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Nintendo Ups the Ante

Cover of the first issue of Nintendo Power

Nintendo's Fan Club magazine Nintendo Power introduced what would become one of the best-selling games for the Nintendo Entertainment System: Super Mario Brothers 2.

Nintendo Ups the Ante

When the video game market collapsed in 1983, many American companies tottered. In Japan, where the crash was milder, Nintendo saw this as an opportunity to expand market share and introduced the Famicom (Family Computer).

Famicom’s “picture processing unit,” developed by Ricoh, enabled unprecedented graphics. Nintendo simultaneously released three popular arcade games: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye.

In 1985, Nintendo introduced Famicom to America as Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), offering 18 game titles. That number swiftly swelled past 100, helping revive the American market. Among them was Super Mario Brothers, which became a Nintendo mainstay.

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Nintendo Entertainment System

NES was Nintendo’s first home gaming console. It was released in Japan in 1983 as the Famicom (Family Computer). The US release in 1985 is often cited as heralding the end of the Video Game Crash of 1983 and the start of a new generation of games based on 8-bit microprocessors. Nintendo introduced the NES with a slate of 18 games, later including Super Mario Brothers—the most successful NES game ever. The system endured for nearly 20 years until finally discontinued in Japan in 2003.

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Advertisement announcing Nintendo's Powerglove controller

The Powerglove itself could only be used with certain games that had been written for it, but the controls on the top of the glove worked with all games.

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The Nintendo Family Computer

Two children play Hydlide Special, an early Nintendo role-playing game that predated the more popular Legend of Zelda.

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Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt game label

Nintendo re-packaged two very popular games, Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt, bundling them with the Nintendo Action Set version of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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The Man Behind Mario

Mario may be an Italian plumber, but he was born in Japan. Created by Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario debuted as “Jumpman” in Donkey Kong.

Among Miyamoto’s other successful creations are the Metroid series and Princess Zelda, heroine of a groundbreaking series that introduced sliding side-screen graphics and has sold millions of units.

Shigeru Miyamoto with his most enduring creation: Mario

Miyamoto-san created a host of popular game characters who starred in dozens of games and has become a legend of popular culture.

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Dr. Mario Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge

Dr. Mario was a popular puzzle game in the Mario franchise. It featured Mario, dressed as a doctor, throwing colored pills that players had to rearrange to defeat viruses. The game spawned a dozen sequels.

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Darkwing Duck Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge

This duck character was a spin-off from Disney’s popular Ducktales cartoon series. The game played much like Nintendo’s successful game Mega Man.

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Wheel of Fortune Family Edition Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge

As home gaming systems took off, popular games were adapted from other media, including TV. Wheel of Fortune was originally intended for the Atari 2600, but when that project was cancelled it was released instead for Nintendo—the first of over a dozen versions for different platforms.

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Tetris game cartridge

Alexey Pajitnov designed Tetris on an Electronica 60 while working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1984. Tetris came to the west after a British software publisher spotted Hungarian versions. It became one of the most popular games in the world, and was a hit in arcades, on home consoles and for personal computers.

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Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt combination Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge

Two of the most successful Nintendo games were bundled together for the Nintendo system. Duck Hunt required players to use the Zapper, a light gun included with the system.

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The Legend of Zelda game cartridge

This was one of the most influential games of the 1980s. Players controlled Link, a young boy who traveled through the land of Hyrule fighting the forces of Gannon to collect the mystical Triforce. The game was a best seller in both Japan and North America, spawning numerous sequels and a cartoon series. This is the first game cartridge in the US with an internal battery that allowed players to save games.

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Metroid game cartridge

Many rate this as one of the best “platforming” games, where characters jump from one platform to another. Samus Aran has become an icon of gaming as one of the first woman protagonists in a video game.

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Pinball Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge

When the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, 18 game titles were introduced with it, including the popular arcade title Pinball. Mario, of course, was the star of one mini-game.

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Millipede Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge

Millipede was the sequel to Atari’s Centipede in the early 1980s. It was among the few arcade games with a backstory: an archer who refuses his dying father’s crown fights giant earwigs, inchworms, bees, and spiders that rise after a mystical rainstorm. Millipede was not nearly as successful as Centipede.

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