In an age where it seems that new books go straight to digital platforms such as Kindle with publishers going the ebook route, it's refreshing that independent book publisher Schiffer Publishing decided to print a literal tome (the thing is about 9" by 12", hardcover, and an inch or so thick) on retro video games. Specifically, the history of the Super Nintendo's game catalog of 700 or so titles.
Written by journalist (Sacramento Bee, Game Informer) and author Brett Weiss (The Arcade and Other Strange Tales) and listed at $49.99, the recently-released The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A-M) tells the story of every video game ever released on the now 27-year old 16-bit video game console. Well, half of them at the very least. This book only takes readers through the M's. We fully expect another volume at some point in the future.
Going well beyond just informing readers about each individual video game title like a Wikipedia entry or something written in World Book Encyclopedia, Weiss goes above and beyond expectations by including not only screenshots and box art presented in full color, but also advertisements from when publishers were marketing the games. The book summary states there are more than 2,000 such images and we wouldn't be surprised if that were an understatement. In addition to the images and game write-ups are insights and review snippets from those inside of the video game industry as well as interesting trivia. For the really notable games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country, Weiss goes even more in depth with multi-page spreads (most games only get a single page).
More than simply informative, the book is also an entertaining nostalgic read. It's really a treat to revisit popular (and non-so-popular) video games from the 1990s and that treat is even sweeter for those who grew up playing a number of those games. It's exciting to flip through the pages and read the entries for one's personal favorite games, but it's just as good going page by page and taking in each game in alphabetical order.
Going beyond simply the Super Nintendo games themselves, Weiss also spends a few pages on the console war between Nintendo and SEGA at the time. He also touches on the popular and controversial practice of SNES emulation.
As mentioned above, this is only the first volume of The SNES Omnibus. For video game titles beginning after the letter N, readers and retro video game fans alike will have to wait until Weiss and Schiffer Publishing release the next one. It's not yet known when that will be, but if vol 2 is anything like vol 1 it will be well worth the wait.