“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know…”
Hi there, readership I’m not familiar with. The Well-Red Mage has officially crossed inter-dimensional borders to interact with you at Nerd Speaker, at the behoove and behest of my dear friend Jeowulf, who is probably sipping down a caviar margarita on some white sandy beach somewhere in the Galapagos on vacation. It’s my pleasure to rise to the occasion in his well-deserved absence and submit for your approval the following message.
The Super Nintendo is one of the greatest systems ever made. I’ll prove it to you.
Imagine the tittering delight with which my heart leapt inside my breast when the SNES Classic Edition was announced. This is not only objectively the best system ever but it’s also my personal favorite (which may or may not have some bearing on these statements). I love the pinnacle of 16-bit sensibilities, its craftsmanship, its controllers, its library, its collection of hidden gems and perfect 10’s. Some of the greatest games in gaming history reside on the SNES. Some of them have never been surpassed. It outsold every other system of the fourth generation of home consoles and cemented the Big N as one of the future Big Three. It’s a system like no other and Nintendo has never really made anything quite like it ever again. So when the SNES Classic was announced, realize that all of that explosive conversation surrounding the announcement, all of that burbling hype and freakish excitement, all of that was more than just “nostalgia” talking.
There’s no denying that nostalgia is a powerful thing. Because of that, retro gaming firmly rooted in our pasts and our childhoods is often dismissed or condescended because it’s perceived as tainted by this sensation we call nostalgia. While I could argue that the SNES featured titles with gameplay that do more than just hold up in our modern era, that they instead still shine quite brightly, my point here is to suggest that the din surrounding the SNES Classic announcement isn’t due merely to pure nostalgia.
This announcement was like the proverbial boys were back in town. Consider that the same widespread excitement did not reverberate through the internet’s atmosphere for similar announcements. Sorry but when the plug & play Sega Genesis mini console hit the market, there was no such rush for it, especially after its low quality was documented. When Atari recently announced that they were coming back with new hardware after decades, there weren’t people crying “Have my babies”. Heck, to draw an even closer comparison, it seems to me that the excitement surrounding the SNES Classic is even more intense at a greater distance from its launch than even for the NES Classic, and that’s considering the SNES mini comes with less games. I can recall many a gamer saying they’d indifferently pass on the NES Classic, likely due to its poorer graphics from a modern standpoint. I’ve encountered only a few who would say such a thing of the SNES. It’s got the goods, the games, in contrast to some powerful systems in our time which only have a few must-plays.
Yes, the SNES was a formative console for many of us. It represented the first time that gaming reached out of the screen and grabbed our hearts. Across the world an uncountable number of people got into video games because of the Super Nintendo. Compared to these other retro gaming projects and announcements I’ve mentioned, the SNES Classic clearly stands out as one with a massive impact.
As a piece of true nostalgia, undoubtedly, as the victor of the fourth gen console wars, and as a source of intense excitement in the here and now, the SNES is paramount. There’s more.
I am about to suggest to you that the SNES remains highly influential on the modern world of gaming. It is one of the most influential consoles ever right beside the NES and the PS1. Known for its JRPGs and storytelling, its immersive experiences, the SNES helped pave the way for real narrative to creep into gaming. Graphically, the SNES had enough power to remain a contender on into the next generation, fifth gen, for some time. It flirted frequently with early 3D, pioneering new ideas that would later come to inform 3D gaming when it came into its own. It saw some of the crowning achievements of iconic franchises which still dominate gaming today, propelled by their progenitors as titles belonging to the Super Nintendo’s legendary successes. The diversity of its library beyond appealing to niche groups is evocative of the broader landscape of gaming libraries and their diversity, especially in terms of Sony’s line of consoles and Microsoft’s emphasis on diversity at E3 2017.
However, even with all this said, there is one very big area in which the ghost of the SNES is still felt today and that’s in the rise and appeal of indie games. In some circles, indie titles are a “love ’em or hate ’em” sort of thing. They’ve really grown on me, personally. Modern indie games are much more like Super Nintendo games than modern AAA games are, though there are analogies to be drawn there as well. Consider that indie games have smaller development teams, less content but more focused ideas and concepts, more emphasis on gameplay over than cutting edge graphics. Often indie games adopt a perfected 16-bit aesthetic which directly evokes the look of games from the Super Nintendo. Its strings can be seen in the games being created by those who believe in its legend.
Some of the most popular and successful indie games in recent history have “Super Nintendo” written all over them: Axiom Verge, Undertale, Stardew Valley and Hyper Light Drifter which take their cues from Super Metroid, EarthBound, Harvest Moon, and A Link to the Past. There’s also Kamiko, Cave Story, Cosmic Star Heroine, Wizard of Legend, CrossCode, Shakedown Hawaii, Tobe’s Vertical Adventure, Terraria, Spelunky, Broforce that adopt the look. There are other games which recall SNES gameplay: Thomas Was Alone, Rayman Origins, Braid, I Am Setsuna. I’m sure you can think of even more.
The fact is, even gamers who have never owned a Super Nintendo have felt its touch somewhere. When I saw footage of upcoming The Last Night, you can be sure of what classic console crossed my mind.
In a year where Chrono Trigger trends on Twitter, Crash Bandicoot makes a comeback, OG Xbox backwards compatability gets thunderous applause at E3, where pixel-art indie games on the rise and the SNES Classic makes waves, it’s clearer than ever that retro gaming has a powerful grip on the gaming community. At the center of that the ghost of the Super Nintendo comfortably resides, and I expect it shall be there to stay. Time has not lessened the status of the SNES as an influential legend. It has increased it. That ghost shall ever be around and we must learn from it for many years to come.
Thanks for reading.
The Well-Red Mage is a Renaissance man and Classics Gamer from a collective of writers working to cure all ignorance surrounding video games, emphasizing long-form analysis on entertainment from any era. Meet the mages at thewellredmage.wordpress.com.