The NWR staff reminisce about their favorite SNES memories.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System made its debut in North America on August 23, 1991. Now, the system is 20 years old. For many of us, it marked a significant moment in our gaming lives. We were re-introduced to old friends and presented with new ones on a glorious new platform, giving us some of the best gaming experiences ever created. To celebrate, the Nintendo World Report staff sat down and recalled what their first SNES memories were like.
Way back in 1992, it was summertime. My family and I went to a local video game store to pick up a copy of Tiny Toons Adventures for the NES. Unfortunately, the story didn't have it. However, they had a Super NES display. It was the first time I ever saw the system. Back then there was no internet, so the reveal of new gaming systems always took me by surprise. The game they were demoing was Super Mario World, and we were all blown away by it. The system was so impressive that both of my parents picked up the system on the spot, no questions asked. So, we came in looking for a NES game, we walk out with a shiny new SNES. They said that it was my birthday present, so I had to take care of it and share with my sister, relatives and friends.
The Super NES would become one of the most important gaming systems I had ever owned. Sure, the NES was my first gaming system, but it was the SNES that helped me grow into the gamer and even the person I am today. It taught me to appreciate game design and actually try out new and foreign game genres. It also yielded some of the best gaming memories of my childhood, like the many slumber and birthday parties fighting games hosted as well as my first gaming achievements. They say that every decision we make in life can change the outcome of our lives. For me, had it not been for that visit to the game store, it's likely I wouldn't be here talking about it together. Dramatic, yes, but you never know...
I didn't own a SNES back in the day, I only ever played the system at a friend's house. Usually we ended up playing Super Mario All-Stars, which was not all that fun for myself, as I was not very good at the game and usually had to wait ages before my friend finally lost a life. I rediscovered the SNES in the early 2000's, and started to learn about and play through classics such as A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Kirby Super Star etc. I loved discovering that there was this older colourful Zelda game for the SNES: The N64 Zelda's were my favourite games, and to have another full Zelda adventure to start exploring was a great revelation. Another fun memory was playing through Kirby Super Star with my friend, and trying to complete the arena boss rush mode together.
My first memory of the Super Nintendo is actually a dream I had not long after Super Famicom was released in Japan. I must have been reading in Nintendo Power about this new system and its amazing new Mario game. In the dream, my family took a vacation to Japan (ludicrous), and our hotel happened to have the brand new Super Famicom installed for guests. I dreamed up a unique art style and gameplay for Super Mario World, because I knew virtually nothing about the real game at that time. It was vivid enough at the time that I still have fuzzy memories of this dream, now more than 20 years later.
When Super NES did finally come out in America, I bought one with allowance money on launch day. The next day, I took the Super Mario World instruction book to school and showed it off to all my friends, who were properly impressed. I quickly discovered every exit and began calling my local stores daily to ask about "Zelda 3" because I had no idea when it was supposed to be released.
I was a Genesis kid growing up, though I'm not sure why. That my grandma got me a Genesis instead of a Super Nintendo for my first home console can perhaps be attributed to the slight price difference between the two (I think Genesis was $50 cheaper), but then again it could have just been a coin toss. I never owned an NES myself, but I played a fair share of it at friends' houses during sleepovers, so when I saw the display for Super Mario World at Sears, my jaw hit the floor. Sure, I adored Sonic and Tails, but seeing Mario fly with his cape or destroy blocks with his spin jump while spouting fireballs in all directions made me proverbially weak in the knees. Or who knows, maybe I really did fall down. And Yoshi? What kid didn't love dinosaurs at that point? Hell, Zach hasn't even grown out of the phase! Yes, I needed a Super Nintendo.
Of course, it's not always that simple, much to the surprise of me and my tenured seven years of experience being alive. I wasn't able to get an SNES until very late in the life of the system, perhaps 1994 or so, meaning I was left to absorb every bit of fun I could out of the system when visiting friends and family members who possessed the grey and purple contraption. For this reason, I don't have too much experience playing some of the lesser known games for the system, as by time I got the thing, I basically grabbed up the best games I had always wanted and, just about two years later, moved on the N64. But hey, if that meant I would have Super Metroid, EarthBound, Yoshi's Island, Chrono Trigger, and Tetris Attack all at my disposal the minute I got the system, I would take it.
Oh, I forgot. I also rented an SNES with Mario All-Stars from Blockbuster a few times to satisfy that itch. That's right, I was a pre-teen SNES junkie, begging my mom to drop the something-like $20 to rent the system while also leaving a deposit in case it broke. Those nights, playing against the clock of the 2-day rental, were some of my most memorable.
I never owned a Super Nintendo until around 2004. I had played a wide variety of the games courtesy of friends and illegitimate means, but I never owned the system. I was, as many other staffers were, a Genesis kid. The influence for me was that my brother, who is several years older than me, bought a Genesis. I spent my days as a gaming youngster playing games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Kid Chameleon, Tommy Lasorda Baseball, X-Men, and Golden Axe.
I was still aware of the Super Nintendo, and my affection for my cousin's NES (which he later gave to my brother and me) added to my interest. I recall going over to a family friend's house to play Super Mario World for hours, finding exits and eating stuff with Yoshi. I played Super Mario RPG to completion while visiting my friend (and NWR programmer) Joe Patnick at his shore house. I stayed up late being the little brother nuisance and played Super Mario Kart and Turtles in Time with my brother and his friends. I routinely played demos in stores, especially back when stores such as Best Buy had these huge pillars with systems set up all around them.
