The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) is home to many of the best and most challenging RPGs ever. This is something that’s been on my mind a great deal lately, and I’ve seen quite a few lists on the topic. However, I don’t feel like certain games are being given their due love.
I wanted to avoid games that felt borderline unplayable - Tecmo’s Secret of the Stars, and games that weren’t originally brought to America. That means games like Tales of Phantasia and Final Fantasy V are also out. There are quite a few games that almost made this list, however.
Brainlord, Paladin’s Quest, Drakken, and a few others were very close. Were it a longer list, those games would likely have made the cut. I wanted this to be games that I know from first-hand experience to be brutally difficult, so many fan-favorite SNES RPGs aren’t on this list.
Chrono Trigger might be one of the best games of all time, but it’s not a game that I’d consider especially difficult until the very end.
All that said, here are games that stand out as some of the most frustrating SNES RPGs ever.
Note: This listicle is subjective, and the ranking reflects the writer's opinions.
Which SNES RPGs are the hardest ever?
5) Breath of Fire 2
Some people might be surprised at Breath of Fire 2’s inclusion on this hardest SNES RPGs list, but I think it’s warranted. For this particular RPG, it’s a lot of little things that really added up to make this game infuriating at times.
Perhaps one of the worst aspects of it, when it comes to challenge, was that the Magic-restoring items took away your HP as well. If you wanted 30 AP, you lost 30 HP, and so on.
It also had an incredibly tedious encounter rate, where enemies spiked in difficulty pretty quickly. As far as SNES RPGs go, it’s easily one of the most frustrating. It requires an intense grind, thanks to how badly the enemies are over-tuned.
It might be an excellent game, but it has so many challenging moments.
EarthBound? A hard game, you say? Of course it is! EarthBound is, without question, my favorite game of all time. It’s also among the hardest SNES RPGs for so many reasons.
The enemy movements are fast, and it’s hard to avoid many of them. Then you have enemies that, once you defeat them, explode, so your entire party takes mortal damage - Trees, for instance, and some robots.
The status ailments are hard to cure, and it also requires a pretty serious grind to buy new gear and level up. In particular, the Mushroom status ailment constantly changes your control scheme, and it can happen deep in the middle of a dungeon.
Suddenly, you "feel funny," and one-shot Paula. Between this and the incredibly hard boss gauntlets, such as the cops or the Moles, EarthBound is easily among the most brutal SNES RPGs ever.
3) Ultima 6: The False Prophet
The Ultima games are among the classic PC RPGs that always felt incredibly difficult. I think one thing that really made this harder on the SNES is that it was designed for Keyboard and Mouse. Finding things on the menus was much more difficult than it needed to be. On top of that, it’s an Ultima game.
That means the story is cryptic, and the world itself is quite massive and complex. I loved that it was literally an open world where you could roam and do what needed to be done, but from the frustrating combat to the poor AI, there was a lot to dislike. However, I do enjoy this game and still own a copy.
Despite that, if you don’t know what you’re doing at all times, Ultima 6: The False Prophet, like many of its predecessors and successors, remains challenging.
2) Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom
Wizardry, much like Ultima, comes from a very challenging franchise. The SNES version of this classic RPG felt so much harder than the PC version to me. It’s more than just having powerful monsters in the early going of the game - though, like in other dungeon crawlers like Might & Magic, that’s a thing you have to worry about.
That said, the entire game feels like one giant maze. There are trapped chests that instantly kill your party, mazes that feel like they’re constantly shrouded in darkness, and dungeon layouts that, frankly, make no sense. I felt like I had to be a master cartographer to get through this game in my youth.
1) The 7th Saga
The 7th Saga is one of my all-time favorite RPGs on the SNES and is, hands down, the most frustrating game I played on the console. It had a great concept, too - pick one of the 8 starting heroes, find one of them in the world to be your partner, and journey to collect the 7 Runes.
Each had a unique power, though many of them were ultimately worthless until the final moments of the game. The enemies in this game felt powerful, far more powerful than you in virtually every area. Then there are the other Apprentices. The characters you didn’t pick/recruit are all your rivals.
Unfortunately, in the English version of the game, the Apprentices were wildly over-tuned, having about 1.5x your stats in this SNES RPG. It made them feel absolutely impossible to beat, even if you were using Defend -> Cancel -> Attack to do more damage and take less.
If they beat you, they take your Runes, too, making the game even harder.
The bosses and enemies were over-tuned, and as mentioned previously, so were the Apprentices. It’s a cryptic game with tons of challenges, and while I love it, I cannot deny that it caused me so much frustration as a child.
There are so many fun, challenging SNES RPGs out there. Even beyond the Super Nintendo, there are difficult role-playing games, no matter what console you’re playing. This is just a selection of my favorites that deserve to be tackled, even if they occasionally feel unfair.