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Top 10 Japanese-Only Super Nintendo (Super Famicom) Games

Top 10 Super Nintendo (Super Famicom) Games Never Released in the US

The Super Nintendo is hailed by many, including myself, as the best video game console ever created. Its extensive game library, hundreds of classic video game masterpieces that are widely considered the best games ever, and a super comfortable controller, make this system an "all-time all-timer." Despite the variety of games that blessed the American shores for this system, there are a variety of games that could not make the perilous trek across the sea to the US (even though some of these made it to Europe... jealous).

The games on this list are only games that I have been able to play, so it may be missing some gems unknown to me, but I can't speak Japanese, so I relied on European versions, fan translations, or just guessing my way through the menus to play these games. Many of the games on this list are RPGs, likely due to the misconception that these games would be unsuccessful in the US in the early 90s.

All of these games can be easily played on a SNES emulator (SNES9x or ZSNES), but that would require downloading ROMS, and they are illegal, so that's your choice.

10. The Firemen

The Firemen is an awesome SNES game that was released in both Europe and Japan by The Human Corporation. The point of the game is to obviously put out fires and save lives. Luckily for me, this game was localized to English speaking countries in Europe, so I was able to play and fully understand the game. The game stars Pete the firefighter who is responsible for keeping the blazes at bay, while saving the lives of countless innocents who are injured in the fire. Although this may seem like a pretty basic concept for a game, it is absolutely awesome and perfectly crafted. Pete and his unlimited water cannon tear through flames, but the game is not overly easy as there are a limited number of continues and the fire really can surround you at times. This game's awesomeness can only be conveyed through its gameplay.

"The Firemen" Gameplay

9. Fire Emblem Thracia 776

This is one of the hardest games I have ever played in my life and without question the hardest tactical RPG to complete with everything. Its difficulty tests even Contra's throne as the hardest damn game ever, in my opinion, if you are not an absolute master of the tactical RPG genre

It is the fifth entry in Intelligent Systems' tactical RPG series. This game is actually a midquel, if that's a word, to the events of the fourth Fire Emblem Title: Fire Emblem Genealogy of Holy War. You play as Lord Leaf or Lief (depending on the translation you follow) and his army to save the world and restore his country Lenster to its glory. Leaf is the son of Cuan and Ethlin from the first half of Fire Emblem 4, and the story occurs slightly before the events of the second half of the fourth game. Leaf is even a playable character in the second half of FE4.

The gameplay is awesome and requires the player to carefully plan every move because one wrong move or one set of unanticipated reinforcements and you are screwed. There is also a "fog-of-war" feature present in some chapters which makes enemies out of a certain range invisible to you as well as the surroundings. Luckily, there is a fan translation of the game on the internet, which allowed me to play the game with most of its story translated, and all of the menus translated, which will be linked to below. The Fan translation is your only hope if you speak English: even if you could read Japanese, the cartridges are rare and retail for at least 300 dollars.

"Fire Emblem 5" Gameplay

"Fire Emblem 5" Fan Translation

8. Final Fantasy V

The most popular RPG franchise worldwide neglected to send their 5th installment (as well as their 2nd and 3rd) to North America in the 90s, which is a damn shame because this Final Fantasy is one of the unique of the series and one of my personal favorites. This game has the best damn battle system of any Final Fantasy game in my opinion as it greatly improves on Final Fantasy III's (Japanese NES game) already awesome job system. Each character has the option of changing classes throughout the game depending on your needs and is allowed to carry over abilities from other classes. So basically you can create endless combinations of unique characters and infinite strategies to use in battle. You play as Butz or Bartz, depending on the translation, in an attempt to stop the evil plots of the dimension-controlling enemy Ex-Death, which may seem like a pretty stupid name, but he is an absolute badass.

This game has a very impressive and extensive fan translation for the SNES version, an official English release for PSX as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology, as well as an unbelievable remake for the GBA worldwide with added features, that is without question the definitive version of the game. Since I played the SNES version first, however, it holds a special place in my heart.

FF5 Gameplay

FF5 Fan Translation

7. Rockman and Forte

Rockman and Forte, otherwise known as Megaman and Bass, is a classic Megaman Adventure for the SNES in the style of Megaman 8 for PSX and Saturn. Much of the sprite work from 8 is used in the game giving an overall pleasing visual experience. Where the game really shines, however, is in its awesome platforming gameplay characteristic of the Megaman franchise, especially in its golden years.

