The History of Nintendo


Whether you want to accept it or not, Nintendo is the greatest video game company ever. They completely revolutionized the video game world and invented some of the things we nowadays take for granted. Nintendo were the first to step away from the traditional joystick and begin using their invention, the control pad. Nintendo also introduced the D-Pad, the Analogue Stick, the rumble function (no it wasn’t Sony), the RF controller, and the light gun, although it isn’t much used by Nintendo and is used a lot more by arcade machines. So you see, the original and extremely innovative Nintendo invented almost everything about video games today. Nintendo started to work in the business they’re in now from scrap, and they ended up as the biggest multi-billion dollar video game company. They virtually started the video game industry so you can be sure they will be around for a long, long time. It’s no wonder that countless people use the word “Nintendo” to refer to video games, like we use “Kleenex” for tissue and “Xerox” for copy or paper.

In The Beginning

Fusajiro Yamauchi, Hiroshi Yamauchi’s grandfather, founded Nintendo in 1889 as a playing card company. Back then it was called Nintendo Koppai. Nintendo meaning something along the lines of, “We do what we can, the best that we can, and await the results.” The cards had symbols on them representing wind, fire, mountains etc and they were grouped for each month of the year. The playing cards that were carefully hand-made with bark from special trees are called Hanafuda cards and they were sold in Kyoto and Osaka, but they became especially popular in Kyoto. Fusajiro didn’t hit it big with his cards until the Japanese Mafia, or Yakuza, began to use them in their high stakes games. All the professional high rollers wanted to start their games with a new deck of Hanafuda cards so the cards were really in demand, Fusajiro was more than happy to have to start training new workers to keep up with sales!

In the year 1907 Nintendo begins to manufacture western style playing cards and become the first Japanese company to successfully sell them in The Land of the Rising Sun. Also, Fusajiro gets more stores to sell his cards. Things sure seem to be going well for Nintendo and their cards!

New Management

Around the early 1930’s Fusajiro’s daughter, Tei Yamauchi, married Sekiryo Kaneda. Sekiryo took the Yamauchi surname and Fusajiro retired, handing over Nintendo Koppai to Sekiryo Yamauchi, who would be Hiroshi Yamauchi’s grandfather. Fusajiro Yamauchi had been president for 40 years.

Not much happened during the time of the World Wars regarding Nintendo. Shortly after World War II Nintendo established a distribution company by the name of Marufuku Co. Ltd. During this time, Sekiryo stepped off his position in 1949 after 20 years of being president of Nintendo. Shikanojo was supposed to take his place but the responsibility was too much for him and he ran away from his 5 year-old son Hiroshi, and his mother Kimi Yamauchi. Hiroshi Yamauchi was 5 years old when he took over Nintendo in 1949! Of course, Hiroshi had to receive advice and help from others on running Nintendo until he was old enough to deal with it himself. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a young genius. Hiroshi knew that his employees did not like him so he started to fire all of the older workers to ensure that nobody would stand to question him! In 1951 the name was changed to Nintendo Playing Cards Co. Ltd.

Nintendo Strikes A Deal With Disney

In 1959, Walt Disney allowed Nintendo to produce playing cards with Disney characters on them. These cards with familiar Disney characters were an instant hit and over half a million packs were sold that same year! Who would have thought that when Nintendo started in the video game business, Mario would be more familiar to kids than Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters!

Nintendo Searches For A Purpose

Probably what was the most drastic change in what Nintendo did happened in the eras of the 60’s. Nintendo listed in the stock market for Kyoto and Osaka. In 1963, Hiroshi changed the name of Nintendo Playing Cards Co Ltd. to what it is today, Nintendo Co. Ltd. since they would no longer specialize on the Hanafuda cards. Nintendo made a whole lot of different stuff since they didn’t really know what to do yet. They made stuff ranging from instant rice to managing a love hotel in which you had to pay by the hour. Yes there were prostitutes, and Hiroshi loved going there even though he was married. Another failure they did was start a taxi company. It was forced to close down since the drivers wanted higher salaries.

