With the release of another Nintendo Nostalgia Machine, the SNES Mini in this instance, comes a deluge of “Games Missing From…” articles. The games featured in these articles are chosen simply because the author wants them to appear on something they don’t. They’re fun to read wishlists. What has more thought behind it is the actual game library of the SNES Mini. I set out to find the reasons why some games made the cut and other popular games were excluded.
The NES Classic catalog is here and the SNES Mini catalog here. The count is 30 games on the NES Classic and 21 games on the SNES Mini. One of the SNES games is Starfox 2, which Nintendo themselves have stated reasons for including, so it’s effectively 20 SNES games. I decided to research IP owner/publisher, average rating, sales and appearance in other collections.
My choices aren’t perfect. Finding reviews for NES games is practically impossible. SNES game reviews are much easier to find, but have low sample sizes. Average game ratings come from GameRankings.com. For game sales I had to use the wikipedia lists of games with the highest sales for each console (NES and SNES) due to it actually having references. Those references range from corporate briefings to Guinness World Record books.
All of that compiled together.
Obviously, most games are owned by Nintendo. More third party games appear on the NES (14) than the SNES (7) library. Most games are among the best selling. You can’t sell a nostalgia box without nostalgia after all. Eighteen out of thirty games on the NES are on the list of top sellers. The tiny SNES boasts fourteen out of twenty top selling games. Some of which make multiple top-selling list appearances due to some developer (Capcom) releasing a game in multiple iterations (Street Fighter II). The highest SNES average rating is, believe it or not, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island at 96. Yes. On a list that includes the first Super Mario World, Final Fantasy III (VI), Super Metroid and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The lowest average rating that doesn’t appear on the SNES top-selling list is Kirby’s Dream Course at 77.
Above are twelve games from various “Games Missing From the SNES Mini” articles. Some games were wanted but are not include like Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3. The original Donkey Kong Country is representing on the baby console. It just might not be your preferred one. Immediately noticeable is the fact that this list is dominated by companies other than Nintendo. Pilotwings being the sole Nintendo property. Negotiating property use rights could be keeping a number of games from the SNES Mini. If Nintendo wants Mario on the petite SNES, then Mario goes on the system. Castlevania, on the other hand, requires dealing with Konami.
Square Enix and Konami are both on the “No Show” list multiple times despite having games on both versions of the miniatures. Capcom is on once despite repeat appearances. Twice if you count Aladdin, but I highly doubt you talk to Capcom about those rights. To be fair, I also doubt Konami owns the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The publishers/IP owners on the “Doesn’t Appear” list that are not on either the NES Classic or SNES Mini are Double Helix, Acclaim, LucasArts and Disney. Especially sad is Acclaim’s NBA Jam being absent from the minute SNES since two controllers come packed in. Unfortunately, NBA Jam features the likenesses of actual people which have rights that require negotiating for attached to them. Jon Fitch was removed from the UFC due to the issue. I don’t know who owns the rights to the 1993-94 NBA season players, but acquiring those rights might be the factor keeping NBA Jam off the itty-bitty SNES.
The list of games that made it onto Nintendo’s plug and play consoles not made by Nintendo.
Every single non-Nintendo game on the NES Mini has been featured in a collection. The SNES Classic has five out of seven appearing in collections. If Konami releases an update to their Castlevania and Contra collection, all seven would be covered. Back to no show list, two out of twelve games were featured in collections: Mortal Kombat and Final Fight. Appearing in collections is, of course, not the end all be all to gracing one of Nintendo’s remake systems. To get on the GameBoy Color Mini, a game shouldn’t need to be in prior collections. There might be a correlation between how willing a company is to lend out its IP with how willing they were before.
So why don’t Final Fight or Mortal Kombat find themselves on the pint-sized SNES? They weren’t the best ports. Mortal Kombat being a notable sore spot for Nintendo with its gray sweat-blood and neutered fatalities. Final Fight is much less egregious, but would still be single-player Final Fight, missing levels and lacking the character Guy. What is stopping Nintendo from using a more feature perfect version? I don’t know. Why is the NES Classic version of Donkey Kong, their own game, still missing a level? These are loyal remakes. Upgraded in looks and refresh rate, but not in features.
Chrono Trigger likely has a more sales related reason. Over two million copies have been sold from release to 2003. The lion share (about ninety percent) in Japan. The title apparently hasn’t resonated with foreign audiences leading to it skipping the SNES Mini. The game skipping the Super Famicom Mini, the Japanese version, might be due to it still being a massive money maker with how popular the DS and the DS version is.
Pilotwings has had declining sales with each iteration of the game. The first game sold over 1.1 million units. The follow-up game, Pilotwings 64, sold 100 thousand less according to Computer Entertainment Sales Association White Papers. Pilotwings Resort, a game that took 15 years to release, needed 5 weeks to sell less than 60,000 units in Japan. Considering the 3DS sold 400,000 units in Japan at launch, the attachment rate for Pilotwings Resort is poor.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors was developed by LucasArts and published by Konami, so negotiating with two companies is double the headache. LucasArts is currently remastering their back catalog, but with DoubleFine Productions instead. I doubt Konami will allow DoubleFine to remaster an IP they have a stake in, but there could be hope for a Zombies Ate My Neighbors remaster. The Sega Genesis plug and play console does not feature the game.
The Lion King and Aladdin games are owned by Disney. Putting any Disney IP on anything should be pricey. A Disney game box may or may not exist in the future. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4’s IP use right is also probably expensive to acquire. ActRaiser has low sales in America and would be the second lowest reviewed game on the puny SNES. Super R-Type has not the best sales and middling reviews due to the intense difficulty, frequent slowdowns and missing elements. Super R-Type would be the lowest reviewed game if it appeared in the collection.
Earthworm Jim I don’t have a decent guess as to why it doesn’t appear. Double Helix might not want the game to appear in a collection when they could keep porting it and updating it like they have done numerous times. Like Zombies Ate My Neighbors, the Sega Genesis Mini is missing this game too.
These are my guesses to why your favorite games are not appearing on the SNES Mini ranging from too expensive to bad ports to low sales. I tried my best to make my guesses based on available data. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be wrong. If you think I’m wrong or know I’m wrong with evidence, let me know in the comments or reach out to me on my twitter @J_Plays_Game5.