21 Facts You Might Not Know About All the Games on the SNES Classic

Is Super Castlevania 4 a prequel, a sequel, or something else entirely? Learn the answer and 20 other secrets about the games collected in Nintendo’s Super NES Classic.

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This September, the Super NES Classic will assume the pint-sized throne abdicated by the discontinued NES Classic. Not only does it fit in the palm of your hand, it contains the never-before-released Star Fox 2, plus 20 first-rate titles from the system’s heyday. That’s saying something, considering the SNES’s vast library of classics.

Innumerable contemporary games stand on the 16-bit shoulders of the giants baked into the SNES Classic. In that light, the mini console could be thought of as a time capsule. Crack open its hermetic seal, and decades of history come streaming out: glitches, innovations, development anecdotes, pseudonyms, and oodles more trivia.

Ahead of the Super NES Classic’s release this fall, I’ve rounded up one historical footnote per game. Some of these might be familiar to you. Others might come as a surprise. All played a part in one of the industry’s most impactful generations of hardware.

Contra 3: The Alien Wars

Source: Contrapedia

Most Contra fans associate Konami’s run-and-gun series with the NES, where the franchise started. Except it didn’t start there. The original Contra was a coin-op game that found a much wider audience when Konami brought it to Nintendo’s 8-bit system. Contra 3: The Alien Wars also started as an arcade title… of sorts.

The threequel premiered on the Nintendo Super System, a coin-op machine that boasted hardware parity with the Super NES, as well as a menu interface for selecting games. Players had to insert quarters at timed intervals to continue playing. That fact, on top of Contra 3’s steep difficulty curve, made it virtually possible to complete until players were able to purchase the cartridge and play it at home.

Donkey Kong Country

Source: DK Vine

Peeling away the bright and chipper veneer of Nintendo’s family friendly image reveals a dark history of elitist and draconian behavior. At least one instance of such shocking behavior appears to be apocryphal, or at least the result of butchered translation. In 1995, Miyamoto, while sitting next to Rare co-founder Tim Stamper, allegedly said that “Donkey Kong Country proves gamers will put up with mediocre gameplay if the art is good.”

The quote made the rounds without a solid source for years, until Internet sleuths from Hardcore Gaming 101 discovered that Steven Kent, author of The Ultimate History of Video Games, was the interviewer in the awkward position of speaking with Miyamoto and Stamper following the Mario creator’s alleged jibe. Before he wrote his book, Kent wrote for Electronic Games, and was believed to have published his infamous interview in the magazine’s May 1995 issue. (As luck would have it, that issue is not archived online.)

Kent touched on the interview in a lengthy footnote on page 518 of The Ultimate History of Games. According to Kent, Miyamoto’s initial pitch for Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was rejected by Nintendo’s marketing department for exhibiting cartoonish Mario-style graphics instead of the slick pre-rendered models used in Rare’s Donkey Kong platformer. Stung by the rejection, Miyamoto came down hard on Stamper during their joint interview with Kent.

Miyamoto denied ever stating any sentiment to that effect in a 2010 interview with IGN. Indeed, Nintendo’s foremost designer worked closely with rare on DKC, suggesting the ground-pound move that the big ape used to unearth caches of bananas. Although Miyamoto hasn’t referenced his interview with Tim Stamper explicitly, he has confessed that Yoshi’s Island and its initial rejection had been a “touchy subject” for him at the time it was given.

EarthBound

Source: Starmen

After inputting your name in Mother 2/EarthBound, a voice says OK desu ka—Japanese for, “OK?” The voice belongs to Shigesato Itoi, lead designer of all three Mother titles. Legend has it that EarthBound’s developers slipped the quote in at the proverbial 11th hour, without Itoi’s knowledge. Hopefully he was OK desu ka with the Easter egg when he found out about it.

