Nintendo's big follow-up to the NES had to be something special; after all, other companies had started making their own gaming machines at this point. Whatever came next for Nintendo would have to match the advances in graphics and controls made by Sony and Sega... or do something else entirely. Which would it be?
The SNES, as it is lovingly called, came out in 1992 and made it clear that Nintendo had no intention of following their competitors. Where the PlayStation and Genesis focused on arcade gameplay, high-resolution graphics and blue hedgehogs, the SNES was a console of platformers and RPGs supported by an incredibly broad platform of quality games. The SNES in the picture above is sporting Super Metroid, one of the greatest platformers ever made.
It was called the Super Famicom in Japan, and it made it to the rest of the world under the name Super Nintendo. It was also sold in North America, though its design was changed to a horrible gray-and-purple block of a machine, whereas the original design was that of a spaceship, a vision of the 16-bit future.
The controller is a classic. 12 buttons of indestructible control. These things take some abuse, I can tell you. Of course, many third-party peripherals were made for the SNES - I own a couple, but at the end of the day, none are a match for these solid, perfectly machined beasties.
As I said, with the SNES, Nintendo went in a different direction than its competitors, and it's something they would keep doing for the next twenty-five years at least. Where Sony and eventually Microsoft focus on graphics, shoot-em-ups, 'gamer' aesthetics and bloated machines, Nintendo has always walked its own path - and I think it started here. No one ever bought a Nintendo machine for its superior graphics - we buy them for the worlds of Mario and Zelda, and for an unbroken track record (let's not get into the Virtual Boy) of excellent games that rely not on graphics or trends, but on creativity, artfulness and a certain quirky playfulness.
We didn't have a Super Nintendo as a kid, but my cousins did. So I'd play Kirby and Mario when me and my sister were over at their house on birthdays, and I have some good memories of failing miserably at the bosses that I now beat with one hand tied behind my back. But it wasn't until I bought my SNES at a thrift shop some years ago that I discovered most of its catalogue and fell in love with it. Good games twenty years ago are still good games today, and whereas I don't necessarily recommend getting an NES to everyone, I can definitely recommend picking up an SNES if you run into one - you won't regret it.