Nowadays, you hear cries of gamers wanting games to be available in the West, cries of region exclusive games being an unfair and financially irresponsible practice. With the increased availability of news, thanks to the internet, gamers are easily able to learn about the games and exclusives that they'll be missing out on. This practice isn't new. In fact, one of the greatest consoles of all time, the Super Nintendo saw an abundance of games only available on its Japanese counterpart, the Super Famicom.
These games proved to be pivotal and the key to the development of series and genres alike. These subsequent games, with all the innovative gameplay mechanics and technological advancements, made their way to the West. Yet, it's still a shame that so many great games were passed over when it came to receiving English localizations. Here are the 10 best Japan-only Super Famicom games.
10. Final Fantasy V
- Publisher: Square
- Developer: Square
- Release Date: December 6, 1992
One of the most notorious and confusing things about the Final Fantasy series in the West is the numbering system. After Final Fantasy VII, every Final Fantasy game was released, before then Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II were the only games made available in the West. With this information, it seems obvious that Final Fantasy V was a Super Famicom exclusive. In reality, Japan's Final Fantasy IV is the Final Fantasy II that many people know. With this numbering system, it could have been just as likely for Final Fantasy V to have made its way to the West.
Unfortunately, it remained a Super Famicom exclusive until later generation remasters. Final Fantasy V helped to create one of the staple mechanics of the Final Fantasy series, the Active Time Battle Bar. In addition to improving the ATB system from Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V also improved Final Fantasy III's job system. With the new job system, players could change classes throughout the game, and if a class was mastered, the abilities could carry over.
Final Fantasy V's legacy can be found in other Final Fantasy games. Nowadays, they might seem to be standard features of the genre and series, but for their time, the features of Final Fantasy were new and fresh and part of the reason Final Fantasy V is the best Final Fantasy games of its time, and one of the best games on the system.
9. Super Back to the Future II
- Publisher: Toshiba EMI
- Developer: Invictus
- Release Date: July 23, 1993
Games based on movies don't have the best wrap. Whether it's the impossible Lion King or Batman Forever or the literal garbage dump that is ET on Atari, movie based video games just aren't any good. Super Back to the Future II isn't the greatest of video games, but it stands out as a gem in a genre and series of failures.
Super Back to the Future II gives the player the chance to experience the joys of riding a hoverboard, as Marty McFly flies through the side-scrolling levels at breakneck speed. There are points where the games speed works against it, but Super Back to the Future II still works well as a challenging platformer.
Super Back to the Future II, with its retro soundtrack and anime stylized Doc Brown and Marty McFly, could've helped to change the public consensus on movie based video games. Unfortunately, it never made its way to the States with an English translation.
8. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story
- Publisher: Angel
- Developer: Angel
- Release Date: September 22, 1995
Sailor Moon: Another Story is an RPG that tells a story between the series' third and fourth story arcs. Unpleased with how things played out between the Sailor Soldiers and the villains, the sorceress Apsu returns from the 30th century to rewrite the past in order to get her hands on the Silver Crystal.
In the game, all ten of the Sailor Soldiers are available for play. Only five can be used at a given time, with it being dictated by the game's story. The game’s turn-based battle system saw the use of different formations that allows the player to take advantage of each Sailor Soldier’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition to the group attacks, Sailor Moon: Another Story special feature was its Link Techs, which was a special attack using two or three Sailor Soldiers in the party.
Sailor Moon: Another Story with its endings, gameplay, and story established itself as a great addition to the Sailor Moon canon and an even greater addition to the Super Famicom's quality catalogue.
7. Star Ocean
- Publisher: Enix
- Developer: tri-Ace
- Release Date: July 19, 1996
Tri-Ace is a name constantly associated with RPGs; always in the conversation, but never listed as one is the greats. tri-Ace got its start in the 90’s when its staff left Wolf Team the development of Tales of Phantasia. What they were able to create was the first game in the Star Ocean series.
Star Ocean pushed the limits of the system, and one of the few games of it’s time that included voice acting which played during the game's intro, as well as during the actual gameplay. Star Ocean see the player engaging real-time battles while dictating strategies for the other characters to use. Star Ocean also allowed for customization of the characters’ abilities, as well as an item creation mechanic.
6. Super Bomberman 5
- Publisher: Hudson Soft
- Developer: Hudson Soft
- Release Date: February 28, 1997
Super Bomberman 5 was the last Super Bomberman game to be released on the Super Famicom. Super Bomberman 5 was produced to commemorate the Bomberman series. Super Bomberman 5 had five worlds, the first four being based off the previous Super Bomberman games. The final level is an original world. The soundtrack from the previous games was remixed for Super Bomberman 5, as well.
Super Bomberman 5 featured non-linear gameplay that built off of the game’s predecessors. After completing a level, the player can cost the next level that they play. With the ability to replay levels, it's possible to get a 100% map completion in the game, and even a 200% completion on its second playthrough. The game also includes a multiplayer mode, that even features a crate a character option. Super Bomberman 5 is a culmination of what made the Super Bomberman a successful series on the Super Famicom.
