The Nintendo Entertainment System may have revolutionized the home gaming industry in the 80s, but the iconic NES got an S-rank upgrade in the 90s with the introduction of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Dominating the first half of the 90s for Nintendo (until the game-changing N64 arrived in 1996), the SNES enjoyed the release of over 700 titles in its library. There were so many games, in fact, that the newly released tome “The SNES Omnibus” from Schiffer Publishing is Volume 1 of 2, encompassing titles A-M. The good news is that this first volume is a fantastic revisit back to award-winning and overlooked games alike (seriously, if anyone ever writes a 90s version of “Ready Player One”, this book needs to be in the reference material); the bad news is that we’ll have to wait a bit for Volume 2 and titles like “Secret of Evermore”, “Star Fox”, and every game that starts with the word “Super.”
As for the author, Brett Weiss has written more than 1,500 published articles in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Game Informer, Gameroom Magazine, and Fangoria, among many others. His monthly national column for AntiqueWeek called “The Pop Culture Collective,” and his annual spring, fall, summer, and holiday video game gift guides are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of readers. And “The SNES Omnibus” is far from his first go-round regarding books about video games. Weiss has written nine books, including the “Classic Home Video Games” series, “The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987”, and “Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films.” Schiffer was kind enough to send us a review copy of Weiss’ new book, but before we get into its excellent content, let’s spare a minute to talk about the fantastic construction of this omnibus.
Schiffer Publishing’s 400+page tome is a perfect coffee table book. In fact, it could almost double as a coffee table itself since it sizes up at a hold-it-in-your-lap-worthy 9″ x 12″. It’s a hefty, well-built encyclopedia, which is exactly what you expect from a book chronicling 350 early 90s video games; I can’t wait to see how it looks on the book shelf when paired with Volume 2. The big, glossy cover features the rounded, six-action-button controller that’s part of the SNES’ iconic design, one which solved the pesky problem of having the NES controller’s hard corners leave indents in your hands after hours of playing. The back cover features gorgeous and iconic artwork from such fan-favorite, acclaimed games as “The Legend of Zelda”, “Contra III: The Alien Wars”, and “Donkey Kong Country”, all of which get bonus coverage above and beyond the basic exploration of lesser-known titles in the book.
But it’s the content that really makes “The SNES Omnibus” worth the price tag. Anyone could just go run down a list of SNES titles on Wikipedia; this tome not only includes a ton of artwork–over 2,000 color images of box art, screenshots, pictures of the cartridges themselves from the front and the top, and even vintage promotional material for the system and games themselves–but also trivia, “Insider Insights” from casual and professional gamers alike, and “Notable Quotables” pulled from vintage and retrospective reviews. Each game entry includes a minimum of a plot breakdown; a nostalgia nod to what made the game great, not-so-great, or at least memorable; and a bit of trivia related to the title. Some of the bigger games, like “Donkey Kong Country” and “The Legend of Zelda” get bonus coverage, of course.
What’s great about “The SNES Omnibus” isn’t just its usefulness as a reference book but as a time-travel device used to revisit the early 90s. You can read the book cover to cover and learn a lot about the titles you know, the ones you’ve forgotten, and the ones you’ve never even heard of, or you can flip through the alphabetical rundown to find your favorite title. So while I’ll have to wait for Volume 2 to read up on “Secret of Mana” and “Secret of Evermore”, among many others, I was thrilled to find that I shared a strikingly similar experience to the contributing author’s memory of the Final Fantasy game “Mystic Quest.” That little shared moment of nostalgia can be found repeatedly throughout this book, and while everyone’s experience with these games will be slightly different, there’s a lot of common ground here that makes you want to show this book off to every 90s kid that you know.
Additionally, the very technical (and impressive) breakdown of the SNES’ technological breakthroughs early on in this book offers up some super-nerdy and fascinating insight into the mystery box itself, while closing chapters feature editorials on the early 90s gaming console wars and the gray legal area of emulation. These are nice bonus pieces that complement the whole. So whether you read this whole omnibus like a book or use it on occasion as a reference guide, I think you’ll find “The SNES Omnibus: Vol. 1” to be a worthy addition to your library, especially if you grew up with the games found within its pages.
Here’s the official synopsis for “The SNES Omnibus: Vol. 1”:
Volume 1 of the SNES Omnibus is a fun and informative look at all the original Super Nintendo games released in the U.S. starting with the letters A–M. More than 350 games are featured, including such iconic titles as Chrono Trigger, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Donkey Kong Country, EarthBound, F-Zero, Final Fantasy II and III, Gradius III, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Each game, whether obscure or mainstream, is covered in exhaustive detail. In addition to thorough gameplay descriptions, the book includes reviews, fun facts, historical data, quotes from vintage magazines, and, best of all, nostalgic stories about many of the games from programmers, authors, convention exhibitors, video game store owners, YouTube celebs, and other industry insiders. The book also features more than 2,000 full-color images, including box art, cartridges, screenshots, and vintage ads.
Size: 9″ x 12″ | 2,000+ color images | 416 pp
ISBN13: 9780764355325 | Binding: hard cover