Opinion: SimCity on NES Was a Lost Opportunity

SimCity is one of the most revolutionary titles in video game history with 36 different ports across PC platforms and home consoles, yet one platform mysteriously missing is the Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom Home Computer.

Will Wright created the original city-building game in 1989 for the Commodore 64 and published by his company, Maxis. He conceived the game after his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay, a helicopter simulator, was released in 1984 and published by Brøderbund using the map editor tool as the basis for his next game. Catching Nintendo's eye for the unique gaming experience, the company sent representatives including Shigeru Miyamoto traveled to Maxis in California to discuss console rights.

Maxis agreed to develop the game for both the NES and Super NES platforms. Despite footage and screenshots of both versions reaching gaming journalists including Nintendo's in-house publication, Nintendo Power at Winter CES 1991, Nintendo only released the SNES version while cancelling the NES version.

The game was thought to be lost as only prototypes were made. The unfinished game, laden with bugs and scripting issues, became a long sought-after item to which the Video Game History Foundation calls "The Holy Grail" among collectors. The only video footage of the game in action then was on a show called Video Power.

When comparing the two versions of the game, the similarities were uncanny. Given how the game didn't require high grade processing with the point-and-click system, the game allows players to set up buildings in an attempt to create synergy and prosperity within their own enclave. The game will throw random crises at you, more so if your city lacks proper balance. As you generate revenue, you have the ability to expand and grow attracting more virtual citizens.

A copy of the NES port surfaced in 2017 at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. The VGHF provided side-by-side screenshots of the NES and SNES versions. Unique to the Nintendo versions is the addition to Dr. Wright, named after game's creator, to add personality and create a friendly environment during the tutorials. What might seem silly is Dr. Wright's appearance between the Japanese and US versions of the game with brighter colors versus the choice between a bow tie or regular tie. The NES version also had an exclusive soundtrack composed by Soyo Oka, who also worked on other Super Nintendo titles Pilot Wings and Super Mario Kart.

A lost opportunity, the NES port would no doubt be a classic. It would be inexpensive to finish and show gamers the prowess of the system, especially since you can't use the same tactics on the NES version as you would the SNES. For Sim fans, it presents a new challenge and dynamic to the game.

Video Games History Foundation Comparison NES and SNES versions of SimCity
Credit: The Video Games History Foundation

Should EA (who currently owns Maxis) complete the NES version for Nintendo's eShop? Did you play the SNES version? Nintendo owes its fans this lost gem. Sound off in the comments below.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.

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