You have the option of playing as both Megaman (Rockman), the classic blue bomber who has kicked robot ass since the late 80s, and his new rival Bass (Forte) of Megaman 7 fame. With Megaman, you have his classic move and shoot single fire blaster with charging capabilities, with Bass you have a multi-directional (7-way, he cannot shoot directly down) and semi-automatic (3-shot bursts) firing arm cannon that's the only drawback is it can only be used when stationary. They also differ in their abilities, Megaman can slide low down to access certain places Bass cannot and Bass can dash and double jump to reach places Megaman cannot.

The differing experiences of Megaman and Bass give the game massive replayability and makes the game more interesting overall as each character has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to bosses. Many love to play as Bass due to his badass look and double jumping ability, I, however, like to play as Megaman, due to the ability to move and shoot which I find makes life a lot easier. Either way, it is a damn shame this gem was kept inside Japan in the early 90s because it is easily one of the best Megaman games yet.

This game has both a fan translation and an English GBA release which both give a great experience, however, the visuals in the SNES version are vastly superior.

"Rockman and Forte" Gameplay

6. Fire Emblem Mystery of the Emblem

This is the third entry in the Fire Emblem Series. This game offers you the option of playing a complete remake of NES's Fire Emblem (the original game of the series) and new sequel Mystery of the Emblem, both sequentially and individually. It is another tactical RPG from Intelligent Systems for the SNES that is absolutely outstanding. The game stars Prince Mars (or Marth as translated in Super Smash Brothers) and his companions to stop both an evil dark dragon and an evil emperor in that order.

When he finally acquires the famed Falchion sword, he actually becomes fairly useful in battle, despite his frailty. Fire Emblem games, including this one, rely on the strengths of the Lord's companions to conquer the evil plaguing their respective lands, and this game delivers with a myriad of unique characters of many classes all willing to do battle for Mars. Also like all Fire Emblem games, there are no Phoenix Downs or the like. Death is death, and that character never comes back, unless you start the chapter you are on from the beginning. If someone dies and you save you better restart from the beginning if you deem them necessary in your adventure.

This game is absolutely a gem, and there has yet to be an English release of this game (the first half has been released for DS, but this game is way better). Luckily fan translations save the day once again.

FE3 Gameplay

Fan Translation

5. Tales of Phantasia

Tales of Phantasia was at the time; the largest game ever made for the SNES, it stretched the SNES to its limits including awesome art, an expansive world to explore, and voice acting?! This game is an absolute treasure and one of the greatest RPGs ever made. It is not another turn-based, Final Fantasy clone, but a fully interactive experience blending the greatest aspects of both action RPGs and classic turn-based RPGs in a completely original format. You are given the option to cook to create different meals that benefit your characters as well as find an abundance of secrets and unlock skills necessary to beat some evil ass.

Of course, the basics of traveling from town to town to save the world are included, but the story is very compelling and deep enough to keep the player fully enveloped in its Japanese-only splendor. Luckily for the rest of the world, one of the best fan translations ever (for this and the even more awesome PSX version) graces our monolingual eyes and ears with a near-perfect translation, with the exception of a few added jokes to spice things up a bit. There is also a GBA version that was localized. There is also a PSP version of this game, but making the same mistake twice, it was never released outside of Japan. Seriously the SNES game is awesome, and you haven't played RPGs without this one. This is the originator of the "Tales" series of games which have spawned many an instant classic.

ToP in Action

Get Your ToP Translations

4. Star Ocean

The "spiritual sequel" to Tales of Phantasia, this game is a completely real-time RPG for the SNES. This was the largest game on the SNES ever. It has an epic story, and your decisions heavily influence the outcome of the game, especially which characters are in your party. There is a large, colorful, cast of characters, fast-paced battles, a space-themed story that still holds true to some classic RPG elements and did I mention it is epic. This was a very close tie for the number 3 spot, but this one is less elusive, so I placed it at number 4 (it was made for PSP, and the remake is actually pretty good). Star Ocean has so many skills that ENIX had to boost the levels up to 255 (instead of 100) so that it'd be possible to attain all the skills at their highest level. These skills are for both in and outside of battle and in some cases are essential in completing the game. It is somewhat hard, but it is so easy to grind since the battle system is so fun and there is an arena where you pit your character against an onslaught of enemies for XP and items. I feel like this entry is extremely poorly written, probably because I have way too much to say, so just go play it!

