There wasn't a more magical time in my gaming life than the 90s. I was born in 1987 when a lot of great games premiered, but I wouldn’t be playing them until later as, you know, babies aren’t very good at video games. Point is, the SNES and PS1 were magical times in my gaming life with so many fun stories falling around playing specific games and the memories tied to them. While I long for those simpler days again I’m also happy to live in the present because of one thing: the Internet. Not in terms of everything I can do on there, but because it allows me to learn more about my childhood obsessions that I had no idea about. That is to say, because I loved the 90s so much, I went ahead and researched a bunch of my favorite games from this time period in order to better understand the things I adore.
As a writer, I also love sharing these discoveries with the world. I can’t be the only obsessed gamer from the 90s that longs for those simpler times. I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff on here you probably already know as I’m not the first writer to delve deep into Nintendo games. If that were the case how would I find my facts? That said I also made sure to dig up some more obscure factoids to coincide with the more obvious ones. Give it a look. I’m sure there is bound to be a surprise, or two in here.
25 Banjo-Kazooie On Super Nintendo?
Banjo-Kazooie had a weird beginning. Technically it started life on the SNES as Dream: Land of the Giants, which resembled a 2.5D hybrid Zelda-like game. Footage of this exists online along with the N64 version, which was the next evolutionary step.
This fact could also be called The Legend of Banjo: A Link to the Kazooie.
The boy in the game was changed to Banjo, then it was scrapped, but Banjo was kept for another attempt. First, another more 2.5D platformer by himself and then it eventually turned into the game we know and love today.
24 Cut Characters In Mario Kart 64
This DeviantArt image, via BigDaddyDowney, is a reimagining of the original Mario Kart 64 cast. First of all it was originally going to be called Super Mario Kart R and Kamek, Mario’s magician antagonist that first appeared in Super Mario World, was going to be a playable character.
Put Kamek in the next Mario Kart!
However, the name was later changed to what we know it as now and Kamek was booted to the curb in favor of Donkey Kong. He’s never been included since.
23 What Was Kirby Named After?
The original name for Kirby was going to be Popopo and the name of the game, Kirby’s Dream Land, was to be Twinkle Popo. Kirby was chosen instead as a reference to the lawyer, John Kirby, who represented Nintendo in a case where Universal Studios tried to sue them for copyright infringement in regards to Donkey Kong being a rip off of King Kong. And in case you can’t guess they won that case. What would the world be like if they lost?
22 Creating Bosses For Mega Man
Starting with Mega Man 2 and lasting all the way up until Mega Man 7, there were contests for fans to get their Robot Master ideas into the game. However, most of these contests were exclusive to Japan, except for Mega Man 6, which was international. Daniel Vallée, from Canada, created Knight Man. Michael Leader, from the U.S., submitted the idea for Wind Man. Here’s a bonus fact from my own knowledge. Yusuke Murata, the One Punch Man artist, submitted his idea for Dust Man in the Japanese contest for Mega Man 4.
21 Who Is Samus Based On?
Samus’ model in Super Metroid was based on actress Kim Basinger. She is perhaps best known around this time for her work in Tim Burton’s Batman films, wherein she played reporter Vicki Vale. Speaking of her body, in the Japanese version, whenever she perished, Samus would appear bare. This was obviously censored elsewhere where she had on a black leotard instead. Oh yeah, and she also made noise, which was also taken out to avoid more controversy.
20 Jean-Claude Van Damme In Mortal Kombat?
Just four people created the first Mortal Kombat. That’s not the amazing fact. See it was also supposed to be a movie tie-in to Universal Soldier. It was still planned to use the digitized sprites, notably using the movie’s star, Jean-Claude Van Damme.
We could be playing Universal Soldier X right now.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you feel, he was too busy with other projects so we got the reworked mega-hit franchise we all know and love today. If it wasn’t obvious, Johnny Cage is based on Van Damme specifically for his role in Blood Sport.
19 Before Pokémon There Was…
Early concepts for the original Pokémon games were related to Japan’s obsession with capsule toys. That’s the vending machines you can put money into to get a small toy. Concept art, as you can see in the bottom right corner above, shows a trainer buying monsters inside capsules from a store. Also, on that note, the name was going to be called Capsule Monsters, which then morphed into CapuMon, and eventually to Pocket Monsters, or Pokémon. While I love what we got instead, I’m fascinated with these early ideas.
