The history of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) goes a lot further back than you may expect! Back before we even had televisions, the roots of the NES were being planted in Japan.
Started in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi, the company originally produced hand crafted playing cards. It didn’t stay in the playing card business for long though- instead it branched out into multiple divisions. Having everything from a cab service to love hotels, Nintendo got a bit of a rocky start due to a lack of clear direction.
Finally in the 1970s under Nintendo’s 3rd president Hiroshi Yamauchi, the company started transitioning toward the video game industry. Here it gained massive success, becoming the largest video game company by revenue and the third largest in Japan. Hiroshi Yamauchi is largely credited with taking Nintendo from a small card-making company to a multi-billion dollar video game empire.
But what about the NES itself? How did it get started?
Well in 1983, Nintendo released a product in Japan called the Family Computer. This little unit allowed people to play games on their TVs, and these games had better graphics and were better designed than those of the old Atari models.
As the company learned from customers, it developed the Family Computer further and changed the name to the Nintendo Entertainment System. It then came to the United States in 1985, and was an instant classic.
Nintendo Commercial 1985
One of the first successes of the system was the original Mario Brothers game. One of the bestselling video games of all time, Mario Brothers was different than the rest of the video games at the time. There weren’t many “side scrollers,” nor were there a lot of games with the complexity of Mario. You could jump on bad guys, dodge obstacles, get power ups, and save the princess. What else could you want?
But Mario wasn’t the first game. It was actually the original Donkey Kong game that gave Mario his success. Originally starring “Mustache Man” as the hero, the game was simply about climbing ladders and dodging the barrels thrown by Donkey Kong. Pretty simple, but both characters have been featured in dozens of games to date.
Success didn’t stop with the NES of course. Just a few years later, Nintendo came up with a crazy idea of a handheld video game system. By 1989, the Game Boy was born, allowing people everywhere to play video games wherever they wanted.
Original Gameboy 1989
The next successor of the NES, the Super Nintendo, was put into the market in 1991. A whopping 16 bits made it a much more powerful system than the NES, but there was a problem. Nintendo’s success had attracted some competition, and the Sega Genesis came into the field.
Nintendo later acquired Sega, but not after it had first stolen millions of sales from Nintendo.
Today, Nintendo is still doing pretty well in some respects. Their Nintendo Wii system was a mega hit, but the Wii-U fell a bit flat. However the Nintendo DS is the most popular handheld system by a long shot, plus the exclusive Pokémon series continues to be one of the best-selling series of games in the history of gaming!