See SO in action

3. Seiken Densetsu 3

SD3 absolutely has the best gameplay of any action RPG I have ever played, it is hard, there is constant action and the story changes depending on who you have in your party. There is also an endless degree of customization for an SNES game with its Dark/Light-based class system. The graphics are only behind Tales of Phantasia and Star Ocean, and the controls are way better than its predecessor, Secret of Mana. This game is still a Japan-only release, and it was even more painful due to the fact that this was the first game non-Japanese people knew they were missing out making it so much more painful, but fan translations are awesome as usual. I don't even have to say much more about this game's awesomeness. Go play it now!

2. Terranigma

An action-RPG that graced the shores of Japan and Europe, but failed to reach the United States. The official English translation is somewhat questionable, having some minor plot holes, but it makes up for this with the most badass gameplay ever. You play as Ark, a spear-wielding warrior who has the ability to perform a wide variety offensive moves and even some defensive maneuvers, all having their own uses: certain enemies are more vulnerable to certain spear strikes. The battle system is Zelda-esque definitely, but there is an added level of complexity with the incorporation of more complex RPG elements such as leveling up, shopping for new equipment and magic. The magic system requires having at least one ring in your menu's "jewelry box", while shopping obviously requires money acquired from defeating enemies.

Even if well equipped from shopping and leveled up sufficiently from battle, dungeons still provide a mental challenge testing the player's problem-solving skills with some rather difficult puzzles. These puzzles are not way too hard, but hard enough to keep the dungeons very interesting.

The gameplay does not end with the battle system; however, the world map and towns are extensive, and in the case of the towns, can be expanded upon even more. By accomplishing optional special tasks, events occur causing towns to be improved, giving Ark more shopping options as well as some special item availabilities. This is a kind of interesting addition really straying from classic RPG elements.

There are also beautiful visuals in this game including some pretty impressive cutscenes (for the SNES anyway), as well as awesome character models.

Overall you are losing out if you don't play this game. You can buy the European version and use a PAL-NTSC converter. I hear that a double slot converter is better than a single one, but I am not a professional on this topic. You could also buy a PAL (European SNES) and play the game that way. Most people use emulators and ROMS.

A "Terranigma" Dungeon

1. Fire Emblem Genealogy of Holy War

This is my number one game, because it is actually one of my favorite games of all time not just on this list of non-US SNES games. Like previous entries in the Fire Emblem series, it is a strategy based RPG, where you control a small army of knights of varying classes under the direction of a "Lord" (the main character in the story). When a character dies, they are gone for good. The gameplay improved from the previous entry (Fire Emblem 3: Monshou no Nazo) by including a much more fluid gameplay experience. Moving a character is much smoother, and their attack range and movement range are both displayed upon character selection, as opposed to the previous title where only movement range was shown, and you had to look in the menu to see a character's attack range.

There is a skill system in which each character has a certain combination of skills which can make them an absolute tank or a utility character. For example, one character, Ira, has one ability called "Pursuit," which allows an additional attack if her speed is higher than her enemy's (she is really fast btw), another ability "Awareness" which prevents enemy critical attacks (100% rate of success), and another ability called "Shooting Star Sword," which allows 5 consecutive attacks a percentage of the time based on her skill stat. She seems awesome enough already right, but it gets better you could equip her with a weapon called a "Brave Sword" which doubles the number of attacks and she can attack 12 times or more in one attack (most units attack two times per attack.) This is only a small example of the skill system, but as is clear it takes strategic planning to choose the correct weaponry based on skills of a character.

The maps in which the battles take place on are absolutely immense. They are the largest maps I have ever seen in a turn-based strategy RPG, and each map requires capturing a number castles to win, as opposed to capturing one in previous Fire Emblem Games. Each castle capture lets you advance further and further until you approach the final chapter of that level. Within each castle, there is a battle arena in which you can level up, a shop for items and weapons, a shop to repair broken weapons and a fortune teller to say which characters are in love.

Like previous titles, new recruits are gathered by speaking to enemies willing to switch sides, by reaching certain maps, but there are a few unique ways. For example, an awesome character is obtained by defeating the entire battle arena in a specific map with one character.

Now where the game really gets amazing is it spans two generations of characters. In the first generation, characters fall in love which boosts their stats when they stand near each other, but more importantly, this determines the skill combinations of their offspring in the second generation of the game. It is absolutely crucial to make at least some good pairings or the second half of the game may be tougher than it otherwise would be. If you make the correct combination with some characters, you can create the ultimate warrior.