A Genius Mind Is Created

A young man who had just graduated from Doshinsha University with a degree in electronics started filling out applications for companies in Kyoto and was hired in 1965 by Hiroshi Yamauchi to maintain the heavy machinery on the assembly lines used to manufacture the Hanafuda cards. The young man’s name was Gunpei Yokoi and he would go on to become one of the most recognized figures in the video game business. Hiroshi heard that Gunpei enjoyed experimenting and building gadgets, so he began to think about entering the toy business. Finally, in 1969 Nintendo created the first of many games departments in Kyoto and it was named Games. This department ended up being the first R&D (research and development) team. Hiroshi asked Gunpei to invent a toy that Nintendo could sell during Christmas, and the next day, THE NEXT DAY, Gunpei walked into Hiroshi’s office with his creation, the Ultrahand. Not only that, but it wasn’t just blueprints he walked in with, it was an actual-size prototype that Gunpei had made himself. The Ultrahand was a big success and sold over 1 million copies worldwide by 1970. Pretty good for something that was quickly thought of overnight, eh?

From then on people knew that Gunpei could be trusted so he made many more successful gadgets. He continued to add more gadgets onto the Ultra series, including gadgets like the Ultra Machine to the Ultra Scope. He also came up with other things that weren’t related to the Ultra series, for example, a “love tester” that would suppose ably measure the amount of love between a couple. In the Japanese version the couple would hold hands and use the other hand to press a handle, the machine would measure a small current of electricity that ran through the two, it had nothing to do with love. In the American version, the couple did the same, but instead of holding hands, they had to kiss.

Gunpei Yokoi Begins Developing

Gunpei began to think about making a game with a light gun and small solar cells on targets to pick up the light from the light gun. He really wanted to see his idea work so he hired Masayuki Uemura from Sharp to help him make his idea come true using solar cell technology from Sharp. After much work, Gunpei and Masayuki had finally finished the Nintendo Beam Gun and it was made available to the market. It was being sold for about ¥4000-¥5000 (about $34-$42), and sold over 1 million copies. To keep up, Nintendo expanded their HQ to some of the buildings surrounding the present one. The newer buildings were better since they had higher security and they weren’t built to serve as a factory for manufacturing Hanafuda cards (which were still being made and sold even though Nintendo weren’t making much profit off of them anymore) like the older HQ building was, so the new expanded HQ was better for Nintendo in practically every aspect applicable.

Gunpei truly believed that the light gun techniques used in the Nintendo Beam Gun had great potential for other good toys. He discussed it with Hiroshi several times but they didn’t really have a plan that was set in stone. Yokoi thought about simulating the shooting of clay pigeons, which was very popular in Japan at the time. After some consideration, Hiroshi came up with a brilliant idea. Bowling had been a popular sport for a period of time in Japan during the 60’s, but now in the 70’s, most bowling alleys were deserted and unused. Hiroshi’s idea was to use these empty bowling alleys as shooting ranges for the light guns and simulated clay pigeons with solar-celled light detectors. This new game was called the Laser Clay Shooting System. The first of many Laser Clay Shooting Systems had its grand opening with the press and TV crews at the site. It became an instant hit! Eventually it grew onto people and became something normal to do after work to relax a bit or to just have some fun.

First Time For Everything

Japan’s economy took a major nosedive during the 1970’s and Hiroshi was becoming more and more desperate. Nintendo released several products similar to the Laser Clay Shooting System to try to squeeze every penny out of something good they had come up with (*cough*EA*cough*). Hiroshi wanted to use the concept within the Laser Clay Shooting System for something to export to Europe and America. The outcome was the Wild Gunman. Basically it was a projector film that had cowboys and you had to shoot them before they shot you. I’m not quite sure how it worked though. Later police academies would borrow this system to train policemen with target shooting. In 1975, Hiroshi heard about new technology that companies were using to make systems that you connected directly to your TV to play a game. Hiroshi was interested in this new business in the making, and because of their desperation, he wanted in. Even though they were anxious to start developing devices that could play games on your TV, Nintendo didn’t have the technology or knowledge to make the necessary microprocessors. Masayuki Uemura (the dude from Sharp that helped with solar cells) suggested that they make a deal with Magnavox to get the permission to make and distribute their new system Odyssey (a game system very similar to Pong) in Japan so that they could get a bit more familiar with how it all worked under the plastic. Since they didn’t know how to manufacture the microprocessors in Magnavox’s Odyssey, Nintendo teamed up with Mitsubishi. Nintendo’s bond with Mitsubishi grew stronger and they decided to develop a new video game system, this would be Nintendo’s first actual go at video games.

