Nintendo: A Cherished Legacy

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Posted April 13, 2015 by Chris White in Video Games

We all have a lot to thank Nintendo for. Back in the 1980’s, the NES quite literally saved gaming and kept the whole industry from disappearing into obscurity. People had fallen out of love with video games and the world we live in now could have been very different if it wasn’t for Nintendo.

In 1983, the market was saturated with video games and consoles. The Atari 2600 had a plethora of games in their lifespan; Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pitfall and Defender to name a few, all selling millions of copies and keeping many, many families and children entertained and out of trouble. For the first time, video games were seen as a legitimate source of entertainment. Unfortunately, after a number of foolish mistakes by certain companies, the love affair with electronic distraction was burning out and fading away.

Atari weren’t the only reason for ‘The Great Games Crash of 83’ but in many people’s opinion, they were the most prominent factor. Atari saturated the market with terrible games and equally terrible adaptions of games. A Pac-Man release in 1982 was rushed out, making it look terribly weak alongside other games. In fact, Atari ordered 12 million copies, expecting all console owners to buy it which of course, didn’t happen. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is one of the most famous examples of Atari’s arrogance. The game was rushed out to coincide with the film’s release (completely skipping the testing process), making its gameplay almost unplayable and its visuals (compared to other games) noticeably inferior to the Atari back catalogue. They spent $20 – $25 million on the property rights, only to have around 3.5 million copies returned to their doorstep. In a nutshell, home gaming had taken a last breath and nobody seemed to want to save it.

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Around the world, home computers like the Commodore 64, Apple and the ZX Spectrum filled the gaming hole for those who still cared. They offered children a chance to play certain games when their parents weren’t working from them. They acted like a dusty old board game on a lazy Sunday afternoon; they were entertaining to a point but kids craved for something more than an hour or so of mediocre fun. Thankfully, in 1985 the world was given the most important games console (and franchise) in the history of video games.

The NES acted like a raging sun in a shadowy sky. It arrived like a whirlwind and brought with it a wave of acute excitement. The games were sharper; designs were prettier and far more advanced than the games that came before. It also gave the world the first standalone game featuring that chubby little plumber we all know and love. Super Mario Bros. sold over 40 million copies worldwide, cementing itself in the minds of children and adults alike. It gave people hope again. It gave children a chance to play video games in the medium they were always meant for. It gave me my first experience with video games and I will always be eternally grateful to Nintendo for that.

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I remember sitting down in my family home in Derby, England and putting my first cartridge into my Nintendo Entertainment System: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Quite honestly, it blew my mind. I’d never witnessed anything quite like it before. I could control Leo, Donnie, Raph or Mikey and move them through the sewers and the streets or over rooftops, fighting the hordes of Shredder’s foot soldiers like a boss. Up until the NES, I’d only ever played on my dad’s ZX Spectrum. As good as it was it fell at the feet of my new best friend. I had a nice little collection in the beginning, with the likes of WWF Wrestlemania Challenge, Batman and Star Wars taking up a lot of my time. However, it wasn’t until I swapped games for the first time with my best friend that I knew how magical the NES was. I remember it so clearly; he initiated the trade to get TMNT from me in exchange for his copy of Super Mario Bros. ‘It’s really something’ he said. ‘OK, but only for a little while’ I said. A little while ended up being months whilst I blasted through level after level after level of it. I was addicted. I’d fallen in love with Mario and to this day, I don’t regret the decision one bit.

I played through Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario Bros 3 (which in my opinion is the best game in the series) on the NES. When the Gameboy was released in 1989, I got my hands on Zela: A Link to the Past and found that equally as brilliant, refusing to put it down and carry on with real life. As the world was introduced to the SNES, I demolished Super Mario World, Mario Cart and Super Mario All-Stars among other great titles. Game after game after game, my obsession with Nintendo and Mario never waned. It seemed like it was going to last forever.

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In 1995, Sony released the PlayStation. It was a glorious console that offered a brand new 3D experience and it sucked me in. Nintendo had fallen into second place and I was off playing Die Hard Trilogy and Alien Trilogy, Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot, too busy to even notice what was going on at Nintendo. My loyalties had allied themselves with Sony and I had little time to spend with Mario and the gang. Even the release of the N64 couldn’t sway me (although I got well and truly hooked on Goldeneye, but that’s a story for another day) and I continued to enjoy the wealth of games that the PlayStation was offering. The games that were being released were more tailored to who I was and what I wanted out of a game. I was a sulky, stroppy, self-loathing teenager so it was easier and more appealing to play games that allowed me to take my frustrations out on gun-wielding psychopaths and horrifically disfigured monsters. I wanted to be swallowed up by violence and horror as opposed to cutesy little platformers. I turned my back on them all in favour of a serious, heavy-going gaming experience. I was playing Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Medal of Honor and Metal Gear Solid to name a few. These were the experiences I craved. As the PS2 was released in 2000, my experiences with ‘adult’ gaming expanded (with the likes of GTA: Vice City and San Andreas). My only real exposure to Nintendo in my teenage years/early twenties was the fantastic Resident Evil 4 (simply because the GameCube was the first console to give it a home), Pokémon Red and Mario Cart: Double Dash. I spent many years going round my friend’s house after work, playing Double Dash. In fact, we played it so much that I swear I could have beaten anyone in the world (although I never really put that claim to the test). Nintendo was still a part of me but it wasn’t the be all and end all. It wasn’t centre stage like it once was and only up until recently, it had remained in the wake of Sony and Microsoft.

I am now 31 and I still play video games all the time. As I write this, my PS4 sits in the corner, pride of place in my entertainment unit. I love that machine. However, it isn’t the only games console that sits down there. On the next shelf down, there is a little white console called the Nintendo Wii. I have two daughters now. My eldest, Evelyn said something to my wife the other day that is fundamentally why I wanted to write this article about Nintendo. She was playing Mario 64 on her Nintendo DS when, in a moment of pure joy turned to my wife and said, ‘Man, Mario is my life.’ She is only five years old but Mario is already a massive source of enjoyment for her. She reminds me of me when I was playing on Super Mario Bros. over 25ish years ago. I remember the overwhelming delight that that console gave me as if it was yesterday.

The reason that the Nintendo Wii is the only other console I own is a simple one. It is a window into the world of Mario and Nintendo that together, me and my kids can look into and enjoy a history and future at the same time. Granted, the Wii’s life has ended and the Wii U is Nintendo’s current gen console but I have the ability to show them great games like Super Mario Galaxy and Zelda: Twilight Princess, along with downloaded gems like those NES Mario games.

I close with this: Nintendo has been a huge part of my childhood and it will continue to be a part of my two daughters’ childhoods and hopefully their lives. I hope that they don’t make the same mistakes as I did and turn their backs on them when they get a little older. Yes, Nintendo are having their struggles, and with Microsoft and Sony dominating today’s gaming market, I really, really don’t want them going the same way as Sega did. With the delay of the Wii U Zelda, I sincerely hope that Nintendo’s sales do not decrease anymore. They needs to compete in the console wars for many generations to come because without them, video games just wouldn’t be the same.

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About the Author

Chris White

Rock n' Roll Nerd, Gamer, Writer, Lover and procrastinator.