Growing up I was a huge fan of all things Halloween-related. My favorite month of the year was October. I just love the fall season. Everything from falling leaves to all the ghoulish sights around town and of course, the feeling of excitement as you count down to the night of nights… HALLOWEEN! “8 more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. 8 MORE DAYS TO HALLOWEEN — SILVER SHAMROCK!” Argh! GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!!! Ahem, sorry.
SUPER NINTENDO HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
If there was one thing I loved just as much as Halloween back in the day, it was without a shadow of doubt the Super Nintendo. The SNES has been known as a “kiddie” system especially when compared to the Sega Genesis, which featured more darker, mature titles. While it’s true that the SNES didn’t have as many as the Genesis had, that doesn’t mean it was completely devoid of “darker” games. Tonight, I’m proud to highlight 35 games that SNES fans can play this month of October in preparation for Halloween. Not all these games are great or even necessarily “mature” or “darker,” but they certainly fit the mood of the season in general. Some of these games are classic mainstays while there are a few you might have never heard of. I hope this inspires you to dig up a few SNES games to play this Halloween season.
There is something real special about gaming around this time of the year. The rainy days, shorter days and longer nights create an atmosphere conducive to staying in and snuggling up with old gaming favorites by the fire, or discovering some new ones for the first time! Perhaps this list will introduce you to a few new titles to throw into your Halloween rotation. Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown in alphabetical order. Here are 35 Super Nintendo games to play during the month of October!
They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious and spooky. Ah, you know the rest. Released in March 1992 from Ocean, this was one of the earlier Super Mario World clones during the Super Nintendo’s infancy. It’s got quite a few fans. It’s obviously not nearly as polished and awesome as Super Mario World — I’m not a big fan of its somewhat slippery control or overly brutal difficulty, but it’s definitely not too shabby. It’s got a ton of secrets and you can tell the programmers had a blast making this one — hell, they said so themselves. Worth a look if you like your platformers difficult and somewhat quirky.
#2: THE ADDAMS FAMILY: PUGSLEY’S SCAVENGER HUNT
The follow up to The Addams Family, Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt also has its fair share of fans. It’s quite an upgrade visually, but I think I actually prefer the first game. The programmers were quoted once saying that they tried to recapture the “magic” of the first game but just couldn’t with this game. Nevertheless, it’s decent enough to kill a few hours with. And if you’re going to give this a try, might as well do it during October.
#3: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES
The last in the SNES trilogy, Addams Family Values switches it up a bit by being an action RPG rather than a typical platformer. It sounds and looks enticing on paper, but unfortunately it’s something of a slight disappointment. I remember back in the day being super hyped for this. Uncle Fester in a Link to the Past clone? Sign me up! The main issue is the lack of a backup battery. Sure, it’s got a password system, but these passwords are scarce. On top of that, they’re awfully long and cumbersome. On the bright side, the game has a nice atmosphere for October, and the gameplay itself is generally fairly solid. If there was ever a game meant for using save states, it’s this one. Still, it’s the best of the SNES Addams Family trilogy.
#4: THEADVENTURES OF DR. FRANKEN
Ah, the early-mid ’90s. I love that era of video gaming. It was a period in time that was ransack with Mario clones left and right. Some of these games were great, some were just OK and others were better left forgotten. TheAdventures of Dr. Franken is one of those forgotten platformers lost in the “me too” SNES crowd of the early-mid ’90s. This is just what the doctor ordered, or not. I wanted to like it but ended up rather disappointed. It’s not unplayable, but it’s probably the weakest game on this list. It’s better than terrible crud like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Musya, though. By the way, none of those games are on this list because they are truly terrifying (to play).
All right, now we’re talking! Alien³ is a very solid movie-game adaptation. Just like the ALIEN films, Alien³ has a dark and foreboding feel to it. The aliens come at you fast and furious from all directions, making it a worthy candidate to play late at night with all the lights turned off. The difficulty is a bit steep, but that just makes the whole thing all the more tense. There is a password system and cheat codes to make life a bit easier, if you need it. Sure, it’s a bit repetitive but damn if it ain’t fun blasting an alien in the face with a flame thrower.
Brandish is a classic example of a love or hate game. Give it a shot, because if you’re one of those people who end up loving it, like I do, you are in for a rare treat. Players take on Varik, a bounty hunter who falls into a deep underworld maze filled with 55 different monster breeds roaming the cursed halls. The game’s music and atmosphere does an excellent job convincing you that you are 40 floors buried underneath the surface. As you fight to make your way back to the top, there is a real sense of dread that works well with the Halloween season, not to mention the 55 different monsters. There’s a little something for everyone. From menacing minotaurs to towering dinosaurs to even Death itself — almost every creature imaginable is milling about the hell hole! I beat it almost 10 years ago now, and still to this day it remains a fond memory. Once in a while a game resonates with you in such a way you can’t explain. Brandish is that game for me. If you love atmospheric games and monsters, and like a more methodical action RPG, give it a shot. No better time to than October! It has more than its fair share of creepy moments…
The sequel is bigger as it now features outdoor playing areas, but it’s not necessarily better. I prefer the original but I still enjoyed beating Brandish 2. It’s the first Japanese game on this list as it never left Japan. There is an English fan translation floating out there, and I recommend playing it if you really like the first one. It’s got better visuals and all, but is missing the “magic” of the first game. That’s not to say Brandish 2 isn’t any good. It’s very solid in its own right; it still features monsters and a seedy adventure that goes well with October’s rainy days.
Best to get this out of the way early… OK so it isn’t anywhere as epic as Super Castlevania IV. And yes, you can’t help but wonder what if Konami had made a proper sequel using their SNES know-how by 1995. Got you drooling a bit there, eh? Well, Dracula X isn’t quite up to those standards, BUT it is a pretty solid (and damn difficult) action game, with Konami’s signature stellar soundtrack. In my book, Dracula X doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves, and it’s just good enough to warrant firing up every October…
You cannot talk about Halloween SNES games without bringing up Clock Tower. Hands down the most frightening game on the system, this is where the epic Scissorman story began. Who would ever believe that a Super Nintendo title can make your heart skip a beat? But play this at 2 in the morning with all the lights turned off and it just might genuinely creep you out. The game has an uneasy feel to it — Scissorman popping up randomly is the main reason why! Just an awesome survival horror game and a must play for the Halloween season.
Pocky & Rocky fans rejoice. This game is ultra bizarre. I mean, where else can you kill Asian hopping vampires, astronauts on Mars, giant bamboo eating pandas, vile rotting zombies, aliens, ninjas, knights and Bruce Lee wannabes — all the while transforming into a large steroid-injected muscle maniac who oh yeah JUST happens to be the spirit of your deceased father?!? Intrigued? If you are not then you have no pulse! Love the subtle Halloween vibes it has, too.
One of the most underrated SNES games around, once upon a time, anyhow. In the past 10 years, I’ve seen Demon’s Crest get the adulation it deserved back in the mid ’90s. On top of excelling in all the basic video game categories, Demon’s Crest exudes atmosphere and coolness like very few other SNES games. Playing as a winged demon that collects orbs, changes form accordingly and breathes fire is too damn badass, y’know?
When Doom exploded on the scene back in 1993, it took the gaming nation by storm. As great as Wolfenstein 3D was, Doom was that much better. Ask any gamer over the age of 30 or so and they’ll regale you with a Doom tale from their childhood. In 1995 Doom was ported to the Super Nintendo to mixed reviews. I didn’t like it back then because I couldn’t shake the fact that it was far inferior compared to the original PC game. 15 years later, 2010, I bought the game and came to appreciate the port for what it is. Naturally there were many sacrifices. The game only features 22 maps and there is no save or password feature. Despite this, it’s still impressive what they were able to pull off considering the limitations of the hardware. On a side note, the Japanese Super Famicom version is superior due to the fact that it allows you to start off on any episode on any difficulty level. You can start on any episode in the US version, but the later episodes require you to play it at a higher difficulty level.
This isometric action adventure is packed with epic music from Tim Follin and a haunting atmosphere that makes it an ideal Halloween selection. It is damn difficult, though, but well worth persevering through. It allows you to save the game at any point, which makes the rather high difficulty a little more bearable. Each level requires you to collect keys to open up the various locked gates. Grabbing these keys can be one hell of a challenge, and sometimes just finally grabbing one particularly elusive key is satisfying enough to call it a night. It’s one of those games that you can play and enjoy for 20 minutes or 2 hours. I wish there were more games like this on the SNES but at least we’ll always have Equinox.
I was intrigued by this game the day I saw EGM previewing it in early 1993. It looked different than most of your average “bright” SNES games. First Samurai is dark and has a dreary foreboding look to it. When I finally tried it in 2006, I wasn’t much disappointed. I never expected a stellar game, but just a fun adequate one. And that First Samurai is. From its abnormal enemies to the “Hallelujah!” song and “OH NO! MY SWORD!”sound effect, First Samurai just has a different feel from your typical SNES game, and is one I enjoy playing in October. The game’s mood fits this time of the year perfectly. Try it for yourself. It’s not good enough to be considered a hidden gem or anything, but it’s one of those funky little games that leaves you going, “Hey, that was kind of fun in a weird sort of way…”
A highly difficult game that seems passable at first but is made somewhat worthy when playing with a friend (as one can block and one can attack). Not my first choice to play for Halloween, but you can’t deny Kitarou’s strong Halloween spirit. Check it out only if you can, but don’t go out of your way to.
A surprisingly solid action game based off a manga. Too many times such efforts are hack jobs and cheap attempts to cash-in. Ghost SweeperMikami, on the other hand, is handled well. It won’t rock your world but it’s fairly fun and you gotta love its ghoulish look and spooky atmosphere. A great choice to play in October.
LucasArts tried to reinvent the magic of Zombies Ate My Neighbors with this differently named “sequel.” Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed on that end. But, not all is lost. Ghoul Patrol has some decent things going for it. It’s just nowhere as good or fun as the original. However, this game is much more forgiving, allowing you to advance much further in the game even when you go at it alone. All in all, it’s not a shabby sequel but it’s missing considerably the fluidity and charm of Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
#19: JAKI CRUSH
A Super Famicom pinball game that centers around demons, monsters and the occult. The last in the Crush trilogy (Alien Crush and Devil’s Crush), Jaki Crush is full of Halloween-esque sights. If you enjoy video game pinball then you’re sure to have a good time with this.
Thisgame goes hand-in-hand with Halloween. It’s not quite the epic action game I was hoping it might be, but it’s pretty solid and gives us Super Nintendo fanatics one more sinister game to enjoy. You can transform into various demon forms — giving it an Altered Beast feel. At first glance it appears to be a cross between Castlevania and Resident Evil. As long as you leave your lofty expectations at the door, Majyuuou (AKA King of Demons) is a ghoulishly fun time.
I love the SNES port of Mortal Kombat II. My bro bought it when it came out back in September of 1994, so I have fond memories of playing it during Halloween season that same year. Characters like Baraka and stages like the haunted forest give it a lovely Halloween spirit. FINISH HIM!!
Nosferatu is one of those games I studied and drooled over in gaming mags way back in the day… only to finally play some 15+ years later and find out that, sadly, it fell short of the gem my mind had built it up to be. Nevertheless, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s decent (at least, for the first couple levels before the difficulty becomes far too daunting). It’s not the superb smooth playing Castlevania meets Prince of Persia mix I was hoping for, but you can’t win them all. Still, I love the macabre atmosphere and it’s fun to play the first two or three levels during Halloween time.
#23: POCKY & ROCKY
A widely regarded Super Nintendo classic that’s worth playing any time but especially during Halloween time. Better yet, it’s even more fun with two skilled players at the helm. Yeah it’s not the first SNES game you associate Halloween with, but it’s got that nice subtle ghoulish touch to it. Be forewarned though, it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s actually quite difficult and requires much practice to excel at. But damn if it isn’t fun.
#24: POCKY & ROCKY 2
Natsume released a sequel the following year (1994) to solid reviews. There are some nice new features that makes this a worthy follow up to the classic original. These new features include multiple paths within the levels and partners. When you talk about great 2-player co-op SNES games, you gotta talk about the Pocky & Rocky series. They’re great fun to play whenever, but especially during October.
#25: PORKY PIG’S HAUNTED HOLIDAY
Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a decent little platformer that came out late in the SNES’ lifespan. Therefore, it was overlooked even more. It’s no Super Mario World, but I do enjoy its wacky levels and it’s an underrated Halloween choice. An interesting aspect of the game is that the weather changes every time you turn it on, and often weather will vary during the game itself. From one level to the next, it may be raining, snowing, or sunny, and may have summer, autumn, or winter color schemest. Overall, you could do far worse than Porky Pig’s Haunted Holiday.
Gritty, grimy and great for October. For goodness sake, you start the game out by waking up on a slab in a morgue… suffering from amnesia. Talk about morbid and sordid. The control takes some getting used to, but the game’s cyberpunk feel is what makes it special. Shadowrun is a very unique game and something I wish the SNES saw more of. I have very fond memories of playing it on a rainy Halloween night of 2014. The game’s gritty “shady city” atmosphere fits in perfectly with the mood of Halloween.
#27: SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI
Shin Megami Tensei isn’t for everyone — it’s a rather plodding first person RPG from the early days of 1992. But its sordid universe suits the Halloween season very well. You can recruit enemies to be your allies, and you can either side with the angels, the demons or go neutral. If you can withstand the somewhat slow nature of the game, it’s a rather fascinating and morbid trip through a hellish Tokyo. Note: it can be downright brutally difficult at times. You could be walking along destroying enemies easily but just as easily get in a battle with a monster that wipes out your party in no time flat. Be sure to save often!
#28: SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI II
More of the same, but now faster and more accessible. If you enjoyed the first game then you’re sure to like this one, too. Naturally, the monsters, demons and devils make both Shin Megami Tensei games ideal to play during the month of October. They do require a bit of patience and perseverance, but the payoff is substantial — very few SNES games are as thought-provoking and politically incorrect.
This is the first title that jumps to mind right away when I think of SNES Halloween games. And why not, seeing as it has practically every creature of the night represented on its monster roll call. Featuring a stunning soundtrack, great graphics (for its time specifically) and satisfying gameplay mechanics, it’s a bloody sin not to, at the very least, pop this game in for a quick go every October. Turn off the lights, grab that ancient magical Belmont whip and hack away at mummies, frankensteins, and oh yeah, Dracula himself, as you try to eviscerate the Prince of Darkness and his minions one more time. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks. An essential Super Nintendo classic that is perfect for Halloween.
Long before Resident Evil and even Sweet Home, this was Capcom’s first original “horror” franchise. And a mighty fine one it is, too. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts sports a high difficulty (but somewhat overrated in my humble opinion, at least, on easy mode). Featuring stunning graphics (mind, for 1991 standards) and sound, this game always delights and is a reminder of the Super Nintendo’s early GLORY days. You absolutely can’t go wrong giving this some October play time.
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang is a super short yet sweet game that you ought to play if you haven’t already. It’s so criminally short that it can be beaten in a measly 3 to 4 hours. Players control Spike McFang, a young vampire warrior in the making. A very good game that scores high on the fun and quirky scale.
Warlock has a nice creepy, ominous atmosphere going for it. It’s not the greatest game around, but it’s got its moments. There are various spells at your disposal and there is some strategy and sorcery at play here. Not your typical hop ‘n bop platformer, which I appreciate. Give it a try. A low key under the radar choice.
You transform into a wolf and shoot down bad guys like empty tin cans sitting on a fence. Wolfchild is a bit reminiscent of Werewolf (NES) and perhaps even Altered Beast (Genesis). Decent fun to be had and worth playing through at least once for the diehard SNES fanatic. A forgotten game that was lost in the me-too SNES crowd of early-mid 1990s, but not forgotten to RVGFanatic!
While this game may not seem like a “Halloween title” right off the bat, I ask you, where else can you pump mutant chunks full of lead in a mere matter of 10 seconds? In my book, there are few adrenaline rushes on the SNES quite like the one that Wolfenstein provides. With its many menacing monsters and large labyrinths, this is a solid choice to play during the Halloween season. Besides, you gotta love its scare-inducing sound — I’ve flinched more than once when turning a seemingly innocent corner only to be greeted by the loud crack of gunfire and a gravelly, sharp “STOP!”
What a perfect game to end this list. It’s impossible to talk about Halloween SNES games and not think of Zombies Ate My Neighbors almost immediately. When this game dropped on our laps back in late 1993, man, none of us knew what a cult classic it would become. It goes along perfectly with all the horror movies you’ll watch throughout October as many of its enemies are knock-offs of various horror movie villains. Whether it’s the evil doll Chucky, the lumbering brute Jason or cheerleader snatching aliens, it’s a veritable who’s who of horror movie icon lore. Zombies Ate My Neighbors shines best when playing with a buddy. It’s couch co-op gaming at its finest. It may feel cheap at times, but with a skilled friend in tow it’s still one zombie blasting good time. Perfect, indeed, for the Halloween season.
Ah, Halloween. How I love thee. There’s just something magical about this season that I absolutely adore. I hope you enjoyed going through this list, recalling old Halloween Super Nintendo favorites in addition to maybe discovering a few new titles to add to your Halloween mix. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for both Halloween and the Super Nintendo. Both have given me countless memories over the years, and deep down inside, there’s a little robust 10 year old boy still yearning for one last great American Halloween adventure. There’s nothing like watching horror movies at night and playing some of these SNES games as I count down the days to Halloween. With that said, there’s really only one thing left to say…
Note: This article was originally written on my original site (RVGFanatic.com) two years ago on September 1, 2014. It was the weekend I *finally* organized my SNES collection. Being that today is Labor Day (September 5, 2016), I’d like to honor the memory of that epic weekend two years ago by re-posting this story
The lost weekend is a phrase used to describe an epic drunk weekend that begins Friday night and ends early Monday morning. As much as I love what I do for a living, there’s nothing like Friday when you’ve checked off your last to-do item on the list. An uncaged animal, you now have the next 50 or so hours to return to the comforts of your esteemed sanctuary, game cave or even make a random trip out of town. There are few things I relish more in this world than the feeling I get every single Friday evening when I make the drive home from a long, grueling work week. Rolling down the windows, undoing your tie, blasting the radio and taking in a good whiff of that sweet Friday night air. You know the weekend is here, and you know good times lie ahead. Whatever happened earlier that week is washed away as the weekend promises a respite. Punching out on a Friday is simply priceless!
City light painted girl. In the day nothing matters. It’s the night time that flatters.
Some Friday nights I like to hit the town and check out what’s going on. Other times I simply like cruising around with no destination in mind… letting the road take me wherever it shall. I’ve always been a night owl. My energy kicks in right when many prefer to sleep. I’m not as outgoing in my old age as I once used to be, but I do still like to get out there every once in a while to sample a bit of the night life. Lately though, after an exhausting work week, I’ve found driving straight home to relax and unwind to be slightly more appealing. Being a night owl, there’s something magical about those 11 PM to 2 AM hours on a late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Sometimes I’ll throw in a movie. Or play the next SNES game on my queue. Other times I’m working on a review or just hanging out with some pals. Whatever I end up doing, there’s something precious about those late hours. A nice calm and quiet serenity to it all.
Then Saturday morning comes. I just love to hang around town, or even stay in and take care of some projects around the house. More often than not, I’m usually chilling at home. No shame. I love those quiet early Saturday mornings… where it feels like the world is standing still for a brief moment or two. It’s even better during the fall season where you get weather like you see here. It’s so atmospheric — sometimes it’s great to hang out around the house chilling like a bum with no plans whatsoever.
Sometimes I’ll stay in and play the next game on my queue. It’s a joy to explore my SNES library. I acquired most of these games in early 2006, yet still there remains hundreds I have yet to play. It’s the system that keeps on giving. Once in a special while, you have a weekend you will never forget. This past Labor Day weekend (2014) was one such time for me. I decided it was time to finally set up and display my complete in box SNES collection. A project LONG overdue!
For over 8 years I’ve kept my Super Nintendo stuff tucked away in bins and boxes. Until recently I was inspired to finally set it up. I was inspired by a video on YouTube that showed movie critic Chris Stuckmann’s N64 games in badass box protectors. They looked über shiny and glossy. I knew right away that I had to do the same for my SNES collection. I contacted Dan of retroprotection.com and purchased 200 box protectors for $142. That may seem like a lot, but at 71 cents a pop, I believe it’s more than worth the investment, especially given how flimsy SNES boxes are. And like I said, it adds a nice classy sleek look.
I bought 200 tray inserts off eBay. Most of my SNES boxes didn’t come with an insert. They help prevent the cartridges from rattling and are a must for your boxed games.
The lost weekend began Friday night as I dug out my boxes and manuals in preparation for Saturday’s one man assembly line. Seeing the goods out in full force reminded me of how lucky I was that the nostalgia bug bit me back in January 2006, and not years later as the market would then explode. The prices these babies now command are insane. I was fortunate enough to beat the crowd. 2006 was a golden time to be a diehard SNES buyer as many items were cheap still.
Saturday morning, 9:15 AM. A beautiful morning, the floor was littered with cartridges, manuals and boxes. One at a time I began to put the pieces together. My goal was to get the first 200 games boxed. As I assembled it, I listened to quite a few wrestling podcasts. It was fun listening to Jim Ross shooting the breeze with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Also listened to Drax the Destroyer Dave Bautista talking to Chris Jericho about a variety of topics and learned a thing or two sitting under the learning tree of one, Paul Heyman. It help made the tedious one man assembly line a lot more fun, plus flipping through the various manuals and reading the back of boxes kept me entertained. It ended up being a lot more enjoyable and memorable than I imagined it would be. I felt like a kid all over again seeing my childhood resurrected, coming back to life one game, one box and one manual at a time ^_^
Wow. My jaw dropped as I stood back to admire my collection in half its glory. With another 200 or so games to piece together and display, this is ‘only’ 204 boxed SNES games. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I stood there for what felt like 30 minutes to admire the beauty of it all. I should have done this years ago! I love the SNES boxes. They’re flimsy but there’s something cool about them. They are, essentially, fragments of memories from my childhood!
One guy put it best when he said years ago, “I feel like I’m fulfilling my childhood dreams.” There’s something to be said about walking into a room only to be met by hundreds and hundreds of boxed video games. As a child I remember gawking at the endless Super Nintendo titles on hand at the local SOFTWARE ETC. or Toys R Us. I could only dream of one day owning even a small fraction of all those games. Yet as of today, my collection rivals the stores I saw in my youth. Even surpassing them. It’s a trip. That’s one Labor Day weekend I’ll never forget. Finally I’d put together a bulk of my SNES collection. As I did, a flood of memories came roaring back, ranging from how I acquired a game to my childhood memories of playing a certain game to death. It was a weekend for the ages. Indeed, I have fulfilled my childhood dreams
I love the small pleasures in life. And one of them is definitely coming home to your game room. Gazing at those gorgeous boxes and knowing you can pick to play any one of them at any time is an incrediblefeeling. On lazy weekends, I enjoy playing games I’ve yet to play and have been curious about for years on end. Now that my collection is displayed, I feel all the more fortunate to own all the games that I do. The offering of choices is endless and playing the rest of the games still left on my to-beat queue is a lifetime project. You know what I absolutely love? You know how sometimes you’ll get the strangest, most random urge to play a certain game? Like it just hits you between the eyes out of the blue. The feeling I get from going through my work day and then you head home with that game still on your mind. You can’t shake it. You enter your game room, find it on the shelf, take it down and pop it in. Good stuff. It’s part of what makes gaming so much fun. I love movies, but to me there’s nothing like retro gaming. They’re bundles of nostalgia and wonder.
