trilogy”.

14. Brain Lord

Brain Lord gameplay

©Brain Lord gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — January 29, 1994
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Produce!
  • Review Aggregate Score — 75% (Generally Favorable)

It might not be much to look at in terms of its visuals, but Enix and Produce’s Brain Lord is a highly competent action RPG with some excellent combat and a truly remarkable soundtrack. Like similar titles (primarily, The Legend of Zelda), the action takes place from a third-person, top-down perspective and sees players gradually improve their offensive and defensive capabilities by acquiring newer and better equipment to use in battle. Interestingly, two NPCs (from a total of four) follow the player and perform abilities that the main character cannot, such as restorative magic and long-range attacks, making Brain Lord something of a spiritual predecessor to Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma series and its Pawns.

13. ActRaiser 2

ActRaiser 2 gameplay

©ActRaiser 2 gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — October 29, 1993
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Quintet, Ancient
  • Review Aggregate Score — 74% (Generally Favorable)

In one of the greatest tragedies of the 16-bit era, the sequel to the groundbreaking SNES launch title ActRaiser would completely abandon the more engaging halves of its gameplay to become a substandard action platformer. The original ActRaiser would intertwine city-building and simulation sections into its gameplay between the side-scrolling action platformer stages, making it a unique hybrid that many gamers still remember fondly. Conversely, ActRaiser 2 ditches the RPG and city-building elements of its predecessor in favor of being a straightforward action platformer with an expanded suite of abilities over the first game. Though ActRaiser 2 looks good, it loses all the identity that the first game has and becomes just another side-scrolling hack n’ slash.

12. Paladin’s Quest

Paladin's Quest gameplay

©Paladin's Quest gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — November 13, 1992
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Copya System
  • Review Aggregate Score — 64% (Mixed or Average)

While most RPGs of the era tended to be steeped in high fantasy settings, Paladin’s Quest switches things up to be one of the few purely science fiction RPGs on the SNES. Adding another wrinkle to the RPG conventions of the era, players in Paladin’s Quest will notice that using magic pulls from their HP pool rather than an MP pool, making the use of spellcasting a compelling risk/reward mechanic that few games in the genre contend with. Despite its unique setting and lack of an MP pool, Paladin’s Quest is a fairly by-the-numbers RPG. Battles are random and turn-based (and even take place from a first-person perspective like in Dragon Quest), players gain experience to level up and increase stat attributes, and the game’s core loop consists of traveling a world map, visiting towns and interacting with NPCs, and clearing out dungeons.

11. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest gameplay

©Final Fantasy Mystic Quest gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — October 5, 1992
  • Publisher — Square
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 67% (Mixed or Average)

It’s no secret that Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is somewhat of a “watered down” version of the mainline games in the franchise, but that by no means indicates that it’s not worth playing. Quite the contrary, Mystic Quest features just enough Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda DNA to separate itself from either franchise and strike an unusual balance between traditional JRPG and ARPG mechanics. Sure, the game is undoubtedly easy in comparison to the mainline Final Fantasy titles of the era, but its simplicity and charm go a long way in carrying the title while also helping it earn the distinction of being many players’ first entry in the series. Aside from its lighthearted story and more approachable difficulty, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest has some of the best music of any game on the SNES.

10. Secret of Evermore

Secret of Evermore gameplay

©Secret of Evermore gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — October 17, 1995
  • Publisher — Square
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 81% (Generally Favorable)

Similar to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Secret of Evermore is one of the few Square games on the SNES developed specifically with a Western audience in mind. But where Mystic Quest is intended to be an easier and more approachable game for beginners just getting into the Final Fantasy series, Secret of Evermore is a Westernized take on the Seiken Densetsu or Mana series. Secret of Evermore also has the distinction of being the only Square game on the SNES developed by its North American division, and its adherence to the conventions of Western media (including the look of the protagonist and his ever-present canine companion) gives the title a unique identity among the rest of Square’s library on the console. Ultimately, though, Secret of Evermore ends up being a lesser version of Secret of Mana, which speaks more to the quality of Mana than the faults of Evermore.

