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.
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.