Hey, is it Friday night yet?
I apologize in advance for the low quality of the video. My camera two years ago was quite crap
The Super Nintendo celebrates its 25th birthday here in the US! Released in late August of 1991, it’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter century since the SNES has dazzled and delighted an entire generation of gamers. In honor of this grand milestone, I figure now’s as good a time as any to share my first experience with the SNES nearly 25 years ago. The following story was published originally in Rob Strangman’s Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman (2014).
MY SUPER NINTENDO GENESIS
IT’S BEEN SAID that every gamer, regardless of the generation they were born in, recollects back fondly on their gaming childhood. There’s a certain sense of wonder, awe and magic when you combine quality video gaming and the pure innocence of a child. While I love gaming now as an adult, there are pros and cons to gaming as a kid, and gaming as an adult. Although I feel I’ve matured in my gaming tastes over the years, nothing can ever recapture the pure adulation of video game discovery through the impressionable eyes of youth. There was also the fact of perusing through glorious 400 page video game magazines, renting games every weekend and having excess time to game that today is no longer viable, for the most part. So, while every gamer will claim their generation had it best… for me, I can’t think of a better year I’d rather be born in than good ol’ 1983.
Being born in ’83 meant that I grew up, literally, with the classic 8-bit Nintendo. Living with my game loving uncle growing up, he bought a Nintendo for my brother (Kevin) and me circa 1987. I was four years old at the time, and the NES was just beginning to hit its stride and complete domination of the video game market. There was a mom and pop rental shop down the road called Evergreen Video that my dad would take Kevin and me every Saturday afternoon. It was thanks to Evergreen Video (and our local neighborhood friends) that we got to experience such classics like Contra, Mega Man 2, Battletoads, Double Dragon II, TMNT II: The Arcade Game, and Beetlejuice. Wait, no, scratch that last one. Point being, it was a glorious time to be a carefree kid, living in suburban America, enjoying the prime of the 8-bit NES with my brother, our friends and our crazy Uncle Jimmy.
But, like all good things in life, it had to come to an end at some point. Even at 7 years old, back in 1990 I could see the writing on the wall for my dear old friend when my uncle bought a Sega Genesis. Sega’s 16-bit monster absolutely blew me away. I remember before Uncle Jimmy bought it I saw it in action for the first time at my friend’s house. Denny showed me the box to Altered Beast, and it was love at first sight. As a staunch lover of all things monster-related, Altered Beast’s sleek box art displaying a savage wolf man amidst a barren wasteland instantly won me over.
“How big do you think the cartridge is?” Denny asked me, with a big grin on his kisser.
“Um, bigger than Nintendo?” I figured since Genesis was clearly a leap in technology that the cartridge needed more room to fit it all in.
Imagine my shock when Denny opened the clamshell to reveal a tiny little cartridge. He plugged the game in. Not 30 seconds later, I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. What I saw that day blew my mind; I knew the future of video gaming had arrived. It’s always hard to see a dear old friend slowly fading away. While my brother and I kept the NES alongside the Genesis, the 8-bit NES went from being my virtual best friend to something of a semi-dust collector. 1990 was definitely the year of the Sega Genesis.
But then, 1991 came. My friends began whispering around late summer of that year about a new Nintendo system coming out. They were touting how it would be the NES on steroids. Hence the name SUPER Nintendo, and that it was going to battle the Sega Genesis for video game supremacy. There seemed to be, in those days and at least in my young 8 year old eyes, a shroud of mystery and mystique surrounding the impending arrival of the SNES. If it truly was going to be the NES to the 10th power, then heads were going to roll. They say you never forget your first time. I can certainly agree with that.
December 1991. For Christmas vacation my family drove Kevin and me to Lake Tahoe. Along with four other families, we were going to sleep over together in a gigantic cabin that the parents rented out. Now there’s something you need to understand. This was my gaming crew back in the day. Between the five families you had 16 kids ranging from 5 to 13 years old, and we all shared a love for one another and video gaming. You had the brothers, Tommy and Denny. Denny was the one who first introduced me to the Genesis and Altered Beast. These were the cats that owned all the latest gaming shit you could only dream of having, too. All our parents got along like best friends, and it just so happened that the kids liked each other a lot, too. I could go on and on about those cats that I ran with back in the late ‘80s to late ‘90s. It had to be some of the most legendary sleepovers in the history of mankind. Imagine 10 parents and 16 kids thick as thieves. The parents would talk, reminisce about their glory days, laugh, karaoke and dance up a storm downstairs while the kids would be upstairs gaming or making random silly home videos past the witching hour. I remember times where we even stayed up until 2 AM. Whenever I think of my childhood, I can’t help but think of those gaming brothers and the countless epic memories we forged.
But I digress. Back to that fateful day of late December 1991. We all checked in, put away our things and began scoping out the humongous 3-story cabin. I remember it was freezing. My best friend in the group, Zack, and I were going to share a room with the brothers, Brian and Bryce. I was closest to these three. Within the whole group you had three different sub-groups. I was sort of the “leader” of my sub-group, due to age. My group was the 1983-1986 kids. The other group composed of the kids born from 1978-1981. And then you had the girls in one entirely separate sub-group. I was unpacking my clothes when Zack’s older brother walked in.
I have to pause here and provide a little context on Zack’s older brother. In the years to come following this weekend get away, pretty much everyone in our group affectionately referred to him as Sushi-X. It was due to his fervent love for EGM. Also, he was the best damn Street Fighter II player we ever saw.
So enter Sushi-X. He started telling us how our room was haunted. Now, mind you, I was 8 years old at the time and very impressionable. While I loved ghost stories and all that, I never wanted to experience one for real! Sushi-X, you have to understand, was sort of the unspoken ring leader of the group. Everyone respected him; at 13 he was the oldest at that point in time. I always sort of looked up to him as a gaming sensei and a life expert, just because, well, he was 13 and like I said, I was a very impressionable 8 year old child. Sushi-X began telling us this tale of an old lady who once lived in this cabin, and how she slept in the very room that I was going to sleep in that night. He said she committed suicide right here, right where we stood unpacking our clothes. I remember all four of us – myself, Brian, Bryce and Zack – staring at each other in wide-eyed terror. Sushi-X spoke in such a matter-of-fact tone that I think we actually bought his BS lies. Again, the pure innocence of being that young!
Thankfully, Tommy was also sort of an alpha male, and he always matched Sushi-X in stature within the group. Tommy ended the ghost story madness when he rushed into our room and cryptically declared, “Hey guys, if you’re ready to be blown away, come to the living room.”
I remember Sushi-X looking at me like, “Whoa, this gotta be good. Forget this ghost crap, deuces y’all!”
Good old Tommy. He saved the little guys as Sushi-X was the first one to bolt for the door. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief as Zack asked me, “Do you think my brother is telling the truth about that ghost lady?” It was all I could think about as the four of us followed behind Tommy and Sushi-X to the living room. As exciting as Tommy’s tease was, I was too preoccupied thinking about whether or not the room I would be sleeping in later that night was, indeed, truly haunted.
Once in the living room, I saw everyone sitting there. In front of us all was a TV and a black zipped bag. All eyes were fixed on Tommy and that bag which conspicuously sat beside him. Like a good brother, Denny was right next to Tommy, with the same big fat grin on his kisser that I had seen the year before when he revealed to me the cartridge size of Altered Beast. Suddenly, I forgot all about the ghost lady as a sensational feeling of excitement raged through every fiber of my being. I knew whatever this announcement might be that it was going to be monumental. Indeed, it would be a historic moment in time for this gaming group and a classic tale to be retold in the generations to come (wink).
“Well, now that everyone is here,” Tommy began, scanning the room and pausing for dramatic effect. He was always such a pro at being a showman. “Denny and I are proud to share with the group what we have brought. It’s inside this bag right here.” Tommy looked down and pointed to the black bag. He was surely milking this moment for all it was worth.
“While we’re still young!” interjected Nathan, the group’s token comedian. Everyone laughed. You could feel the palpable buzz and energy in the room as the moment of truth neared.
“Everyone’s a critic,” Tommy responded. I always admired him for his quick wit and repartee. Plus he certainly was always a straight shooter, never making up scary ghost stories just to rib on others. I’m looking at you, Sushi-X! “Alright, alright,” he continued. “Denny, if you would, bro.”
All 30 eyeballs in the room now shifted to Denny, who leaned over to unzip the bag. He looked at all of us, smiling, as he reached in. “What is it, what is it?!” he joked, as he held his hands in the bag for a solid 10 seconds. Like his brother, Denny knew how to milk a moment! Finally, after all the hoop-la he pulled out the brand new 16-bit Super Nintendo. Gasps erupted from the group along with shouts of joy and shock. No one in our group had yet to own the SNES, and now we just found out that Tommy not only owned one, but it was RIGHT HERE in the flesh ready to be played! The girls rolled their eyes as if to say, “That’s the big deal? Yuck.” They left while the rest of us crowded around the machine, as though we were fawning over a new born baby. We all wanted to be first to hold this new bundle of joy. It was an instant classic. A grand slam. The SNES completely, pardon the pun, changed the game.
What followed were hours and hours of F-Zero and Final Fight being played to death. Since I was in that second sub-group, and as these were single player games (prolonging the wait even further), there was an unspoken pecking order. Classic group dynamite, you understand. Thus, I never got to play either game that night, as the alpha males in the first sub-group (1978-1981) rotated turns. Even my brother got his licks in, and I remember thinking to myself what a miscarriage of justice it all was. Finally, nightfall came. After dinner we did some channel surfing. We came across Godzilla vs. Mothra. I’m a HUGE Godzilla fan, but our token comedian Nathan was doing his best Mystery Science 3000 Theatre impersonation that night, making all of us, including me, laugh our butts off. We had another late night as the group was infamous for, before finally crashing early in the wee morning hours.
The cabin groaned as I opened my eyes. I sat up and noticed my roommates Zack, Brian and Bryce were nowhere to be found. I chuckled to myself, figuring that they probably woke up early in order to make a beeline for Tommy’s Super Nintendo. I would have done the same if only I hadn’t slept like a hibernating bear. Opening the door, a cold chill instantly swept over me sending shivers up and down my spine. It felt like someone took electrical wires and brushed it across my back. I looked down the hallway, which was cloaked in an eerie darkness. It suddenly resembled a demonic hallway from a horror movie. I called out to my family and friends. No response. I had a Home Alone flashback. Was I, for the first time in my life, home alone? I shouted out again. Silence, except for the odd noises the old cabin was emitting. I began tip-toeing downstairs, making my way to the kitchen. Maybe everyone was at the breakfast table. Somehow, before I even reached the bottom step, I knew it was a false sense of hope. Sure enough, in the kitchen all I found was a note taped to the refrigerator.
Everyone left for brunch. We will be back soon. Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you up. You had a late night and I wanted you to get the extra rest. Make some Honey Nut Cheerios, and don’t watch too much TV.
Fantastic. Now I was trapped all by myself in this… this… THIS CABIN FROM HELL! I opened the fridge to take out the milk and spotted a cold can of 7 Up. Being my favorite soda, I wanted nothing more than to down that sucker right then and there, but I realized if I did I might have to use the restroom, and there was no way I was heading down that demonic looking hallway! Ah, the dilemma of my youth. I relinquished my grip of the can and closed the fridge with milk in hand. The cabin continued hissing, making all manner of strange noises. Boy, it’s so much more amplified when you’re all alone. I suddenly thought of the ghost lady Sushi-X told me about the day before. Damn you, Sushi-X. But, even at 8 years old, I was a fairly resourceful kid. See, I had this theory. Ghosts and spirits would never mess with you if you had the radio or TV on. Any kind of noise would repel them. Hey, I was 8, OK? I made my way over to the living room and immediately turned the TV on. I came across one of my favorite wrestlers, Hulk Hogan, on a WWF show. I always had an affinity for pro wrestling. I loved the larger than life characters and the in-ring artistry and mayhem. Seeing the Hulkster ramble on in one of his classic pre-taped backstage interviews, talking about praying, training and eating your vitamins was more than enough to make me forget about my current quandary: I was the lone prisoner stuck inside the cabin from hell.
But then, without warning, the show came to a close. I immediately felt unnerved by the dreadful atmosphere of the cabin. Have you ever felt a PRESENCE in the room with you? That someone, or SOMETHING, was watching you from the shadows? That’s exactly how I felt on that cold and dreary December morning of 1991. And then, it happened. My eyes spotted Tommy’s Super Nintendo lying on the floor. Of course! I was shaking but this time, it wasn’t because of the freezing temperature or my fear of what might have lurked in the shadowy cabin corridors. I was shaking because this was a historic moment, a monumental moment of firsts: first time being home alone, and first time experiencing the almighty Super Nintendo for myself in ALL its glory. Hey, it’s true what they say… you never forget your first time.
Powering up F-Zero, I was instantly transported to Mode-7 Heaven. Every single racing track blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how fast it played, and how AMAZING the game looked. And that MUSIC… oh man, it would haunt me forever in a way that would make any spirit of that cabin, if there were any at all, extremely jealous. F-Zero led me from thinking about ghosts to obsessing over intergalactic racing warfare! Later I plugged in Final Fight and found myself saving the good citizens of Metro City one jaw-dropping stage after another, as I smeared the streets with the blood of the hooligans from the Mad Gear Gang. I had never seen such state-of-the-art arcade-like graphics before. The characters were unbelievably HUGE and at times I found myself wondering, “WHERE THE HECK IS THE COIN SLOT?!”
I played both F-Zero and Final Fight with a grand deal of euphoria until my family and friends came back. Yes, part of me was ecstatic to no longer be alone in the cabin from hell, but something funny happened during my inaugural play through with the Super Nintendo. It made me forget about malicious ghosts and evil spirits. Instead, it transported me to the future of video gaming, where you could snap a bastard’s neck in two and soar 200 feet across a race track suspended high above a futuristic city – all in stunning graphics and sound. The new generation of gaming had officially arrived, and it was nothing short of awesome. I never looked back.
Now, nearly 25 years later since that epic and infamous family-friend weekend to Lake Tahoe, I still remember certain aspects of the trip as if it happened only yesterday. I remember the big snowball fight we waged against one another. And how Zack, Brian, Bryce and I got a SMALL measure of revenge on Sushi-X when we caught him off guard and pelted him with four lumpy snowballs in stereo. I remember trying to ski and falling on my ass, making me look like that which I fell on. I recall how freezing and creepy the cabin was, especially during the night time and how you would get chills up and down your spine whenever crossing one of its various “cold spots.” Hell, I remember being ditched for breakfast! But most of all, I will always remember, with great affection, a real deep fondness of the first time I ever experienced the Super Nintendo. It’s a precious memory that will remain embedded in my gaming heart even decades from now, long after the Tahoe snow has faded.
I still keep in touch with the old gaming crew, but like many things in life, it’ll never be like how it was once upon a time. I guess that’s why many fondly refer to those halcyon days as the good old days. But, rather than weeping over times that have long passed, I rejoice that I was fortunate enough to be there when it happened. As I said at the beginning, most folks like to claim their generation as the best because each person’s childhood is unique and precious to them. Likewise, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the years 1987 to 1995 was a special time growing up in suburban America. I basically grew up alongside the 8-bit Nintendo, the 16-bit Sega Genesis AND the Super Nintendo. It was a spectacular period in gaming’s history, and there’s a reason many fondly refer to that time as the “Golden Age of Gaming.” All in all, I considered myself pretty dang lucky.
Happy 25th birthday, SNES. Thank you for supplying us with an epic quarter century of awesome games and even better memories. Here’s to another gawd damn 25 years!
This is a story of how a best friend, one groovy dad and some enticing imports made the summer of 1994 one for the ages. As a kid, I’d always dreamt of having one perfect summer. And 22 years ago…I found it.Some summers stay with you forever. Some more than others. On any given hot, lazy June Saturday afternoon, I still can’t help but think back to that fateful day. It was a summer of discovery… a summer of magic… THE SUMMER OF IMPORTS. There’s something about summer and gaming that goes together; especially though, when we were kids. There was a magic to it.
Nothing completes a healthy childhood quite like sharing it with a best friend. While I had my legendary out-of-town gaming crew, I was fortunate enough to have a best friend outside of that group, Nelson, who lived within walking distance. We grew up together being best friends since Kindergarten. He and I were often in the same class together and we shared the same interest in just about everything. We spent a bulk of our weekends hanging out and playing games. Whenever I think back to my childhood or to the glory days of gaming, inevitably, Nelson always comes to mind.
I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the memory of renting games back in the ‘90s. Every weekend my dad would take me to the local rental store(s) and I would pluck out one title to bring back home. My brother, Kevin, was too shy or embarrassed (or both) to go rent games, so he always made me his little grunt to carry out the deed. Though I was renting the games he wanted (well, at least most of the time…) there was always something magical to those pseudo-adventures my dad and I shared. It was a weekly tradition, rain or shine. Sometimes, even Nelly would join me on those renting excursions. And there was one such instance that happened 22 years ago that left an indelible mark on us, making that summer one he and I would never forget.
The year was 1994, and as the final piercing school bell of that year rang, the euphoric cries of 800 kids rang out even louder. We all knew what stood ahead: 2 and a ½ relentless months of splendid carefree summer days: no teachers, no homework, and no school to interfere with our final days of childhood. As much as I love the fall and winter seasons for Halloween and Christmas, there is nothing… and I mean NOTHING… like summer time, especially when you had a best friend like Nelson to share it with. He and I had just finished the 5th grade together. It was the best year of my childhood. My best friend was in my class; we had Mr. G, the best teacher ever; we had the two hottest girls in our class, Elaine and Jennifer, and Nelson and I were simply at the top of our game. We were 10 years old, going on 11 that summer. We had come of age, and that summer was one for the ages.
Nelson rode his bike over the very first Saturday morning of that summer and my dad drove us to Game Hunter. Game Hunter was a legendary privately owned video game rental store. It was renowned in my neck of the woods for catering to the diehard gamer. Game Hunter didn’t bother to waste time with movies. It had every video gaming system library under the sun from the 8-bit Nintendo to the Neo Geo. Being able to actually touch and pick up those classic bulky Neo Geo boxes was incredible. Game Hunter even housed an arcade machine or two, plus they had a small anime section. How many stores could claim that?! Simply put, Game Hunter was a little slice of gaming paradise.
But, what made them stand out was their unforgettable import selection. Back then, imports symbolized a whole lot more than merely just the Japanese version of a game. Indeed, back then, imports held a certain aura of mystique to them, especially when you read all the little blurbs on those games in Electronic Gaming Monthly and DieHard GameFan on a monthly basis, realizing that they were an ocean away and that you would never even so much as sniff one. Seeing a wall covered by hundreds of Super Famicom boxes never failed to amaze my little ten year old eyes. They sat on the very top shelf, purposely out of reach. It was symbolic, even. They would cover the entire upper wall from left to right. You were completely mesmerized as your eyeballs darted from one treasure to another. It was a never-ending parade of divine, exotic esctasy. These were games that were either Japanese exclusives, or Japanese versions of games that were set to hit American soil a month or two later. It was nothing short of magical, and a time in my life that I’ll always cherish.
*** FLASH BACK TO LATE 1992 ***
Game Hunter’s origins began innocently enough on what appeared to be just another ordinary Saturday morning. But as fate would have it, this particular Saturday morning was anything but. My dad and I were set to embark on our latest renting escapade together. But first we had to stop by my cousin’s house which was a good 15 minutes away. After that my dad needed to run an errand at the local drug store a block from my cousin’s house. I didn’t mind as I always enjoyed being out with my dad, especially after a long school week. Little did I know that fateful morning I would stumble upon GAME HUNTER. The store was decked out from top to bottom with video games from every system imaginable. You had the 8-bit Nintendo, Neo Geo, handheld games and everything else under the sun. I wasn’t a religious kid but I’m pretty sure I thanked God right then and there.
I made my way over to the SNES section looking for my brother’s requested title of choice. When I happened to gaze up, I discovered the upper shelf teeming with hypnotic Super Famicom imports. At that point, all bets were off as I had officially gone rogue. Sorry, Kevin. Power Athlete caught my eye. My dad lifted it off the top shelf and I examined the back of the box. It was a Street Fighter II clone. Sold! My dad obliged and that day I came home with the Japanese version of Power Moves. My brother flipped out because A). I disobeyed him and B). we found out that it didn’t even play on our Super Nintendo; it refused to fit inside the cartridge slot. I had never seen my brother so damn angry before. I promptly called Game Hunter to let them know of my plight, and they explained how I had to rent the device that allows one to play import games on an American SNES. Yeah thanks guy, you could have warned me about that before I left. Yeah, let’s just say Game Hunter was never known for their stellar customer service. But, much like how one goes to Five Guys for greasy goodness, we went to Game Hunter for their legendary and vast gaming library. After all, nobody goes to a concert for meditation.
Luckily, they still had one in stock and said they would hold it for me. So, being the great father that my old man was, we traveled back to Game Hunter to pick it up. This time, even my brother came along as he himself wanted to come see this new store that I’d hyped to the moon. Once there, our pops rented the special converter adapter for a dollar while Kevin and I stood there gawking at the import selection. The very next week, he and I went back and we picked up our 2nd import game, The Combatribes. We had fun terminating Martha Splatterhead and her sleazy gangs. Game Hunter became our new favorite store. It was revered within my gaming circle for damn good reason.
*** BACK TO JUNE 1994 ***
There Nelson and I stood, eyes popping, drool coming down the side of our mouths. On the very top shelf sat the Super Famicom ports of Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Saturday Night Slam Masters (Japanese name Muscle Bomber). These were 3 arcade-to-SNES conversions that Nelson and I were dying to play! And on that idyllic June Saturday morning there they stood right before our very eyes. Their US counterparts were still weeks, even months away! After a brief moment of dead silence, Nelson and I looked at each other in astonishment. And just like how it was over a year ago when I first saw Power Athlete, at that precise moment in time I’d forgotten whatever game my brother wanted me to rent. Once more, I had gone rogue.
The only “dilemma” was picking which one of those three games to rent. The indispensable thing about having your best friend along with you meant he could rent one and you could rent one. Nelson was adamant on choosing Fighter’s History, the infamous Street Fighter II clone that Capcom even attempted to sue. I was plenty happy about that as I loved Fighter’s History in the arcades and was long anticipating the SNES port. I always felt the game was a bit underrated. Good pick Nelly! Now it was my turn. King of the Monsters 2 or Muscle Bomber?
