The Super Nintendo is now old enough to rent a car without having to pay obscene insurance fees. The Super Nintendo is still one of the best consoles ever built and its mainly because of its expansive library.
Some people will tell you that the Sega Genesis was better but those people didn’t have parents who loved them. The Super Nintendo era is what most gamers my age will remember as the golden age of gaming. Before CD rom load times and losing your memory card became the norm.
Lukewarm reception from Parents
While the Super Nintendo is a staple in video game history, not everyone was excited for a new system. Parents were mad that the Super Nintendo would not be backward compatible with the older NES titles and SNES games wouldn’t work in the NES. Of course the Super Nintendo would go on to be the hottest Christmas item of the year in 1991, but with NES games still being produced, some people had little incentive to upgrade right away. This of course lead to some of the best and rarest NES games to be made; Bubble Bobble part 2, Little Samson, and Surprise at Dinosaur Peak. Those titles came at the tail end of the NES’s life and pushed the system to its limit. Some people suggest that if those games had been released on SNES they would have had a much bigger following.
Launch Titles for the Super Nintendo ensured its success
Every gaming platform starting out needs a decent user base to attract developers and to attract more people to your system, you need developers to make good titles. The Super Nintendo had 5 games available at launch; F-Zero, Gradius 3, Pilotwings, SimCity, and Super Mario World which was included with the system. Each game showed off the capability of the console and weren’t available on any other system. In four months, there were 31 titles including some of the best games for the system. Titles like ActRaiser, Final Fight, Castlevania 4, Final Fantasy 2(4 in Japan), and Super Ghouls and Ghosts helped solidify Super Nintendo’s hold in the gaming war.
The technology of the Super Nintendo
For its time, the Super Nintendo was a very powerful upgrade from the original NES. First off the new GPU allowed what Nintendo called “Mode 7” which allowed the background layer to be rotated and scalled in a way to simulate 3D effects. Games like F-Zero, Castlevania 4, and Super Mario Kart utilize this effect the most, but there were plenty of other games that took advantage of it as well. Add in a sound chip by Sony and you have one beefy system worthy of a $200 price tag. While systems like the Turbografx 16 and Sega Genesis could deliver 16bit graphics, they fell short because of Nintendo’s no compromise approach to system building. In fact, when the SNES mini would be released in 1997, they actually took a lot of features that they felt were unnecessary like S-Video and RGB.
Nintendo relaxes its standards.
The Super Nintendo was also a time where Nintendo was starting to loosen their ridiculous standards set in the NES era. During the NES days, developers could only release 5 titles a year forcing some companies to develop spinoff companies to circumvent that limitation. That’s why you have Metal Gear being published by Ultra, which is owned by Konomi. In addition to the limitation, Nintendo had strict quality control for games on the NES which is good and bad depending on what context you place it in.
After the video game crash decimated retailer’s willingness to keep any video game console on their shelves, Nintendo needed to assure retailers that the same thing wouldn’t happen again. Now with the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis was a fierce competitor and were more tolerant of what could be published on the system. This forced Nintendo to relax their rules for developers or risk losing them to Sega. Now developers could make any game and sell without having to get Nintendo’s approval first.
Violence in video games and Nintendo’s role.
Mortal Kombat was released in Arcades in 1992 and eventually ported to the home consoles. While it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have an arcade title ported (they’ve been doing it since PONG) this title was different. The realistic violence that the game promoted had drawn attention from parents and lawmakers worried about the effect it would have on children. While violence in video games is nothing new, this is the first time the violence was graphic enough to raise eyebrows. While the original arcade game had blood and fatalities, the home consoles didn’t. At least not right without some codes.
The Sega Genesis version had a code that unlocked blood and fatalities, but the SNES version just featured sweat and toned down fatalities. Nintendo didn’t feel that violence was appropriate on their console, but after the genesis version sold way more copies and Nintendo branded as the company for kid’s toys, Nintendo decided to let an unaltered version of Mortal Kombat 2 on the SNES. That version sold way more copies than the Genesis version.
The legacy of the Super Nintendo
The Super Nintendo was a quality console and many fans of Nintendo believe it to be the last best console the company has produced. Nintendo chose to hold off on the CD medium that made Sony’s PlayStation so popular with third party developers on the next generation and were beat badly. The lack of third party titles on Nintendo 64, Gamecube, Wii, and Wii U have stunted Nintendo’s market share as a top notch console company. While there are quality games on each system listed, Nintendo hasn’t been able to recreate their dominance in the home console world.
With the looming release of the Nintendo NX, fans are anxious to see how it will affect the gaming marketplace. Reggie Fils-Aime recognizes the fan’s concerns and has stated very recently that they’ll make sure to learn from the mistakes of the Wii U launch and market the console more effectively. With Cloud and Ryu in Super Smash Bros, you have to think that those third party relationships have been patched up enough to lure them back to a brand new console. Will it recreate the magic of the Super Nintendo? Hopefully we’ll find out in a couple of weeks.