Final Fantasy 3

Source: Siliconera

It took a village, as the saying goes, to raise Final Fantasy 6, released as Final Fantasy 3 in the west. Series creator and director Hironobu Sakaguchi had been promoted to executive vice president of Squaresoft in 1991, leaving him unable to commit all his time and energy to a single project. Assuming the mantle of producer, he appointed two directors for FF6: Yoshinori Kitase, who took charge of the game’s scenarios, and Hiroyuki Ito, overseer of all things combat. Sakaguchi supervised cutscenes.

Design duties branched out even further. Although Kitase was in charge of scenarios, every member of the development team pitched in with ideas for characters, their back stories, and the events they would undergo as players completed the adventure. Rather than existing as disparate plot threads, Final Fantasy 6’s stories coalesced under the theme of each character being a protagonist. Somewhat surprisingly given the game’s widespread development, production wrapped in just one year.

F-ZERO

Source: IGN

Released as a demo game on Nintendo Super System arcade hardware, like Contra 3, F-Zero launched alongside the Super Famicom in 1990 and the Super NES in August 1991. Produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, the game’s futuristic cars and settings were painted by Takaya Imamura, who expressed amazement at the latitude Nintendo gave him to envision F-Zero’s world.

“It was my first title,” Imamura said in a 2002 interview with IGN. “When I joined Miyamoto-san's team I was surprised to be allowed to design characters and courses as freely as I wanted. It is really impressive title for me.”

Kirby Super Star

Source: VG Facts

Call Kirby any name you like, just don’t call him late to dinner. You can call him late to Nintendo’s platforms, however. Kirby’s adventure was released in May 1993 for the NES, two years after most players had moved on to 16-bit consoles. Despite the SNES’s growing user base, Kirby Super Star entered production for NES. Developer HAL Laboratory went so far as to generate a prototype conceived as a proof of concept before the team migrated over to the Super NES.

Not all assets were remade from scratch for the SNES. Sprites for Kirby’s Cutter and Yo-Yo abilities were integrated wholesale from the 8-bit prototype. Nintendo and HAL admitted as much when the sprites were published in an issue of Famitsu magazine decades later. Masahiro Sakurai, the game’s director, explained that developing prototypes on older hardware is part of his routine. Whipping up assets for older hardware allows him to focus more on getting his ideas up and running and less on stressing over painting fancy graphics and learning new techniques and processes. Once he’s confident in his proof of concept, he and his team begin development.

Kirby’s Dream Course

Source: Moby Games

Kirby’s Dream Course was always intended to be a golf game, but it was not going to be a Kirby-themed title. Halfway through development, designers from HAL Laboratory and Nintendo retooled Special Tee Shot, a mini-golf game, to include characters and elements from Kirby. Later on, Special Tee Shot was published on the Satellaview, a satellite modem and download service exclusive to Japan’s Super Famicom.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Source: Glitter Berri

The Legend of Zelda didn’t just break ground when it ventured onto NES in 1986, it shattered it. An open world, the ability to save progress, purchasing items—those and other tropes were considered state-of-the-art in the halcyon days of 8-bit hardware and built-in battery packs. In designing Zelda: A Link to the Past for SNES, Shigeru Miyamoto studied the market and found it saturated with imitators and innovators. Rather than try to one-up the competition, he desired to iterate on the original Zelda’s design by pulling off feats that weren’t possible on NES hardware.

One chokepoint was the NES controller. Players had to work around Zelda’s two-button control scheme by assigning items such as bombs and candles to B, while Link’s sword was mapped to A. The SNES controller tripled the number of buttons, granting players more freedom but complicating Link’s abilities for the development team.

“There are switches that require you to pull them, right?” Miyamoto said in a 1991 interview, months before A Link to the Past was released. “You’ve got to pull them no matter what, so you should be able to do it just by pressing A. But just pressing a button doesn’t make you feel like you’re pulling anything.” Miyamoto’s solution was to ask players to first approach a switch, then hold A to cause Link to grip it, and then press a direction on the d-pad to pull the switch out from a wall.