I had played Saturday Night Slam Masters a good bit in the arcades. I adored Capcom’s representation of the zany pro wrestling world cranked to the 10th degree, thanks to Slam Masters’ comic book-like violence and über-wacky wrestlers that were even MORE outrageous than those found in the WWF. After all, few things can rival spewing venomous mist into someone’s eyes, or piledrivering bastards into oblivion all over the globe with Metro City’s mayor! It was a tough call at first, but then I remembered something…
King of the Monsters 2 and I were like two SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT. Somehow, we always missed one another. I never played the arcade once. As a staunch supporter of the original, I was dying to FINALLY play the sequel. From 1992 to 1994, finding a King of the Monsters 2 arcade became my white whale, so to speak. None of the local arcades had it for whatever reason. And the one time that I did find it, it was at an arcade hall 2 hours away from home, but of course the machine was broken. That sums it up perfectly. It was that one game that somehow always managed to elude me. Standing there with a choice between Saturday Night Slam Masters or my great white whale, King of the Monsters 2, it dawned on me suddenly which one I was going to pick.
As Nelson and I rode home in the backseat talking excitedly about our import finds, it dawned on me that I soon had to face the music. The last time I went rogue and rebelled against my brother he did everything but tear up the house. But I figured with Nelson by my side, maybe Kevin would be less demonstrative. After all, in public or whenever there were guests, Kevin had no choice but to uphold a certain degree of decorum. Nelson knew this even without my having to ask him for backup. That’s how close we were. Like I said at the beginning, nothing completes a healthy childhood quite like having a best friend support you through thick and thin. He gave me a nod as my dad pulled into the driveway; I knew he had my back. The moment of truth had arrived. My dad went inside the house as Nelly and I stood there on the driveway — import games in hand.
We were delaying the inevitable. But there’s a reason they call it the inevitable.
“Did you get it??” my brother asked excitedly as he came to the door a minute later.
“Uhhh, no. But I got this,” I stammered, handing the game over to him as if it were an adequate consolation prize. It wasn’t.
“King of the Monsters 2?!” A mixture of shock and disgust filled his voice. “Was my game there for rent or not?” His eyes, which had turned into burning coal, burrowed its way deep in my soul.
I could easily have lied, “No, your game was rented out.” But I was a straight shooter. In hindsight… maybe I was being foolish. But I had made my choice to disobey my brother. The least I could do was be honest about it. When I told him I forgot to look for his title once Nelson and I caught sight of the imports, my brother lost control. The scary thing was all this happened even in front of Nelson. I can only imagine how much crazier it would have been without Nelson there next to me. My brother flipped out, stomping and screaming expletives like a drunken sailor. Then he ran to my room, sprinted back and threw my Crash Dummy break-apart plush buddy, Spin, out the door. It smacked me in the face with such velocity that the head flew off its shoulders. Thank goodness it was just plush! Nelly retrieved the head which had rolled onto my front lawn and placed it back on Spin’s headless Velcro neck. You would have thought that I killed my brother’s puppy or something. He stormed off, leaving the door open. You know those parts in action movies where the guy says, “Don’t you think this is a trap?” Yeah. I took one glance inside and then back at Nelson. Once again, without even having to say a word, he knew. Just to confirm, he said, “Um… let’s go back to my place for a while…”
Shoot, you don’t gotta tell me twice! I fled the crime scene faster than OJ Simpson.
And so it was. On the first Saturday afternoon of my last carefree childhood summer, I found myself walking with Nelly to his house. He clutched his copy of Fighter’s History while I held King of the Monsters 2, along with my Crash Dummy action buddy, Spin. I’m sure we were a sight for sore eyes. As soon as we got out of viewing distance, Nelson started trash talking my bro. One might think I would happily join in to pile on, but no. Like a battered victim of Stockholm syndrome, I actually defended my brother a little bit. Hey, blood is blood, no? Sure my bro could be a little rough around the edges, and there were plenty of times where I wished he could have been more quixtoic and slow to anger, but you don’t get to choose family. I mean, sure, he could snap every once in a while, but he wasn’t a bad guy, or a psycho or anything. Nelson couldn’t believe I was defending Kevin. Finally the matter was dropped as his house came into view. Suddenly, the excitement of our import snags revived us. We were about to play two arcade conversions not anyone else in the entire town had, so that made us, as far as we were concerned, thetwo luckiest sumbitchesthat weekend ^_^
We wasted no time firing up Nelly’s Super Nintendo. We threw in Fighter’s History first and took turns wasting the computer opponents. We were both impressed by how faithful it was to the arcade original. There was a simplicity to the game that Nelson and I found to be charming. To this day I can’t play Fighter’s History without remembering that fateful Saturday afternoon at Nelly’s. It was so hot that we propped open the living room windows and left the front door wide open. Lee’s stage is SEARED into my retina. That peaceful and calm lake, the family of ducks nibbling away, a fisherman enjoying the great outdoors with his line dipped lazily in the water, and those picture-esque moss-covered hills in the background. Finally, a formation of clouds move their way through the sky in a very haunting and majestic manner. This bucolic stage SCREAMS June 1994 to me. It’s an incredibly nostalgic sight and anytime I see it, I’m transported right back to Nelson’s living room 22 years ago. This stage perfectly captures that whole time frame for me. One look and it feels like I’m 10 hanging out with my best friend on a hot June Saturday afternoon all over again.
Then we swapped it out for King of the Monsters 2. He chose Cyber Woo (the King Kong doppelgänger) and I picked Super Geon (the Godzilla lookalike). We waded our way through the various cities demolishing everything in sight. Beating all the bosses 2-on-1 handicap style made for mindless monster mash ‘em up fun. Finally, after several hours of switching between the two games, late afternoon descended upon us and we agreed that maybe Kevin had cool down by now. Nelson headed back with me. We couldn’t hide out at Nelly’s forever. The only question left… was Kevin still pissed?
I found out that day that miracles exist when Kevin no longer wanted to kill me. Instead, he wanted to kill giant alien monsters from outer space. It’s funny how we each had our own pet favorite. Nelson liked Cyber Woo, I dug Super Geon and my brother was all about Atomic Guy. The three of us rotated turns and passed off the controller whenever one of us died. On some stages it was Kevin and me. At other times it was Nelly and me. There was even Kevin and Nelson. Seeing them laughing together as they trashed the Grand Canyon was pretty cool. A few hours ago no one could have predicted this outcome. Now watching the two of them working together as one cohesive unit, you never would have thought there was any kind of beef there. It was poetic, even. And of all the gaming memories I harbor, that one remains, still to this day, one of the sweetest ones. It’s a reminder of how gaming has a strange way of bringing people together.
The three of us played King of the Monsters 2 and Fighter’s History to death that unforgettable weekend, before returning them both late on Sunday evening. I told my brother we also saw Saturday Night Slam Masters. He grew pale at the mention, being a Slam Masters fanatic. We’d played it tons in the arcade. He ordered me to go rent it the next weekend. This time in particular, I was more than happy to carry out his command. No fat chance of me going rogue, as Slam Masters was also right up my alley with its outlandishly wacky wrestlers and frenetic 4-player mayhem. Giant foam fingers, flashing cameras, comic book moves come to life, and Mike F’NHaggar, made Saturday Night Slam Masters or in this case, Muscle Bomber, one fantastic brawl-for-all.
A SPECIAL GAME HUNTER EULOGY
Game Hunter eventually closed shop in the late ’90s as rental stores started to become more and more a thing of the past — they were fast going the way of the dinosaur. While their service wasn’t always top-notch, I’ll always remember them fondly for their import selection. Game Hunter arrived during a precious period of my childhood, and at a special timein gaming when renting games blindly and taking weekend trips with your old man was all part of the magic and wonder of the hobby. Sometimes the game you wanted was rented out at the first two or three rental stores, so you had to go to your 4th or 5th option around town to find it.. It just meant more hunting and more quality time spent with your old man. I’ll never forget those days when my dad and I would hit up all the rental stores every Saturday afternoon, rain or shine. They symbolized a simpler time in my life. A time where bills, junk emails and clogged six-lane highways didn’t yet exist. The renting relics of my youth were more than just brick and mortar. They are deeply embedded in what made gaming as a child so magical and wondrous. I’m so thankful I was able to enjoy it with a best pal like Nelson.
The summer of 1994 was memorable for many reasons. It’s hard to believe those halcyon days are over twenty years old now. I credit Game Hunter, the Super Nintendo and Nelson for helping to create so many fond memories. It was in large part thanks to those three that made summer of ’94, the last carefree summer of my childhood, bar none, the best one I had as a kid.
Super Play Magazine was a UK publication that ran 48 issues from 1992-1996. It’s been referred to by some Super Nintendo fans as the “SNES Bible.” About 10 years ago I was lucky enough to win an auction for 45 of the 48 issues. It’s a magazine worthy of the hype — it’s the perfect companion to any SNES library. I read through the issues in order cover to cover from Halloween to Christmas back in 2006. It was awesome. But nothing compared to the moment I reached issue #42. For right there on the front cover it boasted something that made my heart race just a bit faster. A Top 100 list. Now, I know everyone has varying opinions on “top” lists. But for me, as long as the list is done in good fun and the author doesn’t act like it’s the end-all, be-all, then it’s all good. I find top lists fun to browse through. Ever since I read EGM’s Top 100 Video Games list in their 100th issue (November 1997), I’ve loved the idea of lists. As a matter of fact, for the past 10+ years I’ve been actively working on compiling a list of my own personal SNES favorites. I hope to share that at some point before 2017 is out. But for now, I’m proud to convert over Super Play’s Top 100 list from April 1996.
As you read through this list, may you recall fondly why the SNES is one of the very best of all time. And hey… may you even find a game or two you never heard of, or overlooked, or disregarded in the past. It’s all part of the fun and joy that comes with reading a ‘Top’ list. So then, without further ado…
100. COOL SPOT (Virgin)82%
Before Dave Perry was selling the cartoon rights to garden-based invertebrates for millions of dollars, he was designing platformers like this for Virgin. It’s a twist — and there has to be a twist, or the game’s Just Another Platformer, right? — is Spot’s size: he’s a veritable Tom Thumb in the game world, making for a lengthy supply of size comparison japerings. The graphics are topper too, mind, and as a whole it stands as one of the few non-Mario platformers worth anything more than a passing glance.
99. SAMURAI SPIRITS (Takara) 84%
If any game company is synonymous with any one particular type of game, it is Takara and beat-‘em-ups. The two go together like Princess Di and divorce papers, and while the Japan-based coders have released many disappointing examples in their time — World Heroes and Art of Fighting, to name but two — Samurai Spirits (AKA Samurai Shodown) is one victory. This SNES version lacks the screen-scaling of the coin-op/Neo Geo original, and it’s not as polished as we would have liked, but it retains enough of the original’s flavor to make it worthwhile.
98. HEBEREKE’S POPOITTO(Sunsoft) 86%
Sunsoft’s second ‘tribute’ to Super Puyo Puyo (their first was Hebereke’s Popoon) sees them getting just that little bit closer to its greatness. Popoitto uses the same link-four-colors concept and peppers the gameplay area with a number of nasties which have to be removed before you can even think about moving on to the next stage. And before you ask, no, we’ve no idea what Popoitto means, either.
97. UNIRALLY (Nintendo) 85%
The only SNES-only game from Scottish coders (and Dream Team members) DMA Design, Unirally (or Uniracers)is a fine example of original gameplay and innovative graphics. Using a process not far removed from Rare’s ACM, the unicycles call upon countless frames of prerendered animation to give a splendidly vivid, if occasionally headache-inducing, look to the thing. Perhaps the fastest game around, the enjoyment of hammering around loops and twirls is heightened by the split-screen two-player mode, which makes all the difference.
96. SPIKE MCFANG (Bulletproof) 85%
Originally released in Japan as Dracula Kid, The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang is cuteness incarnate. It qualifies more as an arcade adventure rather than an ARPG, and its action-led style allows it to be a diverse little package, one moment seeing you white-water rafting, later seeing you walking rafters battling spiders. The magical attacks, based around a playing card theme, are novel, and it all adds up to a very original title.
95. DONKEY KONG COUNTRY (Nintendo) 90%
It’s interesting to note that when Nintendo gave Rare the license to produce a game on their behalf, they chose not to let them have Mario to play with, but Donkey Kong — a character with nowhere near the same amount of kudos nor following as the platform-pounding plumber. Did they not trust our Warwickshire-based chums to turn in an effort to do Mazza justice? We could pontificate all day. What’s important is that Rare did a decent job, especially when you consider at the same time they created a new era of SNES graphics to boot.
94. THE LOST VIKINGS (Interplay) 84%
Heaven knows where Interplay found the inspiration for this, a platformy puzzle-type thing starring three rough-hewn bearded geezers, but here the game is, and a compelling little thing it turns out to be too. You tackle each level in a sort of back-and-forth fashion, switching between the vikings in turn as you reach bits which require their individual skills to overcome. Yes, it probably sounds a bit cruddy, and admittedly the whole thing has something of a Commodore 64 game feel to it, but it’s original.
93. SUPER PARODIUS (Konami) 86%
Essentially Gradius on hallucinogens, with delightfully remixed versions of a number of well-known pieces of music and boss characters to make you weep with disbelief, this is an old shoot-‘em-up with lots going for it. If you’re not familiar with Gradius, well, what the heck have you been doing for the last ten years? Pressing flowers? We shall explain: It’s a forced horizontally scrolling shooter whose most novel contribution to the genre is the concept of ‘multiples’ — little pods which follow your ship and act as companions. Do you see?
92. DESERT STRIKE (Electronic Arts) 90%
Fact: the only people who claim that military hardware is fascinating are dull people. (Unless we’re talking fantastical military hardware, of course — give us a 50 foot tall assault suit and watch us smile). And so it comes as little surprise that Desert Strike, in which you fly a modern-day combat helicopter, is not as fast-moving or exciting as fantastical shooters. Dessy might fairly be termed a thinking man’s shoot-‘em-up, in fact, but its challenge and distinctly un-PC themes make it hugely appealing.
91. KIKIKAIKAI (Natsume) 88%
Capcom’s Gunsmoke and Commando coin-ops paved the way for countless games presented in the same vein, and Kikikaikai (AKA Pocky and Rocky)is one of the finest examples you’ll see on the SNES. More difficult than its slightly prettier sequel (which was published by Ocean in the UK under the name of Pocky and Rocky 2), it chronicles the exploits of a young, reifu-throwing sorceress and her cuddly raccoon companion. As you’d expect from a game with a name like this, it’s packed to the rafters with Japanese weirdness, and we love it dearly.
90. SIDE POCKET (Marubeni) 86%
The game popular with fat lager-fiends and sponging students alike proves almost as playable in its SNES form as it does after a few cherryades down at the local watering hole. It’s a great interpretation is Side Pocket, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that you don’t have to get 50 pees from the bar nor argue over who’s going to rack them up this frame. Oh, and it has one of our favorite speech samples ever (an ill-sounding woman who announces the title of the game as if she herself has had one too many cherryades).
89. SUPER STAR WARS (JVC/Virgin) 89%
When ex-editor Matt Bielby said that the music in Super Star Wars was “almost good enough to justify the price of the game on its own,” he wasn’t just being his typically over-enthusiastic self: this is a landmark in SNES music, capturing the mood and feel of the motion picture like no other film license game before or since. It’s easily the most fun game of the trilogy, too, with a fatter-than-Jabba wodge of levels, endearingly recognizable graphics and slick platform shoot-‘em-up gameplay.
88. BREATH OF FIRE (Capcom) 80%
It took a long time getting a Western release (18 months, to be precise), but the wait turned out to be just about worthwhile. Forget about it providing anything like the involvement of Square’s FF series because it comes across more as a clone than a fully-fledged attempt at taking them on equal terms. Instead look at it as an above average RPG with its own fair share of talking points, notably its clever day-to-night transitions and a healthy clan of likable, if rather underdeveloped, characters.
87. WORLD MASTERS GOLF (Virgin) 80%
There’re enough golf games on the SNES to fill a pair of Jimmy Tarbuck’s plus-fours, but this, the first effort by a UK development team (Arc Developments, if you’re interested), leaves them all choking on sand as it chips delightfully out of the bunker and straight into the ‘cup.’ With corky Mode 7 flybys, four courses (Aldan Forest, Cranfield Lakes, Marston Beach and Victoria Plains), a workable ‘three-press’ power bar system, and generally pleasant presentation all-round, it’s everything the ardent fan could ask for.
86. XANDRA’S BIG ADVENTURE (Namco) 85%
If you’ve ever opened a packet of Jelly Babies, picked out a green one, held it between thumb and forefinger and thought, ‘I wonder what it would be like to be this green jelly feller,’ then you should A) consider taking up some form of medical help, and B) buy Xandra’s Big Adventure. Xandra, see, is a little guy made of green jelly, and he takes up a pitchfork in an umpteen level platformer that’s filled with the kind of innovation you’ll only find in Japanese software. Keep an eye out for Whirlo, the European version which wasn’t released in the UK.
85. ULTIMATE PARODIUS (Konami) 85%
There’s little to say about Ultimate Parodius other than that it’s an improvement over the original (yes, even though it scored one percent more in our review) but not quite up there with the latest installment (yes, even though we gave that game two percent less) which you’ll find further up the list. It’s all a trifle confusing, we admit, but at the end of the day the review scores here are pretty irrelevant — some of the older games have aged better than others, and… oh, just trust us, okay?
84. JURASSIC PARK (Ocean) 89%
Licensemeisters Ocean inevitably snatched the rights to Spielberg’s T-Rex of a movie and surprised us all by delivering a game which is not only entertaining but fairly original, too (which is more than can be said for Sony Imagesoft’s Jurassic Park 2). Incorporating Gauntlet-esque outdoor bits with a selection of indoor sections rendered á la Wolfenstein, JP presents a series of tasks which add up to a well-rounded arcade adventurey challenge.
83. PUGSLEY’S SCAVENGER HUNT (Ocean) 90%
Ocean were one of the first UK-based outfits to really get behind the SNES, and it didn’t take them long to coax wonderful things out of it. Addams Family Values II: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt, to give it its full name, was early evidence that Brit coders could do stuff to rival the best of what Japan had to offer, with its magnificent use of color and ingenious presentation (check out the level which takes place inside Granny’s crystal ball for proof). While not nearly as player-friendly as any Mario game, this hasn’t aged badly at all.
82. RAMPART (Electronic Arts) 79%
The best video games, some say, are those where more than two or more people can take part at once. While RPG fans would contest this claim with their biggest +1 Swords of Chaos, Rampart illustrates perfectly just how much can be gleaned from a concept once you throw another player into the mix. A two-player conversion of Atari’s three-player trackball coin-op, Rampart‘s a game which tests both fast-paced shooting accuracy and Tetris-like building skills. It is a unique game and has unjustly gone dismissed by most SNES owners.
81. SECRET OF EVERMORE (Square Soft) 81%
The long-awaited attempt of Square Soft’s American arm to produce something to rival Secret of Mana turned out, perhaps inevitably, to fall some way short of those magical standards. There’s still quite a bit here to get excited about, of course, notably the combat system (smooth and fast-paced), the atmospheric sound effects (Wil likes the noisy market scene) and the alchemy principle (whose mix-and-match spell-making replaces the more common simpler methods in just about every other RPG). And it’s out in the UK.
80. NFL QUARTERBACK ’96 (Acclaim) 89%
To quote Tony’s flatmate Will Groves, who guest reviewed this in issue 40, “As usual, non-gridiron fans will take a lot of convincing but anyone who knows the game and has enjoyed Madden in the past might want to consider sacrificing just a tiny bit of the Fat One’s on-field experience for the more managerial/coaching experience of NFL QBC ’96.” What the scruffy urchin’s trying to say is that this is the best American footy game on the SNES. He just gets a little bit mixed up sometimes, bless him.
79. WORLD LEAGUE BASKETBALL (HAL) 84%
Way before NBA Jam strode onto the court with its size-16 Nike Air Maxes, this was the best basketball sim on the SNES by a fair chalk. Making full use of Mode 7 to spin and scale the court — and induce vomiting in ex-editor James Leach’s case (yes, really) — it gets a trifle confusing following the action for the first hour or so of play, but give it time and it gels to form a mostly satisfying sports sim.
78. THE CHAOS ENGINE (Bitmap Bros) 89%
Most video game programmers are happy to remain anonymous apart from a credit at the end of their games. Not so the Bitmap Brothers, who insisted upon getting their mugs in anywhere and everywhere. Their desires to be famous aside, they make good games, and this is one of ‘em. It’s Gauntlet for the ’90s, except with only two players and, well, much fewer levels. What’s especially commendable is that if you don’t have a human companion kicking about you can opt for a CPU-controlled variety, whose behavior is remarkably convincing. This game is known as Soldiers of Fortune in North America.
77. OGRE BATTLE (Enix) 80%
It was hard to believe that sound as lush and graphics as sumptious as those in Ogre Battle could belong to a mere strategy game. Even a slight lack of involvement during the actual battles couldn’t deter a pointy-hatted Zy from extolling its virtues. Should you be fluent in Japanese, you could replace Ogre Battle’s entry with its oft delayed sequel — Tactics Ogre which surpasses it in every department. As there seems to be no sign of it appearing here though, Ogre Battle still wins out as the best-looking fantasy strategy game available.
76. JUNGLE STRIKE (Electronic Arts) 83%
The Strike games — Desert, Jungle and Urban — fall into that horribly cliched category of you’ll either love them or hate them. Some gamers — mostly hardcore arcade fans — simply can’t abide the way they limit your munitions and fuel, meaning that you’re always working against the clock and a finite amount of times you can pull on the trigger, while those of a more strategic bent find the approach invitingly taxing. Us? We’re quite partial to a spot of Strikeage, and feel this is the best of the trilogy on the SNES.
75. MORTAL KOMBAT II (Acclaim) 90%
Perhaps the biggest grumble ever — bigger even than “Waaagh! Why aren’t we getting such-and-such RPG in the UK?” and “Why can’t I ‘be’ the bosses in Street Fighter II?” — must be “Why isn’t there any blood in Mortal Kombat?” Such gripes were more forgivable then most, though — after all, the gore and violence was MK’s main selling point, despite whatever Williams would like to believe to the contrary. This MK2 conversion pulled over all of its coin-op counterpart’s juicy bits to become a worthy little fighting game.
74. STREET RACER (Ubi Soft) 91%
There have been many occasions when we’ve found our jaws collecting fluff off the carpet. And second only to Ollie’s ability to consume an entire packet of chocolate digestives in three seconds flat in the jaw/floor interfacing department is the four-player split screen mode of Street Racer. Four independent Mode 7 windows running at speeds in excess of Super Mario Kart, thanks to its “Look, ma! No Super FX chip!” coding, cement Racer‘s inclusion in the Top 100.
73. EARTHWORM JIM (Virgin) 91%
Created by Dave Perry’s hand-picked team of programmers and designers, Shiny Entertainment (of whom Nick Jones, who programmed SNES Alien 3 while still at Probe, is one, video game trivia fans), Earthworm Jim can justifyably claim to be the first ever game to come close to looking like a cartoon. It could also lay claim to being one of the most imaginative games to reach the SNES, and proves that it is possible to make video games genuinely humorous.
