Here we go again. After dominating Christmas wishlists last year with the NES Classic Edition (and never reaching a point where retail stores were adequately stocked), Nintendo is back for round two with the Super NES Classic Edition. It's a tiny version of the SNES you might have grown up with in the '90s, complete with two controllers that feel exactly like you remember them feeling.
This just-released mini-console is more expensive than its predecessor ($79.99), has fewer games (21) and will likely still be difficult to find on shelves. So why should you care?
Because it contains some of the greatest video games of all time.
OK, yes, that's an extremely subjective statement, and I personally have quite a bit of nostalgia for this era of gaming that is surely tainting my judgement at least a bit. That said, the 21 games Nintendo has chosen for this device are masterpieces of their time and were extremely influential to video games moving forward.
Super Mario World? Check. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? Check. Final Fantasy III (more commonly known now by its original Japanese title, Final Fantasy VI)? Check. Super Metroid? Super Mario Kart? Secret of Mana? Donkey Kong Country? All of those and more are packed into a tiny box that can fit in the the palm of your hand. Even if you're only casually into video games, that's an impressive feat.
These games are also likely to give you your money's worth. While the NES Classic had some masterpieces of its own, most of its 30 titles weren't games that you wanted to play for more than half an hour, tops. Aside from the original Mario and Zelda games, there was a lot of filler that doesn't hold up particularly well by today's video game standards.
By comparison, the SNES Classic has multiple high-quality games that will last you hours and that have stood the test of time. The roleplaying games in particular, like Super Mario RPG and Earthbound, will each last you dozens of hours if you want to see them through to the end.
There's also one brand new game included that has never (legally) been available before: Star Fox 2. The game was nearly finished in 1995, but scrapped by Nintendo at the last minute. If nothing else, this makes for a fascinating piece of video game history to those that care about such things.
The question that often gets asked is, "If I still have my old Super Nintendo, do I need to buy this miniature one?" My answer is, "Probably not," but your mileage will vary. Hooking up your old Nintendo hardware to many modern TVs (which sometimes only have HDMI ports) can be a challenge, and some of the better games included in the Super NES Classic Edition can be pricey to acquire in their original format, despite their age. The ability to hook a single small system to a modern TV -- complete with several amazing games -- is appealing.
It can also be a great way to introduce younger gamers in your home to classics that helped inform the games they play today. If they're really excited for Super Mario Odyssey on the Nintendo Switch, they might get a kick out of Super Mario World.
On the other hand, you will never be able to expand the Super NES Classic's library of 21 games (short of hacking into it), and for some purists, there's something less exciting about playing these classics in this emulated form. In that case, hunting for the original hardware might be the way to go.
The main problem, like last time, is going to be finding one. Online retailers like Target.com and Amazon offered pre-orders in August, but they were gone almost as fast as they were put online. Sadly, scalping is likely to be an issue, and you're sure to find sellers who will try to profit on your desperation to get one for Christmas.
Nintendo assures fans, though, that they will produce a "significant amount" more Super NES Classic systems than they did NES Classics. That, of course, remains to be seen, but there is at least hope that stores will replenish their stock before you need to fill Christmas stockings.
If you can get your hands on one, and you have some strong nostalgia for this era of gaming, the Super NES Classic Edition is well worth its price tag. One can only hope that Nintendo will produce enough of them to meet the deservedly high demand.