The graphics in this game are great for the SNES and are colorful or dark depending on the situation. The story is absolutely awesome with ridiculously shocking events occurring throughout the game. The first time I played it, I could not believe some of the crazy stuff that happened. As you can tell there is nearly endless replayability and the difficulty is still somewhat challenging, especially for someone new to the series (although this is easier than some other FE titles).

This is Japanese only; however, there is an awesome fan translation for this game as well so you can still enjoy its epicness.

FE4 Gameplay: Skip to 5:50 to See Some Battle

"Fire Emblem 4" Translation

How to Play These Games

  • Buy a SNES.


  • Download an emulator and use IPS patching on the game's ROM. Search this yourself, it is probably illegal, but it may not be. Below is a link list that has everything for this method.
  • How to IPS patch
    Detailed tutorial for IPS patching (SNES games)
    I use this one on my pc, it is my favorite on pc, I like the GUI and the games play very well. Just as good as SNES9x.
    This has been ported to basically everything and is just as good as ZSNES. Ports on Wii, PC, Mac, PSP, iPhone, iPod Touch and likely a million more i do not know about. This site probably just has PC and Mac version but you can easily search for the

© 2012 shanktoofs123

Guestbook Comments

Kevin Mann from Canada on August 25, 2019:

I didn't know there was a SNES tales game. That would be fun

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on June 22, 2019:

I want to purchase some of these and have a few plays.

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 02, 2018:

My husband grew up playing most of these. He said he got frustrated if his character was weak and died easily, which I find hilarious. What a cool collection of games! Thank you for sharing.

Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on January 16, 2018:

There are plenty of Fire Emblem games I just never heard of before because they were only released in Japan.

Aaron on December 05, 2017:

Great list! I Would have dropped number 10 and just call it a top 9 Japanese rpg list

Ced Yong from Asia on June 05, 2016:

So many titles back then that never left Japan's shore. Thank goodness globalisation came to Japanese games after these.

Bob on March 26, 2016:

No one knows about the original Front Mission? One of the best games I have ever played.

shanktoofs123 (author) on June 16, 2015:

Do re mi fantasy is absolutely awesome, however I have never played magical pop'n... definitely interested though

Johne950 on November 30, 2014:

Thanksamundo for the post.Really thank you! Awesome. deeaggeefbbk

Jay-Ray on October 22, 2014:

Really no magical pop'n

Andy on October 02, 2014:

Where is DoReMi Fantasy??????

anonymous on April 07, 2014:

This is a good list. never saw firemen, or megaman & bass.. and ff5 looks a bit like pokémon. good stuff overall, though.

MasterPranker on January 08, 2014:

Great list! The SNES and PS1 are definitely my favorite systems (love me them JRPGs).

Though I couldn't help but notice, not a SINGLE Dragon Quest game made this list! C'mon, DQ5 is one of the best RPGs ever, and the remake of 3 was GODLY.

shanktoofs123 (author) on September 06, 2013:

@anonymous: Definitely will look into it, thanks for the suggestion

anonymous on July 21, 2013:

@greatkhan24: Not sure if you'll read this comment, but there is another interesting fire fighting game that actually did come to North America. The game I'm talking about is called The Ignition Factor, and it's an excellent video game, definitely worth a look.

shanktoofs123 (author) on May 23, 2013:

@Jhale Moreno: Yeah have to agree on Fire Emblem 4, it is so epic in every way, the music is just another facet of the game that pulls you in. I am very interested in hearing people's opinions about where certain games should be ranked (referring to your comment about Terranigma)... or if there is some other unknown gem I am missing on my list.

Jhale Moreno on May 10, 2013:

Amazingly (or not) I have played all of these games except Mystery of the Emblem, Firemen and Star Ocean. Nevertheless, all of these games are awesome although I am not a fan of Terranigma (I would probably put at #10). Fire Emblem Seisen no Keifu is even my favorite game of all time! Nothing is more enchanting than that game and its soundtrack.

shanktoofs123 (author) on January 17, 2013:

@greatkhan24: Yea its a shame that I wasn't able to enjoy these games in my childhood, when I had much more time to play them, I really didn't find and play most of them until the past 5-7 years.

greatkhan24 on January 15, 2013:

Great Lenses, I didn't know such a game like Firemen existed. It's sad that here in the USA we tend to get Crappy games and Europe and Asia gets some of the better games.

Indeed, a great Lenses, you must of put a lot of effort into it.

Keep up the good work.