5. Shin Megami Tensei Il
- Publisher: Atlus
- Developer: Atlus
- Release Date: March 18, 1994
Persona 4 Golden (and, still up for debate, Persona 5) is unanimously known as one of the great RPGs of this generation. What meant people forget is that the Persona series is a subseries of the Shin Megami Tensei series. The first three games in the Shin Megami Tensei series never made its way to the West. The last of those that remained true to the series was Shin Megami Tensei II.
Shin Megami Tensei II features the same features that have proven successful in the Shin Megami Tensei series. The series is successful because of its combination of mythological elements, demon recruiting and fusion mechanics, and dark themes. Fans of Persona and the main Shin Megami Tensei games should the originals a try to see exactly how since of the best RPGs of our time came to be.
4. Marvelous: Another Treasure Island (Marvelous: Mōhitotsu no Takarajima)
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo R&D2
- Release Date: October 26, 1996
The Legend of Zelda, at the time a classic series, entered a period of greatness with the release of 1998's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. One thing that has remained a constant since then is the series producer, Eiji Aonuma. We can thank Marvelous: Another Treasure Island for giving Aonuma the opportunity to lead the Zelda games. Aonuma and Marvelous: Another Treasure Island's connection to The Legend of Zelda is no surprise, as Marvelous: Another Treasure Island was made using the A Link to the Past engine, along with many of the game's assets.
Marvelous: Another Treasure Island is an adventure-RPG that follows Deon, Jack, and Max as they search for Captain Maverick's treasure on Camp Island. Marvelous: Another Treasure Island features puzzles for the three characters, with their unique abilities to solve. To solve the puzzles, and complete the game, the player can take control of each character. Marvelous: Another Treasure Island, with its connections to the history of one the greatest franchises of all time is undoubtedly one of the greatest Super Famicom games.
3. Clock Tower
- Publisher: Human Entertainment
- Developer: Human Entertainment
- Release Date: September 14, 1995
The Super Famicom is the birthplace of many great and innovative series. The Clock Tower series is a great series that made its debut on the Super Famicom. Yes, Clock Tower is available on PlayStation, but if Final Fantasy is anything to go off of, numbers aren't always to be trusted. Clock Tower on PlayStation is actually the second in the series, with the original only appearing on Super Famicom.
The original Clock Tower was an experimental game point and click horror game. Inspired by Dario Argento's horror films, director Hifumi Kono wanted to create a game that replicated the atmosphere of horror movies. Clock Tower succeeded in creating the chilling and haunting atmosphere and helped define horror in video games. From its panic mode, which saw the main character trip, slow down, or even get killed, depending on her health: the standard horror trope.
2. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu)
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Intelligent Systems
- Release Date: May 14, 1996
The second Fire Emblem series to appear on the Super Famicom priced to be I've if the most influential in the series. Breaking away from the settings of previous games, Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War gave the series an opportunity to try new things with its storytelling and gameplay.
In creating Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, square decided to give focus on its story. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War's sorry takes place over two generations. The classes and skills of the first generation pass on to their offsprings of the next generation. This helps to connect the two parts of the game in more than just its story.
The innovations to the story carried over to the gameplay as well, proving so effective that many elements can be found in later games. Genealogy of the Holy War introduced a triangle system, that works very much like rock-paper-scissors. The support system introduced in Genealogy of the Holy War gives stat boosts to the characters based on the result of the support conversations location on the battlefield. Fire Emblem: Genealogy the Holy War never made its way out of Japan,
1. Seiken Densetsu 3
- Publisher: Square
- Developer: Square
- Release Date: September 30, 1995
Everyone knows the Mana series; along with Tales, Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy, it is one of the original great Japanese RPG series. In fact, originally titled Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden, it was a Final Fantasy side story, with the Mana name being adopted after Seiken Densetsu 2. For some reason, however, the third game in the series never got itself an English release.
Seiken Densetsu 3 was an ambitious and innovative game, the level of which would not be seen until the aughts. Seiken Densetsu 3 started off giving the player the chance to choose 3 characters of six to play. Depending on the characters chosen, the game's story, combat, and even actual events in the story change. Just from the initial character selection, Seiken Densetsu 3 offers the player an insane amount of customization options.
The game's customization options don't end there: the game features a dark and light based class system that allows the player to cycle through roles throughout the game. Seiken Densetsu 3, with its varying gameplay and high paced action, it's one of the greatest action RPG of its time. Seiken Densetsu's music and art weren't necessarily the best of its era, but its great gameplay makes it one of the best Super Famicom games.
The Super Famicom received many Japan exclusive games. There are varying reasons that the games didn't make it to the US; for some, the publisher did not care to –or believed it wouldn't– appeal to the Western audience, in some instances, Nintendo was hoping to find success with the Nintendo 64. At the time many people didn't know or care that they were missing out on many great games; the Super Nintendo was stocked with many great games that did manage to make their way West. By the time gamers truly realized what they were missing, ROMs and emulators were made available allowing gamers to try out the gems they couldn't before.
Most of the games on this list have found themselves the recipient of English fan translations, or even official translations in new, remastered editions. Whatever the way, go find yourself a copy of these games and see what we missed out on in the 90's. What games, only available for the Super Famicom, have you tried? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below