For those who don’t know, or are too young to know, the Super Nintendo (or Super Famicom in Japan) is one of the most beloved video game consoles in history. It spawned some of the greatest and most iconic games of all time, such as Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Final Fantasy VI. Nintendo, which is the oldest gaming company in the world, founded in 1889, had dominated the industry long before Sony or Microsoft came to compete for video game dominance.
Many of the well-designed SNES games had tremendous replay value, which was helped by their secret, hidden levels. These bonus rooms were created to challenge players, and people would spend hours looking for those hidden areas (remember, this was before the internet and sites like GameFAQs).
Let’s check out 20 SNES levels that people still might not know exist.
20 Ultimate Castle Challenge (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island)
The Ultimate Castle Challenge is the final hidden level in Yoshi’s Island, and it’s super difficult to get through, so be aware of that. Yoshi’s Island was meant to be an easier experience than other Super Mario games, so the Castle Challenge is a bit of an outlier. There are numerous platform challenges, Shy Guys, and platforming segments that take perfectly time execution—the level throws you for an incredibly challenging loop. Only the most seasoned veterans will make it through!
19 Culex Battle (Super Mario RPG)
In a mash-up of sorts, taken from the pages of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series, Super Mario RPG has an optional boss who is tougher than the final boss. In order to get to Culex, you must find a Shiny Stone and go to a sealed door, where you’re then greeted with the otherworldly monster. He is the toughest battle in the whole game, and has minimal animations compared to the rest. Tracks from Final Fantasy also play during the challenging fight.
18 Minus World (Super Mario Bros.)
The Minus World in Super Mario Bros. is known as a glitch level that wasn’t ever intended for gameplay. To access it, you must go to the first world in the game, stand on the pipe that leads to the goal pole, then head toward the left end of the pipe and duck while oriented in the left direction. Then jump into the air while still in the ducked position, then move to the right. If you’re underneath the ceiling when Mario comes down, voila, you should be rewarded with the level.
17 Jeweler’s Mansion (Illusion Of Gaia)
One of the more difficult bosses in Illusion of Gaia is actually a boss from the previous game in the unofficial trilogy, Soul Blazer. You can find the boss by exploring the mansion room, but this can only be done once the player unlocks the mansion’s entrance. To do this, you have to collect all 50 red jewels, then present them to Gem the Jeweler.
16 Top Secret Area (Super Mario World)
All of the Mario games have secret levels—in fact, Super Mario World has an entire secret world to explore—but none of them have as good of a name as “Top Secret Area.” It can be unlocked by traveling through a secret path in the Donut Ghost House, in the Donut Plains. There’s a secret exit hidden here that leads to the Top Secret Area, which is just a single room with all of Mario’s power-ups and a free Yoshi.
15 Locked Door In Kol (Dragon Warrior)
Before there was Final Fantasy, there was Dragon Warrior—now called Dragon Quest—which is arguably more popular (at least in Japan) than the Final Fantasy series. Dragon Warrior is credited with spawning the RPG genre as we know it. There are tons of hidden areas in the game, including this locked door in Kol. To break the lock, one must obtain the Fairy Flute, which has its own instructions to find.
14 Who Turned Out The Lights? (Earthworm Jim)
This level in Earthworm Jim, which is either referred to as “Who Turned Out the Lights?” or simply “Darkness,” is easy to find, but much harder to navigate. The secret level is covered entirely in darkness. In order to find it, a player must travel to Professor Monkey-For-A-Head’s laboratory, and then find the secret teleporter by the red light. Once inside, you must navigate the familiar area through memory, since it’s impossible to make out any surroundings.
13 Dinosaur Forest (Final Fantasy VI)
Many diehard Final Fantasy fans consider VI to be the best game in the series. There exists in the game a special, secret location that is used for grinding experience. Through the game, there are small hints of the forest that contains dinosaurs, and it takes a bit of searching to finally find. Inside the forest there are only two enemies, the Tyrannosaurus and Brachiosaurus, and they’re very difficult enemies. But they give a lot of experience points and drop some rare and useful items, so the trip is worth it.
12 Houlihan’s Secret Room (The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past)
Chris Houlihan was a fan who won a contest for Nintendo Power and was subsequently immortalized in A Link to the Past, after he sent in a picture of him encountering a specific enemy in Final Fantasy. In order to get to this secret room—which bears “Houlihan” on a sign near the back—Link must use Pegasus Dash to travel across from the Sanctuary to the Sewage Passage. You’ll then fall into the room.