Mega Man X

Source: Arcade Sushi

Early on in the development of Mega Man X, Capcom found itself between a Rock (Man) and a Hard (Man) place, leading to several design changes. Zero, the red-armored robot introduced in the game’s tutorial level, was pegged as the game’s playable character. Capcom got cold feet, believing legions of Mega Man fans would reject any protagonist other than the Blue Bomber, who by that time had taken center stage in over a dozen games across NES, Game Boy, and SNES.

Capcom, perhaps hesitant to deviate too far from the franchise’s lucrative formula, dubbed Mega Man X as Super Mega Man, following the nomenclature of dozens of other properties that made the jump from eight to 16 bits. One holdover of the classic series was the password system, implemented in favor of a save-game feature.

Secret of Mana

Source: Flying Omelette

Duke Nukem popularized the concept of viewing digital porn mags during gameplay, but he did not pioneer it. Secret of Mana’s Mystic Book enemies attack by drifting through the air and flipping to an arbitrary page, then casting the spell written there. Every so often, they’ll flip to a nude centerfold lying on her belly. The book displays an embarrassed animation before leafing over to another page.

Star Fox

Source: Iwata Asks

The cast of Star Fox features some of Nintendo’s most colorful characters, a squadron of animals capable of swooping and barrel rolling through danger. Miyamoto, who lent his guidance as a producer, explained that he was uninterested in creating a game starring humans, robots, and other sci-fi archetypes. He did not choose a fox as the game’s lead arbitrarily. “Star Fox has a lot of scenes in which the fighter goes through arches, which reminds one of the gates at Shinto shrines called torii,” Miyamoto explained in an interview with the late Satoru Iwata. “And torii made me think of the thousands of such gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha.”

Fushimi Inari Taisha is the foremost of Japan’s shrines dedicated to Inari, a divine being that resembles a fox. “In a prototype, there were lots of scenes like going through there. And when you think of Fushimi Inari, you think of foxes. Fushimi Inari Taisha is about a 15-minute walk from our former head office12, and there used to be a boys' baseball team in the area called the Inari Foxes. I thought, ‘Foxes! Now that's cool!’”

Star Fox 2

Source: Nintendo Life

Fox’s inaugural outing was a test bed for Nintendo’s Super FX graphics chip, an add-on component capable of displaying polygonal graphics. Star Fox 2 was due to expand on every facet of its predecessor before it was mothballed midway through development. (The game’s inclusion on the Super NES Classic marks its first official release.) Director Katsuya Eguchi, who partnered with Miyamoto to develop the original game’s character and story—and who went on to direct the Animal Crossing series—sought a change from on-rails shooting to a more open-ended structure.

“Eguchi-san wanted to investigate a more 'Rogue-like' structure to the game,” said former Argonaut Software developer Dylan Cuthbert in an interview with Nintendo Life. “I think you can tell from Animal Crossing that he likes that kind of iterative, exploratory style game, based on algorithms.” Miyamoto welcomed the shift in gameplay style, and viewed Star Fox as the perfect franchise to experiment with.

“The series was never intended to be limited to linear 3D scrolling stages,” Cuthbert went on, “and he [Miyamoto] will often say that the only reason they did that was to get the best speed and performance out of the Super FX Chip.”

Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting

Source: Mental Floss

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. After years of attempting to stamp out the outbreak of Super Mario game hacks, Nintendo came up with an ingenious and profitable workaround in Super Mario Maker, a $60 toolset with which players can build custom Mario levels. Capcom followed a similar path with its Street Fighter II series of games. The developer dropped legal hammers on hacks, but fans pumped them out faster than lawyers could crack down on them.

Concerned that illegal spoofs might cut into his employer’s bottom line—and eventually his paycheck—Capcom USA’s James Goddard ventured into an arcade to try Street Fighter 2 Rainbow Edition. The cracked game featured absurd imbalances that would never fly in official competition, such as swapping characters mid-match and executing special moves in rapid succession, but one facet of its gameplay stuck with him. Back at work, he booted up Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition and was dismayed to realize how sluggish it felt after spending time with Rainbow Edition’s hyper-fast fighters. Inspiration struck, and Capcom turned around Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting, an iterative update that rebalanced characters, introduced new attacks, and ratcheted up the speed of matches, resulting in a faster and more fluid pacing.

