Posted 11 October 2012 - 01:36 PM
Actually, the largest licensed NES game was 6mbit, or 768KB (Kirby's dreamland), there was another game at 5mb (640KB), and many at 4mb (512KB). On the SNES, two games weighed in at 48mb, or 6 MB, (JRPGs Tales of Phantasia and Star Ocean). The N64's largest cartridges were 512mb, or 64MB, (Resident Evil 2 and Conker's Bad Fur Day).
In terms of cartridges you were always constrained by what was economical, you were told by the suits what size your ROM would be and you filled every bit of it. Then there were CDs, which were effectively infinite in size when they first came out. On the PC side, there was really never any hard constraint. The only one's concerned with size these days are people who have to deal with the arbitrary limits set by the various marketplaces (XBox Live Arcade or Indie Games, App Store, Google Play, PSN, etc), but all those are well north or 10MB.
Its worth mentioning that it wasn't precisely the size of the experience that kept those old school games small -- it was more the fidelity of the experience: Smaller graphics, less colors, and fewer frames of animation make for a rather effective lossy compression scheme. Sound was effectively stored as a series of commands (not unlike midi), or samples (not unlike MOD) in later years -- much more efficient than full WAV audio tracks, or even MP3s.
If you remade even Super Mario Bros. 1 today to meet contemporary standards for quality 2D graphics and audio, it'd probably end up being 3 orders of magnitude larger in terms of raw assets, and general-purpose compression might win back an order of magnitude or so -- so the final product might end up being 2 orders of magnitude larger: about 32mb, or 4MB.
In short, there's certainly a lot you can do with 10MB I agree, but in the light of a "modern" Super Mario Bros. being nearly half of that without specialized compression, it's no wonder so few games weigh in at under 10MB today.