72. SUPER SMASH TV (Acclaim) 84%
Super Smash TV was the first game Ed ‘Mortal Kombat’ Boon produced when he joined Williams’ coin-op division, a fact which should give an insight into its nature. Yes, destruction, death and carnage are the objectives in this update of the classic early ’80s coin-op Robotron 2084. The coin-op used two joysticks, one for moving your blokey, one for aiming your shots, and the SNES joypad’s four-button arrangement made the conversion as playable as anyone could have hoped. The two-player facility is the icing on the cake.
71. SUPER FAMILY TENNIS (Namco) 83%
If Super Tennis had a multitap option, this game probably wouldn’t have made it into the Top 100, but it doesn’t, so it does, if you follow. With a more limited range of shots than ST, its graphics and presentation nevertheless surpass it with some ease. The animated backdrops are especially noteworthy and demonstrate the kind of attention to detail missing from the likes of Jimmy Connor’s Pro Tennis Tour, David Crane’s Amazing Tennis and Wil Overton’s Office Cardboard Racquets and Sellotape Ball Tennis.
70. LEMMINGS 2 (Psygnosis) 88%
Green hair, blue capes, big feet — yep, Ollie’s mates really are a weird bunch. Boom, boom. Anyway, what we have here is the sequel to the world’s most popular puzzle game after Tetris. This follow-up introduces the idea of breaking down Lemmings into tribes, each bearing characteristics unique to that breed, thus making each more suited to certain types of levels than others. What makes it all worthwhile is that an awful lot of thought has gone into putting the all-new levels together — an all too rare occurrence in a sequel.
69. MORTAL KOMBAT 3 (Acclaim) 85%
After hauling MK2‘s blood-soaked carcass back into the workshop, Williams returned with a game that’s bigger, juicier and more stuffed with secret bits than an MP’s private life. While the characters occasionally feel more lightweight than those of the former game, and the presentation lacks its punch, if you’re going to bother with any of the Mortal Kombat series you really should make it this one. As a conversion it’s sound, and you’ll not go far wrong with it if you bear in mind it’s not trying to be Street Fighter II.
68. DIDDY’S KONG QUEST (Nintendo) 82%
When we put Rare’s latest platformer head-to-head against Yoshi’s Island last issue it slowly became apparent that Brit designers still have a lot to learn from our chums across the oceans. Judged purely on its own merits, DKQ is nevertheless a perfectly serviceable example of one of gaming’s oldest themes, with especially gorgeous graphics — perhaps the best ever seen on the SNES, in fact — and a difficulty level that’ll keep you pumping away at the joypad for hours. Or at least until you break it through sheer frustration…
67. POP ‘N’ TWINBEE (Konami) 84%
No, we don’t know why it’s called what it is, either. What we are certain of, though, is that it’s the second best of the pitifully small amount of vertically-scrolling shooters on the SNES. The Konami trademarks are evident from the moment the first ground-based nasties — a group of living pineapples, no less — scroll into view, and it retains a cute, messed-up-in-the-head spirit all the way through. Its low point is the difficulty setting (which, is low), but with the three elements of gameplay, graphics and sound in such full effect, you hardly care.
66. SENSIBLE SOCCER (Sony Imagesoft) 91%
While neither as fast or comprehensive in scope as the Mega Drive or Amiga versions, SNES Sensi is still accomplished enough to deftly sidestep every single one of its competition… well, except for ISSD, of course, which stands in its path like an impassible brick wall. Simplicity and speed are the two factors which distinguish it, and although it will feel more like a game of pinball than football to the uninitiated, everything eventually becomes second nature after repeated play. Just like football in real life, really.
65. PARODIUS 3 (Konami) 83%
The third — and best — installment in the series offers an incredible 16 characters to choose from — eight male and eight female (er, we think, although it’s difficult to sex spacecraft) — and, unbelievably, the most outstandish elements ever to make it into a game. If you missed the review last ish, you won’t have seen the karaoke-singing panda in a dress or the lipstick-shooting, bra-wearing robot boss. Which, come to think of it, you’re probably better off not seeing.
64. FLASHBACK (Sony Imagesoft) 91%
We don’t welcome conversions from other formats, generally speaking (unless that format is a coin-op), but we’re willing to make an exception for this, Delphine’s follow-up to Out of This World, which comes to the SNES via the Amiga. An early exponent of the graphical technique of rotoscoping — where a real person’s movements are recorded to generate game animation — it’s a platformer with heavy adventurish overtones. The animated cut scenes work well, and it’s sad to contemplate never seeing its like on the SNES again.
63. R-TYPE III (Irem) 83%
Masters of the scrolling shooter Irem finally proved they had what it takes — they’d already given us the lackluster Super R-Type and GunForce — with this, a game that isn’t, surprisingly, a conversion of a coin-op but a totally original effort. Using Mode 7 in just about every way imaginable it provides one of the few examples of games of this type worth investing any time into. While most others are as predictable as Anthea Turner’s inane grin, R-Type III starts out originally and continues to try to improve on itself over and over.
62. UN SQUADRON (Capcom) 91%
A loose conversion of their coin-op of the same name, UN Squadron is one of Capcom’s finest SNES games. Based on the anime and manga strip Area 88 — which was used for the game’s name in Japan, incidentally — it’s a horizontally-scrolling shooter in the classic mold, with all the usual power-ups and attack wave/boss structure we’ve come to expect since the likes of Gradius set the agenda. Novelty bonus points come in the form of a shop where you buy new weapons and the opportunity to pick and choose your way through the levels.
61. CIVILIZATION (Koei) 88%
Civilization looks like a pile of nob. It also plays like a bit of a clinker when you start out. But give it a chance and it’ll grab hold of your attention like a pit bull terrier to the seat of a postie’s trousers. You start as a leader of a tribe whose purpose is to build it up over the years into a flourishing society. Along the way your scientists invent various items and concepts with the goal being to make it into space by the year 2001. To some this will prove as boring as Brian Walden, but Sim City fans will lose themselves in it for weekends at a time.
60. SUPER ALESTE (Toho) 87%
At a time when few thought the SNES could cut it in moving lots of details around the screen, Super Aleste came along and delivered non-believers a punch to the throat they wouldn’t be forgetting in a hurry. We are talking Sprite Central — so much so that it occasionally gets a mite tricky working out what’s going on — and this technical achievement coupled with the seven types of weaponry make for a most enjoyable brains-off, triggers-on blaster. The downside? Oh, you had to ask, didn’t you. It’s not massively difficult. Damn. This game is known as Space MegaForce in North America.
59. OUT TO LUNCH (Mindscape) 84%
Of all the ideas anyone could come up with to build a game around, cooking must rank as one of the least likely to turn out any fun. But Out To Lunch is fun with a capital ‘F.’ It’s jollier than Father Christmas, more compelling than an opened tube of Pringles, and as welcoming as an open-armed Claudia Schiffer. The secret of its success? It doesn’t try to blind you with over-the-top graphics or convoluted storylines — instead it delivers good traditional gameplay values polished up with dinky presentation and amusing graphics.
58. THEME PARK (Ocean) 91%
Trust Bullfrog — creators of such adrenaline-pumping titles as Populous, Populous 2 and soon, Sim Hospital — to come up with a game which asks you to manage a funfair. It’s not nearly as dull as it sounds, of course — funky presentation, groovesome graphics and super-addictive gameplay ensure that it’s rarely anything less than fascinating. Perhaps not destined for the classic status which Sim City has earned itself, Theme Park nevertheless shows what the cream of the UK’s development talent can offer the world.
57. NBA JAM: TOURNAMENT EDITION (Acclaim) 90%
A super conversion of the smash-hit coin-op which puts action ahead of strategy, resulting in a fast-moving game. While we’re here, have you ever wondered why Acclaim games such as this and the Mortal Kombat series have so many hidden options and cheats? Well… it’s because during the months that follow a game’s release, players seek them out and send them to mags like Super Play, which duly print them, giving the game bonus coverage, some times for up to three months. Free advertising, see?
56. SPARKSTER (Konami) 89%
Originally something of a celeb on the Mega Drive, the opossum hit the SNES in some style in 1994. Not as celebrated as it deserves to be, Sparkster is one of the funkiest platformers we’ve had the pleasure of playing, with bosses bonkers enough to make your hair fall out and Special Bits stacked up to the ceiling. Such as, you ask? A giant robot boxing match in space, rotating missiles almost a screen in height and beautiful watery reflections. You’d best play it on a difficulty setting trickier than Normal, though…
55. MICRO MACHINES (Sony Imagesoft) 83%
It was inevitable that, after producing countless budget-priced racing games on 8-bit computer formats (remember the likes of BMX Simulator?), Codemasters would get around to exploiting the theme on a console. The result, first seen on the NES, was a revelation, and this more-or-less straight conversion offers as many larfs as ever, with some parallax scrolling and an enhanced multi-player option being the only real enhancements. Micro Machines is simple, addictive racing fun the way your mother used to make it.
54. NHL ’96 (Electronic Arts) 90%
If you’ve ever visited the local ice rink only to be bundled over by a four-foot-tall 10-year-old as he zigzags around at around 60 MPH, you’ll appreciate this opportunity to zip around an expanse of frozen water without the risk of battered knees and a pride to match. More than that, though, it’s the latest and best of EA’s top-selling ice hockey series, with super-slick gameplay and as many options as you could wish for (although we wouldn’t have said no to being able to leave the ice, pick up some chips from the fast-food bar).
53. MICRO MACHINES 2 (Ocean) 88%
Like the original Micro Machines, except with more tracks, more vehicle types and more, well, fun. Some of the new course designs are a bit on the clumsy side, but it matters not. That’s all there is to say, really. Um… How about a joke? Okay, a man goes into a pub with his pet giraffe and buys a pint of beer. After drinking it, the poor animal collapses and dies, spurring the landlord to say,“Hey, you can’t leave that lyin’ there!”, whereupon the bloke replies, “It’s not a lion, it’s a giraffe.” No? Erm… it loses a lot when it’s written down.
52. PRINCE OF PERSIA (Konami) 89%
If turbans and voluminous ‘loons turns you on, you’ll be gagging for a bash on POP, whose lead character sports some of the most attractive Arabian duds going. This plaformy slasher is very much an acquired taste: its controls are notoriously fiddly to get to grips with and the hazard-packed levels don’t suffer fools gladly. But put in the effort and be prepared to indulge in no small amount of hair-tearing along the way and you’ll get a great deal out of it.
51. MICKEY’S MAGICAL QUEST (Capcom) 89%
Whether you’re swimming through the sap of a tree or fighting a boss character who rotates as he skates in a half-pipe made of ice, the graphics in MMQ never fail to raise at least one eyebrow. Its rock-solid platform gameplay is spruced up by Mickey’s ‘magical’ ability to change between outfits as the game progresses, allowing him to play with such diverse personas as a mountaineer (with grappling hook) and a firefighter (with working hose). Not overly taxing, but one of the prettiest and most charming games in this list.
50. TOURNAMENT FIGHTERS (Konami) 90%
At a time when every man and his dog was scrambling to clone Street Fighter II’s legendary gameplay, it was left to Konami to do the job right. Their blatant rip-off, featuring the pizza-crazed foursome and a selection of adversaries from the animated series, worked because, unlike the many clones which altered SFII’s core gameplay in order to differentiate themselves, it didn’t really try to be different — its only major gameplay change being a power-move bar. Stonky special moves places this among the best SFII rips going.
49. SUPER BOMBERMAN 2 (Hudson Soft) 91%
Every fan of Bomberman had their fair share of ideas about what they wanted to see in this sequel. Whether they were pleased with what they got — player-coded bombs, various new power-ups, and the biggy, playing areas in the main game option which scroll over large areas — remains another thing altogether. Whatever the case, SB2‘s battle mode is enough in itself to make this a worthwhile undertaking, especially when you consider that, like many of the games here, it’s kicking around now for less than 20 golden round ones.
48. BUST-A-MOVE (Taito) 84%
‘Do’ing a puzzle game is hard. It either goes very right (see Kirby’s Avalanche) or very wrong (see Zoop). Bust-A-Move (or Puzzle Bobble in Japan or in the arcades) belongs very much to the former category. Its one-player mode is fairly forgettable but its two-player option has been known to force an office to grind to a halt for an afternoon, such is the volume of competitive juices it’s able to squeeze from participants. It’s a simple link-the-colors affair, but its speed and accessibility make it essential to anyone who’s always got a pal handy.
47. SOLSTICE II: EQUINOX (Sony Imagesoft) 91%
There are few things worse than having to listen to a self-appointed video game expert bang on about how 8-bit games remain far superior to any others since. But 8-bit games have their uses, and the most obvious is in influencing games of today, which is why Equinox works — because it took an excellent 8-bit game theme (the isometric 3D ‘arcade adventure’) and made it better. Apart from its showstopping soundtrack (another Tim Follin masterpiece), other stand-out points are its unusual color scheme and high level of challenge.
46. SOUL BLAZER (Enix) 89%
As one of the few Zelda-alikes to come anywhere near touching Nintendo’s work of genius, Soul Blazer dates back to 1992. You play a fresh-faced young adventurer whose task is to return a withered kingdom to normality. The action may seem repetitious at first, but the enormous range of characters — with numerous animals including a dog named Turbo — and a consuming quest make this one of the most addictive and rewarding ARPGs to hit the SNES. You’ll have to dig hard and deep to find it these days, but it’s worth it.
45. KILLER INSTINCT (Nintendo) 85%
Although the formula ‘Street Fighter II + Mortal Kombat 2 + ACM graphics = top-selling game’ could be construed by skeptics as lazy design, Rare’s first attempt at a one-on-one beat-‘em-up is constructed with such professionalism that it’s difficult not to enjoy it. Yes, the concept of combos in excess of 40 hits borders on the ridiculous and the characters on show lack the charisma, and therefore appeal, of Kenneth and co., but KI is proof positive that Street Fighter II’s playing style — which it clones — cannot be beaten.
44. BREATH OF FIRE 2 (Capcom) 81%
When resident RPG-head Zy Nicholson says that a new example of the breed has “friendly menu-driven combat, superb real-time effects, isometric battle scenes and some likeable weirdness” you know it’s worth more than just a cursory examination. And this BOF2 most definitely is: still shorter on quality than Square’s best output but strong enough to placate his fellow pointy-hat wearers. Which is, dear readers, why it earns the right to ease it buttocks into one of the 100 comfy chairs at Super Play’s Table of Excellence.
43. FRONT MISSION (Square Soft) 88%
Foregoing their usual magic and monsters stronghold Square came up trumps with this future war strategy game based around the infamous ‘Mobile Suit.’ With a superbly polished menu system and wonderful isometric battle fields, Super Play soon warmed to what could have been a rather dry stats fest. For a game that’s yet to be released outside Japan, potential players should be comforted by the fact that Square have, in an effort to Westernize the story, written all the menus in English. All this and Tommy Chong too.
42. EARTHWORM JIM 2 (Virgin) 85%
It would have been easy for Shiny to fart out any old sequel, but at almost every turn this shows what happens when you spend good money on good programmers and designers: you get a good game. From avoiding stairlift-bound grannies to rescuing puppies by bouncing them onto marshmallows, EWJ2 goes out of its way to further push the platform game envelope. Luzz a top soundtrack and a decent level of challenge into the mix and you have something which bodes well for Shiny’s imminent efforts on the Nintendo 64.
41. ILLUSION OF GAIA (Enix) 88%
This charming pseudo sequel to Soul Blazer provides ample proof of Enix’s mastery of the action RPG niche. You don’t have to worry about a list of stats the length of your arm; just pick up your sword and go. As with Blazer, there’s a selection of NPCs who brighten up the proceedings considerably, and the lead character’s ability to change into a super-powered form at various points ensures that there’s always something new waiting just around the corner. It’s out in the UK as Illusion of Time — go and look for it right now.
40. EARTHBOUND (Nintendo) 88%
The fact that this is the only game on the SNES to feature a signpost advertising ‘DRUGS’ should be enough to convince you that it’s not just yer everyday RPG. If the word crude could have been invented to describe its graphics, the words quirky and ingenious might well have come into being to relate to its other parts. Its combat system is limited, but the storyline, tripped-out visuals and subtle soundtracks ensure it’s never anything less than totally entertaining.
39. SUPER BOMBERMAN 3 (Hudson Soft) 89%
What Hudson Soft seem to have failed to realize during their updating of Bomberman is that the game is at its most fun in multi-player mode, yet this third part contains less battle screens than the only-quarter-as-big original. What’s just as frustrating is that the enhancements on offer in this third part — kangeroos to ride and an ‘after-death’ play-on feature, to mention the most important ones — only hint at Hudson’s design talents, and you can’t help yearning for more. But it’s still Bomberman, and Bomberman is brill.
38. CANNON FODDER (Virgin) 89%
Cocky coders Sensible Software plucked the little chaps out of Sensible Soccer and plopped them into a military warzone to produce one of the most enjoyable and original games to reach the Amiga. The SNES version is as accurate a conversion as one could wish for, and the guide-the-soldiers gameplan remains as playable as ever. Best appreciated with a SNES mouse, the only flaw to be found in it rears its head in a later level where success seems to lie as much with luck as it does with out-and-out skill.
37. SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV (Konami) 91%
Simon Belmont may be the most unlikely name for a hero since Cecil (out of FFII), but this, his first 16-bit game, is a showcase title. It’s something of a slow starter, however, and you’d be forgiven for playing the first couple of levels and going away wondering what the fuss is about. Stick with it, though, and its true colors make themselves known in the form of a barrage of memorable pieces of music and some of the cleverest use of Mode 7 ever seen. It’s rock hard in places and you’ll feel a proper smug bugger when you finish it.
36. AXELAY (Konami) 85%
If technical achievement was the point of reference for this Top 100, Konami’s old but golden shooter would trample all in its path. From start to finish, Axelay is an extraordinary game. Alternating between vertical and horizontal-scrolling levels, each is as memorable as the next, whether it’s the lava-flooded wastes of level four or the subterranean caverns of level five (complete with stunning echo effects). A graphical and sonical tour de force, it’s hampered by a difficulty curve which will challenge only the most noviciate of gamers.
35. STARFOX (Nintendo) 93%
When Argonaut invented the Super FX chip it was the equivalent of Pamela Anderson discovering cosmetic surgery. The first fruit of the marriage between 16-bit SNES and 32-bit RISC chip is, like F-Zero, a piece of gaming history that no SNESite can afford to have missed. Inspired by Namco’s Starblade, it’s polygon shooting at its finest as you and three animal chums team up to take down the evil Andross and his cohorts through levels based both over land and in space. Miyamoto’s influence makes all the difference.
34. SHADOWRUN (Data East) 85%
Grim. Gritty. Grimy. Um… Greasy? [Just get on with it -Ed.] Okay, here is a game which should have kick-started an entire series of similar SNES games if there was any justice in the world, but instead remains just the high point on the C.V. of Australian coders Laser Beam. A ‘cyberpunk’ adventure, it’s an isometric 3D actioner where you wake up to find yourself with no memory and must proceed to unravel a tale by cybernetically enhancing your body, ‘jacking’ into ‘matrixes’ and whatnot. Oh, and there’s tons of killings.
33. ACTRAISER (Enix) 90%
When the great SNES versus Mega Drive debate was at its height, Actraiser was wielded in the SNES’s corner as an example of just how superior the Nintendo mchine’s sound capabilities are, thanks to Yuzo Koshiro’s masterful soundtrack. Audio thrills aside, there’s a corky game in here too, presented as a selection of platform slashing levels accessed via a main map section, itself an enjoyable God game-type thing where you must tend to the world’s populace. The long-awaited sequel was pump, incidentally.
32. F-ZERO (Nintendo) 86%
The Amiga had Marble Madness, the Mega Drive had Super Shinobi, and the SNES had this. What are we talking about? Killer apps, of course — games which sell their machines on their merits alone. Any hardened gamer witnessing F-Zero‘s stunning exploration of Mode 7 had to have a machine of their own. There’s no two-player option, the courses are bland when compared to those of Super Mario Kart and it’s only a paltry four mega bits big, but it’s lightning fast and gloriously playable.
31. CHRONO TRIGGER (Square Soft) 90%
We awaited this game’s arrival — the product of Akira ‘Dragon Ball’ Toriyama, Yuji ‘Dragon Quest’ Horii and Hironbu ‘Final Fantasy’ Sakaguchi — with such abatement of breath we nearly kneeled over our keyboards and expired. And when it arrived, it nearly lived up to those lofty expectations, with a roster of smashing-looking characters and a natty time-travelling storyline. The only criticism to be leveled at it is the lack of character depth and overall lightweight nature when compared to the Final Fantasy series.
30. TINY TOONS ADVENTURES (Konami) 89%
Years before Yoshi’s Island planted its innovated feet on the SNES, Konami’s Tiny Toons title — known as Buster Busts Loose in the UK — was doing fresh things with the stale-as-last-month’s-Holvis genre. As early as level two you come across a section where the game holds up while you’re required to take part in a bit of rope skipping before you can pass, while later levels include a game of American football and a space-based bit where you can totally invert gravity. It’s all over rather too quickly, though, but we still love it tons.
29. SIM CITY (Nintendo) 84%
Did you like Lego? Do you still play with it secretly now? Do you still play with it openly now? Whatever the case, if you have even an inkling of interest in building things you’ll love Sim City. It’s not a game for everyone, but those willing to put in the time will discover an addictive experience. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had a hand in this version, incidentally, giving it benefits over other versions including the green-haired helper-outer Doctor Wright and a great preset game scenario featuring a mighty Bowser attack.
28. ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RACING (Interplay) 88%
If you’ve ever been stuck on a twisty country lane behind a flatcap-wearing octogenarian in an Austin Maxi, you’ll have no doubt fantasized about having a whacking great assault cannon mounted on your bonnet. This is the sort of game you need to play to relieve such frustration. It’s fast, slick and has about the most impressive guitar effects we’ve ever heard in a game, courtesy of real rock classics re-interpreted by game music genius Tim Follin. It has a fabbo simultaneous two-player too. Gaming rarely gets more fun than this.
27. SUPER PUNCH-OUT!! (Nintendo) 90%
We like boxing. Not for real, of course (our soft faces are too delicate for such behavior), but watching it on the telly and doing it in video games. Especially when the video game is Super Punch-Out!!, Nintendo’s long-in-the-making update of the NES title Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! Yep, simulated pugilism doesn’t come any more entertaining than this. Well, not unless you count Taito’s Real Puncher coin-op, which would prove as much fun, if only we could persuade Wil to be the one standing in front of its scanning camera [Oi! -Wil]
26. PLOK! (Tradewest) 90%
Apart from having the finest harmonica samples ever to grace the SNES (er, although we’re not aware of any other competition), Plok! manages to lift the trophy of Best UK-Produced Platformer, too. It achieves this accolade by being original. Plok, for example, is like no other game character, able to fire off all of his limbs until he’s reduced to just a helpless torso. His charm is joined by a selection of vehicles to bomb around in, collectible special-power outfits and the best black-and-white levels we’ve ever seen. And we’ve seen a few, by crikey.
