Due to a lack of record keeping at the time and the fact that console launches were hardly the same beast that they are today, nobody is really quite sure when the exact launch of the NES was. General consensus places it in October 1985, and more recently, gamers have been able to pinpoint Oct. 18 as about as good of an estimate as it can get.
Barring a few broken street dates, which were much easier to occur back then, it’s safe to also a assume that this is the date which changed video games forever in North America. The crumbled relics of the past were washed away by a fresh and innovative Japanese company, and this magical name of “Nintendo” became poison to the ears of annoyed parents all over the continent, from sea to shining sea.
30 years later, it’s easy to look back and see this as a turning point. The NES was a revolutionary console the changed standards and even created the model of what the video game industry has become today! And unlike many of its peers and predecessors, it’s still a lot of fun to pick up and play even to this day!
What are your fondest memories with the NES? How did the system shape you as a gamer? Any particular game pull you in, or did you just want the console in general? Or were you a decade or two too late to the party and discovered the NES through your savvy parents? Tell us all about your story in the comment section below.
The NES wasn’t the only game changer released in Oct. 1985. Your’s truly was as well, and I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday next week. It almost seems fitting that the career path I’ve chosen spawned from the world I was born into. There is little doubt in my mind that my love of Japan started with the NES, and most definitely writing about video games did as well. So, thanks for my career path, Nintendo!
I might not have been around to experience the “launch” of the NES, but I was raised by many older cousins who taught me the ins and outs. I could find the warp zone in Super Mario Bros. and do the Konami Code before I learned to even write my own name!
And despite being raised with the NES as the standard console, I could still appreciate how much better it was than other gaming devices. I never owned my own until the early 90s because my parents knew how addicted I would become. I could only ever enjoy playing this wonderful source of escapism at my grandmother’s house, where my parents stashed the one they purchased.
Otherwise, I was left with rickety old DOS games, a ColecoVision, and several… ugh… Tiger handhelds. Jumping from those to the NES everytime I went to Grandma’s was like traveling into the future, and I learned the importance of playing games that actually understood style and quality game design.
And despite how much I love the NES, I find it hard to focus that admiration on specific games. It’s more in general to the entirety 8-bit era. I think that’s because my nostalgia primarily peaked during the Super Nintendo and PlayStation years, but just the look, sound, and feel of 8-bit games overshadows any individual titles.
That being said, there are three games I tend to remember more fondly than others. The first is Mega Man 2, which was the first time I remember enjoying a specific game rather than enjoying games in general. I played this every morning at a neighbor’s house that my mother babysat at, and that very clearly sent vibrations through my existence that I still feel today. The characters, art, music, just everything. It’s still one of my all-times favorites.
The second is the Legend of Zelda, which is still about as pure and perfect as open-world gaming gets. No plot to bog down the pace, no waypoints or quests to steer you in the right direction. The world is simply yours to discover as you see fit. Neither my neighbor nor my grandmother owned this game, so it was a rare title I could only play at a cousin’s house far less frequently.
The last is actually one I discovered many years later through *coughachooemulationsnortsniff*. Bionic Commando might not be a childhood favorite of mine, but it was one of the primary titles to teach me that games are far better when they are forced to work within a box rather than be given limitless free reign. I can imagine a Capcom designer in the studio saying “We need to shoot, jump, and fire a grappling hook, but we only have two buttons… well… who needs to jump?” The result? Still one of the best action games ever made.
I have other titles and fond memories. Playing against my mother at Tetris, playing with my cousins in Contra, the Christmas we all got Super Mario Bros. 3, and experiencing Bucky O’ Hare for the first time. I don’t even mind that I had to dig through a lot of garbage to find the good titles because we just didn’t know better back then.
You kids sure have it lucky, but then again, I wouldn’t have traded Nintendomania for anything. Where I am today in life wouldn’t be the same without it.
As a young gamer, I was very lucky. My mom was very supportive of my interest in games, and while I did occasionally end up outdoors, she was usually content to let me explore the world through books and games. One way she supported this was by letting me rent new games just about every weekend.
Back then, I had no idea what was new or what was good – just what I had and hadn’t played. Even that was sketchy sometimes. Most of my earliest gaming memories aren’t of a specific game, but of the first rental store I rented games from: Adventures in Video. The wall of games went up higher than I could reach as an 8-year-old – I was 3 when the Nintendo came out, and didn’t get one for a few years after – and the wall was full of possibilities.
I remember renting games like Castlevania II. Thanks to a poor translation, I never got very far in the game, but it still left a few marks on me. I remember when night fell in the game, and the words would appear: WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE. It was around this time that I was starting to figure out games could have stories, and things like this were starting to stick in my mind. Castlevania II‘s town music is some of the earliest video game music I can remember aside from the Super Mario Bros. theme burned into my brain by popular culture.
Another mourned Konami classic, Metal Gear was one that left an immediate impression. I was terrible at it. I didn’t get it at all when I was so young. But it was a pioneer in video game storytelling that was also marred by bad translations like “I FEEL ASLEEP” and “THE TRUCK HAVE STARTED TO MOVE.”
Man, a lot of the early games that had an affect on me were Konami games.
Like Ron, though, one of my earliest memories comes from Mega Man 2, but not playing the game itself.
I remember browsing through Nintendo Power and seeing a screenshot from the game that, for some reason, was totally untitled and had no context. I had no idea what it was, because I hadn’t yet played the original at that point. What I knew was that it looked like a cartoon. It wasn’t a blocky little stout Mario-type, it wasn’t some weird, janky attempt at making a proportionate human character. The screenshot above is exactly the one I saw back then, and it’s stuck in my brain to this day.
Because I rented so many games, though, it wasn’t until much later that I learned to challenge myself with games. If a game was too hard, it didn’t matter. It was going back to Adventures in Video, which my mom referred to as “the tape store” back then, in a few days anyway. While I’m not afraid of a challenge anymore, the constant string of rentals has resulted in me being unable to stick with a game for longer than it takes to finish it, so my experience with the NES has resulted in my inability to enjoy MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV no matter how much praise my friends heap on them.
It also makes it tough to pin down a single favorite game. Metal Gear, Castlevania, Mega Man and other classics were definitely formative, but I think more than anything the way I consumed games then has affected the way I do today.
You’ve heard our stories. What are you NES memories? Were you there on day one? Did you get a later start and have your experience through the coughachooemulatorssnortsniff that started to get popular in step with the internet? Jump into the comments and tell us your biggest Nintendo memories.