As amazing as North America’s original Super Nintendo game library was, with its wide assortment of action, adventure, racing, puzzle and RPG titles, we still missed out an abundant amount of games. Most of these never saw release outside of Japan until ports showed up on later consoles, such as the Playstation.
The reasons for many games not to be released in Japan usually stem from the costs of translating and localizing titles, a lack of resources from the publisher, or the belief that releasing a particular would not be profitable in any way.
With that being said, I still think it was incredibly unfortunate that us North Americans never got to experience several big titles back in the SNES’ heyday. So continue on for a rundown of the many Super Famicom games we were deprived of.
10. Ganbare Goemon 2, 3, & 4
This entry is composed of three Konami titles: Ganbare Goemon 2: Kiteretsu Shogun Magginesu, Ganbare Goemon 3: Shishij?rokub? no Karakuri Manji Gatame and Ganbare Goemon Kirakira D?ch?: Boku ga Dancer ni Natta Wake (say all of that five times fast).
The Goemon series is a fun bunch of humorous and wacky Japanese action platformers. Many of us will recognize the titles we actually got, starting with the first SNES Ganbare Goemon title which was called Legend of the Mystical Ninja, one Game Boy title called Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and two N64 titles, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and Goemon’s Great Adventure. What we won’t recognize are the 3 other SNES sequels to Mystical Ninja that we missed out on.
GG2 & 4 employed the use of a Super Mario World-inspired world map, with several levels and towns situated within it. GG3 had a world that worked more like a Zelda title, where the entire play-field is inter-connected. All of these games allowed for 2-player co-op, where players could pick from blue-haired Goemon, plump ninja Ebisumaru, and ninja robot Sasuke (3 & 4 also included the green-haired female ninja Yae). North Americans wouldn’t get to see the two latter characters until the first N64 game in 1998. The reason for the lack of releases for these titles is unclear, but there’s no doubt that it had to do with the difficulty of translating and localizing a game whose plot and setting rely heavily on Japanese cultural references and humor.
9. Rockman & Forte
Rockman & Forte, also known as Mega Man & Bass in North America, was released in Japan in 1998 if you can believe that. The Super Famicom was supported in Japan up until 2003 before it was discontinued. Compare that to North America’s 1999 SNES death-knell! The game was developed by Capcom after Mega Man 8 had been released on Playstation and Sega Saturn. Series creator Keiji Inafune had stated that the game was made for younger players who still hadn’t jumped ship to the 32-bit consoles.
The game reused a lot of Mega Man 8‘s sprites and sounds, however it was still its own original game. All but two of the robot masters in this game were newly created; Astro Man and Tengu Man were borrowed from 8. One of the coolest things about the game was that it allowed you to play through its entirety with Bass, Mega Man’s rival. Bass had an awesome double jump, a dash, and though he could only shoot when standing still, he could shoot in seven directions. Talk about awesome.
So yeah, while the West did eventually get the game on Game Boy Advance in 2003, its visuals and audio took a slight slump. It would’ve been great to experience this game on SNES.
8. Treasures of Rudra
You’re going to notice a lot of RPGs on here. And rightfully so, because despite getting some of the best RPGs on the SNES, North America still missed out on a LOT of gems.
Treasures of Rudra (Rudra no Hih? in Japanese), developed by Square and released in 1996, has you play as three separate characters: the soldier Sion, the priestess Riza and the archaeologist Surlent. Players have the ability to switch between these characters’ scenarios at any time, thereby changing the story depending on when and where a character’s actions are done. The game’s story takes place during the final 15 days before humans are scheduled to be wiped out by Rudra, a Hindu-inspired god.
While the gameplay is pretty much standard Final Fantasy-fare, where it starts to delve in innovative territory is with its magic system, where spells could be freely made using Japanese katakana syllables. How badass is that? Besides the daunting task of localizing and translating this game, it was most likely not released outside of Japan due to its release late in the SNES’ life. By 1996 most developers were shifting to the Playstation and Sega Saturn, with Square no doubt diverting all its power into working on Final Fantasy VII. Since then, the game has seen a fan translation done by Aeon Genesis in 2006 and a rerelease on Japan’s Wii Virtual Console.