The system in the works was the Color TV Game 6, which was released in Japan in the year 1977. Basically, it was a system in which you could play 6 different versions of tennis; I guess it was inspired by Pong. Let’s take a break from this and go back, oh say, about 7 years.

An Imaginative Artist Is Added

The year is 1970. A 17 year-old adventurous kid who is considered by others as nothing more than a mere dreamer needs a way to let out his creativity which is burning through his skull. He decides he wants to do something with art, so he attends Kanazawa Munici College of Industrial Arts and Crafts. This young man was a lazy one who liked to sit back and watch the wheels go round ‘n round (John Lennon lyrics ;-)), and it is rumored that he ditched a lot of his classes so it took him an unexpected 5 years to graduate. Okay, so now this man is 22 with a degree for arts and the year is 1975. He doesn’t want to just jump in and work for any company, considering that in Japan a person would most likely work for only one employer for his whole life. So for two years this young man just laid back and let destiny come to him. Then, his father remembers that his long lost friend has a company and maybe he could hire his son. Okay, flashback’s done, back to 1977. Unless you have been living in a cave and don’t know squat, you should know that this shaggy, lay back man is Shigeru Miyamoto. So they arrange to meet Hiroshi Yamauchi (the long lost friend, you fool) at Nintendo (the company the long lost friend has, fool). Hiroshi wants proof of what Shigeru can accomplish, so he tells him to come back the next day with some of his ideas. Luckily for Shigeru, he had made some little toy projects over his 2 years of “slumber”. He brought some of his best toys and showed them to Hiroshi the next day. Hiroshi was pleased and Shigeru had the privilege of being endowed with the position of Nintendo’s first ever staff artist, although there was absolutely no need for one (maybe he did it for the sake of giving his friend’s son a job). So for 3 years until 1980, Shigeru made toys here and there, but nothing big.

Due to how much I went into Shigeru Miyamoto, I didn’t tell you that in 1978 the Color TV Game 15 was released and it was followed by two other mysterious systems, which I think were probably Color TV Game systems, over which I know nothing about (if anyone could shed some light on them it would be greatly appreciated).

The Systems & Games We Know Of Today

In 1979, Gunpei noticed how much calculators were selling and was inspired to make something small, compact, and oh yeah, kick-ass fun! So he set out to make something, and was given the help of Shigeru Miyamoto who still needed something to do that was worth his undiscovered skill. So Gunpei became Shigeru’s mentor and teacher. The hardware specialist, Gunpei, would design the systems while the artist, Shigeru, would create the games.

Anyways, Gunpei was hard at work on something inspired by calculators. Finally in 1980 he was done and, voila, the Game & Watch is born! The Game & Watch is a small, compact gaming machine that plays only one game and has the time and an alarm. Dozens and dozens of different Game & Watches were made and the ones that have good games can go up to $1000 on eBay! The Game & Watch sold in millions and Hiroshi wanted to sell it in America, thus Nintendo of America was born.

NOA Is Established

Hiroshi Yamauchi’s daughter who was married to Minoru Arakawa went with her husband to America to start the company. Minoru would simply wander around in arcade rooms and watch how American gamers were and reacted with the games. He was especially interested in a kid who kept on putting money into a machine due to the frustration of losing on it. After a while, the kid noticed Minoru and his exact words were, “What the fuck do you want, mister?” This kid became the first employee of Nintendo of America and would become a very important and highly paid member of staff. So Nintendo of America started out in a shack-like building and moved their HQ to bigger better buildings as the big bucks started rolling in.

The Big Break

Hiroshi couldn’t help but become aware of how popular arcade machines were becoming, so he wanted in. When Shigeru was told to make arcade games, he stepped away from the customary shoot ’em ups where you shot and killed and shot and killed some more. He came up with the legendary Donkey Kong! Here’s a piece of information that you could use to astonish your friends (so maybe you won’t, but what the heck, I think it’s cool). We all know it was Donkey Kong that put Nintendo above everyone else, but do we really know where it came from? You probably know that Donkey Kong was a translation error or something and it was supposed to be Monkey Kong, but that’s probably it. And what about Mario’s origin? Here’s the whole story, there were many small companies that wanted in on the booming video game industry, so to get their games to sell they would base the games on already famous characters. I assume that Nintendo were going to do the same, because they made a game based on Popeye the Sailor. Brutus had taken the girl like in so many Popeye episodes, and Popeye set out to save her. Eventually, licensing problems cropped up and Shigeru was forced to alter the characters and game a bit. Shigeru’s innovative mind changed Brutus to an ape, Money Kong that was then accidentally changed to Donkey Kong, and turned Popeye into a fat plumber, who at first had no name and was nicknamed Jumpman but then named Mario because of his resemblance to the landlord of where NOA was established, Mario Segali. Donkey Kong and Mario were Nintendo’s biggest hits yet and were the most popular arcade machines ever! It was also released as a Famicom game. Now Nintendo have more than enough money to start developing their next big thing, and believe me, it was going to be BIG!

Hiroshi was contemplating something big, better, and cheaper than anything gamers had seen before. He told Masayuki Uemura to gather up his engineers and start developing a game machine that was way better than the Color TV Game systems and worked on game cartridges and would cost $75(that was much cheaper than any other home console out on the market) so that practically anyone could buy it. In 1981 it was official, the Famicom was under development!

Donkey Kong Jr. was released in 1982 and was a big hit like its predecessor, but still it didn’t sell as many units. It sold about 20,000-30,000 compared to Donkey Kong that sold an astonishing 65,000 in America alone. This game was available as both an arcade game and a Famicom game. Universal Studios were about to sue Nintendo and Coleco (a company working with Nintendo on arcade machines) because they said Donkey Kong was a King Kong rip-off. Coleco avoided the lawsuit by paying Universal Studios 3% of their Donkey Kong sales until they found out that Nintendo went to court against Universal Studios and won.

The Ground-Breaking Famicom Is Released

You ever heard of that thing about a small light at the end of the tunnel that actually amazes people? Well, in 1983 the release of the Famicom (Family Computer) in Japan was like a supernova in your face! Even though it was selling for $100, which was $25 more than Hiroshi had planned for, it was still at least $100 cheaper than all the rest while it was more powerful, faster, and had better sound capacity. Because of its low price, retailers didn’t make much profit from each unit sold so some stores would force you to buy the Famicom as a bundle with games and controllers and whatever they felt like throwing in to kick up the price (some greedy stores still do that sometimes). Hiroshi tried to stop this by promising that the real profit would come with the games sold. He said that the Famicom was nothing more but a device used for selling software. In just 2 months Nintendo’s jewel sold half a million systems. About 35% of Japan’s families would own a Famicom and it would go on to sell over 30 million units.

Disaster Struck

A few months after the release, Nintendo began to receive complaints from retailers that customers were having certain games freeze. After Nintendo’s engineers searched the machine intensively, they found the microchip that was malfunctioning. In order to keep their customers buying from Nintendo, Hiroshi decided that they would have stores send them all the systems that still hadn’t been sold for correction. It was risky, dangerous, costly, but genius decisions like these that Hiroshi Yamauchi made that are said to have put Nintendo where it is today.

Mario Gets A Companion

In 1983, Luigi was born! He came about with the game Mario Bros. in which Mario and Luigi were actually portrayed as plumbers since they hide behind pipes and enemies and items come out of the pipes in an endless fashion. This game came out as an arcade machine and also as a Famicom game. It would be seen again as a mini-game in Super Mario Bros. 3 and in a different version in Mario Clash for the Virtual Boy.

Trouble Overseas

While the Japanese were enjoying the sweet taste of video games worthy of having the word “Nintendo” slapped on it, everyone else around the world had to deal with repetitive games that were way too costly. Luckily for us (even though I wasn’t even born yet =P) after the ever-growing success of the Famicom, Hiroshi wanted to release the Famicom outside of Japan. He started to plan an American release. It was both a good time and a bad time for Nintendo to release the Famicom. Good because of the video game crash that had happened in 1984, so there would be virtually no one competing against Nintendo. Many factors contributed to it happening, partly because of piracy and countless bad games that were giving the industry a bad name. The bad part was that retailers didn’t feel safe selling something for a high price (they were selling Atari games for 10% of the suggested price) that they had never sold before.

