The SNES Classic was hallowed property from the second it was announced. It’s a plastic hard drive, the size of a slim paperback, with a plastic shell that makes it look like an shrunken Super Nintendo console. There’s a fake indentation in the top where a cartridge might go, but that’s just for show. Instead, 20 classic games of the 16-bit era (and one new title) are already loaded inside—a treasure trove of nostalgia for children of the ’90s and a charming wayback machine for modern gamers.
It’s never been hard to play Super Nintendo games. Used consoles and cartridges abound on eBay, and modern Nintendo consoles like the Wii have downloadable versions of games online. But the SNES Classic, like its forebear the NES Classic (which was released a little less than a year prior), seems to have some magical grip on players. When it was announced, pre-orders sold out within eight minutes; despite Nintendo’s promises to make more copies than the NES Classic (which still retails for more than double its list price on the secondhand market), the SNES Classic has still been nigh-impossible to find as it hit stores this week.
The appeal goes beyond players being able to return to the games of their youth. The console also offers the heady experience of just plugging in and playing, free of internet updates, digital-rights management, and all the other bells and whistles of contemporary gaming. The biggest nostalgia factor with the SNES Classic is that sense of the console being personal, an experience you could only share with friends if they came over to your house to play alongside you, with each game (including masterpieces like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and EarthBound) a private story for you to plumb the hidden depths of.