9. Illusion of Gaia

Illusion of Gaia gameplay

©Illusion of Gaia gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — November 27, 1993
  • Publisher — Enix, Nintendo
  • Developer — Quintet
  • Review Aggregate Score — 80% (Generally Favorable)

As the middle game in Enix and Quintet’s “Soul Blazer Trilogy”, Illusion of Gaia acts as the connective tissue between Soul Blazer and the Japan and PAL exclusive Terranigma. Illusion of Gaia also happens to be the most straightforward ARPG of the “Soul Blazer Trilogy”, offering players an experience much more akin to The Legend of Zelda than the other two games in the loosely-connected series. As a result, Nintendo would assist with publishing duties for Illusion of Gaia in the West, with the company recognizing that Enix had a potential hit on its hands thanks to Gaia‘s more approachable gameplay and simplified mechanics. With its simple (but satisfying) combat, ability-gated progression, and streamlined RPG mechanics, Illusion of Gaia is an excellent ARPG taking place in a familiar alternate-history version of Earth.

8. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG gameplay

©Super Mario RPG gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — March 9, 1996
  • Publisher — Nintendo
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 89% (Generally Favorable)

Nintendo is understandably protective of its flagship franchises, with few companies outside the Big N itself ever getting the chance to work on titles in the Mario or Zelda series. So, of course, when it came time to develop a traditional turn-based RPG featuring Mario and his companions, Nintendo called on none other than Square to help develop the title. Super Mario RPG is a charming and lighthearted JRPG that maintains all the characteristics and elements that genre fans are familiar with while injecting its unique flair into proceedings. One of the more significant additions Super Mario RPG makes is its incorporation of timed button presses during combat to make attacking or defense more effective, making battles more engaging and interactive as a result.

7. Soul Blazer

Soulblazer gameplay

©Soulblazer gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — January 31, 1992
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Quintet
  • Review Aggregate Score — 86% (Generally Favorable)

The first game in a trilogy of loosely connected titles bearing its name, Soul Blazer is somewhat of a spiritual successor to Enix and Quintet’s own ActRaiser. Like in that game, players must clear action RPG-style levels and defeat bosses before restoring peace to the surrounding area, getting guidance from NPCs on where to go next and occasionally some helpful items and abilities to aid in the journey. Unlike ActRaiser, though, Soul Blazer abandons any semblance of city-building in favor of a more streamlined progression path where towns and their inhabitants are magically restored following the clearing of a neighboring dungeon. The title’s top-down perspective and familiar combat bear a resemblance to The Legend of Zelda, but its core gameplay loop is basically a simplified version of ActRaiser.

6. ActRaiser

ActRaiser gameplay

©ActRaiser gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — December 16, 1990
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Quintet
  • Review Aggregate Score — 79% (Generally Favorable)

One of the more unique launch window titles for the SNES and a cult classic in its own right, ActRaiser is the spiritual predecessor to the games in the Soul Blazer trilogy from Enix and Quintet and is arguably the best (and perhaps only) action RPG and city-building hybrid game. Players take on the role of an angel sent down by the creator deity to cleanse a world inhabited by demons. To accomplish this task, players will beat an initial side-scrolling action platformer stage with a boss, which frees the area of corruption enough to begin the work of rebuilding. Once the population reaches a certain threshold, it becomes time to finish the job and defeat the last remaining monsters in an area before the inhabitants can live in peace.

This unique gameplay loop is what drives ActRaiser, and its disparate gameplay halves are surprisingly competent. The side-scrolling action stages are fun and challenging without being too difficult, and the city-building sections are just simplified and streamlined enough to make the act of rebuilding each region the highlight of the game. Notably, the intertwining of combat mechanics within the city-building sections goes a long way toward making them more engaging. Future Quintet titles would streamline the simulation and strategy aspects of ActRaiser, but they never quite reach the highs of the perfect balance it achieves between its two genres.

5. Final Fantasy II (Final Fantasy IV)

Final Fantasy II gameplay

©Final Fantasy II (SNES) gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — July 19, 1991
  • Publisher — Square
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 89% (Generally Favorable)

Japanese players would initially know Final Fantasy IV by its accurate name, but thanks to Square foregoing a localization of Final Fantasy II and III, North American players would be introduced to the fourth game in the series as Final Fantasy II. Accordingly, Final Fantasy II feels like a massive leap in quality from the first game in the series (which had arrived in the West just a year earlier), and the gains it makes in both gameplay and storytelling cement it as one of the definitive launch titles for the Western release of the SNES.

Everything about Final Fantasy II feels definitively “next-gen” in comparison to the NES original, from its greater emphasis on story and dialogue to its impressive visuals, score, and gameplay. The tale of Cecil and his redemption from Dark Knight to Paladin is still one of the best stories in the franchise, and Square would set a high bar for all of its future games on the SNES with its first Final Fantasy for Nintendo’s new console.

4. Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana gameplay

©Secret of Mana gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — August 6, 1993
  • Publisher — Square
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 91% (Universal Acclaim)

Though it’s the first game to arrive in the West bearing the Mana name, the truth is that Secret of Mana is actually the second game in the series to make it stateside, with the first entry in the long-running Seiken Densetsu series arriving on the Game Boy as Final Fantasy Adventure. Secret of Mana is one of Square’s best games for the SNES and one of its few action RPGs, illustrating that the company was more than capable of crafting an excellent real-time combat system despite the majority of its games being traditional, turn-based affairs. The real highlight of Secret of Mana, though, is the ability to use the SNES multi-tap and have two friends control the other party members, making Secret of Mana an incredibly rare experience — the co-op RPG.

3. Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen

Ogre Battle gameplay

©Ogre Battle gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — March 12, 1993
  • Publisher — Enix
  • Developer — Quest
  • Review Aggregate Score — 84% (Generally Favorable)

Enix’s best game for the SNES still holds up today as an exemplar of the TRPG or SRPG subgenre, with even modern titles still taking cues from its design and mechanics. Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen is a challenging and tactically deep strategy RPG (or simulation RPG as they’re known in Japan) that sees players controlling entire units of heroes in large-scale battles across maps. The game foregoes the inclusion of the tactical grid that players would see in later games like Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics in favor of allowing units to have free marching orders across much larger areas, clashing at strategic choke points and strongholds with enemy forces and hopefully emerging victorious.

Managing entire battles with multiple units on the map is just as (if not more) stressful than even the most challenging action or platformer games, proving that RPGs and strategy titles can be exciting despite their dry-sounding genre names. And, with battles playing out automatically, players can sit back and focus on unit formations and positioning, transforming each step in the campaign into a grand conquest, not unlike a game of fantasy-themed chess. A legendary SRPG that holds up today as a foundational pillar of the subgenre.

2. Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI)

Final Fantasy III (SNES) gameplay

©Final Fantasy III (SNES) gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — April 2, 1994
  • Publisher — Square
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 93% (Universal Acclaim)

Both the best mainline Final Fantasy game and the series’ best 2D entry, Final Fantasy VI (arriving in the West as Final Fantasy III thanks to the cross-cultural naming conventions) is a legendary and groundbreaking entry in Square’s flagship franchise and a fitting send-off to the series’ 16-bit era. The gameplay and storytelling of Final Fantasy III represent the pinnacle of what the series had achieved up until its release, taking the lessons learned from 7 years of design to bring the best of what the Final Fantasy series can offer all under one title. The visuals, gameplay, score, and plot are all peak Final Fantasy, with the cast of characters and main villain standing out as the greatest in the series.

Of course, as an RPG, Final Fantasy III is no slouch either. Innovations like the Espers and Magicite allow players to get down into the nitty gritty of min/maxing their party members, and it’s entirely possible to level every single one of the 14 playable characters to level 99 and max out their stats with careful allocation of Magicite. Further, the game’s “ensemble” approach to its cast of main characters means each of the excellent heroes gets their moment in the spotlight, particularly during the compelling second half of the game where players have to search a ruined world for their companions and learn more about each of their backstories and motivation to continue the fight against Kefka.

1. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger gameplay

©Chrono Trigger gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — March 11, 1995
  • Publisher — Square
  • Developer — Square
  • Review Aggregate Score — 96% (Universal Acclaim)

A collaboration between Final Fantasy‘s Hironobu Sakaguchi and Dragon Quest‘s Yuji Horii, Chrono Trigger is the unlikely “dream team” collaboration between Square and Enix that ultimately set both companies down the path to their strategic merger in the early 2000s and acts as perhaps the greatest game on the SNES, certainly its greatest RPG. Joining Sakaguchi and Horii for the ride are Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest artist Akira Toriyama on visuals and none other than Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda on audio,rounding out Chrono Trigger‘s development team as a veritable “who’s who” of industry luminaries. With a staff like that behind its development, you’d expect Chrono Trigger to be one of the greatest games of a generation, and it fully delivers on that promise.

The tale of young Crono and his allies starts off simple enough before a surprising time travel twist sets the heroes off on a path to save the planet from an impending doomsday. That adventure will take both the characters and the player throughout the past, present, future, and even the end of time itself to thwart the actions of a sentient, planet-destroying extra-terrestrial. Chrono Trigger‘s plot ranks as one of the best science fiction stories in gaming, and its gameplay only serves to support it with an incredibly strong foundation of satisfying player progression, powerful attack synergies between party members, and an approachable difficulty curve that blends the best parts of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.

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