Retro Discussion: Why Was The NTSC Super Nintendo So Different?

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American-Super-Nintendo-DifferencesThe Super Nintendo was a major success in America, which is not a surprise since it had some amazing games. It was most known for its great role playing games such as the Final Fantasy series and Chrono Trigger. It also had a ton of side scrolling action platformers like Super Star Wars and Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures. It did not run the scrolling shooters as well as the Mega Drive due to the slow processor, but it was forgiven when games like Donkey Kong Country were released. When I was a kid growing up in the states I never really understood the idea of importing. So I just assumed we received all the same consoles and games as Japan. I was definitely mistaken.

Had I been living a lie? How and why was our system different than the Japanese and European consoles?

As I started to get back into collecting some old consoles and games I had growing up, I came across an image of a Super Nintendo. It looked amazing! It was sleek, slim and was very appealing. Later on, I came to find out that it was a PAL region Super Nintendo console. In this one moment my world came crashing down.

Had I been living a lie? How and why was our system different than the Japanese and European consoles? Why was the American Super Nintendo so blocky? There are only three theories I could come up with on why we had this bulky console.

Super Theories

First, is because the original Nintendo Entertainment System was basically a big box with controller ports. Since the original NES was such a success in America one assumption I had is that they just kept the blocky features to keep it consistent. In America, it is very common for companies to do things the same way if it is making them money. So this idea could have had something to do with why they kept their consoles squarely shaped in the states.

The second theory I had on why our console looks like a Lego brick was to keep the cost down. It may be a cheaper option to produce a brick rather than a sleeker console. This theory seems less likely, but if the American consoles were easier to manufacture and assemble because of their design it could explain why they went for the look that they did. Since Nintendo had a high consumer base in America it would make sense if they could pump out more consoles for less money.

The last theory on why they picked the design for the console in the states is importing. The American Super Nintendo cartridges were blocky just like the system. The curves of the Japanese and European version of the machine were reflected even on how their cartridges were shaped. This means American cartridges cannot be inserted into a console from a different region. This would make importing games from America tougher and a bit more of a hassle. The only problem with this theory is that most gamers import games from Japan. America is not looked at as a place to get specialty imports.


Overall, the style and shape of the American console is not appealing to the eye. Nintendo also randomly added purple switches to make sure it looked terrible. It is apparent that the Japanese and European console owners received the better looking machines. Even the Japanese cartridges looked a lot better. The games had the smooth edges and just looked nice. I think most retro collectors would agree that the Japanese and European consoles have the sleek look that outclasses the American machine by a mile. Although I have had many good memories of playing games on my old Super Nintendo, I am still left wondering how it ended up looking so bad.

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