In honour of CEO Satoru Iwata – the chief executive with the brain of a developer and the heart of a gamer – we’ve put together our list of Nintendo’s top ten innovations.
I have to admit that I’m not the biggest Nintendo fan. Yes, I have many fond memories of playing Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in my younger years while growing up with my brother. Yes, I do get a certain amouny of joy at seeing my step-son’s face light up whenever he manages a new achievement on his Wii U. And yes, I understand that the company’s games are loved a wide spectrum of gamers, both young and old. But their modern titles just aren’t for me.
That being said however, I do hold a huge amount of respect for the toy-maker-turned-video-game-giant and all that they’ve achieved in their 125 years. In honour of CEO Satoru Iwata – the chief executive with the brain of a developer and the heart of a gamer – we’ve put together our list of Nintendo’s top ten innovations.
1. Playing cards
Nintendo came into being thanks to the success of parent company Nintendo Koppai’s handmade playing cards. These were the first to mass produced in Japan and many gamers will remember the hanafuda – translated as ‘flower cards’ – featuring in early Super Mario games. The company now continues to manufacture playing cards in the country and organises its own contract bridge tournament called the ‘Nintendo Cup’.
2. Ultra Machine
Long before Nintendo was regarded as one of Japan’s most valuable companies, it made obscure toys such as this contraption. The Ultra Machine launched soft balls into the air which were to be hit by a massive wooden bat – and probably hurt as many people as the Wii remote did on launch. Some may recall the toy featuring in several video games including WarioWare: Smooth Moves and Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
3. Game & Watch
Game & Watch were a line of ground-breaking handheld electronic games produced by Nintendo between 1980 and 1991. Each featured a single title – such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. – to be played on an LCD screen and were the earliest of the company’s products to find major success. The predecessor to the Game Boy with a control scheme that became the basis for the NES controller, these were a true innovation.
4. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Super Mario Bros. remains one of the best-selling – and most-loved – video games in history and its can partly be attributed to the NES. First released in Japan in 1983 (under the name of ‘Family Computer’ or ‘Famicom’), this console used a cutting-edge 8-bit processor and supported a range of family-orientated titles. I can remember spending many an hour with my brother, arguing over who’s turn it was to play Duck Hunt.
5. NES Zapper
And speaking of Duck Hunt, next in our list is the brilliant NES Zapper. This bright orange light-gun allowed argumentative siblings to channel their inner hunter and blast innocent birds to smithereens – although it was usually that damn hunting dog, who laughed when they missed everything in a round, who was actually the target they wanted to hit. Other titles compatible with the Zapper included Gumshoe and Wild Gunman.
6. Game Boy
The Game Boy was originally released over twenty-five years ago in 1989 and came to the UK in the following year. It propelled the Game & Watch into the future with interchangeable gaming cartridges, Tetris being one of the most recognisable among them. Despite competing with the Sega Game Gear it was a huge success, selling more than 64 million units worldwide before the Game Boy Color’s release in 1998.
7. Mario Kart
Mario and his band of cohorts are some of the most recognisable characters in gaming history and their platformers hold a place in many a gamers’ heart, but the plumber’s racing franchise is possibly one of the most addictive offerings to ever grace a console. Now in its eight instalment and on the Wii U, the original Super Mario Kart was launched in 1992 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to both critical and commercial success.
8. Nintendo 64
No Nintendo 64 would mean no GoldenEye 007, no International Superstar Soccer and no Mario Kart 64. However would we have coped without them back in 1996? The console The hardware was designed as a party machine, with ‘four controller ports just begging to be filled’ according to the official website, and it still remains one of the most recognised video game consoles in the world. As the slogan said: “Get N or get out.”
Forget the Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move – the Wii pioneered the immersive gaming experience in 2006 with a controller that detected movement in three dimensions. Unfortunately however, many televisions lost their lives thanks to a wayward remote during a furious match of Wii Sports’ tennis. At least you could make yourself feel better by fooling yourself into believing that you’d done some exercise.
The 3DS’s crazy 3D was criticised for melting eyes when it first arrived in 2011 and Nintendo admitted that it wasn’t intended for use by children ages six and younger, citing possible harm to their vision. But the company’s little machine is still going strong four years on and a wide selection of addictive titles has brightened up many a daily commute – as well as ruining others with annoying soundtracks.
Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Satoru Iwata, a man who touched so many people.