Remembering the 16-bit console launches - 30 years later

30 years ago, July 1989. We’re less than a month away from the launch of (two of) the 16-bit consoles in North America. What did you think about this time period, pre-launch and the early months of releases?

Feel free to discuss the launch era of these systems for other regions, too. And even if you didn’t experience it first hand, please give your thoughts as well.

I left out the SNES because it came out two years later where I live.

For me, 1989 was a really exciting launch era because it was the first one where I had a bunch of information and screenshots ahead of time, and the technology felt like such a big leap ahead. There was lots of magazine coverage that didn’t exist to that extent for the 8-bit Nintendo and Sega a few years earlier given the computer-dominated market at the time.

Official launch days weren’t really a thing back then. There were no midnight line ups. New game systems just kind of arrived in stores.

Some Electronic Gaming Monthly articles and Video Games & Computer Entertainment covers:

I definitely remember seeing this TV commercial for the Genesis.

For the TurboGrafx, I didn’t see a TV ad for another year or so (with Bonk in it) but I remember seeing a store flyer around launch. I think it was from Radio Shack.

As I started my grade 9 school year in September, there were gaming discussions/arguments with other kids on the bus ride home. Most talk was about NES, SMS, and C64 but a few of us were excited about the new game systems.

In 1989, the mainstream was all about the NES and Game Boy so demo units for the Genesis and TG16 weren’t as widespread. In Canada, one of the best places to try out new niche systems was a now extinct store called Compucentre.

Compucentre was neat because they always had several TVs and game systems hooked up, and you could ask to try any game they had (as long as you didn’t ask too much). This is where I first saw the Genesis and TG16 in person with Space Harrier II and Keith Courage in Alpha Zones . I was impressed with their detail and atmosphere.

Because of the high expense of new consoles, I asked for 8-bit games for my 14th birthday and Christmas that year (Kenseiden, Ninja Gaiden, and Time Soldiers all kicked ass) but I began saving up for a 16-bit machine right after that and played as much Genesis and TG16 as I could in the mean time at malls. In early and mid 1990, a friend bought a TG16 and I bought a Genesis. Between borrowing and renting, we caught up with the launch era titles quite quickly. I did later get a TG16 of my own after some price drops.

The highlights for me of the first five or so months of North American 16-bit console releases were:

On Genesis -

The Revenge of Shinobi

Ghouls n Ghosts

Tommy Lasorda Baseball

Wikipedia says Golden Axe made it out in 1989 but in my experience, it arrived in Spring 1990, a bit outside of the launch window.

On TurboGrafx -

Alien Crush

Legendary Axe

Blazing Lazers

Your thoughts on the 16-bit consoles in that time period?


Would have been an exciting era. We never got the PC Engine and I was too young to know what was up with all these Segas and Nitendos at the time anyway.

The interesting thing about the releases of both of those consoles is how low key they were unless you were truly deeply into gaming at the time. I was playing NES then and it took awhile for Sega Genesis to get on my radar.

In 1989 I was graduating high school and heading off to college. The original Tecmo Bowl shipped in early 1989 as a point of reference. My gaming before I left for college was mostly on my Atari 800XL home computer. The full launch of NES didn’t happen until 1986 so for many people that was still picking up steam in 1989. Genesis and Turbografx were just way off the reservation in 1989. At college in the fall, I got to play NES for real for the first time (I had played it in 1985 at FAO Schwartz in NYC when it was soft launched on a Christmas trip) because a guy on my hall owned one. We finished Ninja Gaiden after leaving the NES on for days. Baseball Stars was huge, having arrived that summer. I played a little Super Mario Bros. and watched another guy finish SMB 2 that first year. I only bought an NES with a roommate in my 1990-1991 year and paid for his half of it in May of 1991. It took me until 1992 to get a Genesis with Bulls vs Lakers and the NBA Playoffs as well as Sonic the Hedgehog. I know I saw Tommy Lasorda Baseball at least a year or two before that, and Lakers vs. Celtics in late 1991 or early 1992, but it was all NES really until 1992 for me and really, for most people. We were all competing in Tecmo Super Bowl, playing leagues and loving life.

My senior year in college was full on 16-bit, though. Genesis and later SNES for Street Fighter II were the deal, and while I still have my NES, it is still most fondly remembered by me for sports games which is also why I needed Genesis at the time.

It really was a completely different time. Sega Saturn was probably the first real big system launch and even that was because it was such a big surprise in the US that ultimately probably cost them. I bought it day one because I worked at Electronics Boutique and the manager called me and said, “You have to tell me right now if you want one because I can’t hold it!” I of course said yes and picked it up with Panzer, Daytona and of course Virtua Fighter in the box. PlayStation launch later that year was the first TRUE planned, some people waited in line, system launch. I got Toshinden, Ridge Racer, Raiden Project and Rayman on day one with that IIRC. It was also a big deal because there was no packed in game for the first time ever!

Back before the perpetual motion hype machine turned everything into an event and the product didn’t actually matter.

1 Like

Yeah, the new consoles were definitely for enthusiasts only in 1989. It seemed like the NES Power Glove alone got more attention than the 16-bit consoles that Christmas. I would tell people they would be better off spending $25 more and getting a deluxe Sega Master System set than buying a Power Glove.

Nintendo is only releasing the Super Nintendo because they want money.


So many parents in 1991 seemed to think the NES was the first game system ever made, and that it came out in 1990 when they bought it.


It’s not like there were video games before Nintendo

To think, Super Mario 3 took over the US in 1990, a few months after they made a freaking Hollywood movie with Kevin Arnold and Christian Slater to promote it.

Mario 3 was only released in PAL in 1991.

The Famicom/NES was EIGHT years old by then!

1 Like

I think that’s the official Resetera slogan.

1 Like

Interesting thread. The earliest console launches I can remember reading about were post-16 bit machines, and often in Edge magazine.

It’s hard to imagine today seeing big platforms launch without a massive hype machine behind them (though I did appreciate how the Nintendo Switch’s launch was a relatively quiet launch compared to, say, PS4).

I guess refresh systems are probably the closest thing. I remember walking into Electronics Boutique (might have become a GAME then) on the day Link’s Awakening came out for the GBA. I hadn’t noticed it launched on the same day as the GBA SP, and the store itself was completely empty.

SNES we bought at Christmas 1992. With F-Zero and Pilotwings. I’ve still got the box, not quite sure what happened to the actual SNES over the years.

The brother of my best friend had imported an SFC and seeing F-Zero blew my tiny mind wide open. Amazing.

PS1 was another Christmas present for the whole family. But I played it most.

DC I missed launch, I wasn’t into gaming so much at the time.

GBA I think was the first console launch I bought myself. Saw it on my lunch break and just bought it on a whim.

GC and Wii I was there at HMV Oxford Street for launch. Super fun times.

DS and PSP I got friends in Canada to send me.

In hindsight, the two best launches for me personally were Dreamcast (it was so effing amazing because of Soul Calibur, Sonic, and NFL 2K) and the Wii. The Wii because it was so hard to get and my kids were at the perfect age to receive it for Christmas and have one of those magical family Christmases you can’t ever forget. :slight_smile: