The original Nintendo has been an appropriately retro console for ages now, but we’re finally reaching a point where its “retrodom” is approaching Atari levels. The original NES, the console that kickstarted the third generation of gaming and solidified Nintendo as a technological behemoth, is no longer a point of remembrance for the modern gamer. Time is advancing and, with it, the NES is being left behind. Of course, its legacy is still felt, but it’s simply unrealistic to expect the modern gamer- the younger gamer- to truly understand what the NES is and what its impact was on the industry.
With that said, time brings more than just the lack of remembrance, it brings with it misremembrance. The longer we distance ourselves from the original NES- or Famicom- the more we forget and the more we misinterpret. There are many aspects of the NES that were simply not all that stellar. That said, there were just as many aspects that were ahead of its time that we overlook or take for granted. The NES is arguably the single most important video game console of all time, and while you may struggle to remember it properly, we’re here to steer its legacy back on course.
25 Nintendo Pushed The Term “Video Game Console” To Keep The NES Afloat
In a stroke of marketing genius, Nintendo recognized that their third generation piece of video game hardware needed more than just a name- it needed a title. Not just any title, though, it needed a term that would signify it as a legitimate piece of technology, something that would ward off competitors from stealing sales by being just another “Nintendo.”
It's more than just a toy; it's a video game.
That’s where the term “video game console” comes in. With “video game console” in the modern lexicon, competitors couldn’t just coast on Nintendo’s hard work. Despite being a third generation console, the NES is very much the model for modern gaming as we know it. Which is, in itself, an interesting topic to discuss.
24 The NES Is The Model For Modern Gaming
We’ve established that the NES brought with it the term “console,” and the popularization of said term, but it was very much the progenitor of several modern staples we take for granted. The mere idea that video game consoles are attached to a company with first party titles is something very much ingrained in the NES’ origin.
Nintendo wasn’t just a hardware developer, they intended to use the NES as a means to develop software. Gaming was more than just a toy, but another medium entirely- one deserving of respect. While the subject of “games as art” wasn’t quite ready to be discussed back then, the NES elevated gaming to a medium deserving of respect.
23 The History Of R.O.B.
Despite Nintendo pushing for the NES as more than just a toy, that didn’t stop them from tossing out their own NES based toys hearing and there. The short lived R.O.B., an NES compatible accessory that barely lasted an entire year, was Nintendo’s way of trying to cater to that toy loving audience.
R.O.B. walked so the Virtual Boy could crawl.
A way of integrating physical gaming with digital, R.O.B. was perhaps two decades ahead of its time conceptually, leading to it barely functioning as a proper accessory in its own right. Where Nintendo’s core games were dynamic and eclectic, R.O.B. was slow and too clunky for its own good. Either way, R.O.B. represents Nintendo’s desire to experiment even when unnecessary.
22 Nintendo’s Strict Licensing
You couldn’t just release you own game for the NES if you wanted to, (well, you could, but we’ll touch upon that shortly.) Nintendo was incredibly strict when it came to licensing, meticulously picking and choosing what would be released and when. While this seems like common sense nowadays, it’s important to recognize that this is just another way the NES laid the groundwork for modern gaming. Nintendo focused primarily on quality control, an effort that gave the NES far more legitimacy than it would have had otherwise.
21 Why The Nintendo Seal Of Approval Exists
Which is actually where the Nintendo Seal of Approval comes in. Nintendo recognized that, realistically, developers would release their own games for the NES. After all, the NES wasn’t a particularly difficult piece of hardware to develop for. This spurred Nintendo to create their own recognizable merit of quality.
Quality over quantity.
If a game had the Nintendo Seal of Approval on it, you knew it was not only a legitimate video game, but one worth buying. The lack of the seal created an immediate recognition where consumers would perceive games without it as inherently lesser, fighting off bootlegs without Nintendo needing to do much at all.
20 The Famicom’s Disk System
While we all remember every gaming generation prior to the sixth as predominantly cartridge based, Nintendo did actually have a disk system in place for the NES’ Japanese counterpart: the Famicom. The Famicom Disk System allows games to run moderately better while often providing new features: most notably, saving. The next time you read up on the Nintendo 64DD, remember that Nintendo had already pulled off said moves year prior, and it had actually managed to work in their favor.
19 The Famicom’s Microphone
In the same way the Famicom had the Disk System where the NES didn’t, the Famicom also had compatible microphones in their speakers. You know those rabbit like enemies in the original Legend of Zelda? In the Famicom release, you need to actually scream into your controller to defeat them.
As a piece of hardware, the Famicom was quite ahead of the curve, experimenting with every little detail to ensure that gaming was a medium that couldn’t be compared to film or television. Of course, in the transition to the west, the NES did not retain the Famicom’s audio capabilities. Literally.
18 The Famicom Has A Better Sound Chip Than The NES
Not only does the NES lack the Famicom’s microphone, it also lacks the Famicom’s sound chip. For the most part, you’ll be hard pressed to actually notice. Most games sound the same in English as they do in Japanese, but there are some titles that really show off what the Famicom was capable of.
