What a Long, Strange Trip
Earlier this week marked the 30th anniversary of the Super Nintendo’s North American launch. For a system many herald as the greatest of all time, the celebrations seemed lacking across YouTube and other social media outlets.
I wonder if it’s because of how the system has been documented ad nauseam by the gaming press. Pretty much every retro gaming outlet has covered the SNES extensively at some point.
However, I wonder if we might be in a Citizen Kane type situation where canonically it is called the best ever, but no one really puts it up as their favorite.
Not So Super After All
Despite the Nintendo Entertainment System being my intro to the world of video games, I was unaware there was a potential successor. Back in the 90s, my backwoods Virginia hometown was basically the dark side of the moon when it came to news regarding video games.
I didn’t have a subscription to Nintendo Power, and the majority of my friends didn’t even own an NES. Needless to say, the launch of the Super Nintendo came and went without even a whimper in my mind.
A year after the launch of the system, I was still blissfully unaware of it. I never saw the system in action, but I did see a Sega Genesis and Sonic at a neighbor’s house, which made up my mind about what my next gaming system would be.
After reading Console Wars earlier this year, my reaction to Super Mario World was basically that of the Sega employee who was assigned to play the game and report back on it: it’s fine, but it’s nothing revolutionary.
I liked the addition of Yoshi, which was the main selling point to my elementary-aged brain at the time. Beyond that, though, Super Mario All-Stars is still my Mario game of choice for the system.
During the lifespan of the system, the only game I played for it regularly was Super Mario Kart with the older kid in the neighborhood who didn’t have any friends his own age.
Most everyone I knew owned a Genesis, and the kids that had Super Nintendos were those weird kids who played a lot of RPGs.
Ultimately, the Super Nintendo ended up winning that console generation, but Sega gave them a scare that many would consider unfathomable considering Nintendo’s stranglehold on the North American market. One could argue it was Sega that lost the war rather than Nintendo winning.
What Am I Missing?
One of the reasons I hear for the SNES being so lauded is because it took everything that the NES did well and made it “Super”. While the games definitely surpass the original console in graphical and audio quality, gameplay is another issue.
I’ve already mentioned my meh attitude towards Super Mario World, but I haven’t found any SNES title that I would consider superior to its NES counterpart. One could argue Super Metroid is superior to Metroid, but I don’t care for the series, so it’s a wash in my book.
I know the SNES was where RPGs came into their own and really started to take off in North America, but that is also a genre I don’t really enjoy. I’ve dabbled with Earthbound and Chrono Trigger, and I did find myself enjoying the latter when it was released on PS1.
I even tried to give Super Mario RPG a try, but these games just don’t hold my interest enough to see them through to the end. Ironic, as I have put, and continue to put, hundreds of hours into Super Mario Kart.
Growing up, sports games were played overwhelmingly in my house, and the Genesis blew the SNES away in that regard. Nintendo had their Ken Griffey Jr. license from their ownership share of the Seattle Mariners, but it wasn’t licensed by the MLBPA, so it didn’t have any real player outside of the titular one. Not that one needs that to enjoy the game, but the glut of other sports games on the Genesis compared to the SNES never really made me question my decision to go with the unknown challenger that generation.
Playing With Power?
Having a limited interaction with the system during its heyday could be my main hurdle as my nostalgia glasses for the system are not very thick. I did own a SNES in the late 90s and played the bulk of the heavy hitters from the library then, but it may have been too late for me.
I’ve tried to play through A Link to the Past recently on my Switch, but since I feel like I’m doing it as more of an obligation rather than playing it for enjoyment, I haven’t made much progress.
I have also done my due diligence to try and play Star Fox, but I simply don’t give two effs for it. With the backlog from the current generation growing all the time, it’s becoming even harder to try and find time to explore these older titles when there are much more immersive games waiting for me.
If you are a gamer who truly enjoys the Super Nintendo and its games, I’m not trying to say you are wrong. For me, it’s always going to be the system I didn’t own during the pivotal console war, but I’m not sure if that’s the only thing swaying my opinion. I could just have odd tastes as I also love the N64, and a number of video game purists thumb their noses at that system today.
Looking back, I’m glad the SNES was successful and allowed Nintendo to continue manufacturing games and consoles that continue to stand the test of time. This particular entry is one I can appreciate, but it’s not one I’m necessarily going to be bummed if I never get to play it again.