A quarter of a century since the Super Nintendo has passed. Often cited as one of the most popular and beloved consoles in video game history, the Super Nintendo first hit the North American market on Aug. 24, 1991, and even after all this time, its allure still pulls in gamers from the youngest generation.
Why is that? Well, I’m of the belief that there is just something really special about the 16-bit graphic style that offers something that both of the console generations surrounding it don’t. Nothing against the 8-bit sprites of the NES and the early 3D polygon models of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. They have their charms, but in the right hands, Super Nintendo games still look marvelous to this very day.
The Super Nintendo is also the point where the classic 80s formulas all had existed long enough to reach their full potential. Platformers, JRPGs, racing games, shooters. The first generation of game developers, mostly from Japan, had perfected their art by the early 90s and had the proper hardware to display it. A few PlayStation games carried on these early traditions, but by and large, the following generation hit the “hard reset” button on gaming once 3D became mainstream.
The Super Nintendo closed out the first big home console movement, making games that weren’t too hard to turn gamers away but still challenging enough to welcome the hardcore crowd, a balance that probably makes it popular to this day.
My story isn’t exciting. Video games were always something I had to enjoy from afar on family vacations, and I was always a generation behind as a kid all the way up to the PlayStation 2. When my cousins and friends gamed on an NES, I had a ColecoVision. By the time I got my NES, the Super Nintendo had already existed for two years. I didn’t appreciate the jump in graphics chronologically as a few older gamers, but I definitely knew these more powerful consoles were out there after I played them at others’ houses.
And like most others, it was the “big three” that brought me in. Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid were the most mind-boggling video games of all time. I remember my mother going out of town for a few days while house hunting during a move, and we stayed at her friend’s house. The friend had a son who was off to college, and I got to sleep in his room with a Super Nintendo plugged right into his TV!
A TV in the bedroom was another foreign idea to me. All night long, I played A Link to the Past and Super Metroid, and the mother’s friend wondered why I looked so tired for school everyday. Oops.
This was my first major memory outside of randomly playing it at cousins’ houses. Another small memory includes a cousin bringing his Super Nintendo to my new house shortly afterwards and us building a cardboard box fort in the living room out of moving boxes. Our fort included the Super Nintendo, and we had a blast with Rock n’ Roll Racing and nearly beat ActRaiser over that weekend as well.
Sticking with my pattern, I got my own Super Nintendo after the PlayStation and SEGA Saturn entered the market. The Nintendo 64 was just around the corner, but I didn’t care. I wanted a Super Nintendo! After buying it, though, the Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, and Killer Instinct only got me so far.
I was a recently converted Lord of the Rings nerd at the time, and I fell in love with the idea of fantasy. Looking to satisfy this new discovery through video games led me to discover a little franchise called Final Fantasy. There were two games available on the Super Nintendo, and I played both every chance I got to rent them. Needless to say, the rest is history if you know my taste in video games.
My second favorite memory from the Super Nintendo was my introduction to the JRPG genre, carving out an entire chapter of my life that’s still being written. This led to another favorite memory in which I fell in love with the two “worst” Super Nintendo JRPGs over a summer vacation at grandma’s house.
The Super Nintendo only dominated my interest for only about two years before I got my PlayStation, but I always look back on it as one of my favorite consoles. It’s in a constant tug-and-pull with the PlayStation as my favorite, but I can’t deny that most of my gaming habits fully formulated thanks to Nintendo’s 16-bit machine. Chrono Trigger, Lufia II, Harvest Moon, Mega Man X, Aladdin, Super Mario RPG, Super Star Wars, and Nintendo’s big three. It doesn’t get more nostalgic than that.
How about yourself? Where does the Super Nintendo fall on your nostalgia charts? Were you the perfect age for it like myself?