Nintendo is one of the brands at the heart of many retro fans. I never actually owned a Nintendo console myself until the Wii (although I did have a Game Boy) but their presence was always a huge part of growing up in the 80s and 90s. The Japanese gaming giant has been at the epicentre of console gaming world for over 30 years, and with the launch of its latest generation of console, the Nintendo Switch just around the corner, now seems like a great time to reflect on the history and heritage of the brand. Here’s a whistle-stop tour.
It all started with the NES – 1983 (Japan)
The Nintendo Entertainment System wasn’t the first home games console to hit the market, but it was the first that achieved breakout mainstream success. It has since gone down in history for its roster of classic games, which include Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3, Kirby’s Adventure and Metroid – all of which went on to become very successful franchises.
Many of these titles lay the groundwork for the entire Nintendo franchise, with some of their biggest characters appearing on this system for the first time. It hit the UK market priced at £159, which is a figure that VoucherBox have reported that 4 generations of Nintendo consoles, the NES, SNES, N64 and Gamecube, all launched at, in their cool Mario-themed animated infographic.
Then came the NES’s beefed up brother, the SNES – 1990 (Japan)
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was a platform that enjoyed a huge title base, many of them building upon the success of their NES predecessors, with top games like Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country and of course Street Fighter II hitting the console. These games, and SNES as a whole, would go on to be entered into cult status and are still highly sought after by gamers and collectors around the world.
Nintendo enters the 3D world with the N64 – 1996
The N64’s controller was revolutionary in that it contained an analogue thumbstick, making it the first controller to do so in the history of console gaming. This enabled the N64 to release some hugely successful platform games that allowed for a lot of freedom of movement. The result, some of the greatest games ever made: Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Goldeneye 007. These games all redefined their respective genres and all rank in Time’s best games of all time list.
The beginning of turbulent times with the Gamecube – 2001
The Gamecube presented a novel offering. It was the first time Nintendo opted to not release a cartridge-based console, despite having stood by cartridges for much longer than its competitors. However, the console was quite unpopular when compared to the other consoles of the time. Ultimately, the Gamecube was the worst performing console of that generation, securing 21.74 million unit sales, compared to Xbox’s 24 million sales, and PS2’s staggering 150 million. However, this doesn’t do the console justice. It still produced some great titles, including Super Mario Sunshine and Mario Kart: Double Dash.
Genre-breaking success with the Wii – 2006
Nintendo then enjoyed some great success with the Wii thanks to the console’s innovative motion controls, which helped it scoop up a large portion of the casual gaming market. It brought the video game console back into the family living room and got families round the world playing games together. It even got your Granny playing games. Not many consoles can do that. In fact, the Wii is Nintendo’s most successful console in terms of sales to date, even outselling the much-loved NES.
Incremental change with the Wii U – 2012
Eager to follow on from the Wii’s success, Nintendo then rolled out the Wii U. However, the console didn’t appear to offer much change from the Wii, with this being a reason Nintendo bosses have cited for the console’s struggling sales. The Wii U was a quirky console and saw Nintendo experiment with a myriad of controller types, including the screen enabled Gamepad, as well as the much loved Wii remote, but these quirks were seen as pain points by many.
Resurgence with the Switch? – 2017
The upcoming new console, the Switch, could potentially see Nintendo return to its former glory. Initial reviews are favourable, but there is still lots of scepticism within the gaming world. Do people really want a hybrid console – especially one that is massively underpowered when compared to its home gaming rivals? Only time will tell as the Switch launch rolls out. I also think it feels a bit of a departure stylistically from its general cute, white console design. Perhaps they’re going more for the young adult market as opposed to the family market? A bold move and one whose success may well depend on the games that are released for it.
What do you think of the Switch? Will it be a success or failure? Let us know in the comments, along with any retro Nintendo memories you may have.[Banner image source: Nintendo Facebook]