The History Of Nintendo: A Fan’s Perspective

Nintendo – Just saying the name of this illustrious company is enough to spark debate amongst most gamers.  The once alleged bastion for the ‘hardcore gamer’ seemed to surprise many a few years ago when it appeared to completely change strategy and focus on the casual market.

The point of this article is to look at the key points in Nintendo’s history, but from a fan’s perspective.  This is in no way a comprehensive list, but it is what I remember from my 20+ years as someone who has followed Nintendo.

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The year is 1986, shoulder pads are in vogue, and The Nintendo Entertainment System has just been launched in Europe.  Not counting the ‘Game & Watch’ brand, the NES was my first experience of Nintendo – and boy was I hooked.  Whilst pitiful by today’s standards, at the time I remember thinking the NES must be witchcraft due to the games detailed sprites and vivid colour palette.

Of course – Mario and Zelda stole the show – but the games I remember most are the oddball ones that perhaps didn’t receive as much attention.  Isolated Warrior, Tailspin, Chip’N’Dale Rescue Rangers all took far too much of my time and ignited my love of gaming.  Two buttoned control pads?  How very retro!

Life got even better in 1990 when the Game Boy was launched in Europe – setting the benchmark for any other portable system that would ever be released.  Looking back, the Game Boy should have been a disaster – a hideous and blurry monochrome screen combined with bulk that would shame a Hippo would be enough to kill off a handheld nowadays.

Fortunately the Game Boy had a killer app – the puzzle game Tetris.  That’s not to say I didn’t play any other games; Zelda, Mario and even Wario all made their mark.

Those of TSA’s slightly younger readers may be surprised to read that it took two years for Nintendo to bring The Super Nintendo Entertainment System from Japan to Europe – finally delivering the goods in 1992.  I suppose one of my fondest memories of the SNES is the release of The Super FX Chip which allowed impressive (at the time) graphical capabilities and was used in the game ‘Star Wing.’

Without wanting this to turn into a total cheese-fest, I would cite this as a golden era of gaming.  Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong, Star Wing, Bomberman, Killer Instinct – the list is endless but at the time nothing beat the feeling of returning home with my SNES/Street Fighter II bundle and inviting my mates round.  Here comes a new challenger!  In my opinion it also had the most bad-ass looking peripheral – the Super Scope!

Nintendo also flirted with the ‘SatellaView’ adaptor, allowing the SNES to receive digital data via satellite.

In 1995 the Virtual Boy was released.  Moving on…

March 1997 saw the start of my favourite generation of gaming with the release of the Nintendo 64.  I had never ever been so excited in my life and literally dash-stepped home with the console clutched firmly to my chest.  Even the controller was a revelation, with its three prongs, analogue stick and trigger button (a Z button! Wow!).  Super Mario 64 was, and still is, the defining moment of gaming for me.

After a few wobbly steps, I was soon flinging Mario around this lush and detailed world like it was second nature – and I have subsequently bought this game at least twice more on various Nintendo platforms.  Then of course there was The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time which I could write an article on itself.

Nintendo also introduced the Rumble Pak which was boxed with Lylat Wars – and although the rumble was strong enough to cause injury, I loved it!  Not everything was rosy though as the N64 was lacking in some key areas.  To my knowledge it never had a really good hardcore fighting game bar ‘Fighter’s Destiny’ – and if you were a fan of racing games then chances are you’ll have died of boredom with the likes of ‘Top Gear’ and ‘GT64.’

In early September Nintendo also introduced the Game Boy Pocket, a sleeker, 30-percent-smaller version of the Game Boy.

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16 Comments

  1. Good read that. I too remember the glory days of nes and snes. Everything since has been crap. Both my mrs and my mum love their ds, and i know a lot of girls that love the wii. Seems odd but i reckon it’s a much more female friendly company than the other big 2.

    • I honestly think the 3DS will hark back to those glory days – first console launch I’ve been excited about for a few years.