7. Tales of Phantasia
Tales of Phantasia is another title that the West eventually saw the release of on Game Boy Advance. However, the GBA port turned out to be a complete bastardization of the game, and so while we still got most of the Tales sequels (starting with 1998’s Tales of Destiny for Playstation), we have yet to see a worthy rerelease of this fantastic title.
Developed by Wolf Team (whose many members would leave to form Tri-Ace, with the remainder forming Namco Tales Studio) and originally released in late 1995, the first Tales game debut introduced the neat “Linear Motion Battle System,” in which a player controlled solely one main character. The game’s battle screen was on a 2D plane which scrolled a bit to the left and right. Players attacked in real-time and can pause the menu to select spells and items to use in battle. One could also assign items and combos to specific buttons to use on-the-go. The game was a technical achievement for the SNES, as it was the first game on the console that was 48 megabits in size, and it was also the first SNES title to use streamed audio voices. A fan translation patch for the game was eventually released by rom-hacking team DeJap.
6. Clock Tower
Before Resident Evil revolutionized the survival horror genre, there was Human Entertainment’s Clock Tower, a terrifying point-and-click survival horror adventure title released in 1995. In it you controlled Jennifer Simpson, who after being adopted by a seemingly benevolent foster mother, is forced to fight for her survival in a Norwegian mansion, where she’s constantly pursued by a demonic child who carries an over-sized set of scissors.
The game forces the player to run away from danger and use the environment to either delay or repel Scissorman. This can happen intermittently as one solves puzzles, explores the creepy Burrough’s mansion, and occasionally runs into potential situations in which one of Jennifer’s friends is brutally murdered. The game’s replay value is high, with nine official endings and puzzles and encounters being randomized in each playthrough. The game was most likely not released in the US due to its violent and frightening content, even at a time where the ESRB was already in place and Nintendo had begun to allow violent games to retain their content on the SNES.
While we did get the game’s Playstation & Playstation 2 sequels, this was truly the best one out of them all. It’s a real shame we never got this one, I know it would’ve traumatized me as a kid. The game was translated into English via a patch by Aeon Genesis back in 2001. Japan got a Wii Virtual Console release last summer.
5. Dragon Quest V & VI
After four NES titles in the Dragon Quest/Warrior series in the West, you’d think Enix would have continued with localizations of Dragon Quest V & VI for the Super Nintendo. For whatever reason (some attribute it to Enix completely giving up on the American market and Square’s struggling in getting their own RPGs to sell), these two big games never made it here, although we have finally gotten ahold of their Nintendo DS remakes.
Released in 1992, Dragon Quest V was – as you would’ve guessed it – as Dragon Quest-y and traditional as most of the series. A neat feature in this one was the ability to tame and train up to 40 different monsters in the game to fight alongside you. You can see this concept eventually make its way into the portable spin-off series Dragon Quest Monsters.
Besides an obvious graphical update, Dragon Quest VI incorporated travel between two worlds: the “Real World” and the “Dream World.” Abilities and skills exclusive to a character class made their debut in this title. Fan translations have been attempted, with VI receiving a nearly-complete translation by “NoPrgress.” It’s a shame I never go to experience these colorful RPGs on an old CRT TV screen. Even Nintendo Power wrote about the game in its 81st issue, hoping for a release. The whole ordeal was made sadder with a letter written to Nintendo Power by then-76-year old Edith Jeter, who stated that “I’m now 76 years old. I may not live long enough to see Dragon Quest VI unless someone takes action soon.” She passed away earlier this year, right before the DS remake of DQ6 hit U.S. stores.
4. Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy V had a ridiculously rocky localization attempt for the U.S. Released in Japan in 1992, it was originally destined to become Final Fantasy III in North America, but was canned. Ted Woolsey, who translated a large amount of SNES RPGs in the mid-90s, stated in 1994 that the game “[was] just not accessible enough to the average gamer.” There was also rumors of another go at localizing the game and calling it Final Fantasy Extreme but that evaporated.
Developer Top Dog Software planned another go at the game by trying to port it to Windows PCs but this, too was canceled. These constant cancellations ended up pissing off a lot of Final Fantasy fans, some of which banded together to produce one of the first fan-translated games ever in 1997. We wouldn’t get an official release from Square until 1999, when they released Final Fantasy V and VI as Final Fantasy Anthology: a two-disc package for Playstation. Final Fantasy V is an underrated title in the series, I feel. It boasted a job system that was much better and deeper than 3’s, and it has phenomenal music. Having it released as Final Fantasy III however would have created an even worse quagmire in the American naming of the Final Fantasy series than what actually happened.
