Happy 23rd Birthday, SNES – A Personal Look Back At The Console

Gaming / Nintendo

This weekend marks the 23rd anniversary of everyone’s favorite Mode 7ing, SEGA crushing, Super Mario World-having console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I could easily skim the SNES Wikipedia page and give you the rundown history of the console that you’ve seen a million times and have memorized word-for-word at this point, but I thought I’d do something different.

If you’re like me and born in the late 80’s or early 90’s (89 for me) you probably came just barely too late for NES craze. Your parents might have still had one by the time you were three or four and could sort of grasp the idea of how a video game works, but by that time the grandaddy of Nintendo systems was nearing 10 years old and the SNES was in full swing.

With that said, I thought I’ve give a quick glimpse into my personal history with the console and maybe it’ll trigger some hidden nostalgia goodness for you too. Just for the sake of keeping the memories authentic, I won’t be Googling anything to refresh my memory of the games as I’m doing the write-ups. This is all from what I remember from my first major console in video games.

Where It Started

I have no idea. I don’t remember when my parents bought a SNES or precisely the first time I played it. In fact,  the Super Nintendo wasn’t even the first console I remember seeing. I definitely have faint memories of watching family members (mainly my brother) play Q-Bert on Atari and of course Super Mario Bros on the NES. We even found the Atari in our shed when I was a little older but eventually just threw it out thinking it was junk. Man do I regret that.

Anyway, the clear first game I remember playing is Super Mario World. And that’s where this little trip down memory lane starts. Here are a few of my favorite games for the 23-year-old console and what they meant to me.

Super Mario World (1990)

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As I said, this is the first game I absolutely remember playing while having a controller in my hand and it was always with my brother or my mom that I played with. I don’t think I even made it very far on my own, never even past the first the first castle to create the bridge and get off the island. Most of my play time was spent jumping around that tree level with an odd fireplace in one of the trunks.

Playing with family members was another story entirely. I remember my brother was great at the game and I was the annoying little brother following and constantly draining our lives. When we – well mainly him – got to the final Bowser and his flying teacup of a helicopter I ended up putting my controller down and letting him take him down. Despite the fact that all I did was die and lose precious lives it still felt like I accomplished something. Being four-years-old is easy as hell.

When my brother was at school or otherwise couldn’t play, my mom would always be the one playing Mario. She wasn’t nearly as good as my brother of course, but miles better than me. One semi-related thing I remember is that, when she had to have surgery and stay hospitalized for a couple days, the first thing I asked was “who’s going to play Mario?” I had priorities.

Super Play Action Football (1992)

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Super Play Action football is to me what Techmo Bowl is to most people. It was my first exposure to being able to play as the team I watched on TV (I don’t even remember what team it was back then I switched so much as a kid). Honestly the game was confusing as hell to look at. You play on a slanted field, but also have a semi-transparent map on the left side of the screen to orient yourself with the playing field.

Even without firing up an emulator and looking up a video or anything I distinctly remember the choose your team screens. There was a little guy with a flag and the text of your chosen team would flash outwardly from the center in blue or orange. I have no idea why I remember this so well but the visual and music that played on the select screen is absolutely burned into my mind. Maybe it’s because I had no idea which team to choose 90% of the time and would take forever deciding. I remember a lot of groans coming from my brother while he sat with his precious Bills already selected for me to pick a damn team already.

During the coin toss and whenever there was a big play, the game would cut away to a small crowd watching in what looked like a break room or an overfill room in the stadium. While cool (and as far as I know games still don’t do this), it absolutely terrified me. Something about the faces and mean pixelated expressions whenever the home team screwed up gave me nightmares. Whenever I knew it was coming I’d usually look away. Now that I think back on it, it’s a really cool feature and I still don’t know why modern football games don’t do it or something similar. But that’s another article altogether.

Mario Paint (1992)

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Speaking of games that irrationally gave me nightmares – Mario Paint. I remember almost nothing about this game. Reason being, when I got to one part in particular I completely gave up on it and the thought of even seeing the intro screen was enough to make me cry as a four year old and still get a tingly creeped out feeling as a 24-year-old. There was one mini-game where you had to swat flies and after some amount of time a boss bug would come out and the creepiest music would play. That, combined with it’s terrifyingly angry eyes, were enough to make me never touch the game. To this day it still remains a game that I don’t dare play and I’m dreading looking it up after this write-up to find images and refresh myself on it. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating. My parents ended up giving the game away because I wouldn’t touch it or let my brother play it around me.