In the ensuing years, my Nintendo love grew, but I still never owned a Super Nintendo. I ended up buying the system still in the box with a copy of Star Fox at a giant-ass flea market in Pennsylvania. It was easily the best $30 I ever spent.
When I returned home, I played the ever-loving shit out of Star Fox (likely a good reason why it is my preferred game in the series), and proceeded to go on a rampage of assembling the games I had fond memories of and always wanted to play. I used eBay to buy games such as Turtles in Time and Chrono Trigger. I raided Funcolands and EB Games of their waning retro game stock, picking up gems such as Final Fantasy III, ActRaiser, Illusion of Gaia, and many more. I pestered friends and family who wanted to get rid of their old system. A kid down the road from me sold me his copy of Super Mario RPG for $5. During that time period (2004-05), I played more Super Nintendo than I did any other system. By far.
I don't touch the system as much these days, but my time with the system nearly 15 years after it first came out is one of my most cherished gaming memories.
The SNES is pretty much the reason I am here writing about games at NWR. I had dabbled in games before that, but the day we came home with the Super Mario World bundle, plus Mario Paint especially for me, was a turning point.
Games like A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Street Fighter II immersed me completely. It wasn't only fun to play, but fun to watch others just to see what would happen next. The SNES's life was at a point where I could exchange games with school friends, bringing me deeper into the gamer world. In these days games were very expensive, but this just meant that we would squeeze every last bit of gameplay from each title and really get to know the secrets of the games, something that is lacking in today's very linear titles.
The jewel of them all, though, is most definitely Donkey Kong Country 2. This game shaped my life, and is a big contributor to my current profession. The platforming was so fluid, the music and graphics combined to create an experience that was so much more than the sum of its parts. This game is what gave me the aspiration to work in the industry one day. I wanted to know what it was like to be behind the controller, creating the game. Of course, this is one reason why I started writing for gaming websites.
While that is not where my path has ultimately led, it's not far off. To say the console had a big impact on me would be putting it lightly. This is why the 16-bit era and 2D games will forever remain the best.
Like many of my gaming "firsts," I got my initial look at the SNES at a friends' house. His parents had bought him one, and of course it came with Super Mario World. We were all well acquainted with Super Mario Bros. 1-3 at that point, and we yearned for more. Flipping the system on, our jaws dropped and our eyes moistened while watching that spectacular track sequence behind the start-up menu. The music was so fitting. Mario grabbed an egg and it turned into a freaking dinosaur! Then, the first stage. Diagonal slopes, dragons that squished when stomped, and HOLY CRAP A GIANT BULLET BILL. Our minds shattered. Gaming would never get better than this. And in some ways, it hasn't.
My mom and uncle were apparently in cahoots that day. He was a country away, but had arranged for a 'surprise" to be mailed to my brother and I at our townhouse. Then Mom, who always has to make a game out of everything, decided a treasure hunt was in order. So my brother and I had to scramble all over the house, finding scraps of paper with a clue to the next step, until finally we found ourselves pulling aside a shower curtain. Sitting in the tub, resplendent in that black and red color scheme of the Super Nintendo, was the unopened Super Scope box. It was awesome.
That's the first piece of gaming hardware I remember getting brand new. I know my NES was a hand-me-down, and if we got the SNES new I can't recall, but that Super Scope is seared into my brain. That's muscle memory for you: playing with the Super Scope was as much a physical experience as an emotional one. A Zapper you just aim and shoot. But to wield a Super Scope you use both your arms, and you need to zen out and focus your eyes beyond what's in front of your face. You need to sit rigid and at the best distance from the screen, and when you take a shot, it takes your whole body. Your finger presses the button, your arms lock to keep the barrel study, your stomach flexes so as to keep the shot still, and your breathing halts for a brief moment, the most important thing at that moment is hitting your target.
The Super Scope 6 was a great pack-in game. My mom preferred Blastris and Mole Patrol. I thought those darned Moles cheated, and instead preferred blowing things up. No, my game was Engage, chasing down futuristic enemy fighter jets, and then flying home to a lady officer, drawn in anime style, for debriefing.
Later on would come Yoshi's Safari and Metal Combat, games that put my brother and me to rigorous tests of skill and endurance. But everything that came later was only possible because my mother and uncle had decided to share their gaming pastime with us. And because no one took a shower that day.
Though I was already a huge Mario fan, I had only gotten an NES in 1990. I could not wait to get Super Mario World, but outside of store kiosks, it would be a while until I could join the SNES party. Cost, coupled with Nintendo's recent antitrust case, meant that I received a TurboGrafx-16 instead of a SNES for Christmas, and it was a few years before I was allowed to buy one for myself. I never got their magazine, but GamePro TV aired for a couple years among Saturday morning cartoons. I distinctly remember them detailing how to find Special World in Super Mario World.
We took a trip to see my grandpa outside of Toronto when I was 10. My uncle let us borrow his SNES; he had Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I played through significant portions of Super Mario World, including beating Bowser through the Back Door. Recalling the GamePro broadcast, I even managed to clear Special World, irreversibly altering the landscape of Dinosaur Land. I also saved Zelda in A Link to the Past, but I did not have a chance to go much further. My uncle also had a stash of Nintendo Power magazines, which my grandpa allowed me to take home. I got a subscription with
the Mario Mania Players Guide as a bonus.
Though I did not get my own system until 1994, my best friend had one, and outside of the various iterations of Smash Bros., the SNES had the games that I played the most with friends. Much time was spent with Super Mario Kart, NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, and Donkey Kong Country.