Super Castlevania 4

Source: Castlevania Wikia

Don’t let the “4” in the title fool you. Castlevania series creator Koji Igarashi views the franchise’s Super Nintendo debut as a remake of the original game rather than a sequel. Japanese players were clear on that point, but western players were given a different chronology. During localization, Konami called an audible and modified the manual and in-game text to indicate that Super Castlevania 4 falls after Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest on the official timeline.

Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts

Source: VG Facts

Nintendo maintained a strict agnostic stance on religious iconography in its games, both those created in-house as well as those it published in North America. In the original version of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, the final boss is named Samael, Hebrew for “Venom of God.” Capcom changed the boss’s name to Sardius for the North American release.

Super Mario Kart

Source: Daily Dot

Shigeru Miyamoto sees his Mario characters as actors. Mario isn’t really a hero, Bowser isn’t really a villain; they just play those roles in certain video games. In others, Mario referees boxing matches, takes the form of a statue in Animal Crossing, and flings banana peels at his erstwhile nemesis in Super Mario Kart. Miyamoto has gone on to say that when he and other designers at Nintendo come up with a new idea, they examine existing franchises and characters to see if the concept could be mapped to a known quantity such as Mario or Zelda.

However, Super Mario Kart did not start out as a Mario-themed title. A prototype starred a generic man wearing overalls, without Mario’s bushy ‘stache. Rules for racing hadn’t been implemented yet; all developers could do was drive around courses. As he tooled around with the demonstration, Miyamoto had an idea. “We noticed that it looked neat if you stopped one car and looked at the other car flying by. We decided to see what it would look like with Mario in one of the karts, and everyone thought that looked even better.”

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Source: ZSNES Docs

The Super FX chip is the most well-known of the SNES’s enhancement parts, but it’s not the only one of its kind. Super Mario RPG runs on the SA-1 chip, an extra microprocessor that enables all sorts of technical tricks including quicker access to memory, more data storage, data compression, and anti-piracy measures.

Super Mario World

Source: Various news broadcasts

Super Mario World is known as Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan. That naming scheme nearly carried over to the United States, where the game’s appearance on a local news station showed a glimpse of the title Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World. The context of news report in which the game first appeared, however, is more interesting.

Back in 1991, lots of parents were upset to discover that all the NES Game Paks that Santa had purchased for little Billy and Susie would be incompatible with Nintendo’s new console. “At $200,” a baritone newscaster explained, “a Super Nintendo setup costs twice as much as the old system, and you can’t mix and match [cartridges]. Some parents are refusing to be taken in.”

Nintendo encountered a similar problem in 2012, when casual shoppers assumed the Wii U GamePad was a peripheral they could use with their Wii.

Super Metroid

Source: Now Gamer

Metroid is the darkest, most adult of Nintendo’s franchises. Whereas Mario and Zelda appeal to a wide audience, the visual and aural direction of Super Metroid cemented it as a title for older players. Look no further than the opening scene for proof. The camera pans around a darkened lab before pulling back to show corpses littering the floor around a smashed cylinder.

Although famous and infamous for working inside a bubble, Nintendo allowed outside influences to touch Super Metroid. “I think the film Alien had a huge influence on the production of the first Metroid game,” admitted Super Metroid producer Yoshio Sakamoto. “All of the team members were affected by HR Giger’s design work, and I think they were aware that such designs would be a good match for the Metroid world we had already put in place. To be honest, I’ve never really been clear on what is or isn’t the ‘Nintendo look’, but as far as we were concerned, we were just projecting another image from within Nintendo – another face of Nintendo, if you like.”

Super Punch-Out!!