Saved By A Hair

It’s amazing to know that Atari had the chance to completely eliminate the Famicom everywhere outside of Japan. What’s even more amazing is how little people know about it. The story goes as follows. When Hiroshi wanted to sell the Famicom, or NES as it would be known in other places, Nintendo turned to Atari for help. Hiroshi was going to give the rights of distributing the Famicom outside of Japan to Atari. Sadly, Hiroshi didn’t know that by giving Atari the rights, it was perfectly legal for them to simply stop distributing it to eliminate some competition and give their own systems a better chance. The contract was like heaven-sent considering that Atari were loosing $2 million daily and the last thing they wanted would be the super successful Famicom to compete against. As if by a miracle, the year the contract was to be signed Atari saw something at the 1983 Consumer Electronics Show (sort of like E3) that would save Nintendo. Coleco, the company that worked with Nintendo on arcade machines, showed a Donkey Kong game preview for their future system Adam. The Donkey Kong game was unlicensed by Nintendo and illicit. Atari assumed that Nintendo and Coleco were trying to con them in some way and this was pretty plausible considering their previous partnership. Nintendo didn’t sue Coleco because the game was canned, but Atari refused the deal, and Nintendo was saved!

Executive Decisions

In 1984, the Famicom was more popular than ever thanks to well-executed advertising campaigns and Hiroshi’s crude decisions. If you wanted to make a licensed Nintendo game, you would have to abide by Nintendo’s strict rules and only make games for Nintendo. This meant that EVERY game that was being made for the Famicom was an exclusive! Soon Nintendo were forced to stop doing that after a lawsuit. You could also thank Hiroshi Yamauchi for predictions and telling whether a game would sell or not. He would make groups of people literally compete against each other to see who could make the best game or hardware. Hiroshi was infamous around the office for judging whether a game would go into production or not by merely looking at it, he never played the games. He would sometimes look at a team’s work that they had been laboring over for months and simply tell them to start over with something new. Hiroshi chose that instead of his engineers and artists and so on make many games that are okay, they would make just a couple of tremendously good games that would be considered the game of the year or something and would sell millions and millions of copies. This way, Nintendo could focus on advertising those few games extensively. Nintendo proved their executive genius once again by coming up with something that would make players buy 2 or 3 games when they only really wanted one. When stores ordered a shipment of the games that were hot, Nintendo would maybe only send them half of their order. All the customers would rush down to the store expecting there to be enough copies, but would be disappointed to find out they were fresh out. To meet with their gaming needs they would buy a mediocre game to have something to play while the next shipment arrived. This way Nintendo could sell multiple cartridges instead of just one! This method worked especially well with big hits like Mario or Zelda. To avoid this, many Japanese gamers camped outside of stores to make sure they got their copy.

Donkey Flop

Other things happening this year included the release of the ill-fated Donkey Kong 3. It did poorly in the charts, but in reality, it truly was a bad game. It had Donkey Kong going up and down some ropes and Mario’s cousin Stanley the Bugman (he was never heard of again) had to spray away bees while spraying Donkey Kong to keep him up. It was boring as an arcade game and a waste of money as a Famicom game. I think Shigeru was focusing his time and energy on the super stellar Super Mario Bros. which was supposed to be released next year, so he could have left Donkey Kong 3 for somebody else to do. People at Nintendo are still frantically searching for stores that will sell the Famicom overseas for the price Nintendo suggests. Finally, help is found and the planning for an American release of the Famicom is in progress.

NES Preview

It’s 1985 and American people are eager to find out more on the rumor that has been spreading like wildfire. A system that few people know about, which is graphically better than the Atari, has better sound, games to dream about, and all for a price many times better than other systems. At the Consumer Electronics Show, people get to see this revolutionary machine named the Famicom. They are told they can expect it in the summer (for some reason it was released a lot later) with 25 release games. Later that year it is announced that the Famicom’s name will be changed to Nintendo Entertainment System, known more as the NES, and will have 20 launch games. Stores still were ambivalent about the NES, so they test-launched it in New York and it sold a whopping estimate of 100,000 units.

