Christmas 1992: I’d wanted a Super Nintendo for a year but had no real expectation I would get one. As I tore open the wrapping paper, I yelled like a wildman, and a wave of euphoria crashed over me so hard, I had to sit down. I felt happy the way only children can.
The new, $80 SNES Classic looks remarkably similar to the game console I received 25 years ago, only smaller. And Nintendo has somehow managed to store a large portion of my childhood inside it.
Jammed into this tiny box are 20 games, including some of my all-time favorites: Final Fantasy III, Mega Man X, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I poured hundreds of hours into these games as a kid, playing my favorites over and over again.
I stood in line to get my SNES Classic last week, but the wait was worth it. Folks around me reminisced about the Super Nintendo era, recounting happy memories and simpler times.
The SNES Classic is also simple. The shrunken console feels light and toy-like, the menus are straightforward and there’s no grand intro each time it gets turned on. Playing it reminds me of being a kid, which makes me happy, and things that make us happy feel like they’re in short supply right now.
The 16-bit graphics and the retro cartridges’ limited space keeps the games stripped-down compared to modern games. Goals are clearer: Save the princess, fight the monsters, win the race.
As a buddy and I huddled together on a couch trying to run through Contra III, we laughed harder than either of us had in weeks. Like most of the games from that era, it’s brutally difficult, but I never got frustrated. I felt an inherent optimism within each game, reassuring me that I can always try again, and that learning from losing is part of the design.