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Published July 13, 2017

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know…”
―Pema Chödrön

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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, SpelunkyBroforce 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.

Mage-Head-Black-smallcrop


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.

26 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:

    No blogger is an island, NPCs! We help each other. We need each other. That’s why I’m subbing for one of my fellow writing friends in his absence over at Nerd Speaker. Check out this piece I wrote there about the influence of the Super Nintendo, even after all this time has passed.

    See you there!

    • I love the SNES so much and you’re the first person that would pop in my head to give the console a well-deserved attaboy as a guest blogger. Great read!

  2. I concur with literally everything said here; this is a wonderful tribute to the greatest gaming system ever developed. Well done.

    • Thanks for reading, KK! I was shocked (but not surprised) this year to see how many people still gravitate toward the SNES at the merest mention, and it really dawned on me how the massive indie scene is dominated by the influence of the Super Nintendo, too.

  3. I think about the SNES and I see genius. It was a really magical time with just masterpiece after masterpiece coming out.

    The closest the industry has come since is with the indie scene, which apes the SNES era – very telling, I think. Case in point – I’ve spent the last few days addicted to Metroidvania title Dead Cells. It’s amazing!

    Long live the SNES!

    • Okay so what we really need to do is come up with a comprehensive list for the big systems in gaming history and see how many critically acclaimed masterpieces are on each. The SNES has got to rank pretty dang high on that kind of a list. That could be a fun community project, come to think of it!

      • With the SNES, a good starting point is the 21 games on Nintendo’s Classic Mini. Most of that lot are essential, but they missed off a load as well. I’m pretty certain the SNES would come out on tops in a masterpieces war. There are just too many amazing games on the thing.

  4. Thanks for writing this post, W.R., and yes, the SNES era holds a special place in my heart for the very reasons you mentioned. RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario RPG and Earthbound and Secret of Mana are still all-time favorites for their power of immersion. Games like Donkey Kong Country and Star Fox skirted the edge of 3D giving us a glimpse into the future. Mario World and Yoshi’s Island were colorful and continued to evolve the franchise. And games like Castlevania and Super Metroid were so innovative they now have their own smashed-together indie genre. Bravo Nintendo, you deserve our SNES Classic dollars.

    • Hey thanks for having me! I’m glad it all worked out with timing for your vacation, on which I hope you’ve had a blast in sunny Bangladesh! The SNES was a beast when it came to RPGs, and I wish there were consoles today that specialized in those like the Supes Nin seemed to do so well. Nintendo will indeed get my SNES Classic dollars, if [insert complaint about availability here].

  5. Chris Scott Chris Scott

    I have a love for the SNES but maybe it is just my old age and my lack of offline friends that were heavy gamers, but I don’t see the excitement around the SNES Classic like that with the NES Classic. I mean I had people that don’t play games falling over themselves to get a NES Classic last holiday but right now I’m not seeing that hype from them.

    Regardless, I want one and will hunt it down. The SNES is a great system and has some of the best games ever on it. In fact, I still hold to the opinion that A Link to the Past is the best Zelda game and one of the best games ever.

    • It must be our circles since I’m seeing even more hype on my end for the SNES Classic with a lot of friends saying they’ll try even harder to get one this time. A Link to the Past is indeed one of the best games there is. It frequently tops those kinds of lists and that’s just scratching the surface of what the SNES had to offer.

  6. It’s odd reading your words without a black background, but still awesome 🙂

    • I felt dirty with all this white background haha! Just kidding. I never thought of that since I can’t change the WP editor background to black. I would if I could because I’m always squinting at my screen but if I lower the brightness too much then I can’t see anything. Ah first world problems. Thanks for your kindness!

  7. I agree the Super NES was influential. But as I fast approach geezerdom I can say that the NES mini debacle did make AtGames a ton of money. Many who couldn’t find one picked up one of their annual Flashback releases. We’re talking about a segment that wants to relive the games of their youth, but don’t want to invest $70 into a vintage console, and $5-$500 per game. Well, them, and scalpers. Who hoard everything from the NES mini to shortpacked action figures, to shortpacked craft beer.