18 Link Fights Starfox
Here’s a secret boss I wish we could have gotten in the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time. So this is an R-Wing you can access with a Game Shark within the data of Ocarina of Time that attacks Link in Kokiri Forest. Why? Well, the movements of the boss, Volvagia, were patterned after it. In order to test it out in theme, they put in the dummy code for the R-Wing from Star Fox 64, which is a test practice that happens in a lot of games.
17 Cut Characters In Super Smash Bros.
Since Super Smash Bros. is on the brain what with Nintendo’s recent announcements regarding their Switch version, I thought it was a good idea to include this. Bowser, Mewtwo, Marth, and King Dedede were all considered for Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, but were dropped due to time constraints and ROM space.
And yet we still have no Waluigi.
Also dropped was the idea of Final Smashes. Unlike the characters though, the sound effects still exist in the game’s code for Samus, Kirby, Fox, Pikachu, Falcon, and Ness.
16 The Lost Punch-Out Sequel
The licensing agreement to have Mike Tyson’s likeness and name be apart of the NES Punch-Out ran out in 1990. Nintendo didn’t renew the license and instead re-released the game as Punch-Out, replacing Tyson with an original boxer named Mr. Dream. However, they were working on a sequel with Mike Tyson. It was called Mike Tyson’s Intergalactic Power Punch. However, due to his imprisonment in 1991, Nintendo decided to rework the game. They removed his likeness and name and released the game in 1992 as Power Punch II even though there was never a Power Punch I.
15 No Hideo For You
Now that Metal Gear is seemingly over, we can talk about the black sheep of the family. Snakes Revenge is a direct sequel to the Metal Gear NES port. It was indeed developed by Konami and in Japan, but strangely enough it only released in North America and Europe despite the series starting in Japan. It is the only Metal Gear not available in that country. Hideo Kojima was also not involved and is the only game he had no input on whatsoever.
14 Square Gives Nintendo The Boot
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was the last Square game to appear on a Nintendo console outside of Japan in 1996. The next time this would happen wouldn’t be until Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Sword of Mana, both released in August 2003. This is slightly different for the Japanese audience, though relatively close as the gap was from 1996-2002. The reason for this gap, despite working so well together for their first three systems, was because Square and Sony entered a partnership with the release of the PlayStation.
13 Battletoads’ Hidden Level Debunked
On the back of the NES box for Battletoads, there is a level that looks like it’s another speeder bike race, but in a fierier environment. While there is still a fire environment in the game, the Battletoads ride a plane through it instead. The level was reworked after the box art was already published. This was stated in an interview with one of the designers on the game, Gregg Mayles. That’s why there was confusion and prompted some to think there was a secret level of some sort. Oh, those poor fans.
12 Castlevania’s Castle Inspirations
The most iconic thing about the Castlevania series is its castles. They change over time and are based on real places. In Castlevania Dracula X, the castle on the box references the real world location of Bran Castle in Romania. However, in the game, on the castle map, it looks more inspired by the castle in The Castle of Cagliostro, the Lupin the 3rd movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. That’s a little bonus fact for you in case you didn’t know Miyazaki, the acclaimed Ghibli director, cut his teeth early on with Lupin.
11 Chrono Trigger Bands Versus Condiments
Here’s a weird little naming convention for Chrono Trigger’s Japanese and Western releases. Magus has three subordinates you fight in his castle, which are all named after famous musicians in the West. There is Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Ozzy from Black Sabbath, and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Localizers loved naming characters after rock bands in the 90s.
However, in Japan, they reference condiments instead, being Soiso for soy sauce, Mayone for mayonnaise, and Binegaa for vinegar. I bet that was Akira Toriyama’s idea since he loved naming his Dragon Ball characters after food too.
10 Double Dragon Started Microtransactions
While this is not directly tied to Nintendo, it’s too crazy not to share. The third Double Dragon game for arcades was titled The Rosetta Stone. In it, players could put in more quarters to buy things in the in-game shop, which might be the very earliest example of a pay to win strategy found in microtransaction games today, This was back in 1990! To tie it back into Nintendo, the NES version, The Sacred Stones, did not obviously implement this tactic. In fact, it was a completely different game.