Listen to Aquarius specifically.
Go to Youtube and listen to Castlevania III’s soundtrack. Sounds decent, right? Now go to Youtube and listen to Akumajou Densetsu’s soundtrack. It’s the same game, but the audio is absolutely spectacular. The Famicom’s sound chip allowed for a level of audio clarity that even the SNES struggled to pull off half the time.
17 Everything You Need To Know About The Power Glove
Nintendo’s first real foray into virtual reality, the Power Glove was in many respects the R.O.B. that R.O.B. wanted to be: an accessory that bridged the gap between physical gaming and digital gaming. Unfortunately, as with most experimental peripherals in the third generation of gaming, the Power Glove wasn’t too hot a product.
Clunky to use and incompatible with most games, the Power Glove might very well be the NES’ worst accessory. To give you an idea of how unwieldy it actually was, absolutely no Japanese games were developed with Power Glove compatibility in mind. The NES’ homeland basically ignored the glove altogether.
16 The Wizard: Or How Nintendo Used A Movie To Sell Super Mario Bros. 3
Thanks to the Wii U, we all kind of just take Nintendo’s marketing for granted. Although the console sold poorly, trying to ride on the coattails of the Nintendo Wii, it’s important to recognize that the Wii U was an exception and not the rule. For the most part, Nintendo absolutely dominated when it comes to marketing.
Product placement is truly a powerful thing.
Just look at The Wizard, a film that exists solely to push copies of Super Mario Bros. 3. Rarely does Nintendo cross promote these days, likely trying to keep their image intact, but The Wizard was the right move at the right time that helped the second sequel to one of the NES’ most popular games end up one of the greatest selling video games of all time.
15 Learning To Love The Famicom Keyboard
Have you ever wanted to practice your typing while also playing your Famicom? Probably not, but Nintendo was genuinely trying to see what would stick more often than not. The Famicom BASIC was a keyboard that basically functioned as a regular keyboard, except for your Famicom. As an accessory, it is totally worthless, more so than even the Power Glove. As a piece of history, it’s a reminder that Nintendo, at one point, thought it was a genuinely good idea to release a keyboard for a console that lacked in typing based games.
14 The Famicom’s Data Recorder
Are you sick of your favorite games lacking a dedicated saving feature? Most likely not considering modern gaming predominantly uses saving for basically every single game, but that wasn’t the case back in the third generation. The Famicom Data Recorder was Nintendo’s answer to said problem.
The greatest accessory you never knew you needed.
An accessory that could be used to create manual saves, the Data Recorder should have been more popular than it actually was. It was a literal save state machine. Unfortunately, it was also quite expensive. Of all the Famicom accessories, this is arguably one of the best, but, like most Famicom accessories, it failed nonetheless.
13 The NES Barely Got Any Of The Famicom’s Peripherals
Although Nintendo pushed more than a fair share of accessories for the Famicom, the NES basically got nothing to mirror the Famicom’s Data Recorder or Famicom BASIC. The west got R.O.B. and the Power Glove, but nothing particularly creative in the way of actual peripherals. To be fair, though, while there is a certain wanderlust to what the Famicom offered, few of the accessories were actually practical. If the Famicom BASIC was barely usable, what makes you think the NES BASIC would be any better?
12 The Famicom Could Go Online
Surprisingly, and quite honestly borderline inexplicable, the Famicom could actually go online. Through the Family Computer Network System, players could take their Famicom online and look up cheat codes, weather forecasts, and even download primitive pieces of DLC. Surprisingly, the Famicom Net System wasn’t discontinued until 2001, existing on the market for over a decade. It just goes to show how much we utilize in modern gaming can be traced back to the NES. That said, not everything Nintendo brought to the table would ultimately be for the best.
11 Nintendo Introduced Region Locking
Perhaps Nintendo’s worst contribution to gaming, the NES solidified the perpetual practice of region locking. While Sony would abandon the practice sooner rather than later, Nintendo held firm whenever possible, only forgoing region locking for early handhelds like the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance.
It wouldn’t be until the Nintendo Switch where Nintendo would finally abandon region locking altogether, but, even then, this is a practice Nintendo could easily slip back into as the Switch’s lack of region locking may be due to its development time. If Nintendo makes a proper successor to the 3DS, it may very well feature region locking.
10 The NES Was Outdated At Its Launch
For as well as the NES sold, it only sold so well because of Nintendo’s marketing, not because of any cutting edge technology. In fact, the NES was already outdated and virtually obsolete at launch. When Sega released their 8-bit system shortly afterwards, it was already far stronger than the NES.
The average word doc is bigger than Super Mario Bros.
This is why marketing is important, though. Through marketing, Nintendo pushed that their games were of a higher caliber than their competitors, emphasizing quality over specs. When people complain about the Switch’s lack of power, it’s worth remembering that this has been Nintendo’s MO since day one.