    But I digress. I think the Super NES mini will be hot for three groups. 1.) The aforementioned casual player who doesn’t want to collect OG hardware. 2.) The aforementioned scalper. This is why when it was announced I jokingly called it the Super NES retirement plan. I fully expect to see this thing going up for a cold hard G on ebay. The only way it doesn’t is if Nintendo surprises the world by producing millions of the damn things. Which I hope they do because 3.) The last group will be retro fans who want to legitimately play Star Fox 2. Probably more than them actually, seeing how even Assault, and Zero have their fans.

    As for the original Super NES, when I was in High School it was all about the Super NES, and the Genesis. Most had one or the other. Both had excellent games. I had the Super NES. I still have most of those games, and I pick up anything that looks interesting that I didn’t own as a teenager. There are so many wonderful games on the platform that get overlooked. First Samurai is one of them. It’s a port of a Commodore 64, and Amiga game. But it’s awesome. There’s Timeslip, a highly glossed over time-travelling Contra clone. There’s Space Megaforce which is a part of the Aleste series. Once people discovered that, the price skyrocketed. But the point is, there are a lot of great games besides the evergreen Nintendo, Capcom, Square, and Konami stuff. I also have a RetroGen adapter which is basically a Genesis clone in a Super NES game Pak. You plug it’s own AV cables from the cartridge to the TV, and it uses the Super NES’ power to boot it up. Basically, you plug your Sega games on the RetroGen, and use the Super NES pad to play them. It’s kind of weird playing Golden Axe with a Super Nintendo controller, but hey, best of both worlds!

    Great write up!

    • Scalpers… they already had pre-orders up for hundreds of dollars somehow when the thing isn’t even available anywhere from US retailers. Also, I fit into that third group, and partially the first, since some of these games I don’t own the carts for and I don’t feel like hunting them down. Haha that sounds surreal playing Genesis games with a SNES game pad!! Mind blown.

  8. Great article, the SNES is a truly timeless piece of technology. It may not have been my intro to gaming, but it showed me how big and imaginitive games.could be, with classics like super Mario RPG and my all time favourite, super Metroid. Even years after the SNES was done, I still discovered great game like Chronicles trigger and harvest moon. It’s true it’s influence will never end, and I’m sure there are other games I’ve yet to experience that’ll make me say wow.

    • I can appreciate your objective honesty! The SNES wasn’t my intro to gaming either. The NES was. Given, that’s a Nintendo console but I hold that the NES and the SNES are the two greatest consoles ever made for their influence and libraries.

  9. When young’uns today think retro, I believe they go back to SNES like games. It makes me wonder if tomorrow’s generations will go back to the PS4…

    • So you’re comment made me feel real good just now. I’m 32 but I often discover people think I’m in my mid-twenties. I’ll take that! I’ll also take young’un! I personally think that the cut-off for retro is at the end of the 16-bit era with the SNES, right before 3D games took over. I also think that, while there are those out there who consider any non-current gen system “retro” (the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U! Really!), that the best way to describe these is modern but not current gen. Maybe generations from now we’ll have to start saying “post-modern”. I will, but that may get confusing for philosophy.

      • Well, there really isn’t a definition for post-modern lol. It’s one of those undefined, literary terms or rather the definition is going to change to go along with whatever definition we think of as “modern.”

        What?! That’s ridiculous. One system back is NOT retro. The only way I’d consider that the case would be if the current ones had been the standard for at least a decade, which just isn’t the way of gaming consoles. Like if it was like Blu-ray, DVD, and VHS. I don’t consider DVD retro (yet), but VHS definitely is since that technology is from 20-30 years ago. Hm, that could be a good definition of retro, something that’s a generation back.

        Those systems are more like say an iPhone or Android version 1 or 2 back. Not retro at all!

  10. […] singer-deluxe at Nerd Speaker) permitted me to write in his absence for his blog, a post called “Why the ghost of the Super Nintendo is still around 27 years later”. Many of us might’ve had our SNES Classic preorders from Walmart cancelled but at least we […]

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