I do remembering playing around with the composer (which, by the way, has spawned a flash version and is still popular to this day) before my irrational fear of that stupid fly took hold and the splash screen that animated coloring a picture of Yoshi is still fresh in my mind.

Super Off Road (1993)

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If you’ve never heard of this game (and based on the lack of a Wikipedia page I’m going to guess it wasn’t all that popular) it’s an isometric racing game similar to Blizzard’s slightly more popular Rock Rock n’ Roll racing. I remember always being frustrated with not knowing which direction to press to turn the way I wanted – “I pressed right why are you going up?!” – but that’s the nature of isometric games. Left always turns left even if it’s up on the screen.

Other than my terrible four-year-old motor skills failing me, I remember this game was awesome. There were a ton of upgrades you could get between races, those sweet one-piece wearing trophy babes, obstacles on the track were actually fun to avoid and ramp off of and using the nitro to blast across the screen was enough to blow my mind every single time. Considering isometric racers are still popular, I’d assume this aged well. If you can grab it on an emulator acquire it completely legally you should.

Donkey Kong Country (1994)

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And when I say Donkey Kong Country, I strictly mean the original. I didn’t even know there were sequels until years later. But with that said, I was absolutely lost in DKC. There was so much going on and my brother went so fast that I barely knew what was happening. But damnit did I love every second. My strongest memory is that beaver for some reason. I really should play all these again.

The Lion King (1994)

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I don’t remember getting very far in this game but, based on reading about it and watching people play it as an adult, there’s a very good reason. This game is freaking hard. I had always assumed I never made it past the first couple levels because of my pre-school ineptitude, but the game is just damn near impossible. That’s the great thing about playing games before all your cognitive abilities are there, I still had a blast with it. Despite being the same level every time, it still felt like a new adventure every single play-through – all the flashy lights and colors were new and exciting.

Kirby Super Star (1996)

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This is a game I never actually owned, but put more time into it than several games that I did. As a kid, I had sleepovers almost every weekend. Whether it was going to a friends house or a friend coming to mine, it was almost always late nights playing games. My Kirby Superstar Playing days weren’t as long ago as some others on this list, though. I clearly remember both my friend and I owned N64’s (and maybe even Gamecubes toward the end) but we still played Kirby Super Star every time I went over to his house. Being that it wasn’t my house and guest rules and all that, I of course ended up with the bastardized controller with the macro button, but that didn’t stop us. He was a master of all the minigames and towards the end of our time playing it, we were pretty evenly matched. We destroyed that planet so many times in that timing/punch-the-ground minigame. Beat the game countless times over several years and it still remains one of my favorites with the best memories tied to it.

Games I Never Played, But Should Have

For one reason or another, there were just some games I never played. Being that I was only in my early to mid single digit ages while the SNES was king of the gaming world, most of the game decisions weren’t mine. They were just whatever we happened to own at the time. Great games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past and Chrono Trigger I just had no idea existed until I was much older and heard friends talk about them. I didn’t know about Link and his adventures until Ocarina of Time on the N64 came out and every single friend I knew with the console owned it and talked about it.

There were others I knew about and wanted to play, like Bomberman and Star Fox, but just never did for whatever reason. But everytime I thumbed through the JC Penny or Toys ‘R Us catalogs to circle Christmas presents they always caught my eye.

And, of course, there were games I knew about, wanted to play, but flat out wasn’t allowed. Games like Street Fighter and Contra that my parents found too violent and didn’t want me to see at such a young age. That’s not to say I didn’t play them at all, because I did at friend’s houses (sorry, Mom) but not nearly enough to remember anything from them.

Happy Birthday, SNES!

That obviously isn’t every game I’ve ever played, but these are the ones I remember the most without having to look up information.Super Mario Kart, for instance, I know I owned and played but I’ll be damned if I can remember a single thing about it. Even after buying it on the Wii U virtual console no fond memories came flooding back. Also, Super Mario Kart did not age well. Wow.

Nintendo consoles were the only ones I ever owned up until the original Xbox and it’s fair to say they helped shaped my gaming preferences and a little bit of who I am. So thanks SNES, for giving me a branch to hold onto growing up and always having an answer to the question “who’s going to play Mario?”

What are your fondest memories of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System?  Sound off in the comments, or on your favorite social network.

Happy birthday!

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