10 16-Bit Era Games That Still Hold Up Today

The fourth generation of consoles has to be one of the best, with the stellar libraries of both the SNES and Sega Genesis. It was also a generation that would be completely alien for most modern players because games were actually different between the systems.

Aladdin on the SNES and Genesis are two completely separate games whereas nowadays, the performance is the only real difference for games on both the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. Most of these great titles of the 16-bit era that still hold up are available on services like Nintendo Switch Online, but others, not so much.

10 Wild Guns – SNES

Wild Guns is one of those games that, a decade ago, would have been considered an underrated gem but has now been more widely recognized as a great SNES action title. The gameplay is still very unique to this day. On a 2D plane, you blast enemies in the area, but you can't move and shoot at the same time.

The action is hectic but also strategic. Instead of evading a shot, you can shoot the bullet. Doing that fills up your gauge for the Vulcan cannon, which decimates enemies and gives you invincibility to boot. The soundtrack is also a total banger. You'll want to boot up Wild Guns on Switch just to load up the sound test and listen to the tunes.

9 Super Punch-Out – SNES

While Super Punch-Out is not as highly regarded as its NES predecessor, it's still a great time. It definitely has more of an arcade feel, but thankfully not like the actual arcade Punch-Outs, which is one of those games that's so unfair it might as well come alive and steal your wallet. There are no multiple rounds, but the three-minute timer is an actual three minutes and not accelerated.

Super Punch-Out added some nice mechanical refinements that did elevate the gameplay, like the ability to block in both the head and body areas. Ducking is actually useful now, instead of being a throwaway move like in the NES game. It definitely plays differently from the NES original, which might turn off some, but once you get accustomed to it, the game's great to play.

8 Donkey Kong Country 2 – SNES

One of the best games on the Super Nintendo has to be Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. No, it's not Diddy Kong's Quest, like you probably remember. The pun in the title must have flown over your head as a kid. With Diddy and newcomer Dixie, you must save Donkey Kong from the hands of King K. Rool by going through some of the best-designed platforming levels on the system.

DKC2 has some pretty stiff competition in its own series, but the levels here are debatably the best. Some of those near the endgame are brutal but incredibly satisfying when you finally beat them. DKC2 is an absolute must-play for any platformer fan.

7 Super Castlevania 4 – SNES

The 16-bit era is filled with great Konami games, and Castlevania is no exception. Bloodlines is an excellent Genesis game, but it's simply no match for Super Castlevania 4 for the SNES. It was the first Castlevania that you could whip in all eight directions, which elevated the game quite a bit. This feature alone makes every other Castlevania prior seem lacking in comparison. It's that much of a leap.

The levels themselves are great, challenging, and work perfectly with the new whip controls. It's also short, but not in a bad way. Super Castlevania 4 is a game that you can play every year, beat it in one sitting, and have an absolute blast.

6 Rocket Knight Adventures – Genesis

Konami had many awesome SNES titles, but their Genesis output wasn't lacking either. Contra: Hard Corps and the previously mentioned Castlevania: Bloodlines are standout titles, but the title of greatest has to go to Rocket Knight Adventures. The first game in one of Konami's lesser-known series, Sparkster, Rocket Knight Adventures is one of the best platformers on the system.

It has great movement, fantastic level design, and even the combat has some depth. Your sword shoots out energy beams, but it does far more damage if the enemy touches the physical sword itself. Unfortunately, Rocket Knight Adventures has not been re-released in any form. With it being such a great platformer for the time, it absolutely deserves one.

5 EarthBound – SNES

EarthBound is one of the biggest cult favorites of the SNES and one of the best 90s RPGs. It was incredibly ahead of its time with certain RPG mechanics, like automatically winning fights if the player is far stronger in level than an enemy. It also influenced several games, most notably Undertale.

This title still holds up today and offers great pacing throughout the whole campaign, and it never really drags. For various periods the game has not been easily obtainable, but thankfully EarthBound has been included in Nintendo Switch Online and is one of the better SNES RPGs on the service.

4 Chrono Trigger – SNES

If you talk to a retro gamer and ask what SNES games they play every year, Chrono Trigger is bound to be one of them. The game is still regarded as one of the best RPGs ever made with its story and combat system. Anybody can pick up this game right now and still have a magical journey throughout the entire campaign.

Chrono Trigger has been re-released several times, but it's still not really easily accessible. There is a PC port, but it has many issues and isn't recommended. The SNES and Nintendo DS versions are pretty pricey, but thankfully the PS1 version included in Final Fantasy Chronicles isn't. Still, you will need an older system to play it.

3 Ristar – Genesis

One of the more underrated Genesis games has to be Ristar. Even though it's been re-released several times, including on Nintendo Switch Online, Ristar is rarely in Genesis conversations, and it's a shame. In a nutshell, Ristar is sort of like Sega's version of Bionic Commando.

You use your long-reaching hands to grab enemies, items, and, most importantly, objects needed for movement. Smooth play controls are incredibly important for any platformer, and Ristar delivers in spades. This is a game that any modern player can pick up and still have fun with due to its easy-to-learn but hard-to-master movement-based gameplay.

2 Gunstar Heroes – Genesis

Possibly the best Contra-like game in this era doesn't even have Contra in the name. Gunstar Heroes is one of the standout non-Sega developed releases on the Genesis. It plays just like a classic Contra title and arguably outdoes both Contra 3 and Hard Corps.

Contra 3 was a great game, but those top-down sections did hamper the experience a bit. Contra: Hard Corps was excellent, but for the American release, they made it way too hard, even for the Contra series. Gunstar Heroes has the best of both worlds, featuring a great challenge and more of the awesome gameplay the Contra series is known for. Even the bits where the game spices it up are well done, like the space shooter section.

1 Streets Of Rage 2 – Genesis

One of the best beat 'em ups of the 90s outside of Capcom's output is Streets of Rage 2. Both the game and especially the soundtrack are still held in high regard. Streets of Rage 2 was actually made for the Genesis and wasn't originally an arcade game first. This likely made it a bit more balanced, and the title holds up better than a lot of the other top beat 'em ups at the time.

With its hard-impacting action and lengthy campaign for the era, Streets of Rage 2 is a must-play Genesis game. The best beat 'em ups of the 90s are probably Alien vs. Predator and Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons games, but Streets of Rage 2 is definitely in the top five.

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