This week, The SNES turned 25.
Hard to believe, I know. The console won over the hearts of many, but it’s history is possibly the most interesting thing about the console. Let’s dive into the legacy and the not so typically known facts about the SNES!
A little known fact about Nintendo: After nearly singlehandedly reviving the American video game market, becoming a smash hit in Japan and good sales in Europe, Nintendo was comfortable with their NES Console. It wasn’t until Sega, Nintendo’s competitor, released their 16bit Genesis/Mega Drive did Nintendo realize that the NES wasn’t going to survive in the market much longer. Nintendo decided to up their game, and released their own 16 bit console nearly 2 years after the release of the Genesis/Mega Drive, giving Sega time to prepare and market their console with some of the most aggressive marketing the video game industry has ever seen. This is most commonly referred to as the “Bit- Wars”, and was the true beginning of the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, and what started the term “Console War”.
Sega’s aggressive “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” marketing scheme was something Nintendo had never dealt with before. With it’s agressive marketing campaign against the NES, SEGA inadvertantly influenced the design of the American SNES. Sega’s console was sleek, black, and had “16bit” written in chrome on the console, and Sega would call the NES “a child’s toy” in their ads. To combat this, Nintendo of America requested that the system be redesigned for the North American Market, making it bigger, less rounded, and featuring a two-toned Grey and purple color-scheme, replacing the multi-colored logo and controller face buttons in an attempt to have consumers believe it was not just a “Toy”. Early Concepts of the american system were radically different from it’s Japanese counterpart, some supposedly having things like a crank to eject game cardridges, however these concepts were shot down by Nintendo, who didn’t want to manufacture different hardware for the North American Market.
During the SNES’s lifespan, Nintendo was criticised by hardcore gamers for leaving out the blood and gore in the popular fighting game, Mortal Kombat. Sega’s console allowed the blood and gore via a cheat code, and the Genesis version of the game outsold the SNES version by a large margin. Soon after, the Video Game market was met with criticism from parents and lawmakers alike for video game companies allowing things like blood & gore in video games. After meetings between Sega, Nintendo, various other publishers, and lawmakers, The ESRB rating system was created, and is still in use today. With the new rating standard in place, Nintendo allowed blood and gore in their games, however, this changed Nintendo’s entire marketing strategy, which had been promoting the system as a family friendly console. The SNES version of Mortal Kombat did go on to outsell the Genesis/Mega Drive version in North America, so Nintendo came out ahead in the end.
The SNES was capable of using a variety of extra chipsets in cartridges like the Super FX Chip used in the flight combat game, Starfox. The system’s ability to use those chips kept the system afloat while competitor’s consoles like the Genesis/Mega Drive, and NEC’s TurboGrafx 16 received add-ons to allow games to be played on CD’s, among other things. While Nintendo did have a CD add-on in the works, the manufacturer of the add-on, Sony, wanted the rights to the games released for their add-on, and Nintendo said no, ending the partnership. This add-on would go on to inspire Sony’s PlayStation Console. Nintendo then tried to work with electronics company Phillips to make a CD add-on for the SNES, however things with Phillips also fell through, and Phillips decided to release their CDI console, which was based on the work they had done for Nintendo. One of the agreements Nintendo had with Phillips was that Phillips could make games that used famous Nintendo Franchises, so Phillips was able to release games using Nintendo’s franchises, a true rarity even today. Phillips made four games using Nintendo franchises; Hotel Mario, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Link: The Faces of Evil, and Zelda’s Adventure. These games are notorious among core Nintendo fans and gamers, with horrible gameplay, terrible full motion video cutscenes, and odd level design.
49.10 Million SNES’s were sold worldwide, beating the Genesis/Mega Drive. It is estimated that the SNES was the console of choice with 48% of the North American Home Console market, with the Genesis held 47%. The SNES was a great console, apperaing in “Top 5 Game Consoles Ever” lists on the Internet. Gamers today might rather play the latest FPS or MMORPG, but the SNES will always be with those who grew up with it. The memories of the system prove that Nintendo was right after all.
You were “Playing with SUPER Power”.
Super Mario World, Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Castlevania IV, Earthbound, Mega Man X, Secret of Mana, Starfox, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Act Raiser, Shadowrun, and too many more to list!