Source: Punch-Out Wikia

Nintendo’s super sequel rolled out new attacks for Little Mac, such as a power meter that unlocks uppercuts, jabs, and hooks once players fill it up during bouts. Those changes molded Super Punch-Out!! into a much faster game, albeit one still concentrated as much on treating opponents as puzzles to be solved as on action. Little Mac’s augmented arsenal also testified to the influence of Nintendo Integrated Research & Development (IRD), and the integration of the company’s software and hardware engineers.

The oldest division at Nintendo, IRD designed every console and peripheral until it went defunct in 2015. It was founded by Genyo Takeda, who produced the arcade version of Super Punch-Out!! Part of Takeda’s plan was to design the coin-op game in such a way that it could be easily and flawlessly ported to the Super NES console. The “Super” in the game’s title spoke to his line of thinking.

Yoshi’s Island

Source: DK Vine

Miyamoto didn’t become the most revered designer in gaming by turning the other cheek. After Nintendo’s marketing team bounced back his concept for Yoshi’s Island and declared its visual direction too whimsical in the face of Donkey Kong Country’s pre-rendered models, Miyamoto responded by doubling down on his preferred art direction.

“Everybody else was saying that they wanted better hardware and more beautiful graphics instead of this art,” Miyamoto told author Steve Kent. “Even while I was working on the Super Mario World, I was thinking that the next hero should be Yoshi. Other people have created games based upon Yoshi. Yoshi's World Hunters, Yoshi's Egg, Yoshi's Cookie, and so forth—games that I don't really like. So I decided that I should make an authentic Yoshi game.”

Long Reads Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 27, 2017 5:05 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, 21 Facts You Might Not Know About All the Games on the SNES Classic

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      June 27, 2017 5:27 PM

      Interesting Hyper Fighting origin story!

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        June 27, 2017 5:30 PM

        I hope Capcom doesn't mind that I did download Rainbow Edition. It was too hyper, though. Hyper Fighting was the exact right among of hyper.

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          June 27, 2017 6:46 PM

          My 'Street Fighter Version' comment for the last year or so has been "If you're not Hyperfighting, you're just wasting time."

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        June 28, 2017 3:25 AM

        I'm sad that we don't get Super Street Fighter 2: The New Challengers while the Super Famicom Mini does get it.... It's the version of SF I grew up with mostly on SNES and it has 4 additional characters to boot!

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          June 28, 2017 4:18 AM

          SSF2 was one of the prettiest games on SNES. I preferred SF2 Turbo because of its faster pace--I still can't believe Capcom dialed the speed back down to Champion Edition's level--but I did like the 4 new characters.

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            June 28, 2017 10:05 AM

            You're not alone. Until Super Turbo came out, Turbo was the preferred game in the competitive scene.

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        June 28, 2017 10:06 AM

        For a taste of how crazy Rainbow Edition was, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvQ_b66OrbI

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      June 27, 2017 6:08 PM

      lol at Miyamoto on DKC, fucking savage

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        June 27, 2017 6:31 PM

        He's not wrong. In Rare's defense, DKC was far from a bad game; it was just banal as a platformer. It checked all the boxes, nothing more or less.

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          June 27, 2017 6:33 PM

          DKC2 though, nice game

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            June 27, 2017 6:34 PM

            Oh, agreed. I'll go as far as saying DKC2 is one of the best platformers ever, let alone on SNES.

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            June 27, 2017 6:36 PM

            DKC2 is kind of like Uncharted 2. It takes a bland game, refines its mechanics, and makes it great.

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            June 27, 2017 6:48 PM

            Yes

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            June 27, 2017 10:40 PM

            The first one got a pass for introducing a lot of new technology and the third one was a major regression in level design, but DKC2 was the perfect vehicle for this kinetic fluid gameplay. The art, animations, level design, music are fantastic. It doesn't just hold up as a snes game, but as a platformer period.

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              June 27, 2017 11:34 PM

              Totally agreed. If they port that game and Tropical Freeze to Switch I will be so happy

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              June 28, 2017 12:41 AM

              Good to know, I never got far in the series because one was quite a bland but pretty platformer.

