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Your Move: The Super Nintendo Entertainment System Is 30 Years Old

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Thirty years ago this week, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S.

The system, often called the SNES or Super Nintendo, was an even bigger deal than the runaway success of Nintendo’s first console, and really cemented Nintendo’s legacy as the place for family-friendly gaming.

The Super Nintendo wasn’t universally welcomed, though. It was really the first high-profile follow-up to a successful predecessor, so the cycle of console generations wasn’t really established yet. Parents were confused why this new system didn’t play the old Nintendo games, and why newer games couldn’t work on the older system, some going so far as to call it a scam. But Nintendo didn’t have much of a choice. Nintendo’s original Entertainment System was getting long in the tooth, and higher-tech competition from Sega was encroaching on their market share.

The system was much more capable than its predecessor, being able to show tens of thousands more colors, and to play sampled music instead of the synthesized music typical of video games before. Additionally, it was able to show bigger characters, and it could rotate and scale graphics in ways that were previously impossible — allowing pseudo-3D, as was seen in Mario Kart and Pilotwings. It was also designed to be extensible: Developers could include extra processors in the cartridges to boost the power and capabilities of the system.

Games from the SNES have been consistently available — you could download and play them on the Wii or New 3DS Virtual Console, and a selection of games are available with an inexpensive subscription on the Nintendo Switch. And even today, many of them are worth playing. Games like Super Mario World, A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy III, and Yoshi’s Island weren’t just pushing the envelope of what games could do at the time, but are timeless classics that continue to inspire games and gamers today.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.