SNES Classic Mini review: Nintendo packs video game history and unbridled joy into a pint-sized delight

The SNES Classic Mini and 10 of the games available.Nintendo

Nintendo's success and standing in the video game industry owes a lot to nostalgia. The company still innovates, offering new experiences to players, but its good name is rooted in creating and recreating childhood memories.

Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild capture how Nintendo blends the two in its approach to business, but there's nothing wrong with shamelessly pandering to yesteryear every now and then as well.

Enter the SNES Classic: a plug-and-play device with 20 built-in classics, plus the first ever retail release of Star Fox 2, a title developed and finished for the original system but cancelled before it ever saw a shop shelf.

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It's the inevitable successor to last year's NES Classic, which delighted those lucky enough to own one despite Nintendo's well-publicised stock shortage.

The device was a home run for Nintendo, but for all its qualities many of the 30 games the NES Classic came packaged with had aged pretty badly. They were important products of their time, but were mostly overtaken by the rapid growth that followed their release.

That wasn't a problem per se because it makes sense that the games have aged pretty badly (Zelda, Super Mario and Mega Man 2 notwithstanding), but it made NES Classic more of a piece of history than something that would provide hours and hours of joy.

As soon as NES Classic was announced fans were understandably excited, not just by the product itself, but the line of thinking Nintendo was on. Immediately, everyone saw the huge potential in a follow-up celebrating the Super Nintendo.

So while the SNES Classic comes packaged with fewer games, a great many of them play every bit as well as they did 25 years ago.

Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2, Super Metroid and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are as good as they've ever been, and play like a dream on the device – while benefiting from helpful new features.

Players will have the ability to suspend a game at any point and pick it up later, as with the NES Classic. Four save slots per game help circumvent archaic save systems; a wise move given modern expectations and tastes. NES games were more likely to have save systems worth circumventing, but it's a welcome feature nonetheless.

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Super Mario World is one of the (three? four?) games on the SNES Classic that could be considered one of the best games ever made.Nintendo

This feeds into a new feature that allows players to take these suspended points and rewind through the gameplay up until that point, then replay for roughly a minute and continue through if need be. This won't be a regularly used feature, but as a means of creating de facto checkpoints it works a treat.

SNES Classic also has display options that include the original 4:3 aspect ratio, a narrower "Pixel Perfect" mode and the CRT filter, which puts an old-style CRT screen effect over gameplay, for that authentic mid-90s feel.

I won't be the only person who never owned a SNES and had to play many of these games through remakes, re-releases and brief sessions with other people's consoles. So while I've played many of these titles before, actually owning them, even if this form, feels like filling in a missing piece.

The design of the device itself is, like its predecessor, just a miniature version of the original console, with two ports in the back for HDMI and power cables, and two controller ports on the front behind a flap made to look like the original ports.

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With the flap up the console is a gorgeous little thing, but the flap looks a little ugly when it's down and a controller is jacked in. It's a minor aesthetic criticism however.

With the NES Classic, Nintendo made the odd decision to give each controller a ridiculously short cable, meaning players had to sit roughly three feet from the console. The company clearly learned its lesson to a certain point, giving the SNES Classic five-foot cables. It's an improvement of course, but even that won't be enough for some players.

Throw in a big TV and suddenly you're going bug-eyed playing Earthbound in a makeshift SNES IMAX.

The controllers themselves feel good, pretty much exactly the same as the originals, with the directional pad in particular comfortable and effective, unlike modern day D-pads that feel like they were glued on at the last minute.

SNES Classic Mini 9 stars

Nintendo is having a banner year with the success of new console Nintendo Switch and the steady stream of quality titles coming to the burgeoning system. The SNES Classic is another home run, a no-brainer sure to be one of the year's most desirable gizmos. The wealth of history on offer in this little box is only matched by the timeless quality of its games. Nintendo has made another must-have... but whether or not you 'will have' is up to Nintendo finally sorting out its stock woes.

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