The North American version of the top-loading NES-101 — Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

All the way back in 1988, Nintendo would show to the media a brand new piece of hardware that would eventually become the Super Famicom, or the Super NES in the West. It was an exciting time for the gaming community as Nintendo entered the 16-bit era, though it seems certain details from the reveal have slipped through the cracks in the years since — or perhaps just the cracks in our memory!

Friend-of-the-site Mike Diver reached out to Twitter asking about this 'Famicom Adapter' system Nintendo unveiled but never brought to market, and it looks to have been an early version of the top-loading New-Style NES or NES-101 (or the AV Famicom as it was known in Japan).

Looking at the image, this system appears to be an early attempt to reimagine the Famicom/NES to align with the more modern design sensibilities of the then-upcoming Super Famicom/SNES.

Now, unreleased Nintendo hardware always gets our juices flowing, but what's particularly interesting here is that this console appears to have been conceived as both a standalone system and as an optional expansion to the Super Famicom, meaning users would only require one set of AV leads going into their television sets. You can see the prototype unit sitting next to an early version of the Super Famicom in the tweet above. You can also see that this ill-fated hardware revision used Super Famicom controllers, too, further extending the design language across generations.

That the Super Famicom wouldn't be backward compatible with the previous console's library was a source of consumer upset at the time, with gamers and families having spent a lot of money over the years building an 8-bit Nintendo library. This system appears to be a half-step, Nintendo-like solution to that problem... except it involved making you buy another console anyway. Yep, sure sounds like Nintendo!

The 'Famicom Adapter' never materialised, of course, paving the way for the release of the totally standalone 'New NES' revision and the slightly different AV Famicom in Japan (the case had a flat top to maintain compatibility with the Japan-only Famicom Disk System) in 1993 — and the Super NES would eventually get its own similarly cute 'New' revision, too. The AV Famicom included a more rounded controller, although it only had two face buttons compared to the unreleased prototype version:

AV Famicom Controller
Undeniably curvier and comfier — Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Looking back, it's fascinating to see what could have been. The 'Famicom Adapter' certainly shares a few similarities to the NES-101 but we would have loved to have it sit side-by-side with the SNES in a Genesis 2/SEGA CD 2-style arrangement!

Do you recall seeing this 'Famicom Adapter' before? Would you have preferred it to the NES-101? Let us know in the comments below!

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