Reason to Upgrade – SNES: Singular Nintendo Entertainment System

Super Nintendo


For most of my formative years, video game consoles just magically showed up at my house. I didn’t know where they came from. I just assumed my dad’s friends got bored or had extras. Every 2 years or so I’d come home and a new one would be hooked up somewhere in my house and it would stay there. I felt like I was tricking someone because it was obvious I loved video games more than anyone in my family, but these consoles seemed to be intended for “not me.” I was happy to enjoy the spoils but you can understand how confusing it was to me when my friends started to get Super Nintendos in their house and I didn’t have one. Where was my Super Nintendo?

Reason to Upgrade looks back at the reasons behind our major gaming purchases. From expensive adult next-gen upgrades to the platform decisions our parents made for us each one has a story full of joy and/or regret.

I was actually a little shy around the Super Nintendo at first because of the controller. Those extra face buttons were intimidating enough, and then I held the controller in my hand and realized there were more buttons on the side. My best friend and I were content to let his older brother and his buddies play through Super Mario World while we just watched.

Super Mario World

I’ll never beat this Bill.

There really isn’t much that needs to be said about Super Mario World. The first time I saw that giant Bullet Bill, my jaw hit the floor. I had to check to make sure the console wasn’t on fire because graphics like that just weren’t possible. I couldn’t understand why you would want to replay a level twice and what those keys actually did. I just knew the overworld map seemed full of possibilities. It didn’t seem like the game would ever end. Although, that could have been because I needed help to get out of my first ghost house.

Super Mario World was a revelation and at 9 years-old it was far beyond anything I was capable of playing. I didn’t actually know I could own it or a Super Nintendo at this point, it was just this amazing thing at my best friend’s house that we got to play very little out of fear of being beat up by his brother.

The future spins on a flat plane

The other game his brother loved to play was F-Zero. This game was fast, even for a racing game, and was even further out of my league. I couldn’t even comprehend its brilliance until my eyes adjusted to the “3D” landscape. Mode 7 graphics have not aged well, but no one knew what that meant in 1991-92. We just knew that F-Zero looked like it belonged in an arcade and not in a living room.


What else is new?

I loved how F-Zero’s futuristic style made real racing and other racing games seem dull. If you didn’t win, your hovercraft exploded and the camera swooped in to show off your failure in dramatic fashion. No one was good at this game so we got to see that plume of smoke quite often. My first attempt at playing the game resulted in a quick death. I honestly thought the controller was going to fly out of my hands since my hovercraft was moving so fast on the screen. It didn’t get any cooler than F-Zero.

My friend’s brother had other games that continued to make my NES look bad, but the SNES was still untouchable to me. I had no idea how to get one. It was useless to ask my parents. They wouldn’t even know what it was.

What did you just say?

Another year or so went by and I was outside playing with a different group of friends. We had recently added a couple of new kids to the group that had just moved in across the street from me. After a game of basketball at their house, we all came inside to get something to drink. As he was showing us his house, he introduced us to his older brother who was in his room with a couple of friends and they were all playing video games (older brothers had all the cool shit apparently).

NCAA Basketball

The realest.

I recognized the Super Nintendo immediately, but I didn’t recognize what he was playing. I heard an announcer on the TV say, “Foul by. Point Guard.” I lost it. That was the first time I had heard voice used in a console game. I looked up and realized they were playing a 3D basketball game. The court rotated around the players and really made you feel like you were in the game (take that EA). My neighbors were playing NCAA Basketball. I didn’t know what was more unbelievable, the game itself or the fact that someone else, someone literally two houses away from me, owned a Super Nintendo.

It will be mine

I was done being in awe. I had to figure out how this was happening. It turns out their parents bought the Super Nintendo at a store. It made so much sense now. I had bought games in stores and I had seen Super Nintendo’s in glass cases. I just had no real idea of how large purchases like that were made. A kid can’t just buy a Super Nintendo, right? I thought the glass cases were for show or just in case the demo machines broke. The Super Nintendo finally became a tangible and ownable object to me. I could make this happen.