The Side-Scroller Of Them All

At the same time half way around the world, Super Mario Bros. was released in Japan. With a worldwide sale of over 40 million copies, Super Mario Bros. is arguably one of the best games ever. At the time, most games were very simple and featured only one screen, while Super Mario Bros. shone under the light as the first side-scroller in history and one of the first to show multiple screens. This baby was also out as an arcade machine as well as a Famicom cartridge.

Famicom Is Out Worldwide

Finally, after 3 years of those damn Japanese hogging up all Nintendo to themselves, we get a taste of the glory! The NES’s worldwide release was possible in 1986 with the help of Worlds of Wonder. The system is launched with 15 games, which is 10 less than what was intended at first. The NES is selling like erm…hot bread and it completely beats all the competition. This backup gives Nintendo the ability to start making the Famicom Disk System.

Famicom Disk System

The Famicom Disk System was a way of buying games for a cheap price. You would buy a disk, and with that you could get a game recorded onto it for only around $10. Basically it was a floppy disk and you paid to have special machines called Disk Writers record a new game onto your disk. The good part of it was that you only needed one disk, but the downside was that once you got a game erased from your disk, it was for good and if you wanted to play it again it would be another $10 to have it re-recorded onto your disk. Even though it had the potential of being great, Nintendo dropped it because of how easy it was to make illegal copies of games and write them onto a disk. It’s hard to imagine how Nintendo didn’t foresee the problem of piracy during the development of the Famicom Disk System. After the years 3 more disk systems are rumored to have been under development but were all dropped for reasons that haven’t been confirmed.

Metroid Sucks In Japan – Excellent Overseas

Did you know that Gunpei’s greatest game ever was almost discarded and thought of as trash? Yes, when Metroid was released in 1986 in Japan for the Famicom, it was very unpopular as it wasn’t the type of game the Japanese liked. Just because it was one of Gunpei’s creations, Nintendo released it in America and Europe, and to everyone’s surprise, it was a big success! Another game that was released this year was Super Mario Bros. 2. This wasn’t out in America or Europe because people said it was too similar to Super Mario Bros., but in the SNES game Super Mario Allstars the game would appear as Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels. The beginning of a legendary series is made, The Legend of Zelda. The game is, as you should know, extremely popular and Nintendo pulls the old don’t-give-them-all-the-games-ordered-so-gamers-buy-2or3-instead-of-1 trick and it works!

Gunpei Yokoi Thinks About A New Handheld

In 1987 Gunpei shows his ideas of a new handheld system to Hiroshi that would be much more powerful than the Game & Watches. The name is Game Boy, and little do they know that it will become the most successful system in the history of gaming! Anyways, the second in the Zelda series is out, The Legend of Zelda: The Adventures of Link. Other games that people think of when they play NES that were released this year are Castlevania, Final Fantasy, and Mike Tyson’s Punchout. The NES is doing well and with the Game Boy under work the future looks bright for Nintendo!

Official Magazine

In 1988 NOA decides that it’s time for an official Nintendo magazine and Nintendo Power is born! Later on Europeans would get Nintendo Official Magazine, both are often referred to as NP and NOM. For American and European gamers, Super Mario Bros. 2 is released (it’s nothing like the Japanese SMB2). Minoru Arakawa sees the Tetris game in action and wants it to be a launch game with the Game Boy, and it ended up being so.

Game Boy Is Unexpectedly Successful

The Game Boy is finally out in the market in 1989 accompanied by Tetris, and it starts selling like crazy. Never before had gamers seen such detailed, smooth graphics on a handheld system. Later on Super Mario Land, and Final Fantasy were released for the Game Boy. Remember how in the beginning of this I said that Mario would become more familiar to kids than Mickey Mouse? Well, this is the year when it happened. Along with Mario’s growing popularity, Nintendo Power became the largest magazine company of its type.

Also in this year, Sega released the Genesis in Japan, or Megadrive as it would be known in Europe, for the price of about $250. That’s more than twice what the Famicom/NES cost! Nintendo’s answer to this was the Super Famicom/SNES.

