The 10 best 16-bit games, ranked

Gamers today live in an age where game companies and developers are constantly trying to push how realistic and revolutionary their graphics and visuals can be. While this is certainly a lovable lens for the industry, there really is something to be said for the retro look of yesteryear.

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The fourth generation of gaming consoles like the SNES, Genesis, etc. came up with some of the most incredible titles the industry has ever seen. Even legions of modern titles have returned to using these retro-inspired graphics to bring out new fan-favorite titles. Either way, the beauty of sprites and pixels is a beauty that never goes out of style.


ten Dragon Quest XI (2D Mode) (2017)

Most mainstream RPGs, especially JRPGs, recognize their 16-bit era as their golden age. And even if the Dragon Quest The franchise has seen many updates and has gone through many of the same hoops as its peers, the series has always returned to its roots with Dragon Quest XI 2D mode.

The standard version is without a doubt an absolutely gorgeous take on a traditional swords and witchcraft fantasy with absolutely stunning visuals, but the 2D mode reflects the eternal nature of the classic series. When gamers hear the term “JRPG” it should be the image that comes to their mind.

9 Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Although its visuals are somewhat dated by today’s standards, Rare’s design for Donkey Kong Country and its sequels were definitely ahead of the game. Although slightly pixelated, the game’s character designs and models look three-dimensional and less like their bit-sprite brethren.

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That being said, it’s highly unlikely that most modern developers will revert to this aesthetic choice anytime soon. But at least it helped show what 16-bit can do.

8 Cross Code (2015)

The indie faction of the gaming industry is full of retro-inspired titles, but one of the prettiest games that truly understood what the era was has to be Cross code. The game uses the descending adventure formula of a Zelda game but mixing it with a futuristic sci-fi element seen in games like Star of fantasy, creating a unique yet familiar hybrid.

It’s a gorgeous quest that seems to be comfortable with the best of the SNES, but it still retains modern mechanics. Simply put, Radical Fish Games got the mission.

7 Yoshi Island (1995)

Yoshi Island

There is a certain underestimated element to Yoshi Island on the SNES. Though its graphics and visuals are deceptively childish, behind all of the Shy Guys, fluffy clouds, and pencil-inspired color scheme lies a truly ingenious and enjoyable platforming experience.

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Coming out of the heels of Super mario world, the game takes a different twist from the traditional Mario formula by not only introducing Yoshi as the main character, but providing bigger and more complex levels to explore. It’s packed with personality and fun that deserves more praise.

6 Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (1991)

The Legend of Zelda A Link to the SNES Past

The Zelda the series has been a longtime favorite since Link first entered consoles in the ’80s, but A link to the past is a title that had a strong influence on dozens of titles that followed. Although it was based on the descendant style of the original, it was one of the first games to truly realize the Kingdom of Hyrule visually.

While purple hair is an odd design choice, the formula, puzzles, and patterns all came together in perfect harmony to create a fantastic quest with 16-bit style. Since then, games like Flower tales and Super light drifter have followed Link’s call to adventure.

5 Sonic Mania (2017)

Sonic Mania Chaos Emeralds Circle

Those who grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog will know that his career took an odd turn once he and his Mobian friends switched to 3D games. Sega and fans both know Sonic does his best when he’s at home in a fast-paced platformer, so Sonic Mania was born.

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The game essentially offers the best of the best classic Sonic titles. From Green Hill Zone to Metallic Madness, longtime Blue Blur fans will have plenty to adore.

4 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

An image of the player fighting a gargoyle-like creature in Castlevania Symphony of the Night

Symphony of the night was a very ambitious title for the Castlevania series that not only redefined the series, but helped usher in the era of Metroidvania. Back then, there was one of the greatest worlds featured in a platformer, especially since the second half completely turns Dracula’s Castle upside down.

Needless to say, the game has more than a great reputation. Thanks to its Gothic imagery, solid combat, and immense elements of exploration, it has become the standard by which many Metroidvanias are judged.

3 Chrono trigger (1995)

Chrono Trigger Schala Escape

Considered by many to be one of the greatest RPGs ever made, the trigger of a stopwatch really pushed the boundaries of what the genre could do. The mixture of so many themes and motifs such as sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, and historical fiction has resulted in one of the most distinctive SNES titles.

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With so many epic flavors, multiple endings, and diverse paths to adventure, it’s no wonder the game has cultivated such a reputation. And all with a classic visual flair seen in many of Square’s established RPG hits.

2 Super Mario World (1990)

Mario has arguably the longest and most extensive career of any video game character, but if there was one title everyone had to play, it had to be Super Mario World. The SNES launch title was one of the sharpest and most imaginative platformer games of the era, and elements of Mario’s Dinosaur Land adventure continue to appear in his games decades later. .

It was the definitive plumber adventure, sporting the acrobatic platforms and expansive worlds the series is known for today. For fans who didn’t grow up in the ’80s, this may be one of the best starting points for taking over Nintendo’s iconic franchise.

1 Super Metroid (1994)

Samus prepares to fight Kraid in Super Metroid

While the original game on NES could have introduced gamers to Samus Aran and his adventures across the galaxy, Super Metroid has defined its position and power with one of the most impressive 16-bit titles around. Seen by many as a crowning achievement for the SNES, Super Metroid set a new standard for gaming.

The first half of the title Metroidvania, Samus’ journey to the planet Zebes is an incredibly atmospheric experience reminiscent of one of Extraterrestrial movie theater. The isolated environments and monsters at every corner of its twisted and spinning world truly provide gamers with a surprisingly immersive experience from a 16-bit title.

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Split image of a Wendigo from Until Dawn, Xeno from Alien Isolation and Lisa from PT Demo


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