Top Ten: Games That Never Left Japan

They’re big in Japan! Here’s some of the best games that still haven’t gotten Western releases.

By Kyle England. Posted 03/05/2013 10:00 8 Comments     ShareThis

1. Satellaview

Okay, so this isn’t technically a game, but this was quite a marvel of the time. Launching in 1995, the Satellaview was an add-on for the Super Famicom that allowed users to sign up for a unique subscription service that delivered special games via satellite signal. The Satellaview had some sort of new content to play every single day for over five years before the service finally ended in 2000. Here’s how it worked: games were broadcast on a set schedule, and were only available to download at certain times. A game on Satellaview was stored on a RAM cartridge and space was limited, so it might need to be overwritten when you downloaded a new game. Games were usually episodic releases, with new levels gradually opening up each day after you completed the one before. The service also offered downloads of magazines, game demos and data, such as patches and add-ons that could be used with certain retail Super Famicom games. The interface of the Satellaview even took on the form of a little game. You played as an avatar who wandered around a town to access the various content in different areas. Some games even built upon this world and fleshed out the Satelleview town as an RPG.

Another very cool feature of the Satellaview was SoundLink, which added full voice acting to video games. SoundLink was a very interesting service, as it wasn’t actually in the game. Players had to boot up their games at a certain point in time, when live voice broadcasts would begin. Voice actors would guide players along, and voice out certain parts of the games that they were meant to be synched up with. It was like an interactive radio drama!

But what makes the Satelleview so great was the variety of games made available over the service. Nintendo released a staggering amount of content. Classic NES titles were re-released, and some such as The Legend of Zelda were remade with 16-bit graphics. The Satellaview also broadcasted brand new content from franchises like F-Zero, Fire Emblem, Kirby, Dragon Quest, Harvest Moon, and more. Totally unique titles like Zelda side-stories, Radical Dreamers, and a Super Mario Excitebike game also came out!

The Satellaview is a mystifying platform. Not only was none of the content ever released outside of Japan, but most of it has never been re-released in any form. The broadcasts were limited to run at certain times, so the only way to keep them was to make sure they never got erased. However, some features like SoundLink were not able to be saved, and many games can never be played in their original form. Satellaview was a popular service, reaching over 100,000 subscribers at its peak, but the legacy of the platform has largely been lost to the sands of time. Will we ever see a resurgence of Satellaview content? Only time will tell.

Thus concludes this grand list of games that never left Japan. Sometimes I wish I had born there so I could enjoy so many great games! We can only hope and dream that these games will someday see life beyond the shores of the great island nation. Until then, import on, stalwart Japanophiles!

Honorable Mentions:

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8 Responses to “Top Ten: Games That Never Left Japan”

  • 192 points
    Robin Wilde says...

    While the Satellaview would have been cool, I think placing it above Mother 3 might be giving it more praise than it perhaps deserves.

    GiFTPIA and Homeland have both intrigued me for years. There are fan translations available for at least GiFTPIA but they’re online only and you have to keep scrolling as you play. They’re perhaps overdue for an attempt at localisation.

    Mother 3 is my second favourite game ever. So that’s that.

  • 192 points
    Robin Wilde says...

    I just checked and it seems a translation for Captain Rainbow is available by rather grey-area means.

  • 15 points
    Crit Hit says...

    A VC release of Fire Emblem: Geneology of the Holy War would be most epic and appreciated. If they were to bring over the FE games, I’d rather they have fans translate the names. I was playing Awakening’s first Outrealm map and I still refer to “Deirdre” as “Diadora”. And it’s Celice, not Seliph.

    But I’m splitting hairs. The FE and Mother series need international release.

  • 784 points
    Marc Deschamps says...

    I’m not surprised about the lack of translation in regards to the earlier entries in the Wars and Fire Emblem series’. The amount of localization probably means that the older titles just aren’t worth the effort. The lack of a port for the 2010 Fire Emblem game is confounding, though. Wonder what happened there?

    As a teen, I was so mad at Nintendo for not bringing over the Game Boy sequel to Pokémon TCG. That’s another one I never understood. Seemed like printing money, to me.

  • 222 points
    PanurgeJr says...

    Couldn’t find a place for Tingle’s Freshly Cut Rupee Land? Poor guy never gets any love.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    that stellaview thing sounds pretty amazing, also captain rainbow

  • 276 points
    Nicolas Vestre says...

    I like the honorable mention to the Legend of Starfy series! Some years ago I imported Starfy 2 and 3 (the original wasn’t available on Play-Asia) and have since completed them. I also have Starfy 4, but I haven’t even turned it on…

    The only complaint I have about importing Starfy games is the massive amount of text. Every level is overflowing with lengthy discussions; and even though it’s entirely possible to find your way through the games without knowing Japanese (even I did it :P), the sense of loss is still there.

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