25. GOEMON 2 (Konami) 90%
Although only available in Japanese form — sales of the Western version of Goemon 1, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, proved too low to warrant the ‘trouble’ of translating the sequel — if you only buy one import cart, make it this one. Although it looks similar to LOTMN, the platform-based sections are more detailed than before (and include a number of vehicles you can hi-jack and use to plough through the weirder-than-before nasties) while the all-new Mode 7 mecha Goemon sequences offer new gameplay. A Konami klassic.
‘Gaiden,’ as many Super Play readers will know, is a Japanese word meaning ‘side story.’ Tetris Battle ‘Side Story,’ then, includes two modes: a battle option, which allows you to collect pods with which to build a spell meter; and a ‘straight’ Tetris mode, which turns out to be the best version of Tetris available on any format anywhere, ever. Surprisingly, the battle mode is a fine and worthwhile twist, too. In all, classic stuff.
23. SUPER BOMBERMAN (Hudson Soft) 92%
To invent a new game style is one thing, but to create one which your competitors find near-impossible to rip off is another — which is what Hudson Soft did in creating the Bomberman concept. Diehard fans agree that the first in the series is the best, with a battle mode simple enough to ensure that all the family can join in, while allowing experienced players to get to grips with grass-roots Bomberman gameplay. You could lock four people in a room with this game for 24 hours and they’d still come out smiling. Probably.
22. STREET FIGHTER II (Capcom) 94%
When SFII arrived in arcades in 1991, many gamers took one look at its six-button controls and wrote it off as something of a novelty — this was, after all, a time when three fire buttons were just about the limit in coin-ops. It didn’t take long for the game’s potential to shine through, though, and it became one of the biggest earners in the history of arcade gaming while the accuracy of this conversion did a similar amount of earning for Nintendo, selling SNESes by the shelfload. The inability to ‘be’ the bosses removes some of the magic, though.
21. STUNT RACE FX (Nintendo) 93%
Only Nintendo’s second Super FX title, SRFX (AKA Wildtrax in Japan) is just as remarkable as their first. If you thought polygons came in only two varieties — dull and duller — you’ll change your mind once you see this. The four vehicles — coupé, 4×4, 2WD and truck — all have personality and individualistic levels of handling and engine performance and the skill required to drive them is something that only comes with practice. Characteristic tracks and fab Stunt and Radio Controlled modes make this a driving game like no other.
20. FINAL FANTASY II (Square Soft) 90%
There are many games that, without Super Play‘s championing of them, would go unnoticed by the general SNES-playing community. Final Fantasy II is one example, serving to introduce those lucky enough to track down an import copy to the delights of turn-based combat and Square’s deftness at weaving tales of magic, war and high drama in a fantastical setting where people with big eyes and even bigger hearts rule the day. The story, soundtrack and finely-tuned gameplay compensate to make it essential playing to all RPGers.
19. CYBERNATOR (Konami) 91%
Unique among shooters, Cybernator has a level of detail normally the sole presence of the most hardcore Airfix modeller — who could forget the little blokeys who run around at your feet peppering you with their peashooter-like weapons, just begging you to turn your giant machine guns onto them? Or the three-screens-high end-of-game boss? Sadly, a sequel never materialized, but we’re looking forward to Gun Hazard, by the same team.
18. SUPER STREET FIGHTER II (Capcom) 96%
We’ll never know why Capcom chose to produce ‘plain old’ SSFII on the SNES when arcade-goers at the time were enjoying the souped-up SSFII Turbo (or ‘X’ as it’s known in Japan), and it remains one of the most frustrating happenings in the machine’s history. With four new characters (Fei Long, Dee Jay, Cammy and T. Hawk), new backdrops and new moves for the old fighters, to name but a few improvements, SSFII is deserving of its place, but players coming to it after Turbo will expect speed, and its absence rather dulls the experience.
17. DOOM (Williams) 92%
If you work in the back room of a butcher shop, Doom may not be nearly as appealing as it is to the average Joe on the street. We’re talking major slaughterage, see, dealt out with a series of chuff-off weapons that make Arnie’s arsenal in Commando look like air pistols. Judged as a conversion, this is more complete than the 32X and Jaguar efforts, and although the lower screen resolution sometimes makes it look like an ugly bugger, the Doom playability remains intact, making it one of the most challenging and impressive games of ’95.
16. INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR SOCCER DELUXE (Konami) 94%
Football games aren’t difficult to write — chuck in a bit of grass, a few sticks at each end and get some players running about and you’re half-way there. What’s difficult is making them intuitive to play and deep enough to keep you coming back. ISSD shoots and scores in both of these departments, with playability that’s as silky as Silky the silkworm’s silk pajamas and so many options that you’ll probably never get around to all of them.
15. ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS (Lucas Arts) 89%
We had little expectations for ZAMN when it turned up in 1993, a fact which made the discovery that it was utterly fantastic all the more pleasurable. Describing it as a maze game makes it sound dull, which it most definitely isn’t. The detail, soundtrack, weapons system, two-player simultaneous mode, showstopping bosses, atmosphere… sigh, we just can’t find anything wrong with it. Well, apart from the fact that they didn’t have the balls to give it its full title in the UK, preferring the less ‘offensive’ Zombies instead. Cuh.
14. SUPER TENNIS (Nintendo) 92%
Tennis. Tennis. TENNIS. TeNniS. Nope, no matter how it’s written, tennis just doesn’t sound exciting at all. But that’s just what Super Tennis proves to be: the most enjoyable sports sim going. Translating a fast-moving sport such as this is tricky, but the programmers have somehow done it so well that it feels beautifully intuitive. The graphics look a bit basic by today’s standards, but then, as they say, who looks at the mantelpiece when they’re stoking the fire?
13. KIRBY’S AVALANCHE (Nintendo) 91%
At a time when it looked like no-one would ever topple Tetris from its position as the greatest puzzle game in the history of all things, along came Compile with Super Puyo Puyo (later repackaged and renamed as a Kirby title for the US market). The idea is simple: groups of two colored blobs fall from the top of the screen which you can rotate and move left and right, just like you can with a Tetris piece. Match four like colors and they disappear, sending rogue blobs to your opponent’s side. So ace in two-player mode it’s unbelievable.
12. CONTRA III: THE ALIEN WARS (Konami) 90%
Truly a landmark in SNES gaming, Contra as good as turned Nintendo’s 16-bit machine into a coin-op. If it’s Memorable Gaming Moments you’re after you’ll be wanting to play through this and be stopped in your tracks by a flyby bombing raid which sets the whole level aflame. Or maybe it’ll be the giant Mode 7 crab boss which scales in and out of the screen as it attempts to jump on your head. Or… or… There are simply too many. Perhaps the most exciting game on the SNES — this is one classy, timeless blaster.
11. SUPER MARIO COLLECTION (Nintendo) 96%
Four of the finest platform games ever created come together to form a package which no gamer with any degree of self-respect should be without. In the order that they appear, then, Super Mario Bros. is the game that started it all, and is fabbage; Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels is a tough data disk-like extension to part one; Super Mario Bros. 2 is the odd one of the troupe, and pretty good; and Super Mario Bros. 3 is the daddy of them all and nearly as good as Mazza World. Not as slick as the NES originals, but one helluva package.
10. PILOTWINGS (Nintendo) 92%
9. SUPER METROID (Nintendo) 92%
8. SECRET OF MANA (Square Soft) 94%
7. LEGEND OF THE MYSTICAL NINJA (Konami) 90%
6. FINAL FANTASY III (Square Soft) 95%
5. YOSHI’S ISLAND (Nintendo) 94%
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the garden for the last ten months, you can’t have failed to know what this, the sequel to Super Mario World, is all about, and just how highly we regard it.
To call it merely a platform game is to call Super Play 41 sheets of printed material, of variable size and weight, glued together. At every turn the game seems to make an effort to be different, whether it’s in simply giving Yoshi the power to launch eggy projectiles or in presenting level layouts which take you all around the block and back again or in any one of countless set pieces that your average platform game would kill for just one of.
At 16 mega bits, Island isn’t the largest game to ever dock with the good ship SNES, but what you get for your meggage is nothing short of breathtaking. Play it and remember just why you got into video games in the first place.
4. SUPER MARIO WORLD (Nintendo) 94%
Launched alongside the machine in 1990, the portly plumber’s debut SNES outing still has a considerable edge over any similarly styled platformer on any other format since. A tap or two of Miyamoto’s magic wand is what made it so great, of course, and it is the ultimate illustration of the ‘great graphics do not a great game make’ adage.
3. SUPER MARIO KART (Nintendo) 93%
Unlike any other Mario game, SMK didn’t arrive on the SNES gaming scene in a hail of publicity. Rather it slipped in unnoticed through the back door. When gamers woke up to its utter brilliance, however, it remained firmly jammed into cartridge ports the world over for weeks at a time.
What makes it so good? Playability, pure and simple. There is no other driving game which comes close to it in delivering seat-of-the-pants, lean-into-the-corners action. Forget about driving a formula one race car around Silverstone: take Koopa for a spin around a Bowser’s Castle track, leaping lava pits, dodging enemies’ cunningly-aimed projectiles and searching out those elusive red shells, and the magic that only Nintendo seem able to provide becomes patently evident.
With eight characters of differing abilities to choose from, three engine classes, 20 varied tracks, an ingenious Balloon game and a time trial mode, this is the most complete driving game package we’ve ever seen. Can it ever be beaten? We’ll just have to wait for Super Mario Kart R on the Nintendo 64…
2. STREET FIGHTER II TURBO (Capcom) 96%
The sequel to the game which kicked a genre up the arse and dragged it into the ’90s, Turbo must surely be the most played game in just about every SNES owner’s collection. The first of the series to allow players to ‘be’ the bosses, it successfully transfers over every aspect that made the coin-op such a barnstormer. What makes it such an evergreen title is its depth of play: two players who’ve fought against each other on countless occasions can sit down and not be sure of the outcome of any particular match-up, such is its flexibility and scope for variety.
Unlike any other game, being able to play a Street Fighter II title competently is an essential skill in any gamer’s repertoire and, like riding a bike, once you’ve picked it up it never goes away. This version must be applauded for its accuracy as a conversion — for a 20 megabit cartridge game on a console to come this close to the umpteen-times-as-expensive coin-op is no mean feat, and the game will be fondly regarded when most of today’s ‘super console’ titles are but faded memories.
1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST (Nintendo) 93%
Okay, we’ve stuck our collective neck out and put Zelda III at the top of the tree, and now you want us to justify our decision. Fair enough. There is, quite simply, no other game which is as complete. And when we say complete, we mean playable, taxing, enthralling and rewarding — every factor which should be looked for in a video game. While many great games stumble on occasions throughout their duration, Zelda III remains constantly engaging throughout. Right from the start, when Princess Zelda’s telepathically-transmitted cries for help set you out on a quest to save her, everything falls into place like a good book. From then on, the scope of the thing unfolds at a fairly uniform pace, giving you extra abilities here and there which in turn allow you to uncover more and more secrets of the game world. And that’s probably its secret: you start out with a limited range of abilities but grow in experience and power as you progress, meaning that unlike, say, a platform game, where you’re asked to perform the same skills throughout, you have to learn and exploit new ones continually.
While its graphics rarely rise above the level of perfunctory and its soundtrack occasionally tires (especially when you’ve spent an hour or so in a particular area trying to fathom out the solution to a certain problem), Zelda III‘s gameplay remains wholly absorbing. It’s linear, sure, but then this is an action RPG. The proof of the pudding is that it could be released today, some five years since its original appearance, and still appear as fresh as the likes of new games like Yoshi’s Island. What’s perhaps most telling is that Zelda III transcends boundaries: a platform fiend or a driving game nut will find it as inviting as a hardcore RPG-head. If you haven’t played it yet… do you really own a SNES?
There you have it! 100 of the best SNES games according to Super Play Magazine. Lotta great games on there, no doubt, but also some glaring omissions (most notably, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time). I hope going through this list gave you some new titles to take note of… either ones that you perhaps have previously dismissed for one reason or another, or maybe even some titles you had never even heard of before. As stated earlier, I’ve been working on my own top list for over 10 years now, and am hoping to launch it at some point in late 2017 if all goes well. It’s always fun to compare your own opinion with that of others. Speaking of which, regardless of which titles you feel are missing from Super Play’s list, or which titles you think are ranked way too low/high, there’s no denying the boatload of amazing SNES games out there.
Glaring omissions? Games you think the Super Play boys (that came out wrong…) ranked (way) too high or low? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
On this day I was considering getting back into the SNES scene after having been gone since the mid-late ’90s. I was making my daily gaming board rounds when I saw an intriguing topic over at the DigitPress forum.
“Super Play Magazine! Who read it? Who misses it?”
I love awesome retro gaming magazines. When I found out about SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE in 2001, I went on a long hunt before striking gold in late 2003. This Super Play topic, created by DP member theMot, couldn’t have been posted at a better time! I was still on the fence about buying a Super Nintendo, but the topic made me think “OK, if I DO come back, I’ll definitely look for that magazine.”
And of course, I did come back. January 17, 2006 is the official comeback date for yours truly. And so I began actively pursuing a complete Super Play set from that day forth.
The following is a chronicle of my nine month odyssey. It’s a journey that’s simply unbelievable. I always had confidence I would one day own Super Play, but I had no idea it’d be anything like what it turned out to be…
HAVE CONTACTS, WILL TRAVEL
In my history of online gaming-related activities I learned one very important thing as a collector/gamer, the more you network the better off you are. If people know what you’re looking for, you can find it easier. I’m not saying go post an ad so the whole world can see what you want, but you need to do some legwork if you want to attain something that is valuable and hard to come by. Having great contacts can help a lot.
And I had that in a guy located in the UK named James. He was always my go-to bloke. My brother from another mother. I could always count on King James.
James and I had traded several times over the years from 2001-2004, during my Saturn days. Back in the day he helped me get five Sega Saturn Magazines, after I had won a set of 29 off eBay. In addition to hooking me up with random PAL-only Saturn games over the years
He didn’t post often at this one Sega board, but I sent him a Private Message. It began an extremely LONG PM discussion between us…
DANGLING PSYCHIC ASSASSIN TAROMARU
-FEBRUARY 23, 2006-
I sent James the first PM on this day.
I told him if he knew any collectors who had a complete set of SUPER PLAY that I would be willing to trade that person my TAROMARU copy. Psychic Assassin Taromaru is one of the rarest and most expensive Sega Saturn imports. Enjoyed it as I did, I was willing to part with it for a (near) full set of Super Play Magazine. I also asked him if the magazine was like the Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the Super Nintendo.
You are correct – Super Play was indeed pretty much the equivalent of SSM but for SNES. Loads of good import coverage, lots of technical features, amazing artwork on every issue (provided by Wil Overton). Hard to find but a great mag. Will see what I can do on that front if you like. Would appreciate Issue 200 of EGM if you can get it for me.
So while James scoured the UK for Super Play, I scoured the States for EGM #200.
-MARCH 1, 2006-
Less than a week later, he had already found a potential match! I recall thinking to myself, “JAMES IS DA MAN!”
I may have a lead for you for the Super Play mags. I’ll need about a week but I know a guy that I think has a complete collection of Super Play mags and I know he is into his Saturn stuff so I may be able to work something out for you guys. I’m not entirely sure how many Super Play mags there were – I think it was around 37 or 38, maybe 40. I’m certain he has at least 1 to 35 and maybe some of the last issues too.
Once again, James had come through for me. Right?
WHEELS SET IN MOTION
-MARCH 18, 2006-
It had been close to 3 weeks since James and I last communicated. I was busy buying US SNES games left and right, continually looking for issue #200 and I knew I was in good hands because of our track record. There was nothing to worry about…
On this day James PM’ed me he’ll be meeting his collector friend over brunch to discuss Taromaru for the Super Play magazines, and find out exactly what condition and issue numbers they were.
His message made my day. The wheels were set in motion. Knowing James, I figured it was only a matter of time…
-APRIL 24, 2006-
More than a month passed since I last heard from him. Finally I received the following message.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Been unbelievably busy and had some problems with my PC. I’ve met the collector guy. He has the following issues:
Let me know your thoughts. I will continue to ask around for the few missing issues. All issues are in good condition.
I didn’t mind the month-plus delay after reading the good news. YES! That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear — that the collector guy had a large majority of the issues, and not something like 1, 5-7, 11-14, 17, 19, 25-28, 31, 33-35. You know, large gaps. It’s always nice to get nearly all of a set in one fell swoop.
“Let me know your thoughts” ??? My thoughts were HELL YEAH!
NOT SO FAST…
-MAY 2, 2006-
About a week later, James emailed me pictures of the collector’s set as I had requested. I was more than satisfied with how everything looked. I replied to James, “LET’S DO THIS.” Note: if it were years later and say 2013 I would probably have said “TAKE MY MONEY” or rather, “TAKE MY TAROMARU” but you get the point.
I was good to go, right? Not so fast…
25 DAYS OF SILENCE
-MAY 27, 2006-
This was unlike James. In the past he was always so quick on replies. But hey, he had great news when he finally broke the silence on this day.
Sorry for the delay but I can also get Issues 39, 40, 41, 43 and 44 of Super Play for you in addition to the ones listed before.
Everything looks good to go. The trade was Taromaru+EGM #200 (which I found) in exchange for the massive Super Play lot.
The long ongoing PM discussion, which started over three months ago on February 23, was going to finally conclude.
But as with most things in life… things don’t always go as you plan…
-JULY 31, 2006-
For over two months, James mysteriously vanished. He didn’t answer my PMs or emails. I was worried. I DIDN’T SEND TAROMARU YET. Let me tell you the kind of guy James is. He always shipped first in the past with me and said he would ship first in this transaction as well. That’s the kind of guy he was — he always wanted me to get the item first to see if I was satisfied with it.
So when he disappeared without a trace for two months, I was worried not just for our trade, but for his well-being in general. I mean, it was completely unlike him to go off the radar like that for so long and without a heads up.
In late July, I made a topic at the Sega board asking if anyone there had talked to him since late May.
I didn’t want to “air the laundry” like that, but he left me no other choice.
48 to 72 hours after I made the topic, James PM’ed me for the first time in over two months.
I’m really sorry mate I’ve had some things going on over the last couple of months and the whole trade thing was sadly at the bottom of a huge pile of other things.
I have always had fantastic trades with you and am very happy to continue with this trade.
I was just glad to hear from him and know that he was OK. The fact that the trade was officially back on was only the cherry atop the cake! I PM’ed him back joking “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
24 hours later he replied.
Haha, nice reference! Have packaged up the mags and will get them posted asap. Will confirm when they are on the way to you and provide a Tracking Number etc if I get given one (depends on the postal method I guess).
Apologies once again for the ridiculous delay – will be good to see this trade through.
NOW I WAS OFFICIALLY IN, RIGHT?
… Keep reading…
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…
-AUGUST 6, 2006-
Not one week later, I received an update.
Just to keep you updated. The magazines are all packed up (currently in two separate boxes) and ready for posting. However after going to the Post Office to send them via the usual method is going to be way expensive and also means they won’t be insured. So I’m going to look at Courier options which means they should be delivered in around 3-4 days after they are sent, and they will be insured and it should work out cheaper to send. The thing is that I am away with work until next weekend so it will likely be next weekend that I actually send them.
Just letting you know that I am working on this and you will get the mags (eventually).
Just got to work out the details with the Couriers.
I was disappointed, since I figured they were already on the way. No matter, I’ve been waiting over six months now… what’s one more gonna hurt??
I told myself I needed to keep my eyes peeled, keep my options open. So I started searching for Super Play on eBay… hoping I’d find a complete set on offer which I could snipe. JUUUUUUST in case James somehow doesn’t come through…
FIVE DAYS LATER — GOLD
-AUGUST 11, 2006-
In an amazing stroke of luck, I punched in SUPER PLAY MAGAZINE on eBay and expected yet another empty search.
However, on this day there it was!
Super Play Issues 1-45 (missing # 9) plus 3 official Super Play Binders. Also includes Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide. HOLY CRAP! What were the odds, and what is happening here?! It sounds corny but it really, truly did feel like fate.
It was ALMOST the entire set, only missing issues number 9, 46 and 47 — WOW.
I put it on my watch list. It would end in six days… August 17, 2006. Even back in 2006, I had developed a special eBay bidding tactic that I was using since 2002. Tired of multiple bids only to be sniped at the end, I knew what I was going to do. One bid, maximum bid, punched in with about 3 seconds to go. Only way to do it on eBay, playa!
Alas, there was one tiny problem…
The auction was ending at 9:57 AM.
What was the problem? At the time I had to resort to use the library for my online duties. You see, my brother temporarily took our computer to his work place to get it fixed. And smart phones didn’t exist back in August 2006. Nor did I have a laptop at that time.
The library doesn’t open until 10 AM. On the surface, a bad stroke of luck, for sure.
But… when all else fails, AuctionStealer prevails! Note: AuctionStealer is a free site that automatically inputs your max bid without you having to manually do it. The catch, however, is that it inputs that bid with about 11 seconds to go… giving the competition plenty of time to outdo your bid. Therefore, it’s a nice bonus but only a last resort kind of tool.
So I entered my max on AuctionStealer, and prayed for the best…
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH ARRIVES
-AUGUST 17, 2006-
I was in no rush to get to the library and see if I had won or not. Oddly, I kind of put the whole thing to the back of my mind. One part of me felt “My max was so high, there’s no doubt I won” while another part felt “Don’t get your hopes up, some crazier fanatic came by in the last four seconds…”
When I got to the library that day it was roughly 5 PM. I went to my email. Here we go…
GOD BLESS AUCTIONSTEALER –I won! No one placed a bid in the last minute. UNBELIEVABLE!
Best of all, I won it for real cheap too! My bid didn’t reach the seller’s reserve, but she decided to sell it to me for a bit more than my winning bid. The whole ordeal was nothing short of incredible. Something I can genuinely call “once in a lifetime.”
Thursday, August 17, 2006 — within seven months, I procured my HOLY GRAIL. Not bad, considering it took me over two YEARS to get my hands on Sega Saturn Magazine.
Here are some auction stats.
I was the 13th bid of the auction
The guy I beat out, his maximum was GBP 48.79
My winning bid did not meet her reserve, but she sold it to me for GBP 55
GBP 55 equated, at the time, to roughly US $104.32
My max was GBP 88.88 …. or US $168.11
The 3rd highest bidder had a ridiculously low GBP 24.50 max
Why is the last one important? Had the GBP 48.79 guy NOT come along, I would have won at around GBP 25.50. If that were the case, would the seller have agreed to sell it for GBP 30? Doubt it. Maybe when she saw I won at 50 GBP, instead of relisting it she said “What the hell”and gave it to me for55.
In other words, if it weren’t for the 2nd highest bidder, who knows what would have happen with the reserve thing and all? She might have relisted it and I’d have to play the whole game again! Then maybe the bidders I outbidded would re-adjust their bidding strategy, etc. Lots of crazy scenarios that I’m glad is a moot point!
MORE AUCTION TID-BITS
There were four different bidders in all, me included
13 total bids
Auction went into the last day with zero bids
The 3 guys bidded multiple times in the last 15 hours or so, each outbidding the other
Lucky for me, they didn’t understand the power of smart sniping
12 bids between 3 guys before AuctionStealer input my bid — the 13th bid of the auction
AuctionStealer helped me snipe it with 11 seconds to go, my 1st and only bid
It’s ruthless, but that’s eBay for ya.
I paid Rachel $183.19 the very next day. Shipping surprisingly didn’t come out to cost an arm and leg — she only charged me 40 GBP. 183 dollars for 45 issues, including the hard-to-find 1993 GOLD issue? Not bad at all! Considering I paid $225 for 29 Sega Saturn Magazine issues in late 2003, this was a real bargain. It came out to be only about four dollars an issue (!)
FINAL AUCTION CRAZINESS
Probably the most important thing why the auction ended so cheaply… her auction title was:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 (MISSING ISSUE 9)
I owe lots of thanks to issue 9. Had she own that issue, maybe her title would have been:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 SNES
The “SNES” part would definitely would have led to more auction views and “Hmmm, wow, I didn’t know such a thing existed! I’ll bid and try to win it!” type of mentality. Instead, it was left only to those who were actively typing in “Super Play Magazine” on eBay. Back in 2006, Super Play wasn’t nearly as popular as it would become years later within diehard SNES circles. So, thank you issue number nine
Last but not least… after I shared this story on a message board, one guy actually told me the following…
WOW! Believe it or not, I actually had that auction on my watch list, and I was going to bid an INSANE amount of money on it. It could have gotten UGLY. However, I simply forgot what time it was ending, and I missed out! Though, after reading your incredible tale, I must say I’m glad you won ‘em
Wow! I got so incredibly lucky with this whole shebang that I can’t believe it. It only drives the point home that there are certain “scores” in one’s collecting life that truly stand out, and stand the test of time. For me, the Super Play snag is definitely it.
48 HOURS AFTER THE AUCTION WIN
-AUGUST 19, 2006-
Ironically, James informed me some “bad news” on this day. Reading his message, I was smiling, knowing my willingness to think outside the box made his bad news a moot point.
I’ve got some bad news buddy. I’ve been talking to various couriers (4 different ones up until now) and it is just too expensive to ship these mags to you. The cheapest I can get quoted is £150 which is over $280 dollars and that doesn’t even include insurance!
Even shipping the slowest method (6 to 8 weeks without insurance) is $250.
I just don’t have that sort of money spare at the moment and it is just too much. I’ve tried every combination of normal shipping: by sea, air, specialist courier. I’ve even tried breaking it down to 5 magazine bundles but no joy.
I’m not sure what to do though as I feel bad about this (especially with your patience over this prolonged trade).
Let me know your thoughts. I’m really sorry about this.
Imagine had I lost the auction. Imagine if I was complacent and never bothered to look for them on eBay. Let this be a lesson to all: BE PROACTIVE! Take matters into your own hands rather than sitting idly by.
I excitedly replied to James telling him about my win. This also cancelled our trade… I now had Taromaru to auction! I made $147 off it (the manual was missing the cover thus why it went for so “cheap”). $90 of that went to fund the incredibly rare and expensive Super Famicom import, Rendering Render: R2.
Yet I still wanted to do a trade with James. After all, I had EGM #200 and he had Super Play #9 (the auction was 1-45, but #9 missing). How nicely did that work out! Super Play 9 arrived in late August. It was my first experience of the magazine, and it blew me away. Itwasthe Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the SNES. And I could hardly wait to read the rest.
MEANWHILE… TROUBLE BACK ON THE FARM
I hadn’t heard back from Rachel yet… eventually she emailed me, “Sorry I didn’t ship the mags til September 2nd.”
I was a bit peeved. I paid 8/18, she didn’t send til 9/2 and didn’t tell me earlier!? It’ll be here sooner or later, I thought. While her feedback was 100%… the number was only 19. Not exactly the most comforting number in the world. Gotta think positive, though, I kept telling myself.
ONE MONTH LATER — NOTHING TO SHOW FOR
-SEPTEMBER 19, 2006-
Sent her an email. Never got a reply. Another unanswered email, and another, and another. I was starting to fear the worst. Maybe this whole thing was simply too good to be true.
-SEPTEMBER 24, 2006-
I emailed telling her in advance I’d file a dispute with Paypal on 9/30… the last day for me to do so (45-day window from August 17). I told her it was nothing personal, but only wise for anyone in my shoes to do so.
-SEPTEMBER 26, 2006-
She emailed back and understood my position. Said she’ll check with her post office to confirm when the package was shipped. It had been only her 2nd email, and I felt better after this. All I ask for is keeping an open line of communication.
-SEPTEMBER 30, 2006-
No Super Play yet, so I filed the dispute. By October 20 if they do not arrive, I’d be forced to escalate the dispute to a claim, due to the 20 day window period. Silence on Rachel’s end.
ALMOST TWO MONTHS AND NOTHING
-OCTOBER 13, 2006-
I finally hear back from her on this day.
Hi, I have been to the post office and had them look at the records. They say because of an admin issue the mags did not leave there post office until the 19th of sept.
I have gone mad at them and have asked what can be done. They say that nothing can be done because I did not have it tracked.
I have asked them what sort of time are we looking at and they have said 4 to 5 weeks from the sent date which is now the 19th of sept.
So we are looking at the 16th/17th of October which I am very sorry about, as I said I did have a right go at them for this but all they could do was say sorry.
Once again I am so sorry about the delay.
Please let me know on the 16th/17th if you have had the mags.
Thanks in advance.
I was very upset. No tracking number, admin issue, etc. It all spelled doom to me.
Being proactive again I PM’ed James to update him, asking if he’d be willing to send me his friend’s issues, provided I pay the insane $300 something shipping. He said he’d look into it. At this point, I was so desperate to get my hands on a SUPER PLAY set that I didn’t care HOW!
DISPUTE ESCALATED TO A CLAIM
-OCTOBER 20, 2006-
Still no Super Play. On this day I was forced to escalate the dispute into a claim so PayPal could look into it and hopefully refund me $183.
At this point I wasn’t surprised, just frustrated. Though I wanted my money back if worst came to worst — I rammed the fact home with Rachel that I rather have the magazines. “Should they arrive in November or later this month I’d gladly refund you whatever PayPal decides to give me back” I’ve always told her.
KEEPING HOPE ALIVE — WINNING ISSUES 46 AND 47
Also on this day I won off eBay the final two issues of Super Play. Number 46 and 47 — keeping hope alive that Rachel would come through and that I would have a complete set numbers 1-47 including the spinoff Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide issue.
What took place four days later… was one for the ages…
-TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2006-
I was filling out an application to graduate studies when I heard the mail truck rumbling. I peered out the window. The mail lady got out and went to the back of the truck. I wasn’t expecting ANY OTHER PACKAGE, so I knew THIS HAD TO BE IT!
She rung the door bell. I opened the door faster than a 5-year-old ripping into a present on Christmas morning.
“Can you help me carry this big box? It’s too heavy and I have a bad back,” she said.
It was then and there I knew that the moment… which I waited about nine months for, with so many twists, turns and heartbreaks… had finally come.
Of course, there still had to be a little drama.
It’d only be fitting, you see.
“RECEIVED IN DAMAGED CONDITION”
… was stamped on the box. My heart stopped.
“Wait, it came in damaged condition?”
“I’m sorry, it did. The box was split open. They had to tape it back up, as you can see.”
“Everything is intact, though, right?”
“Oh sure. We can’t take anything…”Her voice trailed off.
And here I’m thinking, “Oh right, sure lady! I’ve heard the horror stories; you don’t gotta play me for a fool!”
But I kept my cool, signed the pink slip and brought the box inside for inspection. How bad was it? I was almost too scared to find out…
Amazingly, everything was intact and in better condition than I thought. The magazines were MINT! No missing pages, no cut-outs; that’s probably the hardest thing to find with old magazines since so many people take such bad care of them. I was lucky, much like with Sega Saturn Magazine, that the previous owner kept them in immaculate condition.
I went to Paypal and happily cancelled the claim. Rachel was honest after all. The box stated it was shipped September 19, as she stated earlier, and not the 2nd.
The nine-plus months of agony had a very happy ending.
Super Play is an awesome magazine. I love retro magazines — I dig the whole archive thing. It’s truly a diehard SNES fan’s companion. Not only is it well written but it focused a ton on the Japanese side of things. They highlighted plenty of Japanese-only games and reviewed even the obscure ones like Syonen Ashibe. At that time (October 2006) I recently started an “Obscure Super Famicom Impressions” thread that was quickly picking up steam and growing in popularity. I thought I was doing something not many before me did — shining the spotlight on all these lesser known Super Famicom imports. So it blew my mind to see Super Play had done it 13 years before (1993).
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT TIMING…
After sharing my story on a gaming forum, one guy posted he was watching the same auction. He was going to bid an astronomical amount but he simply forgot what time it ended! Had he remembered, this “Holy Grail” might not even be in my collection today, or at the very least, I would have paid a LOT more. It made me appreciate my Super Play win even more. So much of life is being in the right place at the right time!
ON THE HOUSE???
The funny thing is, people ask me when the box arrived what did the postage state. The reason they asked was they didn’t understand how Rachel charged 40 GBP when James claimed it would be far too expensive to ship, at around US $280… so a few folks mentioned, “It doesn’t quite add up.”
She charged me only 40 GBP for shipping, so 55 (winning bid) plus 40 (S&H on her terms) was 95 GBP total, or about $183.19 US at the time. Well… I checked the box after people asked me what the shipping really was… it was….
So I guess she only made 9 GBP profit? Wow. She never asked me to repay her or even brought it up. I guess after all the drama I went through, it was on the house.
I’m a proud owner of the complete SUPER PLAY legacy. I consider this a personal Holy Grail in many ways. I can’t believe what this blasted publication made me endure, but honestly, in the end it was all worth it. It’s an incredible magazine I’m lucky enough to have acquired for so cheap and in such mint condition. Being a diehard SNES fan, this is easily the crowned jewel of my collection. I love my game collection, sure, but man, there’s nothing quite like SUPER PLAY. One of my favorite things to do is to pick a game off my shelf, play it for the very first time, form my own impressions and THEN check out what the ole Super Play boys thought of said game. I love comparing my thoughts to that of theirs — it’s all part of the fun.
As for James, we haven’t spoke since late October 2006. In 2007, the Sega board we used to post at went under some changes and I don’t think he even re-registered. He was slipping away toward the end of the old board anyway. The last word he had with me, he congratulated me on finally receiving the magazines. Wherever he is out there, I hope he’s doing well.
As for Rachel, after I cancelled the claim I left her positive feedback. Likewise. She apologized and told me the magazines belonged to her husband of many years. He obviously took very excellent care of them which I greatly appreciate.
It blows my mind that I’m coming up on the 10 year anniversary since these issues arrived — October 24, 2016. I look back with a real deep fondness. I remember reading all 48 Super Play issues cover to cover from Halloween through Christmas that year of 2006. It was a truly glorious time and I’m very nostalgic looking back at that time. It also coincided with my ongoing Obscure Super Famicom Impressions topic that I posted at several gaming boards, which led to the birth or RVGFanatic.com in January of 2007. It’s nuts to think it’s almost been 10 bloody years. Super Play Magazine has obviously grown in popularity and stature since 2006. It’s no longer obscure like it once was, and as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to find these vintage issues for a relatively good price and in solid condition. It makes me all the more grateful for such an epic eBay win nearly 10 years ago.
10 years later and I still occasionally read Super Play from time to time. I especially like to read them in the late Fall and early Winter seasons, as it takes me right back to late 2006 each and every single time. Shoot, all this talk of Super Play makes me want to delve right back in. Excuse me — I’ve got some reading to do now…
The flea market has given me some wonderful collecting memories. In the early to mid part of 2006, when I was just beginning my SNES resurrection, I acquired many SNES games thanks to the good ol’ flea market. Before I get into that though, here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite books, The Kite Runner. It romanticizes the flea market like none other.
Almost two years had passed since we had arrived in the U.S., and I was still marveling at the size of this country, its vastness. Beyond every freeway lay another freeway, beyond every city another city, hills beyond mountains and mountains beyond hills, and, beyond those, more cities and more people.
Long before the Roussi army marched into Afghanistan, long before villages were burned and schools destroyed, long before mines were planted like seeds of death and children buried in rock-piled graves, Kabul had become a city of ghosts for me. A city of harelipped ghosts.
America was different.America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of its past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins.
And for that, I embraced America.
I would get up early some Saturday mornings and drive south on Highway 17, push the Ford up the winding road through the mountains to Santa Cruz. I would park by the old lighthouse and wait for sunrise, sit in my car and watch the fog rolling in from the sea. Back in Afghanistan, I had only seen the ocean at the cinema. Sitting in the dark next to Hassan, I had always wondered if it was true what I’d read, that sea air smelled like salt. I used to tell Hassan that someday we’d walk on a strip of seaweed-strewn beach, sink our feet in the sand and watch the water recede from our toes. The first time I saw the Pacific, I almost cried. It was as vast and blue as the oceans on the movie screens of my childhood.
Sometimes in the early evening, I parked the car and walked up a freeway overpass. With my face pressed against the fence, I’d try to count the blinking red taillights inching along, stretching as far as my eyes could see. BMWs. Saabs. Porsches. Cars I’d never seen in Kabul, where most people drove Russian Volgas, Opels, or Iranian Paikans.
On Saturdays, Baba woke me up at dawn. As he dressed, I scanned the classifieds in the local papers and circled garage sale ads. We mapped our route — Fremont, Union City, Newark, and Hayward first, then San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Campbell if time permitted. Baba drove the bus, sipping hot tea from the blue thermos, and I navigated. We stopped at garage sales and bought knickknacks that people no longer wanted. We haggled over old sewing machines, one-eyed Barbie dolls, wooden tennis rackets, guitars with missing strings, and old Electrolux vacuum cleaners. By mid-afternoon, we’d fill the back of the VW bus with used goods. Then early Sunday mornings, we drove to the San Jose flea market off Berryessa, rented a spot, and sold the junk for a small profit.
By that summer of 1984, Afghan families were working an entire section of the San Jose flea market. Afghan music played in the aisles of the Used Goods section. There was an unspoken code of behavior among Afghans at the flea market: You greeted the guy across the aisle, you invited him for a bite of potato bolani or a little qabuli, and you chatted. You offered tassali, condolences, for the death of a parent, congratulated the birth of children, and shook your head mournfully when the conversation turned to Afghanistan and the Roussis — which it inevitably did. But you avoided the topic of Saturday. Because it might turn out that the fellow across the isle was the guy you’d nearly blindsided at the freeway exit yesterday in order to beat him to a promising garage sale.
One early Sunday morning in July 1984, while Baba set up, I bought two cups of coffee from the concession stand and returned to find Baba talking to an older, distinguished-looking man. I put the cups on the rear bumper of the bus, next to the REAGAN/BUSH FOR ’84 sticker.
“Amir,” Baba said, motioning me over. “This is General Sahib, Mr. Iqbal Taheri. He was a decorated general in Kabul. He worked for the Ministry of Defense.”
Taheri. Why did the name sound familiar?
The general laughed like a man used to attending formal parties where he’d laughed on cue at the minor jokes of important people.
“Amir is going to be a great writer,” Baba said. I did a double take at this. “He finished his first year of college and earned A’s in all of his courses.”
“Junior college,” I corrected him.
“Mashallah,” General Taheri said.
“I write fiction.”
“Ah, a storyteller,” the general said. “Well, people need stories to divert them at a difficult time like this.”
She was standing behind us, a slim-hipped beauty with velvety coal black hair, an open thermos and Styrofoam cup in her hand. I blinked, my heart quickening. She had thick black eyebrows like the arched wings of a flying bird, and the gracefully hooked nose of a princess from old Persia — maybe that of Tahmineh, Rostam’s wife and Sohrab’s mother from the Shahnamah. Her eyes, walnut brown and shaded by fanned lashes, met mine. Held for a moment. Flew away.
“You are so kind, my dear,” General Taheri said. He took the cup from her. Before she turned to go, I saw she had a brown, sickle-shaped birthmark on the smooth skin just above her left jawline. She walked to a dull gray van two aisles away and put the thermos inside.
“My daughter, Soraya jan,” General Taheri said. He took a deep breath like a man eager to change the subject. “Well, time to go and set up.”
Lying awake in bed that night, I thought of Soraya Taheri’s sickle-shaped birthmark, her gently hooked nose, and the way her luminous eyes had fleetingly held mine. My heart stuttered at the thought of her.
The Kite Runner is one of my favorite books and comes highly recommended. When I read the flea market scene in the book, in a way, it made me think of my own flea market adventures, and the crazy things one can see and do at a flea market. And so, I present to you, my flea market memoirs.
1. A ‘MEGA’ COMEBACK
-Saturday, February 4, 2006-
*BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!*
Staggering out of bed like Otis Campbell on a Saturday night, I shifted my way through the darkness to put an end to the madness. The thought of crawling back in bed was nearly as tempting as Jessica Alba herself. The idea, however, went quickly as it came.
After brushing my teeth and helping myself to a bowl of cereal, I found the dawn just breaking between two white buildings. The sky was mostly gray but a streak of white stretched itself from the end of a flagpole. By the time I finished breakfast, the sky was lighter than it had been when I woke up — the streak of gray broadening into a patch of brilliant day.
I was a man on a mission. Three weeks into my SNES rebirth (1.17.06), I was gearing to embark on my first flea market voyage since 2002. With a wish list the size of Rosie’s waistline and a wallet jammed full of dead presidents, I headed off into that cool early morning, the light February breeze brushing against my face. As I pulled into the parking lot something told me today was going to be a good day. Maybe even a great one. I gazed at the box office where I saw the growing crowd purchasing their tickets. Just think, I thought to myself… beyond that building there…lies a part of my childhood.
I remember the morning rather well; the smell of apricot in the air, the bustling crowds all jabbering for bargains, and at long last — the lady with the game stand parked over at the far end. I dove head first into the SNES bin like Rickey Henderson stealing third base. All her games were wrapped. I eagerly waded through each one, picking out Final Fight, Dino City, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, Flashback and Tetris Attack.
Each of those games ran me $5 except for Tetris Attack. Some of these games I hadn’t played in 12, 15 years! There’s nothing quite like the rush of rediscovering games from your youth on a brisk, early Saturday morning. There’s just something awesome about it. It’s hard to look back on one’s early collecting days and not break out a nostalgic smile. It was the rush and the feeling of getting back into the fandom after so many years, acquiring games left and right… those are some sacred memories right there!
I could smell colors, I could feel sounds. I have NEVER had such a great experience in my life before. Trying to figure out where I was, LOOKING AROUND, enjoying the life that I was living. I mean it was UN-BOWL-LEE-ABLE! [/Bill Walton]
Ironically, on my way to the flea market that morning I was actually hoping to find the somewhat scarce Dino City, and then lo and behold! What can I say, it was just one of those mornings, ya know?
The vendor was a nice elderly lady in her 50’s. I showed her each game that I wanted as she sprouted off, “Five dollas, five dollas,” but she paused when Tetris Attack came up. Somehow, I knew she would.
There was no way in HELL I was getting Tetris Attack for a measly five bucks…
She grabbed the game from me and squinted long and hard at it. Oh boy, I thought to myself, here it comes. $20, maybe $25. Yup, Steve-O, you can kiss this bargain goodbye. She burned a hole through Tetris Attack before finally saying…
I wanted to jump in the air and pump my fist. But I kept my cool and told the lady in a calm voice, “Sounds good.” All in all, it was $27 well spent
Heading back to my car sensing that this was a lucky day, I decided to head on over to Game Crazy. Now, this was before their retro game selection went down the crapper. Imagine the sheer joy I felt when I spotted Mega Man X2 in mint condition for $9.99! I claimed it faster than John Madden could say “BOOM!”
I couldn’t believe such a “big time” title was sitting right there for all to see, and it happened to be lucky ole me who finally snatched it up for a measly ten bucks!
As Tony the cashier rung me up, he looked at the game semi-perplexed. “10 bucks for this? Hmm, it must be one of the more rare SNES games…” Not surprisingly, the next time I came back to visit, all the interesting SNES games they once had, were gone…
To cap off the successful, splendid early morning voyage, on the way home I purchased a birthday card for my college buddy, Shanice, which I later had all us theatre kids sign. I finally got home around 12:30. It was one of those idyllic, peaceful mornings you wish would never end. The kind that makes you feel as if the whole world is right at your fingertips. The kind of morning that makes you feel like writing that novel you had always wanted to, or starting that RPG you had long vowed to begin, or finally calling that old best friend you’d been meaning to catch up with, but never did. It was indeed one of those perfect Saturday mornings… the ones that stay with you for a lifetime.
Waking up that morning I didn’t know whether I’d find any games of worth that day at the flea market or not. In the end, was I ever glad I went. I also knew… I would return…
2. NICE GUYS, MEAN GUYS, AND EASTER ISLAND HEADS
-Saturday, February 25, 2006-
Today saw the venture into a new flea market, bigger and better than the one I hit 3 weeks ago. There were hundreds of SNES titles on hand! The first vendor had a small selection but I managed to pluck one game off my vast want list: Rocko’s Modern Life, bartered from $8 down to $5, due to the label being a bit dirty.
Speaking of which, yes, even though it’s been a little over 10 years since I bought most of my collection, I have easily over one hundred games that I still haven’t played. What can I say, the queue is long and some games are #125 on the to-play list. However, one day I hope to play each of them. That’s a large part of the fun, knowing that they’re there waiting for me. I no longer have to hunt them down, but they’re there whenever the urge strikes.
The second vendor saw a nice kid giving me a top deal. Boogerman and Lemmings 2 were listed at $8 each, but for no apparent reason he gave them to me both for $10. His father was busy tending to another customer. I suspect I wouldn’t have gotten the bargain from him that his son gave me. Funny thing is, I was going to pay $16 for the two games but before I could pull out my wallet, the kid said, “Ten dollars is fine.”
Shoot, I won’t argue with that! That kid made life easy. I had forgotten Lemmings 2 saw a Super Nintendo release, and Interplay’s Boogerman was a game I always wanted to play back in the mid ’90s, but never did. But now I had the means.
Third vendor… man. Let’s just say, he’s going to be a main character from here on out. Let us call him… “Mr. Mean.” He had hundreds of SNES games, BUT… and there’s always a but isn’t there… well, you’ll see.
So there I was, at Mr. Mean’s large stand happily sifting through his endless SNES cart bundles. I found a ton of games I wanted, but none had a price tag, y’see. Based off my two previous vendor experiences just a couple minutes ago, I thought, “Hey, five bucks a piece, sweet! What a killing I’m gonna make here!”
I called Mr. Mean over to the glass case. I had a dozen games lined out, one I recall being Arkanoid: Doh It Again! As he walked over, I kept thinking JACKPOT CITY, BABY!
He didn’t even greet me, the bastard. Like a robot he picked the first game up, shouted “Twelve dollars!” and proceeded to slam it hard on the glass case. He lifted the next game and slammed it hard on the glass once more. “Twenty dollars,” he said with an ugly tone. He went through the other ten titles in similar fashion. It left me thinking “What the f*ck?” (in more ways than one). What kind of shady operation was this guy trying to run? I told him “Nevermind” and walked away. Bastard.