9 EarthBound’s Beatles Inspirations
In Japan, this series is called Mother with EarthBound being Mother 2. It was named Mother because the game’s director, Shigesato Itoi, liked the song “Mother” by John Lennon and based the game’s theme on his lyrics. This isn’t the only Beatles reference either. There are numerous sound bites taken almost directly from their songs. That’s why it took forever to be re-released digitally outside of Japan for fear of copyright infringement. Take a look at this and get ready to be blown away.
8 Final Fantasy III’s Hidden Boss
There is an unused boss in Final Fantasy III called the Czar Dragon. It can still be accessed via cheats, contains dialogue, but is difficult to beat since it doesn’t stop attacking. Rumors spread that this was actually a hidden boss in the game and ways to access it appeared in numerous forms online.
Our Final Fantasy III is Japan’s VI.
It’s not possible however without the use of cheats, or glitches since it was planned, but ultimately scrapped due to time constraints. It was eventually put in with the Game Boy Advance port but changed to the Kaiser Dragon.
7 Zelda Is My What?
There is an error with A Link tot the Past’s localization that caused rampant theories to pop up between Link and Zelda. In Japanese, Link’s uncle roughly says, “Save Princess Zelda, you are the Princess’…” In the Western version he says, “Save the Princess, Zelda is your…” The Western version theorized that there is a family tie based off of this comment, but the Japanese version would imply Link’s uncle might say something along the lines of, “You are the Princess’ only hope” in reference to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
6 Wario And Waluigi’s Origins
The names of Wario and Waluigi are portmanteaus aka a combination of words. In Japan, Warui means bad, so put that together with Mario Warui and Luigi Warui and you basically get Bad Mario and Bad Luigi. What does this have to do with 90s games? Well, Wario first appeared in the 1992 classic, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Waluigi, on the other hand, didn’t appear until 2000’s Mario Tennis, but I included him in here anyway because Wario and Waluigi are so closely tied together.
5 A Pizza For Every Turtle
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for NES may look worse to its arcade counterpart, but it does feature new music and levels. Plus it was advertised as the sequel to the previously released live-action movie that was doing tremendously well in the box office. Way to go marketers. Another advertising note of interest is that Pizza Hut’s logo was not only featured in the game, but a coupon was included with the box. Also, if it wasn’t obvious, this marketing deal was not included in the Japanese release.
4 Mario And Wario In Pokémon
In Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, if you examine Copycat’s SNES it will read this, “A game with Mario wearing a bucket on his head!” This probably meant virtually nothing to players outside of Japan, but this is actually a real game developed by Game Freak.
Buckethead would love this game.
It’s a puzzle game called Mario & Wario wherein players must guide Mario through mazes via a fairy as his head is obscured by a, you guessed it, bucket.
3 Yoshi’s Appearance Could Have Been Sooner
Yoshi was conceptually planned after Super Mario Bros., but Shigeru Miyamoto claimed the idea had to wait because of the NES’ technical limitations. This claim can be found in the Mario Mania Player’s Guide, in which the interview was translated. However, let’s look at the facts. Super Mario World came out in 1991 for the West. Two years later Radical Entertainment created the NES version of Mario is Missing wherein Luigi can ride Yoshi. I guess it was only technically difficult for Miyamoto to program in Yoshi. Boom!
2 Street Fighter II’s Name Confusion
There were a bunch of names altered when Street Fighter II was brought over from Japan. M. Bison is an obvious reference to Mike Tyson, the real world boxer. If that isn’t obvious enough, M. Bison was a boxer so if you couldn’t guess the man we know now as Balrog was M. Bison in Japan. It was changed in the localization to avoid controversy. Our M. Bison was Vega in Japan and our Vega was their Balrog. The two countries are still different, making things confusing for international tournaments.
1 Zero Was Supposed To Be The Star
Keiji Inafune is often credited for being the “father of Mega Man” but he didn’t design the original character. Akira Kitamura, who directed the first game while Inafune was just a credited artist, drew him. That’s not the cool 90s fact. That comes into play with Mega Man X.
Zero finally got his revenge on the GBA.
The first original protagonist Inafune created wasn’t until that game with Zero, who was actually supposed to be the game’s star before it was later changed to X.