The SNES was home to some of the very best manuals of all time – not to mention some of the best games of all time (check out our list of the best selling SNES games here!) – and seeing these wonderful booklets now creates a real sense of nostalgia, as well as some sadness at the loss of printed media with our games.
Thankfully, every single SNES manual has now been uploaded online and each one is available to check out, completely free of charge!
Before we take a look at how this came to be, let’s first explain one very personal reason why we at Retro Dodo believe that this sort of preservation is so important.
Rewind back to the early 90s: as a young teenager with a SNES and not much money, I would have to travel from North London to the West End to buy games, as – at that time – the only real option for me were affordable second hand games sold by CEX, or as it was then known, The Tottenham Court Road Computer Exchange.
Having selected a game that I could afford – which was often likely to be one of the underrated SNES games, rather than one of the console’s much more expensive RPGs (check out our best SNES RPGs list!) – I’d then spend the journey home by tube and overground train, absorbing every bit of information in the game’s manual.
You’d commonly find information on the game’s controls, in-game lore and even, on occasion, beautifully detailed maps, along with hints, tips or even a partial walkthrough. Often, manuals were gorgeously illustrated and gave insight into a game’s world and characters that might not be apparent from the experience on the cartridge.
Manuals weren’t just dry instructions; they were part of the full experience of gaming in the 16-bit era (as well as before and even after those years) and in many cases, could very well be considered works of art.
Yet in the move towards digital gaming, as discs became less common, somewhere along the way manuals became less common too.
Unless we look at boutique, special edition publishers of physical games such as Limited Run or Strictly Limited Games (or even formats such as Evercade – check out our best Evercade games list here; every single Evercade cartridge has a full colour manual included!), it’s increasingly very unlikely that you’ll find a manual included with a game.
It’s a lost art from a bygone era – and being able to take a look at these manuals gives you a real understanding of why they should be preserved for future generations, especially as many current and future players will most likely be experiencing these games via digital downloads or even emulation, with the manuals unlikely to be included.
So here’s where streamer Kerry Hays (known as ‘Peebs’ on Twitch) comes into the picture.
Having set out with a mission to complete every single SNES game, it soon became apparent to Hays that some games were a bit obtuse in their design – and wondered if anyone had ever completed them. From there, Hays decided to try and check out the manuals for assistance – and, after collecting around 650 scans of SNES manuals, decided to reach out to the internet in order to see if the collection could be completed.
As of July 2022 – and thanks to the aforementioned assistance from other collectors online – the final English language manual has been uploaded, making the collection complete (unless you count Japanese language manuals too, though that’s opening a whole new can of worms!).
Admirably, Hays truly has preservation in mind and isn’t interested in charging for making these manuals available. They’re available at no cost at the Internet Archive – you can check them out right here.
Tantalisingly, now that the English-language manual scans are complete and available, Hays has hinted that other console manual collections may be on the horizon. Watch this space!
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.