11 Secret Salesman (Secret Of Mana)
Secret of Mana was the first game to be marketed as part of the Mana series, though it was originally released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure. Deep within the game lies a salesperson who seeks to help players. He is located in the Castle of Tasnica, and will provide players with everything they need in the coming journey. Go behind the bar in the castle, walk to the wall behind the bar, and make your way through the room.
10 The Ability Rooms (Kirby Super Star)
Kirby Super Star consists of seven subsections and two minigames, as well as this special room dubbed the “Ability Room.” It’s not a very glamorous hidden ability, as it only gives players the ability to test and scroll through their abilities, rather than having to track them down throughout the game’s stages. The rooms can be unlocked by beating the game’s main plot in Story Mode, and then it can be accessed—which means it’s not as much of a secret as it is a reward.
9 Lost World (Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest)
In Diddy Kong’s Quest, the special collectibles called Kremcoins are scattered throughout each level, and if you collect all 75 Kremcoins in the game, they can be used to access the Lost World hidden area. Each of the five entrances to the Lost World are placed in different spots on the map, and they’re not connected to each other. Also, the levels inside are notoriously difficult, so good luck.
8 Krematoa (Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!)
Besides having the longest names in the series, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! has an entire secret world for players to explore. Krematoa is similar to the Lost World, except it’s based inside of a volcano. In order to “awaken” the dormant volcano, players have to get the Hover Craft or Turbo Ski and drive in circles around four strange rocks. The dormant volcano will appear, but the only way to access all the levels is by collecting all the bonus coins in the game, which is quite the feat.
7 Zeal Rooms (Chrono Trigger)
Chrono Trigger is considered one of the best RPGs of all time, combining the talents of the Square “Dream Team”: Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy creator), Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest creator), and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest artist). In the game, players must find three books that correspond to different elements, then open them in the correct order to access the secret Zeal Rooms. In the two rooms, one will challenge the player to a battle, and the other will give them an interesting item.
6 Hadouken (Mega Man X)
One of the primary ways of advancing in Mega Man X is by defeating bosses and taking their powers. But you can even take the power of Ryu from Street Fighter, if you’re savvy enough. It’s very difficult to unlock the Hadouken ability, which is a secret part of Armored Armadillo’s stage. Players must have all the weapons and upgrades unlocked, and at least four lives. Then they have to perish three times in the correct spot, and finally spawn the capsule that gives them the iconic ability.
5 Out Of This Dimension (Star Fox)
This acid trip of a secret level has been the subject of controversy for years. In the original Star Fox game, if players shoot the second dark gray asteroid in the Asteroid Field level, an egg will appear that shapeshifts into a bird. Fly into the bird and you’ll be warped to “Out of This Dimension”—an odd level with strange faces and objects that is impossible to get out of once you’re inside. The strangest part of the level is the boss, which is a giant slot machine.
4 Finding Chun-Li (Breath Of Fire)
Although Breath of Fire might not be as popular as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, the series is pretty well done. It’s made by Capcom, who was famous for creating Mega Man and Street Fighter at the time. Breath of Fire has references alluding to notable Capcom members, such as Chun-Li from Street Fighter. If players talk to the magician in Bleak, he’ll offer to make 100g disappear into thin air. Answer “yes, yes, no, no, yes,” in that order, and you’ll be rewarded with a guest appearance from Chun-Li herself!
3 Unlock The Frying Pan (Super Mario RPG)
The frying pan is definitely a weapon worth seeking out in Super Mario RPG. It belongs to the princess, and in order to get it you must first defeat the Nimbus land area. Then you have to travel to Moleville, and one inside walk into the store. Quickly turn to the left, and if done correctly, a little man will appear who sells you things. In his inventory will be the elusive frying pan.
2 Mine Cart Carnage Shortcut (Donkey Kong Country)
The Mine Cart Carnage level is one of the most difficult in Donkey Kong Country, so wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bypass it altogether? Well, you can. You can skip the whole level, just about, by leaping over the initial barrel and clinging to the cliff face. You’ll then be dropped into a secret barrel that shoots you directly to the end of the area. Watch out for the last Kremling in the mine cart, which trips up a lot of people.
1 Star Road (Super Mario World)
Super Mario World is often considered the best Mario game of all time, and one of the best 2D games to date. It’s beloved for its characters, and people especially love the world map and how there are multiple ways to get to Bowser. One of the secret ways is through the Star Road, which is a secret exit within a secret exit. Travel to the Donut Secret House, uncover the door underneath the blocks, hit the blue block, ascend the vine that appears, and defeat the mini-boss . . . then you’re in!
References: videochums.com, ign.com, nintendo.fandom.com