  2. Ahh, the good old retro days. Was a huge Zelda Ocarina of Time fan and loved my Goldneye, Banjo Kazooie too. I’ve even bought myself an N64 back, just to get back into the classic games again.
    My daughters love their wii too. You always hear the screams of Rayman’s Rabbids in this house (That’s not always a good thing)
    You really can’t beat the N64 days though, what a brilliant console it was AND still is :)
    Thanks for writing this Dan… Memories, memories, memories <3

  3. Yeah there’s so much shovelware that it really saddens me. I’m glad the virtual console and Wiiware gives you choice.

  4. I too lost interest in Nintendo ever since the Playstation appeared. But I loved my SNES, it was my first proper console (Commodore & Spectrum before), I seem to remember buying it very close to launch day with Mario World, I picked up F-Zero too, amazing games. But as you said the introduction of the FX CHIP was a real pant wetter, Starwing & that Stunt Race FX were like nothing i’d played before, although if you revisit them the actual playing screen is tiny and the game runs so slow. What a great idea though to add harware to the game cartridge to give the machine a boost, those nintendo boys do seem to come up with all ideas and the others add a little and release it as their own.
    Wii has held no interest to me, any time i’ve played someones i’ve felt frustrated at the unresponsive controls leading me to be beaten by an 8 yr old girl at boxing, not happy, as if that would happen :)

  5. Great article, I think of Nintendo as a casual gamers brand now but had forgotten the glory days of the SNES and N64. If anyone has released a better game than Conkers Bad Fur Day, then I certainly haven’t found it! I think they have become too focused on new peripherals and short-lived promises, but they are selling fantastically so clearly it is working. I can’t remember the last time I turned on my Wii though.

    • I always thought of Nintendo as a casual gamers thing , very few in Europe could afford a NES (the games where so dear) and it never took off . In the UK and Spain also (ive heard)the Sinclair Spectrum ruled till the Amigas and ST’s then it was Megadrive time and i picked up a SNES which had a few decent games (Mariokart, Zelda, Starfox and especially ISS ) .
      Nintendo has really gone downhill since the SNES and though I have a DS there are so many awful games on it and then you get the tiresome Mariokarts, Zeldas,Castlevanias, etc just rehashes of 20+ year old games . If your an RPG fan (which im not) then the DS is the place to be though .

  6. I was always a SEGA man.

    Had the Master System, Master System II, Megadrive, Megadrive II, 32X, MegaCD, Saturn and of course a Dreamcast. (still got them all, and all except the Dreamcast is in my parents loft which I still play on every now and again)

    but I had some great times on my mates SNES, where we used to take our consoles around each others house through the whole school holidays and play on them solidly for the whole day.

    Great days slinging your console and a stash of games into a rucksack and biking round your mates house to game all day, something all these online gaming young whipper-snappers will never experience.

    Anyway, I’m currently saving up for a Wii and I can’t wait – and awesome back catalogue of games, the virtual console where I know I would buy EVERYTHING and of course stuff coming out like Epic Mickey, Zelda Skyward Sword and Donkey Kong Country.

    I know I’m late to the party but I’m super hyped for the Wii

    It’s just a shame SEGA don’t try and compete these days

  7. I used to be quite a Nintendo-fan myself, starting out playing NES and SNES with my relatives (I never got one myself… :'( ), I remember buying a Gameboy Pocket in the US, which thankfully was compatible with EU games, I have no idea how many weeks went into Pokemon Blue and Super Mario Land 2…
    I then bought a 64, loving it to bits, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with console gaming. I disliked the PS1 for being “the enemy” and that dislike also kept me from buying a PS2, so for the next generation I wanted a GameCube, but ended up buying an Xbox (the new kid in town),
    I now have a Phat PS3, which I love.
    The 3DS could be the device that brings me back into handheld gaming, and the realm of Nintendo.

    • Ah this brought back memories – PS1 as the enemy!! I was exactly the same

  8. Good read, nice to notice to similarities between your Nintendo buying and my Sony
    Always brought Sony stuff and always will :P

  9. Superb piece, Dan and thankyou for making some memories approach the forefront of my mind.

    You mention how the N64 (Stunning machine and incredibly well supported device that it is/was) had no truly great fighting games … uhm, may I bring forward Killer Instinct Gold (of which I still own a copy)? Superb game and me and my best friend probably played that nearly as much as Goldeneye.

    A truly great fighting series which is potentially lost now what with Rare having docked their boat in Microsofts harbour (so to speak).

    • My apologies! Never played Killer Instinct Gold, so thanks for bringing it up!

  10. Ah, I do love Nintendo. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The N64 is my favourite console and was my ‘golden age’.
    Also: “Then of course there was The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time which I could write an article on itself.”
    An article? I could write a book!

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