              I LOVED DKCR on Wii though.

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                June 28, 2017 12:48 AM

                Even the gameboy version of DKC2 was shockingly good. The levels were slightly changed but the music, animations, and level design were all there. I don't know how they did it.

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            June 28, 2017 6:11 AM

            why is this tagged as "interesting"

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        June 27, 2017 8:55 PM

        i loved DKC. was the first platformer i played that didn't feel impossible to beat. it was challenging but not not too much. i hadn't played super mario world as i got the SNES with DKC bundle. i think it took me nearly a month to beat.

        i was super hyped the xmas that DKC2 came out. my parents wouldn't let me play it on xmas day because it was time to spend with family so i just looked at the case and wore the long sleeve shirt that came with the game. it took me a week to beat.

        i never got hyped for DKC3. i rented it and beat it quickly over 2-3 days I think. it wasn't very memorable.

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          June 27, 2017 9:05 PM

          DKC3 was average

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            June 28, 2017 4:11 AM

            DKC3 was a solid platformer, and the second best in that trilogy. Its problems were threefold. First, it was the third DKC game in less than three years. Second, the SNES was showing its age. DKC1 recharged interest in the SNES, and DKC2 was a much better game that maintained interest in both the series and the console, but DKC3 didn't up the ante enough in terms of new ideas. While its platforming was tight and its graphics were pretty, the game technical pedigree just didn't turn heads the way the first two games did. On top of that, the PS1 was picking up steam. This was an era when consumers bought into marketing hype like blast processing and the number of bits one console had as compared to another.

            The biggest problem with DKC3 was that while it did introduce new ideas, those concepts bloated the gameplay. Rare introduced RPG-lite mechanics such as doing quests for characters and blocking off regions of the world map until certain areas had been cleared or quests completed. Most of those quests boiled down to tedious fetch missions that took too long to get through. As a kid, I liked the larger world and new characters at first. Before long, though, I got tired of running around looking for band-aids to patch up rafts and just wanted to play new levels.

            As a post-script, Kiddy Kong, Dixie's companion, felt like a poor man's DK ripoff. He was big like DK, and stronger like DK, but still only a baby in pajamas. Players hadn't taken on the role of DK himself since the first game. Swapping him in for Kiddy would have been a small but welcome change.

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              June 28, 2017 8:23 AM

              I agree with you on the quests, those were kind of a drag. I thought the game was less responsive to play and I disliked most of the music tracks.

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                June 28, 2017 9:07 AM

                The music had a different sound than 1 or 2, which had a through line, that's for sure. I kind of liked that, though. DKC3 succeeded at being different. Whether or not it succeeded in the various ways it was different is up for debate.

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      June 27, 2017 6:18 PM

      Great article, don't think I knew any of that

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        June 27, 2017 7:25 PM

        Now you know...and knowing is half the battle!

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      June 27, 2017 7:34 PM

      This is a great article

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      June 27, 2017 7:48 PM

      Hey now that you guys are doing topical infomative articles when news comes up, now might be the time to invest in some SEO type up-sells to place on pages. Check out the oatmeal for good examples of execution. Any time you talk about SNES or any modern version of any of these games, or any classic device, you want to show a link to this content, you want your readers to enter a Markov chain of good content, basically.

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      June 28, 2017 12:44 AM

      Great stuff!

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      June 28, 2017 1:19 AM

      Excellent article David! I can never get enough retro gaming coverage and that article was a great breakdown of several details I was clueless about

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      June 28, 2017 6:40 AM

      it will be sold out for 6 months then they will stop production like the NES mini.

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        June 28, 2017 6:41 AM

        And then magically all these titles will appear on the switch VC

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        June 28, 2017 9:32 AM

        Actually it sounds like it's only going to be a 3 month run.

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      July 4, 2017 10:08 PM

      Great article! You guys are stepping up.