The most dirt-common cheap games went for at least $12! Contra III cart only for $38?! Who the hell was this guy kidding?!
Still, I kept my head up and continued happily exploring the rest of the flea market. 4th vendor I spotted Pac-Attack and also… Arkanoid: Doh It Again. Funny how life can work in mysterious ways. I was denied of Arkanoid just five minutes ago by Mr. Mean, yet here I was with the next vendor who happened to have a copy of the game as well.
However, he was hesitant to sell Arkanoid off the bat.
“I don’t know… isn’t this game rare?” he asked, scratching his head. Keep in mind this was in early 2006 and iPhones weren’t a thing yet.
“Nope,” I answered him honestly.
“Yeah. I actually just saw it at the very last vendor. It’s not a rare game.”
He examined the glossy game label long and hard, squinting even. He studied the “Easter Island” statue with a burning intensity. Finally he looked back up.” Alright, I trust you… $5 it is then. With the Pac-Man game it comes to be $10.”
In yer face Mr. Mean! Ahhh, ARKANOID. I have some fond memories of playing the game on my computer in the late ’90s when my bro and I first discovered emulation. Kevin and I had already donated our SNES to our cousin David by the time my brother found out about roms and such. I remember it well; I was a sophomore in high school at the tail end of the ’90s, walking home from school one day talking with a buddy about my brother’s discovery the night before. Although I missed my SNES, hey, it was better than nothing. Arkanoid: DIA was one of the few games my brother got. He refused to teach me how to download games by myself as we shared the computer and he was ULTRA paranoid of me doing anything malignant to his precious PC. Anywho, I often fired up Arkanoid and was taken aback by its simple effectiveness. Some 7-8 years later, I finally got the real thing.
VINDICATION NEVER TASTED SO DAMN SWEET!
What an epic little trip this was turning out to be. What a RUSH. And I wasn’t just buying great Super NES games you see, oh no… it was more than that.I was reclaiming my childhood. Buying titles I could ONLY dream of buying back in the early-mid ’90s. I made my way to the next vendor full of hope and optimism. All the vendors so far were awesome sans one Mr. Mean.
This next guy was the final stop of the tour. Like Mr. Mean, he had hundreds of SNES games. But this guy was the complete opposite — Mr. Nice, if you will. He took a liking to me from the get-go, greeting me as though I were like his long lost nephew. Although every SNES game on display was priced at $10 or $12, he showed me a box of SNES games he kept in storage that he’d sell at $5 a piece. The funny thing is, some of those $5 games were in the $10 pile as well. Some in better shape too! What a goofy old coot
I walked away with Super Smash TV, King of the Monsters, The Addams Family and Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems. It was a sweet mix of childhood favorites and games I simply never got around to play but had always wanted to. In many ways it was very symbolic of my SNES resurrection.
Driving home on the freeway that day, windows rolled down, the radio blasting, y’kno, the good stuff, I glance at the nine new SNES games added to my rapidly growing collection. I found myself grinning like a Cheshire cat, knowing full well that, once again, I would be back for more…
3. PUTTING THE SWAP IN ‘SWAP MEET’
-Saturday, March 4, 2006-
A quiet day but I made my first trade (of many to come) with Mr. Nice. Spotted Prince of Persia 2 in the $10 bin, geez I totally forgot a part 2 ever came out, and traded Mr. Nice my extra copy of Hook plus $5 for PoP 2. Fair deal, for sure. Maybe even good. I don’t see Prince of Persia 2 for sale often, and I’d once read it saw a limited release as it came out toward the tail end of SNES’ lifespan.
To cap the day off I nabbed Kablooey in the $5 bin. Though, the cart was in less than stellar condition… but more on this in a bit… in fact, just TWO short days later…
3A. THE CRAZY GAME CRAZY ‘HEIST’
-Monday, March 6, 2006-
This wheeling and dealing business was getting madly addicting! Not since my Saturn hey day did I have this much fun with video games. After class I drove to Game Crazy and bought Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Eek! the Cat and Kablooey (clean and mint). I got Kablooey free as part of Game Crazy’s Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal. 3 games for $10.80. I was rather surprised walking in to find ZAMN, a game in which my old best friend Nelly and I used to play together up the wazoo. Great memories, great game. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is certainly one of a kind on the ole SNES. As for Eek! I always had a weird urge to play this one when I first saw it previewed in EGM back in ’94, but of course, I never got around to do so.
I went home and switched the Game Crazy sticker on the newly acquired mint Kablooey with the so-so Kablooey flea market copy I’d bought just two short days ago. I returned to the same Game Crazy store later that afternoon only to find that the cashier working was the same dude who sold me the mint Kablooey just two hours ago. And it wasn’t just “some dude” rather but it was the store manager! But since I didn’t want to go home empty-handed, I decided to take the risk… sometimes, ya gotta live life on the edge
Asking if I could exchange Kablooey, which I bought just two hours ago, for another SNES game, I handed him the receipt along with the so-so flea market copy of Kablooey. He held the cartridge and paused as he examined it.
Oh shit… I’m BUSTED, I thought to myself.
You know those twinges you get in those moments where you realize you shouldn’t have done what you just did? As I saw his beady eyes glaring at the cartridge casing, I knew I was having one of those moments.
After what seemed like three weeks, but in reality was a second or two at the most, he glanced back up at me and said:
I was eye-balling the Robocop vs. Terminator copy before I left Game Crazy earlier that morning. I looked it up briefly on the internet at home, and decided it was worth adding to the ole library. And just like that not only did I pick up a new game I wanted, but I also switched my so-so copy of Kablooey for a mint one. Only in America A bit underhanded, yes, but with Game Crazy being the corporate beast they were, I had no regrets.
The store manager took my receipt, wrote in Robocop and faintly made a check mark on Kablooey as to signify the exchange. That spring semester of 2006 was a sweet one. It was my last undergrad college semester and on Mondays and Wednesdays I got out at 10:15 in the morning. I miss those days.
Yup, I had a lot of fun hitting up local malls, stores, Game Crazies, etc. on Mondays and Wednesdays. 10:30 was way too early to head home, so I usually went game hunting or out to lunch with a buddy nearly every week on those days. Now that I’ve been working full time, a small part of me pines for those innocent, relatively still carefree days of being in my early 20’s. I look back on those early collecting days of 2006 with a real deep fondness.
4. SWAP ‘TIL YOU DROP!
-Saturday, March 18, 2006-
I had an extra copy of Street Fighter II that I offered to tradefor Mr. Mean’s copy of Peace Keepers. “OK… but gimme two dollars,” he urged. I obliged. Fair enough.
Seeing The Peace Keepers (what a cheesy but lovable name) in the wild made my day. Fond memories of playing it with my brother and our friends way back in the summer of 1994. God that makes me feel old.
Next, I went to see Mr. Nice. We exchanged pleasantries. By now we had developed a great rapport; he probably saw me as the SNES fanatic with large sums of cash from the city, and I saw him as my meal ticket. Beyond that we saw each other as weekend acquaintances; some company to help fill out the drudges of everyday life. He often asked me about college life, how the ladies were, and I would ask him about how business was going or even about his sons back home. Making connections with your fellow man is something eBay or online shopping will never be able to replicate. It’s part of the charm of going to the flea market!
I traded him Doom, Battle Blaze, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (double) and Captain Americaand the Avengers for Cacoma Knight in Bizyland, Prince of Persia and Adventures of Yogi Bear. A good trade for me seeing as how Cacoma and Yogi were somewhat uncommon and on the want list for a couple months now, combined with the fact that I hated Battle Blaze and the Captain America port.
As I was about to walk away, Mr. Nice reminded me to check his $5 bin. Ah yes of course. There I found Young Merlin and pounced. Yet another game I have childhood connections with. Funny thing is, I saw three copies of Young Merlin in his $10 bin, and the one copy I found in the $5 bin was actually in the best condition of all! Classic. I’ll say it again, what a nutty old coot
Feeling good off another classic trade with Mr. Nice, I decided I couldn’t go home now. I drove to the other flea market (where I bought Tetris Attack and friends a month ago). I figured it was worth the drive.
Didn’t find much but I did walk away with BlaZeon ($5). The label was sun faded but I didn’t mind. The way I see it, if I could erase any SNES game off the want list in real life for $5, I would. Can’t get a much better deal online than $5 shipped after all. All in all, not a shabby day of game hunting. In fact, a pretty damn good one.
5. “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
-Saturday, April 8, 2006-
Sold an extra copy of Mega Man X to Mr. Mean for $8 cash. Then headed off to see Mr. Nice. By now it was common practice for me to bring any games I wanted to trade (usually doubles I landed in lots off eBay and such). Mr. Nice was a simple guy. He pretty much traded ANY game so long as he got the extra game in the trade (i.e. 2 for 1, 3 for 2 and so on). He understood quantity. Quality? Not so much
I bought a Super Game Boy 2 for $10 (later sold for $20+). Then I traded him my extra copies of F-Zero, Bubsy and Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow for Adventures of Kid Kleets and a MINT copy of Super Castlevania IV! Mr. Nice also asked me to throw in $2, which I happily handed over. At the time I couldn’t find a copy of Castlevania IV for under $12 shipped.
Sad but true: I never actually played this back in the day. Indeed. Shame. And so, later that night I spent the entire evening slaying hordes of the undead…
And it was freaking awesome.
6. MR. MEAN’S EPIC FAIL FTW
-Saturday, May 27, 2006-
For weeks now I’d been trying to sell off four fighting game VHSes online, but to no avail. Even at $12 shipped no one wanted Mortal Kombat, Samurai Shodown the Movie, Toshinden and Street Fighter the Animated Movie. So naturally, I decided to take them with me to the flea market. Hey, couldn’t hurt, right?
As usual, the first stop was Mr. Mean. I offered to sell him the four tapes I was carrying in my University book bag.
“Let me see what they are,” he demanded hastily, as if he suspected I had gold and didn’t have a clue that I did. I slipped the tapes out of my University book bag and placed them on the glass case. He made a nonchalant circular hand motion over the four tapes.
“Mmmm… five dollars”
“You mean five dollars for ALL of them?”
I put the videos back in the bag and started to walk away in disgust when I spotted it…
I already had a copy, but I wasn’t about to pass this opportunity up. I asked Mr. Mean how much for Aero Fighters. I expected to hear some absurd figure like $85 (note: at the time it was going for about $50-$60).
Surprisingly, I overestimated him…
“$7 plus the tapes,” he announced nonchalantly, as though he were trying to pull the wool over MY eyes.
!!!! I couldn’t believe it. But I played dumb as to not show my hand; a universal rule known by diehard flea market game shoppers the world over.
“What??” I asked, with a semi-perplexed look on my face, as if the offer were an insult.
“$5 and the tapes for the game,” he rephrased. Notice the price change!
“… OK, but I keep the bag.”
“Yes yes,” he grinned, as if he had pulled the wool over my eyes. When in reality it was the other way around
Note: I later auctioned off that Aero Fighters copy, a double, for $50. That was about the going rate for that game, cart only, at that time. Nowadays, it’s a triple figure heavy hitter.
7. HOTTEST DAY OF THE SUMMER, AND BEST TRIP EVER? -Saturday, July 1, 2006-
Met a new vendor today. Extra Innings was bartered from $5 to $3, my argument being it was a common “cheap” sports game. As I was getting ready to leave I spotted Super Alfred Chicken, another game I had always wanted to play back in the day but never did.
Oddly, it was priced at $6 but the dude said “Give me $3 for this one.” Shoot, I won’t argue with that! I handed him a $5 bill, and he handed me back two bills. I naturally assumed that they were two $1 bills, so I shoved ‘em in my pocket without checking. More on this in a bit…
Next, I made my way to Mr. Mean. I had another double of Street Fighter II and asked his nephew if I could exchange it straight up for Lemmings, which looked to be in mint condition (aside from the initials marking), all neatly wrapped and everything.
“Street Fighter II plus four dollars for Lemmings,” the 16-year-old countered.
Ah, hardball, a?
I stuck to my guns and reiterated my straight up offer. Take it or leave it, pal. The nephew examined the contacts and then he called Mr. Mean to come over, who had just finished wrapping up a transaction on the other side. Mr. Mean turned around, saw me, and his expression was absolutely priceless.
He sauntered on over to where his nephew and I were negotiating.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, in a gruff manner.
“I offered him Lemmings for his Street Fighter II plus four dollars.”
“And I offered your nephew a straight up trade. Take it or leave it.”
Mr. Mean took my SF II copy, turning the sumbitch sideways to study the contacts. Clean. He nodded reluctantly. “Very well. You got yourself a deal.”
By sticking to my guns I saved four bucks. Sometimes, it’s about more than just the money. This was one of those times.
Mr. Nice was next. It was the same old tradition as always. Stop by Mr. Mean’s stand first, just in case anything of intrigue pops up, then head on over to Mr. Nice’s stand where I knew, AT THE VERY LEAST, I could share a friendly and affable conversation. I also brought my spare SNES copies or games I couldn’t stand to serve as possible trade chips with Mr. Nice, who gave the greatest trades in the history of mankind. On this particular trip I traded him Fatal Fury (boo) and Ms. Pac-Man (double) plus, ironically, the $4 I saved by not caving in to Mr. Mean’s nephew not ten minutes ago, for Gemfire and wow, Metal Warriors! Told ya, he knows quantity. Quality? Not so much
I actually already had a copy of Metal Warriors, but it was going for about $30-$40 at the time, and so I couldn’t pass up on it. I don’t advocate hunting for games you already have, but when it’s right there in your face and you have a chance to get it for a bargain, it’s hard to pass up.
As I called it a day and walked back to my car, parked significantly far away, I arrived to find my Honda had been KO’ed by the branding iron of the scorching summer sun. It was way too hot inside so I opened all four doors and the 7-11 store, with its cold beverages, not fifty feet away suddenly seemed very inviting. I pulled out my wallet to see how much cash I had left. Inside I found a $10 bill. Wait-a-sec… I KNOW I didn’t bring no stinkin’ ten dollar bill, sowhat the hell? Then it hit me. The vendor who gave me $2 change when I paid a fiver for Super Alfred Chicken — his change was one bill as $1, and the other bill… yup, $10. I glanced at my car which was right in front of me in the parking lot a couple blocks away from the flea market, and then I glanced back, looking at that long stretch of road I would have to traverse in order to return the $10 bill. And on what had to be one of the hottest days of the summer, I decided I wasn’t about to walk all the way back. In essence, I ended up getting Super Alfred Chicken for free, and then some. A part of me felt bad about it, you bet your ass I did, but on the real, another part of me didn’t [… the dark side! -Ed.]
8. RUMBLE IN HYRULE
-Saturday, July 29, 2006-
Went to the first flea market from this list and met up with that woman in her 50’s again who sold me Tetris Attack and company some odd five months ago. Traded her my extra WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (somehow I had three bloody copies at the time) plus $2 for WWF Royal Rumble. Bit ironic, eh? She actually asked for $3 but I bartered that down to $2. My convincing argument? I needed the dollar for Wendy’s super value menu — lunch. She gave me a good-natured chuckle and nodded her little old head. “OK OK I know, you’re a college student. I know.” Hey, whatever it takes
Then I drove to the other flea market and traded Mr. Nice my copies of Home Alone 2 (ugh) and Out To Lunch (extra) for Addams Family: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt.
Each time I headed to his stand I couldn’t wait to chat with him and see what new SNES games he might have acquired since we last saw each other. He always greeted me with a warm smile and a hearty hello. It saddened me just a little bit knowing that my SNES want list was quickly drying up — I really didn’t have that many wants left. As it turns out, I kinda knew that day what was inevitable, this would be my final transaction ever with Mr. Nice. Hell, it would be the last time I see him…
Next stand I hit up was a new one. I bought just the Zelda: Link to the Pastmap for $3. The game was complete but I asked the vendor if I could buy just the map. He was nice enough to accommodate me. At that time I had yet to play Link to the Past and knew the map would come in handy when I eventually do. Plus I love the simple classic artwork of the Zelda SNES game.
And the last stand I visited today, another new one, proved to be an absolute gold mine. He had a crate of sealed games. I ended up trading Relief Pitcher, Alien 3, Michael Jordan: Chaos in Windy City, Super Tennis and Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (mostly doubles, others unwanted) plus $9 for SEALEDLegend ofZelda: Link to the Past (million seller edition). That’s like trading Michael Jordan in 1992 for David Wood! Who? Exactly! I saw two sealed copies of Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario Kart (all million sellers), Earthworm Jim, Super Godzilla and more. But I decided the sealed Zelda copy was enough. For now, anyhow…
9. FLEA MARKET MADNESS FINALE -Saturday, August 5, 2006-
A week later I returned to the same stand with the sealed games. Took the two sealed copies of Donkey Kong Country 2 to the vendor, as well as the sealed Super Mario Kart. He wanted $45 for all of them ($15 each). The funny thing is, before I could whip out my wallet, he tried to convince me that this was a fair price offer (!)
“You uh, would be getting a great deal, sir. Really.”
I faintly smiled. I couldn’t help it. A great deal? Was it ever. “OK, I’ll take them.”
All four sealed copies went to eBay. They cost me a total of $54, and they sold for roughly $215. That’s a $161 profit
Note: I rarely use games intentionally to turn a profit… never really been into that whole thing, but this was one of those rare exceptions. I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I would have been an absolute fool not to capitalize.
I went out with a bang. That’s how I like to end things. On a high note
FLEA MARKETING 101
Note: These tips were originally written back in June of 2008. Times have changed since then with smart phones and retro games being bigger than ever. A lot of deals like the ones I had are much harder these days, so these tips may vary in terms of effectiveness in the year 2016. Nonetheless, here they are anyway…
Carry lots of small denominations. Bring lots of 1’s and 5’s. Keep the 1’s in one pocket and the rest elsewhere, that way the vendors won’t spot you fishing through 5’s and 10’s and suddenly get greedy
You don’t necessarily have to play dumb so to speak, or be Daniel Day-Lewis, but some acting at the right moments can work to your favor. For example, when I repeated the vendor’s offer in an aloof manner, he immediately lowered his demand. Gee, that was easy! Merci beaucoup, Mr. Mean
Try to establish some kind of rapport with the vendors. Especially the ones that are nice. It never hurts to have a good relationship, they might give you deals or trades they might not give someone else. Although not mentioned here, I once bought a Genesis game off Mr. Nice that he let me have for $3. To quote him, “3 dollars just for you, nobody else”
Rather than diving right into what you want most, casually ease your way into it. Want that Super Metroid copy really bad? First casually thumb through some Genesis games, then work your way over. Also, call it “Nintendo game” rather than by the real name, in order to make it sound more generic and common
Don’t be afraid to barter. If a game has a cosmetic flaw for example, you can knock off a dollar or two in many cases (if it isn’t already going for, say, $2). Try not to be TOO cheap, however. Nobody likes a tightwad, but there certainly is a right time and place for bartering
Bring any gaming-related items you no longer wish to own, or any doubles, hey you never know when Vendor X is open to a trade. It doesn’t hurt to bring a bag of your unwanted gaming items, as you’ve seen here in my stories
You don’t have to give in to any vendor’s demands — if you feel a game is just too rich for your blood, just walk away. There will always be another copy to be had (if not in the wild then definitely online). And sometimes, when you walk away they’ll stop you and suddenly be in a more compromising mood [Yeah that’s what I thought, bitch! -Ed.]
Emotional objectivity. Kinda goes back to the acting bit. It’s worth repeating. Try not to show much emotion when asking a vendor how much for this Nintendo (or Sega) game
Get there early. Best deals then. Also, sometimes when they’re about to drive their stuff home, they might be desperate and let you in on a good deal to add some $ to their day count, but usually the good stuff is gone by the afternoon
Don’t be discouraged if your flea market has no good finds. It’s not the end of the world. Enjoy the sunny day. Walk around. Take in the atmosphere. Have fun!
Always think positive. Never hurts, plus it’s free
[There are no swap meet princesses -Ed.]
By August 2006, my SNES want list evaporated by and large for the most part. With no reason to return, August 5, 2006 saw the last time I ever raided a flea market. I’ll always remember those days quite fondly. For some strange reason it feels as though they were from another lifetime. Those wild scavenger hunts… sticking it to Mr. Mean… the goofy old coot Mr. Nice, who always treated me as though I were his long lost nephew and dealt me the best trades in the history of mankind. Those early Saturday morning flea market runs, rummaging through countless game bins. For every lame duck common game occasionally laid the diamond in the rough and the big payoff. It was a glorious time in many aspects, but I’m also glad in retrospect that it’s all over with — the hunt, that is.
Still have wants on your video game list? Then be sure to check out your local flea markets. In addition to Craigslist, it’s another avenue you may want to consider when searching for your next video game purchase. There’s something about the flea market, and there’s certainly something about buying or trading for games RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU in real life. You never know what great deals you too may unearth. Or bloody hell, you might find your very own… SWAP MEET PRINCESS! Well, let’s be honest here. Probably not, but you might find a good game deal or two, and that certainly makes paying a visit to your local flea market worth a shot.
Tomorrow is yet another gorgeous Saturday morning. Thousands of people will be trekking to their local flea market then, in hopes of finding the latest and greatest bargain. Myself, I’ve paid my dues, and am happily long retired. Back at the ol’ ranch, I’ll be sleeping in. Either that or maybe I’ll finally play one of these games I bought over 10 years ago. It would be about damn time, eh?
Renting video games every Saturday afternoon was a big part of my childhood. It’s a bygone era that I hold near and dear to my heart. As a kid growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, few things could match the sheer joy of watching Saturday morning cartoons before heading out to town with your old man to rent the latest video game. I have so many fond memories of this childhood weekend ritual. Sure, streaming and online content has made things faster and more accessible than they were 25, 30 years ago. But it comes at a price. Part of the fun of renting games and movies 20+ years ago was the actual time you spent riding around with your dad, being in awe of seeing all the games you wanted to rent, and eagerly anticipating the drive home to play the game of the week you had chosen after careful consideration. In my generation this sort of experience was, quite frankly, priceless.
So if you’re like me and fondly recall those halcyon days, well then my friend you’ve come to the right place. Kick your feet up, crack open a cold one, and join me for a sentimental stroll down memory lane. It’s a look back at a more innocent time in our lives. Agolden time.
IT’S TIME TO (BE KIND AND) REWIND
My brother Kevin and I rented a TON of games in our day. Actually, I rented them. Kevin made me do his dirty work, as he was too lazy (and shy) to go rent games on his own accord. 90% of the time he had a specific game for me to get. If it was rented out, then I had freedom to choose. Sadly for me at least, most of the time his choice title was there. If not at the first store, then surely the fifth.
However, I secretly enjoyed doing the dirty work for him. I have very fond memories of renting. I loved all the little (and semi-lengthy) trips that my dad and I shared. Each Saturday afternoon we made the trek together. He was a busy man, but he always awarded me and Kevin with one rental each Saturday. Looking back, I think it was more than just simply renting video games but alas, I digress. I always looked forward to our weekend ritual, rain or shine.
