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Every English Super Nintendo manual is publicly available, thanks to this streamer

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Video game consoles have come a long way since Atari. But, you know, sometimes it's just hard to beat the classics, right?

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System hit the U.S. in 1991, just a couple years after the competing Sega Genesis console launched.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: When you decide to get serious, there's only one place to come - the games of Super Nintendo.

CHANG: Now, the Super Nintendo was wildly popular, with over 700 games released for the system in the U.S. And Kerry Hays, aka Peebs on Twitch, has been working on beating every single one.

KERRY HAYS: We had wondered, some of these games, had anyone ever even beaten them before? They were so weird and obscure or difficult.

SHAPIRO: So he turned to the manuals. For those who were not playing a ton of video games in the '90s, almost all of them came with a manual inside the case that had lots of helpful information.

HAYS: If you wanted the story, you would get that in the manual in the first couple pages. And if you were really lucky, you would get a little bit of, like, a walkthrough that would tell you, like, the first 10% of the game.

CHANG: Now, modern games typically have an intro cut scene and a tutorial within the first hour of the game. But older games didn't have the time or the space to include those, hence the manuals. Nowadays, though, a vintage game complete with a paper manual can be hard to come by.

SHAPIRO: Which is why Hays collected copies of every single Super Nintendo manual in the English language. The collection is hosted on archive.org, and it's completely free.

HAYS: Because preservation to me is, everybody has access to this stuff when they want it and where they want it.

CHANG: Luke Plunkett covers gaming for Kotaku. He wrote about Hays' mission to collect every manual back in October 2020 and again when every English language manual was finally archived this July.

LUKE PLUNKETT: You know, it was almost like, wow, I can't believe nobody's done this before. It's so important.

CHANG: Plunkett says it was the crowdsourcing aspect of Hays' project that caught his eye.

PLUNKETT: The goodwill aspect's what really sort of drew me to the story in the first place.

SHAPIRO: Sorry, I was distracted looking at the manual for The Legend of Zelda.

CHANG: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Hays told us he started his collection with around 650 scans and then turned to the internet to see what strangers could offer.

PLUNKETT: There can be a ton more people who are like, oh, hey, I've got an old Super Nintendo manual lying around or, oh, I've got some old Super Nintendo games at my parents' house. I'll go and see if any of the games that they need are there.

CHANG: And Hays is not done yet.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Finish him.

HAYS: Everybody keeps asking me like, hey, are you going to do this system? And, hey, are you going to do that system? And I'm like, no, I think we're going to do all systems because why not?

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Fatality.

SHAPIRO: The myth of Sisyphus comes to mind - just pushing that boulder up the hill.

HAYS: It's a fun boulder, though. Like, it's a fun boulder, and you meet all sorts of, like, interesting people all over the world.

CHANG: That's Kerry Hays, aka Peebs. You can find him streaming Super Nintendo games and the link to the manual archive on Twitch.

SHAPIRO: Meanwhile, I'm going to try to finally win Super Mario Brothers.

CHANG: I had no idea you were such a video game nerd, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Oh, long ago.

CHANG: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Lim
Sarah Handel