3. Star Ocean
After a bunch of disgruntled employees from Wolf Team left after the release of Tales of Phantasia, they formed JRPG titan tri-Ace. Star Ocean was a game I got incredibly excited about when I first laid my eyes on a preview of it in a Nintendo Power issue back in ’96. The game stretched the power of the SNES to the max, with incredibly detailed graphics and the promise of actual voiceovers in certain parts of the game getting me psyched, however it was never meant to be.
Like the other Enix games mentioned on this list, Star Ocean didn’t make it onto American SNES consoles due to Enix’s pulling out of the American market in 1995 and the shutdown of its American localization subsidiary. The West would get its first taste of Star Ocean with its sequel, Star Ocean: The Second Story on Playstation. The original was eventually remade with a huge overhaul on the PSP, released in North America with the subtitle First Departure.
2. Seiken Densetsu 3
Seiken Densetsu 3, released in 1995, was the third entry of the Mana series. While we did get its predecessors, Final Fantasy Adventure and Secret of Mana, we were denied this gem. Unofficially called Secret of Mana 2 by many fans, the game improved upon Secret of Mana by improving combat and fixing its wonky hit detection.
Though the game only allowed two-player co-op as opposed to Secret of Mana’s three-player mode, it boasted three major plotlines, which varied depending on which three of the six characters you select from the get-go. Each character had his or her own storyline, and there were a whole slew of different classes to diversify them further in terms of stat and skill progression. Many blamed Squaresoft’s focus on creating the American-produced Secret of Evermore as the cause for Seiken Densetsu 3’s non-release here, however this was denied by Brian Fehdrau, who was lead programmer at Squaresoft USA.
A North American release for Secret of Mana’s sequel was unlikely due to the game’s complex and technical nature, which would have cost Square too much money to handle at the time. Fehdrau mentioned that Seiken Densetsu 3 had bugs, which would have stopped it from being certified for release by Nintendo of America. It’s very unfortunate, as this truly was one of the deepest and most intricate Action RPGs Square had ever produced for the SNES. An English fan translation patch was released in 2000, with a three-player patch released 6 years after.
And here’s the #1 SNES game I feel we’ve been deprived of the most. Terranigma was an epic Action RPG developed by Quintet and published by Enix in Japan in 1995.
Here’s the kicker: while the game never made it to American shores, the freaking Europeans got it (nothing against our friends across the pond)! That’s right, there was a PAL release of this game in 1996 that was published by Nintendo, officially making this title the Xenoblade Chronicles of the ’90s. The script was translated into English for that region. The game was the third in a loosely-connected trilogy that began with Quintet’s incredible Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia titles. Like those titles, its themes centered on creation and the resurrection of mankind in the world.
Players took on the role of Ark, who was tasked with resurrecting Earth by leaving the Underworld and jump-starting its progress, starting with its evolution of life leading up to the present day. It’s a very deep game, with the emphasis on creation in the game’s plotline being a stark contrast to other action games released around that time, which promoted the destruction of enemies in the game. Nintendo most likely didn’t bring this one over due to its late release in the SNES’ life. By the time it was out in Europe, the Nintendo 64 had been out for nearly three months in North America. I find it even more appalling that Nintendo of America couldn’t be bothered to release the game on the Wii’s Virtual Console, which is still sorely lacking a lot of huge SNES titles.
So those were my picks. I know I went all-out with JRPGs for this list but you’ve got to admit that we missed out on a lot of massive titles in that genre. And to avoid potentially missing your favorite Super Famicom game, I’ve amassed a list of honorable mentions, which include a bunch of games that are worth your time. So leave a comment.
Did you learn about an unreleased game today? Would you replace a game with something else? Let me know!
BS Zelda: Kodai no Sekiban
Cyber Knight 1 & 2
Fire Emblem: Monsh? no Nazo
Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
Front Mission (eventually released on Nintendo DS)
Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius
Marvelous: Another Treasure Island
Romancing Saga 1, 2, & 3
Shin Megami Tensei I & II
Treasure Hunter G