From roughly 1987 to 1995, we must have rented 200 games between the Nintendo, Genesis and Super Nintendo. Years later, I rented some PS1 games for Kevin, but it was few and far. The renting bug eventually faded as my bro entered high school and gradually lost interest in gaming. It wasn’t much long before the renting bug died completely sometime circa 1998 or 1999.
From the mom and pops to the big boys, here are some memories and tales of my favorite childhood video stores.
I didn’t rent a ton from Blockbuster, as I found the alternatives much better, but my dad and I occasionally stopped by. They were a bit on the expensive side, $4 or $5 to rent a Super Nintendo game, but the plus side was you could keep your rentals for up to 5 days. That was their main selling point; it was rather enticing to think you could keep a game throughout an entire school week. But my mom didn’t like the idea of us gaming throughout a school week, so Blockbuster was seldom utilized in my renting rotation.
My best memory involving Blockbuster Video: it was my first job! A new one was being constructed just a 5 minute walk away from my house. I was a ripe 17 years old. It was October of 2000. I told my friends we should all apply and work there. My friend Eddie got the job one night. The next night I headed over while the store was still being worked on. The manager interviewed me on the spot and next thing I know he goes, “See you next Friday, kid.”
Working at Blockbuster was mostly a great experience. I was there for ten months before quitting in August of 2001. I was starting college later that month and I wanted to focus on that. Yup, just mere weeks before the 9/11 tragedy.
Eddie stayed on board until November 2001. He often told me it just wasn’t the same without me. We had a competition to see who could rack up more free rentals. We were able to get 5 free rentals a week, and we always had to max it out, even if we didn’t have time to watch the movies. In the end, the computer displayed a whopping 172 free rentals under my name! That’s roughly $775 in value.
I remember when Nikita and Judy joined the team. Oh man. I’ll never forget those two. They were from our same high school and let’s just say they had a reputation. And as I would find out, for DAMN good reason! Judy was very friendly, especially. The first day we worked together, I was putting a DVD on the top shelf. As I was doing this, she squeezed in to put a DVD on the bottom shelf, and… and…
*Cue NBA Jam announcer*
[What happened? -Ed.]
They say you never forget your first time, er, job. I believe that.
My first love. I can blame Evergreen Video and its owner, Tom, just a common man, working hard for the American dream, as the source that corrupted me. One day in the late 1980’s my dad was driving me and my brother Kevin around. We spotted Evergreen Video by chance. It began the whole renting craze for us.
I can still hear that little bell that rung each time the door opened. It was a small store with lots of family videos. Up front there was a wooden case full of NES goodness. The smell of the oak wood shelves permeates to this day. If there was ever a quintessential mom ‘n pop rental store, Evergreen Video was surely it.
Tom was a cool guy, and he became sort of like an uncle to me and Kevin. He owned the store and worked there every Saturday afternoon when we would visit. Back then, I even rented my fair share of games that I wanted. I basically picked the games with cool covers. I still remember some of my choice titles.
Tom was so good to us — he even held games for me and Kevin. My brother would call to ask for a game and Tom would hold it for us up to 24 hours. I remember him telling us once, with a big smile, “Only for you guys.”
One time we came in to pick up TMNT II: The Arcade Game. We met Tom’s son that day, and he was playing the game on the small TV they had. I still recall vividly to this day feeling bad that he had to turn off the game so we could rent it. He was on level 4 battling the wolf boss. Funny the little details you remember.
My brother and I were huge Double Dragon fans. We owned and played Double Dragon II to death. So when we found out part III was out, we figured it would be the Holy Grail. Besides, just look at that epic box art. We rented it from Evergreen Video, but it was disappointing for a number of reasons. One, the actual game itself wasn’t as good as we were hoping for. Two, after the first level the game crashed. We received a faulty copy. My dad drove us back to Evergreen, he explained the situation to Tom and Tom was more than happy to give us a no frills exchange.
But here’s the really cool thing. 3 weeks later, Tom told us he received a new copy of Double Dragon III, AND he was holding it, just for Kevin and me! Even though I was a little kid, I remember being blown away by his love and generosity. He really was like another uncle to us. This epitomized the kind of cat that Tom was.
When the Super Nintendo came to the US in late 1991, Tom bought some SNES games to keep up with the changing of the guard. I rented Ultraman: Towards The Future, and sadly, that would be the last game I ever rented from Evergreen Video.
In early 1992, my dad, Kevin and I made our usual Saturday afternoon trek to Evergreen Video. Two reasons we always left the house around noon:
We couldn’t miss our Saturday morning cartoons
The store didn’t open until noon
[Good reason -Ed.]
Unfortunately, that trip would prove to be our last. Tom told us he and the family were moving on. And of course, with my being so young at the time, I didn’t quite get it. I just assumed he would still be there next weekend, and the weekend after that, because it’s Tom. And that’s what Tom does. Your friendly neighborhood mom ‘n pop video store owner.
I didn’t understand the magnitude of his words until a short month or two later when my mom took me shopping. As we passed Evergreen Video, what was once a simple but lovely store, with so many good memories, I stole a glance inside. A part of me expected to still see the wooden shelves, and Tom’s friendly mug situated behind the register counter. Instead, I saw an empty store, torn down in shambles, the floor littered with debris. I felt like crying as I peered in. I lost a little bit of my innocence that day. From that moment on I forever realized that things don’t last forever, no matter how much you want them to.
The stuff dreams are made of. That describes the essence of Game Hunter in a nutshell. They exploded on the scene in 1992 and not before long, developed a cult-like following in my town. They catered to the diehard: NES, Genesis, Neo Geo, SNES, portables and every other system in-between.
Not only did Game Hunter have every system under the sun, they also carried a few arcade cabinets. It was here that I cut my teeth on World Heroes (my all-time favorite franchise from strictly a sentimental value). There was nothing better than scouring through the hundreds of games they carried, then plopping a quarter into one of their cabs while your dad went to check out. Gotta love the simple pleasures of life.
On top of all this, they also carried anime. I’ll never forget when my old best friend, Nelson, rented “Devil Hunter.” We watched it that evening in his room with our friends and Nelly’s little brother, Johnny. I was shocked at the amount of nudity! We tried our best to kick out Johnny, at least Nelson and I did, but we were outmatched by the fierce curiosity of a seven year old. We tried shielding his innocent eyes with Nelson’s pillows, but to no avail. It was sheer chaos as the other guys hooted and hollered at every nipple shot. Ah, to be 10 years old again.
However, the greatest thing about them were the import games they carried. It gave Game Hunter a truly special mystique. Seeing a wall covered with exotic Super Famicom boxes NEVER failed to amaze my little 10 year old eyes. Keep in mind this was back in the early ’90s when none of us had the internet, or a disposable income, or instant access to these titles that we enjoy today. It was truly mind-blowing to see so many imports in front of your face back in 1992.
The first import I ever played and rented was a little Kaneko fighting game by the name of Power Athlete (Power Moves).I rented quite a few imports courtesy of the almighty Game Hunter over the years. It was always a treat to see the Japanese version of a highly anticipated SNES game on the shelf MONTHS before the US version was due. I’ll never forget that fateful day in the summer of ’94 that Nelson and I saw the import versions of Fighter’s History, King of the Monsters 2 and Muscle Bomber (Saturday Night Slam Masters). But, that’s a story for another time. Game Hunter’s import selection was definitely what made them so legendary. Recall that back then, import did not mean just another version of a game but rather, they carried a strong mythical aura.
They also saved games by request. Unfortunately their service was questionable at times. Once I had them hold Fatal Fury for the Genesis. I rounded up my dad and when we got there, the worker said,“I thought you meant the Super Nintendo version. We don’t have the Genesis one.” He didn’t seem very apologetic, either.
My dad absolutely flipped out. And he rarely ever did. If anything he treated everyone with TOO MUCH respect (if that’s possible). But in this instance, the old man truly lost it. Game Hunter was a decent 20 minute drive away, so my dad went to town on the poor dude for wasting our time and gas. I think the term kids use today is, “Owned.”
Game Hunter ended up closing its doors in the late ’90s.
All in all though, I’ll always harbor very fond memories of Game Hunter. The buzz it created and generated within my gaming group was unmatched, and truly a sign of the times. Times that have long passed on…
A couple years ago I was browsing through a topic called “Stores That Don’t Exist Anymore.” When I saw this picture, I had to do a double take. Was it, could it be? Yes! It’s the actual Hollywood Video I frequented as a kid. Man, this picture brings back so many memories. The mountains in the back. How TARGET was right across the street and just to the right of the Target sign was a classic mom and pop rental shop VIDEO MART (which I’ll get to later below). One time my mom was shopping at Target and I decided to sit on the little lawn right there by the Target sign, reading Goosebumps book #26 “My Hairiest Adventure.” Man for some reason that’s a memory that vividly sticks out in my mind. The feeling of being free. Out on the lawn reading my favorite book on a crisp late afternoon in January. Cars zipping by with Hollywood Video as a pleasant backdrop to my reading. A cool little breeze in the air. My own slice of Heaven.
The Hollywood Video in my town opened in 1994 and was only a 5 minute walk away from my house. I made a beeline after school one day. It was the third rental store in a HALF MILE radius. It was the golden age of video stores. A big purple sign draped over the window proudly declared:
FREE MEMBERSHIP! GRAND OPENING!
Like a miner rushing for gold, I made a beeline for the door. The SNES selection was enormous! I spotted Double Dragon V andFighter’s History. I grabbed the former and bolted to the front of the line.
I had $5 cash on me, and Hollywood Video used the same type of renting procedure as did Blockbuster: 5 days roughly $5.
The lady looked at me with her eyebrow raised. It was my first trip to a rental store all by myself and I must have been a sight for sore eyes, standing there all giddy like I had just consumed a gallon of sugar.
“Um, does someone in your family have a membership?”
I replied innocently, “Naw, but your sign says I can get one for free.”
“You would need a driver’s license and credit card for that, though.”
Oh man, I felt like such a damn fool
I have so many fond memories of all those late school nights strolling up and down the horror section and perusing through their 16-bit titles while my dad bought groceries across the street. Of special note was how humongous this place was. At 8,500 glorious square feet, it was the damn biggest rental store I had ever seen.
I captured this shot of my childhood Hollywood Video on a rainy Monday night back in 2006. This location eventually folded in 2010. It was the last renting relic of my youth standing.
Much like Street Fighter II and Doom did, once a phenomenon sweeps a nation, out come the clones. It was no different for video rental stores in the early ’90s. Ultimate Video was perhaps the quintessential example of such. Opening in 1993, they had a mom ‘n pop feel but with the size to match any Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. I really loved the aesthetic of this store. It was also near my cousin’s house. Ultimate Video’s neon green sign lit up the night sky, dazzling you with its flash and glitz. It was the first thing you saw coming off the freeway, and it always drew me in like a moth to flame.
One vivid memory I have in particular of Ultimate Video was renting Halloween 4. As a kid that movie really creeped me out. It really nailed down the atmosphere of Halloween.
Ultimate Video quietly faded away in the late ’90s.
This mom ‘n pop was much larger than the average mom ‘n pop. It had a huge selection of movies, and a small, but memorable game section.
To this day, I remember the funky Sega Master System boxes, like Alex Kidd in Miracle World. U.S. Video was right next to the library, so it was quite convenient. Since my mom took me to the library weekly, I was always able to convince her to let me go to U.S. Video right across the street. Funny thing was, for as much as I frequented this store, rarely did I rent from them. Mostly, I walked the aisles staring at the horror movie boxes and thumbing through their tiny game selection.
OK, confession time. As a kid one of my favorite Genesis games was Fighting Masters. I played it years later in 2006. It was one of those experiences that leave you scratching your head. “Man, what was I thinking all those years ago?!”
The best thing about U.S. Video though were the two arcade cabs they had at opposite ends of their store. On one side you had the mega popular (and always crowded) Street Fighter II cab. On the other end you had a Neo Geo MVS that featured Fatal Fury, Sengoku, King of the Monsters and World Heroes. While I was first exposed to World Heroes at Game Hunter, it was U.S. Video where I played that game the most. The MVS cab was usually open as everyone was busy playing SF II at the other end of the store. Perfectly fine by me! I was content playing World Heroes hassle-free.
I remember fondly the times my mom would go grocery shopping, and luckily enough for me, U.S. Video was just across the street. As my mom bought apples, oranges and pears, I snapped bones and set human bodies on fire. Being on my own as a 9 year old kid, even if it was just for 20 minutes, gave me an incredible sense of freedom and adventure. It’s amazing what kids got away with 25 years ago compared to today. How times have changed.
One evening there was a tough shot 20 something year old playing World Heroes. He was using Janne. I challenged him, using Hanzo. There was a young female employee standing behind the counter, watching with great interest as this little 9 year old kid challenged this 20 something year old punk. He was extremely cocky. Two rounds later, I left him in a bloody and twisted heap. He quietly walked away with one massively bruised ego. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the girl watching had the fattest smile on her face. I still recall that vividly ^_^
And when I wasn’t playing World Heroes or checking out the back of game boxes, I wandered around the many towering wooden shelves of videos. Their horror section sticks out in memory, with the cover of Child’s Play 2 leaving a lasting impression[Gee, I can’t imagine why -Ed.]
U.S. Video shut down in the mid ’90s.
Perhaps the smallest video store I have ever seen. Like Evergreen, it was a family-owned gig, lots of wooden shelves and they would hold games and movies for you. Throughout the early-mid ’90s they held countless WWF new releases for me. SummerSlam ’92, Survivor Series ’93 and so on. Sometimes the waiting list was quite lengthy. Looking back, it was quite a unique system. They made house calls when your movie came in. I still remember the owner calling me one night. “Steve, Leprechaun 2 is back, waiting for you.”
Their small SNES section was not impressive, but it was cheap to rent and the store scored major gas points with my dad — it was only half a mile away from home.
The year was 1989. One night my crazy Uncle Jimmy took me to Video Mart to rent a movie. I saw the cover of Halloween and in my naive 6 year old mind, I thought “Halloween? Cool, I love trick-or-treating!” I begged my uncle to rent it, and he obliged. I spent most of the movie watching it from behind the sofa, and later that night I had a nightmare that Michael Myers was stalking me around the house. And I’ve been a fan ever since. Go figure.
After my family moved in early 1996, I returned to Video Mart one night in late 1996 to rent The Combatribes. Surprisingly, the owner remembered me, and he asked where I had been. You get that kind of connection at these mom and pops that you don’t quite get at the chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood. At any rate, I came back that night because I was homesick. My dad drove me back to my childhood town because he was awesome like that. The Combatribes was the second import game I ever rented and it was a game I rented like 7 times during a 6 year span at 5 different stores. My brother and I beat The Combatribes a couple times before my dad returned it the following night. It was just the nostalgic kick I needed to help me get over my new town blues, at least for one weekend, anyhow.
Video Mart ceased to exist, to my sorrow, for sentimental reasons y’see, in the late ’90s.
Back in the day it was a pretty happening place, and I rented a lot of games there. They had all the SNES games in thick transparent cases. Movies were encased in plastic cases where you had to squeeze and shake for the VHS to slide out.
If you recall from the beginning of this article, I did most of the renting for my brother. He was too shy and lazy to go rent games on his own accord, so he shipped his little bro.
And after years of doing anything constantly, you get to be a bit of a pro at it. A master, even. Kevin told me once, and I never forgot this: “Steve, you sure know how to rent the hell out of games.” It became a badge of honor. Although there were so many times where I saw games that I wanted to rent, I almost always came home with the title my brother requested. I had a 98% kill rate, and I know it sounds silly, but it was something I took pride in.
The summer of ’94 saw my greatest challenge: Super Street Fighter II. I raced to the SNES section madly thumbing through the thick glass display cases. There were a few other guys huddled around, and I knew they were after the same Holy Grail. Instinct took over and I sprinted to the counter. A pimple-faced male employee, who looked like he was 3 weeks fresh out of his senior prom, glanced down at me. Panting, I asked him if he had a copy of Super Street Fighter II safely tucked away back there. I figured it was so rare that maybe they keep it behind the counter in order to avoid the inevitable bloodshed that would occur in the aisle if not. His expression suddenly changed. Flashing me a clandestine smile, as if I’d just shared the secret password he was waiting desperately all day to hear, he reached down behind the counter in dramatic fashion. “Kid, it’s your lucky day. This here is the last one we have.” And right there, in that moment, my childhood was made.
I was absolutely blown away. Time froze. It was the longest 5 minute drive home ever. When Kevin opened the door, you could tell that he was expecting the worst. Even if I was the master of renting, renting Super Street Fighter IIsuccessfully on launch daywas right next to building a rocketship in your garage. Knowing that, I had to mess with him a little bit, so I told him some BS story about how I was too late, etc. He nodded compliantly. “Well, you took your best shot,” he chirped. “YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID!” I eagerly revealed the prized trophy I had kept hidden behind my back.
The Wherehouse, sadly, died off along with the ’90s. But I’ll always have the memories.
Renting was just part of an innocent era that’s sadly gone by the wayside in today’s digital age. Technology has taken over, and simple innocent pleasures like video rental stores have long gone the way of the dinosaur. A relic of the past, I feel sad thinking about how my children will never get to experience this basic childhood joy. Wandering up and down countless aisles surrounded by hundreds of movies and games was blissful. It was like a museum of pure entertainment overload. Good innocent times from a bygone era. It’s really a shame kids these days only know of Redbox and NetFlix. I like those modern conveniences too, but damn if it’ll ever match the pure joy and wonder of visiting the local rental store on a Saturday afternoon. If you were a kid growing up in the early-mid 1990’s, it was a ritual and a way of life. There’s something incredibly sacred about those old video stores and memories.
The joy of renting, whether it was “OH MY GOD! IMPORT!”, connecting with your fellow man, watching your dad stick up for your pride and honor, or snagging the final copy of a popular new release –those were some badass, bitchin’ times.
10 years ago today I got back into all things Super Nintendo. It blows my mind that 10 years has flown by so fast. 10 years later I still love the SNES as much as I did the day I got back into it. I became an instant SNES fan the moment I first played it on a cold, dreary December morning of 1991. I stuck with it through 1996 before I fell out of gaming leading up to the millennium. I became a diehard Saturn fanatic in the early to mid 2000s. So, what jumpstarted my SNES resurgence? An old friend called “the platformer.”
December 2005. I was a senior in college. My University winter break ran for 6 glorious weeks. We were off from mid December to late January. I tell ya, there’s something about those cold 6 weeks that does things to a man. The year prior I spotted a Super Nintendo at a Game Crazy and a wave of nostalgic 16-bit gaming memories washed over me like crazy. I ended up not buying it but that proverbial seed was planted. That nugget of a “what if” moment would go on to linger inside of me for the next 365 days.
Fast forward back to December 2005. My cousins came over and we played some Saturn Bomberman. It was a blast, pardon the pun. But when they left I found myself craving to play a platformer. I pulled out my drawer of Saturn games to scan over, looking for just the perfect platformer to quench my thirst. What I found that fateful day shocked me, and saddened me to my very gaming core.
It hit me then and there that the Saturn, for such the 2D powerhouse that it was, lacked tremendously in this timeless genre of hop and bop. Sure, you had a few. Sonic Jam, Pandemonium, Clockwork Knight 2, Keio Yugekitai. But there wasn’t a whole lot beyond that. My heart sank. For the first time in over five years my flame for all things Sega Saturn began to fan out. Like when you find out your girlfriend cheats on you, there’s just no going back.
And that’s when I remembered my childhood crush. The one that got away. All those blissful, innocent and lazy Saturday afternoons going out to the local rental store with your old man, renting games and playing them with your brother and best friend. All those idyllic summers spent battling gigantic bosses in your best friend’s living room. All those epic sleepovers where you and your friends would game the night away. Fond memories and thoughts of the SNES consumed me. I suddenly remembered all the plethora of great platformers I had played for it more than a decade ago. I also remembered all the decent ones, which I wanted to revisit. Then there were many others that I never got around to rent, but was always curious about in some form or fashion. How great would it be to go back and right these childhood wrongs? I was 22 (cue the Taylor Swift “22” song, or not) and on the cusp of graduating but that day I found myself in a very reflective and nostalgic mood. It was a very unique period in my life. A time of looking forward while also looking back.
It started out as a regular Tuesday night in the old neighborhood. It was January 17, 2006. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary but this date would go down in gaming history for me. After dinner I had an overwhelming urge to type “SNES” into eBay. The very first item that came up was POWER MOVES, ending in 38 seconds. Power Moves is one of those games that hold a ton of nostalgic childhood value to me, despite being not a very good game (OK, it was pretty dang bad). It was the first IMPORT video game I ever rented (under the label of POWER ATHLETE) way back in late 1992. My friends and I enjoyed it for what it was for the weekend that we had it.
So yeah, it was a crazy moment of nostalgia overload. Before I knew it I inserted my maximum bid and the page refreshed.
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU WON POWER MOVES (SUPER NINTENDO).
I sat there for a second, admiring the moment and soaking it all in. For the first time in nearly 10 years, I had bought a Super Nintendo game. And that’s the story of how I got back into all things SNES.
The rest is history.
NOTE: The following was written on January 30, 2016.
Speaking of 10 year anniversaries, today marks another big moment. It was the day my SNES arrived. I remember this day with a real deep fondness. The SNES was on its way and already I had 51 games waiting to be played. The night before, January 29, 2006, I ordered the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and watched that with my cousin, David. I’ve always been a huge wrestling fan since I was a kid, and the Royal Rumble is one of my favorite events of the year.
I recall starting a gaming journal on that Sunday. I had always wanted to do one with the Sega Saturn, but by the time I thought of starting one, it was far too late. It was nice that the SNES gave me a second chance to chronicle things properly.
The next day was one for the record books. It was a cold, rainy Monday afternoon. It was the first day of my Spring 2006 semester, the last one before I graduated. I heard a loud rumbling outside my window. Excitedly, I ran over to peer outside. With the heavy raindrops shattering against my window, looking not unlike melting silverware, I wiped the freezing glass pane to reveal a parked UPS truck. I watched intently as a man walked around back to haul out a gigantic box. I knew it had to be it. My baby was finally here!
I ran to open the door before he was even halfway there. I grabbed the box in haste; I couldn’t have rescued it from the downpour any sooner. I ripped the packaging open and sat there in sheer awe of what I saw. The SNES and a whole bunch of games rested inside in all its glory. I wanted nothing more than to play them then and there, but alas, I had an “advanced acting” class to attend at 1:30. But hey, I waited a decade for this moment. Or at least, a few weeks. Surely a few more hours wouldn’t hurt.
That night I had 51 SNES games from which to pick. Which one would I play first? I figured it was a no brainer. First import rental ever. And now it was the first SNES game I bought that kickstarted my SNES resurrection. It was only fitting. Sure, Power Moves was no masterpiece, but man, the nostalgia rush I had that night was incredible. And I knew the games and memories from that point on would only get better.
Welcome back home, indeed. And ever since then, even 10 years later, the SNES is still where I’m at. Here’s to 10 more glorious 16-bit years.