When you think back on the Super Nintendo, you probably try to focus on the console’s many classic games, incredible RPGs, or even its absolute worst titles. However, it has to be said that Nintendo’s best console was also the home of some of the absolute weirdest games ever made.
There was just something about that era of gaming that inspired developers to take a chance on some truly bizarre concepts. The relatively untamed landscape of the medium combined with rapid advances in console technology lead to some truly wild titles the likes of which we hadn’t seen before and really haven’t seen since. It was truly a golden age for retro “WTF?” experiences.
Before we get into the heart of this list, though, here are a few of the selection rules I followed that you may want to keep in mind:
- In order to be eligible for this list, a game had to be released for the Super Nintendo, Super Famicom, or any official addons/peripherals for those platforms. Unreleased, unofficial, and fan-made games were not considered.
- No one thing makes a game “weird.” Any SNES or Super Famicom game that features something unusual or untraditional (whether it be that title’s gameplay, story, premise, or the circumstances of its release) was technically eligible for this list.
- Finally, I tried to focus on slightly less popular weird SNES games. After all, some weird titles from that era have become such an established part of gaming culture that they’re not really as weird as they used to be (e.g. Earthbound).
With that out of the way, here are 15 of the weirdest Super Nintendo games you’ll ever play.
15. Daze Before Christmas
It’s actually kind of strange to see any Christmas-themed video game. While developers will occasionally celebrate the holiday through DLC or limited events, there aren’t a lot of notable games that take place entirely during Christmas. Even if there were, there is no way that they would be as weird as Daze Before Christmas.
Daze Before Christmas starts with a magical mouse stealing everyone’s presents, and it only gets weirder from there. In fact, it’s impossible to talk about this game without bringing up the fact that the game’s best power-up item (a cup of tea) briefly turns you into an “evil” Santa who looks suspicious like Satan. There is a lot to unpack in this one.
14. EVO: The Search for Eden
Speaking of games with a lot to unpack…
EVO: The Search for Eden is a game about evolution. In it, you play as various creatures across five geological periods that can all be evolved via an RPG-like experience system. While that’s obviously an unusual set-up for a SNES game, the thing that really sets EVO apart is its strangely deep story that tries to combine elements of mythology and science.
Actually, that description really doesn’t do this game’s story justice. At one point, the player finds themselves battling an entity known as Bolbox for the right to become Gaia’s (yes, that Gaia) partner. Oh, and that’s before you learn that Martians left crystals on Earth designed to speed up the evolutionary process. It’s just an utterly bizarre (and sometimes amazing) combination of concepts that I can’t wrap my head around. What, exactly, was the message in this game supposed to be?
13. The Blues Brothers
Right, so it’s already kind of weird that someone decided to release a Blue Brothers game for the Super Nintendo 13 years after the debut of the original movie and 5 years before that movie’s horrible sequel was unleashed. Was there some kind of Blues Brothers‘ popularity resurgence among young SNES gamers happening at that time that I just have no memory of?
Curious timing aside, the strangest thing about this game is that it offered shared screen co-op multiplayer. Not only was that feature highly unusual for a platformer from that era, but thanks to a truly terrible design decision, the game allowed either player to kill themselves and their partner at any time just by hitting Start and Select. That feature alone earns Blue Brothers a spot on this list.
12. Bastard!! Ankoku no Hakai-shin
There’s been no shortage of fighting games throughout the years that offer a strange roster of fighters or an unusual premise, but this Super Famicom gem earns its “weird” designation by virtue of its controls and graphics.
Bastard!! is basically a Mode-7 fighting game that tried to offer an anime-like 3D fighting experience on the Super Famicom. While that’s a fantastic idea, actually trying to play this game quickly reveals the many reasons why few other studios ever tried something like this. Even if you’re able to put up with the jarring camera (and that’s a big if), I imagine you’ll give up on this title long before you figure out its strange combo system and confounding controls.
11. The Adventures of Dr. Franken
Dear reader, you probably think that the strangest thing about this game is the fact that it’s called The Adventures of Dr. Franken yet clearly stars a version of Frankenstein’s monster wearing a Hawaiin shirt and massive sunglasses. However, I want to assure you that is not the reason we’re gathered here today.