Good Advertising

Nintendo were in for a treat this year. They would get free advertising, no, they would actually get paid. This happened with the movie, The Wizard. It’s about a kid who competes in the Nintendo World Championship. The kid makes it through all the way to the final, and there, they play the game Super Mario Bros. 3 and he wins. In reality, Super Mario Bros. 3 still had one more year for it to be released. Soon after the movie, everyone was talking about the new Mario game they had had a glimpse of. In addition to the free advertising, Universal Studios had to pay Nintendo a hefty amount for using their characters in The Wizard. Super Mario Bros. 3 ended up selling over 18 million copies, which made it the most successful stand-alone (meaning it was never sold with the system) game up to date.

Super Famicom Is Released In Japan

In the year of 1990, the Super Famicom is released in Japan. Nintendo had stores at their feet, because they didn’t supply them with anywhere near the Super Famicoms they needed. In 3 days they were all sold out and people were getting desperate to get their hands on the Super Famicom. Japanese gamers would camp outside of stores for days, even weeks just to get a system from the next shipment before they all ran out. Different stores were doing different things. Some of the greedier stores would make you buy the system along with a whole bunch of other crap. The nicer stores would simply use the lottery method to decide who was the lucky man who walked away with a Super Famicom. Some places even auctioned them!

SNES Hits American Shelves

American gamers had to wait a year for the SNES, everyone else (except Japan, duh) had to wait ANOTHER year. This meant that in 1991, the SNES hit the face of North America. For American release, the SNES was redesigned to a more box-like shape. The launch game that for a while came bundled with it was Super Mario World. Gamers got to see Yoshi for the first time in this game, where Bowser had taken all of his friends. Another system released in America this year was the trendy Game Boy. Nintendo spent millions on advertising these two and it paid off, they left all the other systems back in the dust in sales. Studies show that in Japan, Nintendo is the company that is making the most profit, even more than Toyota, which previously held first place in profit!

Super Famicom Travels The World

1992 was the year when the SNES landed on European shores and was available to everyone else in the world. More things that were released this year are The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario Land 2, the Super Scope, and the SNES Mouse. Nintendo announce the Super FX Chip that would raise the SNES’s speed, and also announce that Gunpei and his R&D team are working on a virtual reality console (the Virtual Boy which sadly was a flop).

Super FX Chip Is Put To The Test

Star Fox is released in 1993 and becomes the first game to use the Super FX Chip. To celebrate the 100 millionth Mario game sold Super Mario Allstars is made. The game has all the greatest Mario games with improved graphics and sound including the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 renamed as Super Mario The Lost Levels. Mortal Kombat was released for both the SNES and the Genesis but it did much better on the Genesis since they had to remove a lot of blood and gore for the SNES version. Also, the NES was redesigned for an attempt to bring it back to life. This would also happen with the SNES in the future. Near the end of May, the Super Mario Bros. movie was in theatres. Many people went to go see the movie out of curiosity but most left the cinema unsatisfied. Nintendo announce that they are working on a 64-bit system named Project Reality, later it would be renamed to Ultra 64, and then the name it was released with, Nintendo 64.

Game Boy On TV

In 1994 the Super Game Boy was made public. The Super Game Boy allowed you to use your SNES to play Game Boy games on your TV in full color. 9 years later the Game Boy Player would be released for the GameCube. Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country are released in Japan this year as well. These two games are praised and smothered with good ratings from people everywhere! This year, the Super FX Chip 2 is out, and it makes the SNES twice as fast as the original Super FX Chip did. Also, an exercise bike with a SNES is out and more and more planes start integrating SNES systems so that passengers could play Nintendo games while going more than half the speed of sound!

Virtual Boy Doesn’t Do As Expected

Finally, in 1995 the Virtual Boy is released in Japan! Sadly, it didn’t do too good. Probably because of the fact that it was released around the same time as the Playstation. Even though it was doing poorly, Hiroshi said at a press conference that they had not lost faith in the Virtual Boy and would continue making games for it. Nintendo buys part of Rare and it becomes a 2nd party developer for Nintendo (in 2003 it would be sold off to Microsoft). A little bit of more information about the Nintendo 64 finds its way to the public. In a video games exhibition, Nintendo show screens and videos of the Nintendo 64 and its launch games. All this hype helps to draw attention away from the Virtual Boy and Nintendo aren’t focusing on advertising the Virtual Boy.