When I announced to my parents that I was going to buy a Super Nintendo that just meant at 11 years-old I got my first video game reality check. At that time a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World cost about $140. I made about $5 a week in allowance so that meant a Super Nintendo was about 28 weeks away which may have well been 28 years away. That wasn’t the only hurdle though.

My parents threw down a huge gauntlet. “You don’t need another Nintendo, you already have one.” After explaining to them the difference between a Super Nintendo and a Nintendo (as calmly and respectfully as possible I’m sure), they weren’t phased. “You can only have one Nintendo.”

That took me a while to process. Even if I raised my own money, I would not be allowed to buy a Super Nintendo until we got rid of the other Nintendo. The answer was in my problem. I had to sell my NES and all of my games before I could buy a Super Nintendo.

NES Collection

Ok, maybe my collection wasn’t this good but this is how I remember it. – source

Looking back, I probably had close to 20-30 NES games. Some duds, but some true classics that I haven’t been able to rebuy in the years since. I don’t remember if 11 year-old Justin knew what he was doing or he just didn’t think he had a choice, but he decided that a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World, F-Zero, and NCAA Basketball was worth all of the video games he currently owned.

We must move forward

Up to that point, that was the most adult decision I had made in my life. A couple of months and a garage sale later, I bought my Super Nintendo with those three amazing games. The rest is history. It only took me a decade for me to mostly forgive my parents for putting me in that position. I swear that guilt doesn’t creep in any time I’m in a modern video game store that resells retro games and that I’m still not looking for an affordable copy of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers.

Who am I kidding? Super Mario World was worth the cost of my childhood.

5 Comments Reason to Upgrade – SNES: Singular Nintendo Entertainment System

  1. Cole

    I had to do the same thing to get a Super Nintendo. I sold my NES at a garage sale as well, but the big money earner even back then was my Castle Greyskull. It was the thing that funded my SNES purchase. Also the NES was the only console I owned that I didn’t purchase myself. Seems like you’re probably in the same boat.

  2. Sam

    Had pretty much the same experience. Sold my NES and all games at a joint yardsale my grandmother/mom were having. Went to Kmart that night and picked up the SNES /w Super Mario World as well as Zelda 3. Never really regretted selling my NES until many years later, but now I can re-experience all those classics through emulation, so oh well.

  3. Justin Lacey

    You know what, Cole, I think I had to sell Boulder Hill from Mask to help out, too.

    Sounds like you are right where I am then, Sam. I don’t even mind rebuying the stuff, but knowing I could still have my originals has a nostalgic ring to it.

  4. Nick

    As someone who grew up with a Sega Genesis, reading “You can only have one Nintendo” makes my own childhood weep. So for me the first real upgrade came around age 16-17 when I decided to get an Xbox (I apparently have a thing for picking the not-as-popular console available at the time). I skipped the Playstation generation, wasn’t impressed by low poly 3D, and we were a bit late to the Genesis as it was. Two games in particular made me want to upgrade, Soulcalibur on Dreamcast and Gauntlet: Dark Legacy on PS2, as well as the difficulty in trying to find Genesis games. I had saved up money from my previous birthday and Christmas (asked for cash instead of gifts, no allowance or job at the time) and combined that with trading in my Genesis and all games at GameStop. I don’t remember at what point I began to regret that decision, probably around the time Angry Video Game Nerd became a thing and I saw his awesome retro collection, but I definitely wish I had waited a little longer and kept it, even if I wouldn’t play it. I don’t know if I’ll ever play that Xbox again but I doubt I’ll ever get rid of it.

  5. Justin Lacey

    Nick, most of the Sega kids I know still wear that as a stubborn badge of pride. I’m glad to know they aren’t all that crazy. And I love that you weren’t “impressed by low poly 3D” – truly wise behind your years despite your other examples.

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