See, for some reason, The Adventures of Dr. Franken features an elaborate original plot. Rather than simply retell the story of the Frankenstein book or movies, this game is bold enough to suggest that Frankenstein’s monster has a girlfriend named Bitsy whose body parts have been spread across the world following the pair’s attempts to scam the airlines out of an extra plane ticket. At that point, it falls to Frankenstein’s monster to travel the world and reassemble his girlfriend (who probably feels a little awkward about the fact that her boyfriend’s last relationship did not end well). Sadly, that story is this game’s best feature.
10. Super Back to the Future Part 2
Truth be told, Super Back to the Future Part 2 isn’t even that weird of a game compared to pretty much everything else on this list. Sure, its almost Chibi-like art style is a bit strange for a Back to the Future game, and its gameplay is just “ok,” but it’s pretty much what you’d expect when you try to imagine a Back to the Future game for the SNES.
No, the thing that makes this game weird are the circumstances of its development and release. Somehow, a small developer called Daft Co., Ltd. managed to secure the rights to Back to the Future and release a Super Famicom exclusive adaptation of the second movie in the franchise nearly four years after that film’s debut. What’s even stranger is the fact that the game is objectively better than every other Back to the Future game released up until that point yet was never officially ported to Western consoles. The full story of this game’s entire existence remains something of a mystery.
9. The King of Demons/Majyuuou
It’s no secret that there were quite a few games made for the Super Famicom that were never ported to the West because they were too violent, too sexual, or just too unusual. While we’re going to talk about a couple of those games on this list, it must be said that there’s really nothing out there quite like Majyuuou (aka “The King of Demons”).
While this title’s horrifying imagery is weirdly appropriate for a game about rescuing your family from Hell, there’s something genuinely unsettling about watching torture, gore, and “Cenobites meets Lovecraft” creature designs rendered in bright 16-bit graphics. I do wish someone would find a way to revive this gem and officially release it for a wider modern audience, but I certainly understand why someone felt it was just too disturbing for its time.
8. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City
Shaq Fu gets all the love, but for my money (which I unfortunately once used to rent this game in a real “learning moment”) there is no weirder SNES cash-in on a basketball player’s celebrity than Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City.
At the peak of his considerable popularity, Michael Jordan apparently agreed to appear in a really bad platformer in which he uses magic and basketballs to rescue his teammates from kidnappers. This game was always going to be an oddity, but the fact that Jordan would only sporadically (and often unofficially) appear in actual basketball games over the course of the next 15 years makes an already strange game that much weirder.
7. Family Dog
Taken on its own, Family Dog is a somewhat odd game that suffers from what seem to be intentionally “bad” visuals, boring levels, and generic gameplay. It’s so unremarkable that you might find yourself asking how this thing even got made. Well, the answer to that question is what makes this game so weird.
See, Family Dog is based on a very short-lived CBS animated series that was canceled not long after this game was released. As it turns out, the minds behind that show and the game it spawned were none other than creator Brad Bird and executive producers Steven Speilberg and Tim Burton. It’s just so wild to play this game and realize that it’s one of the last remnants of a collaboration between multiple creative visionaries that has pretty much been lost to time.
6. Gourmet Sentai Baroyaro
Gourmet Sentai Baroyaro is a beat-em-up with strangely sexualized character designs, a hodgepodge visual style that often feels weird for the sake of weird, and a button that serves no other function but to make your characters pull off a seemingly worthless pose. As impressive as all that is, none of those features would have been enough to earn Gourmet Sentai Baroyaro a spot on this list.
No, the reason Gourmet Sentai Baroyaro is on this list is that it’s actually a game about cooking. Nearly every enemy you defeat in this game will drop some kind of food item. Rather than heal you directly, though (this game only gives you one life and no continues), you’re supposed to turn those collected items into delicious meals that will restore your character’s health between levels. If you think that sounds awesome…well, it sometimes is, but this beat-em-up is closer to a curiosity than something worth seeking out.
5. Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3-D
Not every game on this list is bad, but some of the SNES’ weirdest titles are certainly on most shortlists of the console’s absolute worst games. However, there is only one game on this list that is almost guaranteed to make you sick.
For reasons that I’ll never fully understand, developer Loriciel decided to make a SNES game with full 3D visuals designed to pop out of the screen at you. The effect was achieved through a combination of basic SNES 3D rendering techniques and a special pair of glasses. Try not to be surprised, but it turns out that combining those ideas is a pretty good way to make people very sick. Many of those who were unfortunate enough to try to play this game with the 3D glasses reported that it made them genuinely ill. To be fair, even trying to play this game without the glasses is kind of nauseating.
4. Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban
Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban boldly tells the adventures of Lord Stupid and Prince Stupid as they attempt to save Fuedal Japan from invading extraterrestrials. As you can probably tell, this game obviously “benefits” from some hilarious cultural differences, but I have to say that I’ve played a few strange games that were only released in Japan over the years, and few of them are anywhere close to being on this game’s level.
Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban is obviously meant to be something of a joke game, but understanding that this game is a joke and keeping up with the joke are two very different things. Whether you’re battling unfortunately stereotypical characters on Earth or heading to space to battle moon rabbits, there’s not a single moment in this game when you’ll feel like you have a grasp on what is happening or how any of this came to be. The game itself isn’t that good, but it’s a hell of a ride.
3. Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!
It’s sometimes strange to think that the Tim Allen sitcom Home Improvement was once big enough for developer Imagineering to justify turning the show into a video game. It’s always strange to think that the Home Improvement video game largely consists of Tim Allen battling dinosaurs, robots, and mummies in order to recover lost tools that appear to be easily replaceable.
In many ways, this game represents a generation of licensed games that desperately tried to turn any somewhat popular property into something kids might rent for a few days or even buy. The game even includes an instructional manual that simply states “Real Men Don’t Need Instructions” (a joke that sadly captures the spirit of the show rather nicely). I can’t help but be a little impressed that someone managed to convince their boss that they should make a game where Tim Allen shoots dinosaurs in the face with a nail gun. Then again, what else could you possibly do with a Home Improvement game for the SNES?
It’s probably a little more accurate to call Drakkhen “confusing” rather than “weird,” but I ultimately feel that it belongs in that second category as well. After all, what’s weirder than a sprawling RPG narrative that was originally written in English, adapted by a French development team, translated into Japanese, and then re-translated into English for very confused SNES fans?
Even if Drakkhen’s story wasn’t an incomprehensible mess, the rest of the game would have still been a confounding disaster. It was always a bad idea to try to port one of the most ambitious PC RPGs of its era to the SNES (especially during the console’s earliest days), but trying to play this thing reveals a series of truly weird design decisions. Characters die at random, certain monsters become invincible for no apparent reason, and most combat sequences are determined by chaotic randomness. You pretty much have to follow a very specific series of steps to survive this apparently open-ended RPG, which is certainly one of the weirdest things you can say about that kind of game.
1. BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets
What if I told you that Nintendo made a spiritual sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that featured an original storyline, new dungeons, special timed events, and even voice acting. You’d probably want to know how you can play it as soon as possible, right? Well, that’s when I’d be forced to tell you that in order to officially play the game, you’ll need to travel back in time to 1997, go to Japan, and try to beat that game across one-hour play sessions spread out over a couple of years.
BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets was broadcast via the ill-fated BS-X Broadcasting System add-on (a.k.a. the Satellaview) for the Super Famicom. The game was only broadcast to BS-X users for one hour a week during specific timeframes (it was basically an interactive television program). Each broadcast of the game was slightly different than the one before (different episodes of the same show), and after the broadcasts finished in 1998, it was never officially released in any other capacity.
As wild as the entire BS-X concept is, the thing I can’t wrap my head around is the idea that Nintendo developed what was essentially a Link to the Past sequel and never bothered to release it via any other format. Sure, they pulled a similar trick with a SNES remake of the original The Legend of Zelda that was also released for the BS-X, but why did they relegate such a potentially significant project to that device? For that matter, why have they never tried to formally re-release this incredible part of Zelda history that a lot of fans would almost certainly love to finally play?