Nintendo 64 & Game Boy Pocket Are Released

The Nintendo 64 is released in Japan in 1996 and is followed by the American release later that year. The system sells like crazy and for a while, is selling much more than the Playstation! Over on the SNES’s turf, Super Mario RPG and Donkey Kong Country are released in America. A smaller, lighter, and better version of the Game Boy is released, the Game Boy Pocket. The Game Boy Pocket is 30% smaller.

Gunpei Yokoi Turns In Resignation Form

People in Nintendo and around the world keep on blaming Gunpei Yokoi for the failure of the Virtual Boy, even after the success of the Game Boy Pocket. They said it was his fault, when in reality it was Nintendo’s for not advertising it properly and not releasing it at the right time. Who would release the Virtual Boy right before the popular Playstation? Well, it wasn’t even a week after the Game Boy Pocket hit the shelves when Gunpei Yokoi decided to leave Nintendo on August 15th, 1996 after over 30 years of working there. He went off and started his own company, Koto and made another handheld, the Wonderswan (this handheld did terribly against the Game Boy due to its lack of games).

Finally, anxious Europeans get the Nintendo 64 in 1997. Pokémon is released in that same year and helps boost sales of the Game Boy.

The Fall Of A Great One

One day, Gunpei was riding in a car in the passenger seat when the driver rear-ended a truck in front of them. They both stepped out of the car to examine the damage when a car sped by and ran them both over. They were both quickly sent to the nearest hospital. The driver was diagnosed with just some minor rib fractures, but Gunpei was in critical condition. He was pronounced dead two hours later. Gunpei Yokoi died on the 4th of October 1997 at the age of 57. The whole video gaming world grieved at the death of one of the most innovative minds ever.

Game Boy Color Released Along With Several Accessories

The Game Boy Color stunned the world when it was released in 1998. The Game Boy Camera and Printer accompanied it. The Pokémon games saw an American release this year. The revolutionary The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time was released this year and this was called the greatest game of all time and the game of the century and countless of other praises.

Pokémon Galore

In 1999, Nintendo took advantage of the Pokémon franchise by coming out with Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Pinball, and Pokémon Snap, which was the first Pokémon game for the N64. This year the highly anticipated Donkey Kong 64 was released along with Mario Golf, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros. At the 1999 E3, Nintendo announced a system that was under work that would use IBM Gekko processor and Matsushita DVD technology code-named Dolphin. This system ended up as the GameCube and was released in 2002.

The new millennium year saw the release of many good games, like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Gold, and Pokémon Silver. Gold and Silver would go on to become the fastest selling game with a combined (they were almost identical) sales amount of 1.4 million in just one week. Also, Nintendo sold its 100 millionth Game Boy; by the end of the year 10 million more will have been sold.

The Next Generation

Now that it was 2001, it was Donkey Kong and Mario’s birthdays! Yup, they were turning 20. The GameCube was released in Japan this year and so was the Game Boy Advance. The GameCube launched with 18 release games and was the fastest selling next-generation console. Our beloved GBA sold more units in the month of June 2001 when it was released than all the other systems combined, and sold over 1 million.

The GameCube was out worldwide in 2002 along with the 18 games that were also released in Japan, including Luigi’s Mansion which would go on to become the most popular launch game ever. It’s launch price was about $200 which was later dropped, and had goodies thrown in the package. I could make a huge list of the good GameCube games of 2002, but I think you should know them if you bothered to read this. The GameCube sold exceptionally fast; as a matter of fact, it sold 600,000 units in its first two weeks in America. It was selling 50% faster than the Xbox and 25% faster than the PS2. It was the fastest selling console with an average of 26 units flying off the shelves per minute for two weeks after its release.


Now you’ve traveled through Nintendo’s 114 years of existence and you should know why it simply is the greatest video game company there is. How it came extremely close to never releasing the NES anywhere outside of Japan, or how Gunpei Yokoi was wrongly accused of the Virtual Boy’s flop which led to him leaving. Sony and Microsoft can’t really be considered video game companies, but even if they could that doesn’t mean Nintendo’s position as the greatest would be affected in the least way. Nintendo have been around longer than video gaming and it most likely will stay that way forever. So here ends my writing, and all I have to say is – Game on Nintendo!