9 Nintendo’s Intense PR
While Nintendo of Japan has also been more liberal in regards to censorship, Nintendo of America went quite hard with making sure every game on the NES was content appropriate. This meant religion had to be toned down considerably, references to drinking had to either be outright omitted or cover up, and anything remotely grown-up had to be downplayed. Where Nintendo of Japan embraced the revival of the medium, Nintendo of America sadly did seem to think of the NES as more toy than “video game console,” a trend that would, unfortunately, slip into the SNES’s life cycle.
8 The NES 2
Nintendo has been remodeling their consoles for ages. While it seems like a recent trend with the Nintendo DS, the NES had a straight up sequel via the NES-101, also known by fans as the NES Top Loader. Not only did the Top Loader comes with a much slicker controller that helped play on the NES feel more natural, it actually managed to improve the console’s visual fidelity as well, setting a precedent of Nintendo making their consoles better after the fact for years to come. Don’t be alarmed when we inevitably get the Switch Top Loader. (Though it is already a Top Loader, isn’t it?
7 Zelda II Is Miyamoto’s Least Favorite NES Game
The man who made Nintendo into the juggernaut it now is, Shigeru Miyamoto demands a certain amount of respect in gaming discourse. He gave us Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong. His opinion genuinely does matter. Interestingly, in regards to his opinion, Miyamoto actually revealed what his least favorite NES game was.
A bit of a shame as it's quite a good game in its own right.
In an interview, Miyamoto stated that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was the one game he developed that he regretted. Lamenting the lack of cohesion between the overhead view and side scrolling action, Miyamoto felt he could have made Zelda II a far stronger game with more foresight and a more dedicated development cycle.
6 Explaining “Nintendo Hard”
The term “Nintendo Hard” gets thrown around quite a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily mean much nowadays. After all, Nintendo games have been getting easier and easier for generations. When you hear Nintendo Hard used in conversation, it’s more than likely referring to the difficulty they used to be known for in the NES era.
As the NES acted as a direct successor to arcade gaming, it naturally brought with it some pre-existing design philosophies: most notably, brutal difficulty for the purpose of coin guzzling. Nintendo Hard was a staple of the NES as Nintendo developed games were incredibly difficulty, incentivising longer play sessions and demanding a critical amount of skill at any given turn.
5 Censoring The Zapper Gun
The NES Zapper, or Zapper Gun, was Nintendo’s way of making Duck Hunt all the more interactive. Easily the most successful of Nintendo’s pseudo virtual reality accessories, the Zapper holds a very special place in the hearts of fans all around the world. It was also censored when leaving Japan.
You'll shoot your eye out, kid.
In Japan, the Zapper was styled like a proper revolver, really playing up the handgun motif. When coming to the west however, and taking into account Nintendo of America’s strict PR, the gun was remodeled to look more like a sci-fi blaster, ditching the realistic gun aesthetic entirely. Interestingly, this would be the model the Wii’s Zapper would take after.
4 The Famicom Sewing System
Bafflingly, Nintendo actually released a compatible sewing accessory for the Famicom. This wasn’t some kind of digital counterpart, either, the Famicom Sewing System was a legitimate sewing machine that you could sew with. Unlike the Famicom BASIC which made a considerable amount of sense as it was a piece of proper technology, the Famicom Sewing System just feels… weird. There’s no real logic behind its existence, but that, in itself, gives the accessory a fair amount of charm. When it comes down to it, we all secretly want to sew with our video game consoles.
3 The NES Is Substantially Worse Than The Famicom
As we’ve learned, the Famicom had quite a lot going for it even if what it “had” wasn’t necessarily all that great. Even then, it’s nice that Nintendo gave the Famicom options where the NES had none. And also gave the Famicom a better sound chip and better engineering that, overall, made it a better console.
The Famicom color scheme is also just so much slicker.
In the transition to the west, Nintendo more or less butchered the architecture of the Famicom. For really no reason at all, the NES became a beast of its own, losing features and getting downgraded for a western audience. This is a big reason why so many collectors opt for the Famicom over the NES. The latter is just an inferior product.
2 Miyamoto’s Favorite NES Game Is The US Super Mario Bros. 2
Interestingly, Miyamoto’s favorite Super Mario game, and favorite NES game of all time, is the western version of Super Mario Bros. 2 that was based off of Doki Doki Panic. A game that many fans disregarded for years for being too different from its predecessor, Miyamoto’s praise gave the game an element of legitimacy fans should have always recognized.
Although it may not have been designed as a Mario game, it always had the spirit of one. In many respects, Doki Doki Panic is the first game’s true sequel, adding in elements of upward and downward verticality to platforming while opting for a grander scope in general. It’s really no wonder Miyamoto loves the game so much.
1 The Famicom Saved The Gaming Industry
The second generation of gaming ended in a disaster. Gaming, as a medium, was neither taken seriously or treated with respect. Video games truly were just toys before Nintendo came around. This isn’t to say all games prior to the third generation were bad, but that Nintendo elevated gaming almost single handedly.
Gaming as we know it would not exist with Nintendo.
The Famicom saved the gaming industry, raising the bar for higher quality content. Their marketing pushed a more mature understanding of the medium and their hardware, while already outdated, strived for quality above all else. Without the Famicom we would not have gaming as we know it.