The best SNES Classic Mini games that aren't Mario or Zelda

Dig deeper into the lineup and plan to play these games first

Who knew we'd start the week lusting after a 25-year-old bit of gaming tech?

Well, that's exactly what happened with yesterday's announcement of Nintendo's SNES Classic Mini. While last year's NES Classic Mini reproduced perhaps the more iconic of the two consoles, we're more excited about the tiny SNES due to the 16-bit era's legendary games.

The SNES Classic Mini packs fewer games (21 as opposed to 30), but there really isn't a bad one in the bunch. In fact, most of them are absolutely essential – and you've probably already played Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Mario Kart plenty of times in the past. All of those are well worth revisiting, but what about the rest of the lineup? These are the eight other games that should top your must-play list.

Super Metroid (1994)

The recent dual announcement of two new Metroid games had fans reeling with excitement after E3, but why do people care so much about this series? Two words: Super Metroid.

Although based on the NES original, Super Metroid elevated the side-scrolling adventure with a gripping quest that sent your sci-fi heroine through the planet Zebes. Incredibly atmospheric despite the minimal narrative, Super Metroid blends thrilling action with compelling exploration, along with gradual weapon and armor upgrades that really empower you across the quest.

Super Metroid was never as big as Super Mario World or A Link to the Past back in the day, but it's just as much of a 16-bit classic.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1996)

We're already breaking our own rule about not including Mario games here, but Yoshi's Island isn't entirely a Mario game. Besides, it not only deserves the spotlight – it also needs defending.

Yoshi's Island brought a dramatic shift to the franchise, taking direct control of Mario out of your hands… and turning him into a crying, diaper-wearing baby. Really! Instead, the game saw you guide Yoshi around the stages in search of baby Luigi, while the little Mario sat on Yoshi's back.

Haters complained about the wailing Mario, but brilliant level design and the dazzling crayon-like aesthetic made this dreamy platformer an all-time classic.

Star Fox (1993)

The original Star Fox (originally Starwing in Europe) showed that the 16-bit console could handle 3D, putting the embedded Super FX chip to then-impressive use with its polygonal ships and buildings.

Those rudimentary graphics won't delight much now, but this classic is still worth a look – and you'll need to play through the first level to unlock access to Star Fox 2. Developed in full but then canned before release, Star Fox 2 will make its debut here more than two decades later. It's one of the coolest things about the SNES Classic Mini, although the original Star Fox is pretty cool on its own anyway.

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III, as it was called in North America, is actually Final Fantasy VI in Japan – and in either case, we never saw it released on its original console in Europe. But now you'll be able to play it on a pseudo-SNES, at least.

Although the legendary role-playing series has become much glossier over the years, Final Fantasy III or VI (or whatever) remains one of the most beloved entries, thanks to its huge cast of playable characters, gripping storyline, and epic quest. If any of the games on the SNES Classic Mini are likely to keep you playing for dozens and dozens of hours, it's surely this one.

F-Zero (1992)

The racing genre saw such dramatic improvement with the move to 32-bit hardware that the previous era's games have mostly been forgotten – but SNES launch title F-Zero remains a true classic.

Nintendo's hovercraft racer was a precursor to later hits such as Wipeout and showed just how capable the 16-bit console was at pumping out fluid, 3D-ish graphics. F-Zero is incredibly fast and challenging, even today; and believe it or not, the original Super Mario Kart began life as an F-Zero multiplayer prototype. So pay some respect to this classic before you start launching turtle shells this autumn.

Donkey Kong Country (1994)

While we still think the two Super Mario World games are the best platformers on the SNES Classic Mini, Rare's groundbreaking Donkey Kong Country isn't far behind.

This flashy reboot took Mario's former antagonist and turned him into a platform star of his own, as you guided him through lush, gorgeous jungles and other secret-packed terrain. Donkey Kong Country gave the Super Nintendo late staying power with its startling 3D graphics, although we're a little disappointed to see the even-better sequel DKC2: Diddy's Kong Quest omitted.

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992)

Aside from Super Mario Kart, this is the game that's most likely to put both of the Mini's controllers to great use: classic Street Fighter II.

This is the revised edition (although not the later Super Street Fighter II, mind you), which means more fighters, better balance, and speedier play. It's still the bedrock upon which so much of the modern fighting genre is based, and still brilliant fun.

How do we know? Because Capcom just released an enhanced, £35 version of Street Fighter II for Switch. But given everything else that comes with the SNES Classic Mini, we'd much rather splash out for this bundle and play an original rendition.

Earthbound (1994)

What, is Final Fantasy III too traditional for you? Don't worry: if you're looking for a role-player that's off the beaten path, Earthbound certainly won't disappoint.

Never released in Europe on the Super Nintendo (although it did make it on to the Wii U Virtual Console a couple of years ago), Earthbound is a super-weird cult classic about a group of kids fighting off an alien threat. The wacky humour and cartoonish aesthetic make it memorable, plus it feels positively rooted in the 1990s in tone and references. You won't find anything else that's nearly this eccentric on the SNES Classic Mini.