Released the NES and Brought Gaming Out of the Crash
In 1983, the video game industry was brought to a halt and entered a recession, resulting from an over-saturation of the market, among other things. Several companies went bankrupt, and revenues had dropped by nearly a whopping 97 percent. Then, in 1985, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S. where it surged with popularity.
The system had been seeing success in Japan since 1983 under the title of Famicom, and once Nintendo brought it to the west, they came with an incredible 17 game launch lineup. These consisted of games like Ice Climbers, Excitebike, Wrecking Crew, and, of course, Super Mario Bros. There are a lot of factors at play with the Video Game Crash, but any way you look at it, the industry never would have recovered without Nintendo. They shifted the focus on to home console systems, changed the industry forever, and firmly secured their spot as one of the best.
Introduced the Save Feature to Consoles Games
Having the ability to save your game is something we easily take for granted these days, but in the early days of home consoles, it was something unheard of. It is true that there wasn’t much of a need for being able to save as most game experience at that time were relatively short of just functioned on passwords. However, when the NES released we started seeing some more length experiences, particularly a little game that released in 1987 called The Legend of Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda was the first game to release on a home console that had a built-in battery inside the cartridge, allowing players to save their game and return to it later with their progress intact. The title is considered one of the most influential games of all time for a number of reasons, but the ability to save would go on to become a hugely important feature. As games became longer and the RPG genre grew, it was something that became necessary.
Mascots and Icons
Out of everything Nintendo has ever created, nothing is more recognizable than the company’s prolific characters and mascots. Some of the most well-known gaming characters of all time have come from Nintendo, and they’ve hit the mainstream like few things ever do.
Characters like Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Link, and Pikachu may be the most well-known, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Nintendo has crafted series after series, adding on even more characters and mascots for themselves over the years like Samus, Zelda, Captain Falcon, Kirby, Fox, Yoshi, Marth, Pit, and more. The list goes on and on with Nintendo characters. Even some enemies from their games are instantly recognizable to so many people, even those who may not play a lot of video games. Just think of how many people know at least what a Koopa-Troopa or Goomba look like, even if they may not know what they’re called. Nintendo helped set the standard for what it means for a gaming company to have a mascot, and you’d see others like Sega with Sonic the Hedgehog following suit for years to come.
Popularized Handheld Gaming With the Game Boy…
In 1989, Nintendo would introduce the world to a hugely important video game system that let people put their games in their pocket: the Game Boy. There had been some minor attempts in the past to create a handheld game system, but the Game Boy was unlike anything seen before.
With just a few batteries to power it, the system featured fleshed out experiences that you could play for hours, not just a few minutes. Even at launch, you could grab Tetris and Super Mario Land, two incredibly popular titles. Looking back on the original Game Boy now, it might feel like a primitive machine, but it set the standard for gaming on the go and inspired countless other handheld systems by both Nintendo and a whole slew of other companies.
And Stayed On Top With Handhelds
The original Game Boy was a critically important piece of hardware for gaming by itself, but Nintendo would go on to dominate the handheld market for literally decades to come after its release. The next iteration, the Game Boy Color, would help introduce the mega-series Pokemon among other things, and then later we’d see the Game Boy Advance continue Nintendo’s domination along with the DS and subsequently the 3DS.
Other companies tried to break into the handheld market with systems like the Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, and Sony’s PSP. Out of all of them, the PSP may be the most comparable in terms of success, but it still doesn’t even come close to what Nintendo achieved with their handhelds. Even today, the 3DS is going fairly strong, despite the mobile market cutting in. You can’t deny that gaming in the ’90s and 2000s was, in part, defined by the Game Boy series of systems.
Touch Screen Gaming With the DS
These days, almost everyone has a game or two on their phone that they play on the bus or out in public, tapping away at their screen. But years before mobile gaming took off, the Vita released, or any kind of touch screen gaming, Nintendo released a big change on the Game Boy called the DS.
The Nintendo DS was a radical shift for handheld system, sporting a clam shell design and two different screens. The top screen displayed the bulk of the game’s animations and graphics, while the bottom functioned as either an extension of the first or as some kind of touch integration. Over the years we’d see a huge library of acclaimed and innovative games like Phoenix Wright, Cooking Mama, Elite Beat Agents, Nintendogs, Super Mario 64 3D, Metroid Prime Hunters and more. Many of the game design concepts we saw on the Nintendo DS, would end up transitioning over to mobile gaming when smartphones and touch screens hit. Not to mention the touch screen integration the PlayStation Vita integrated when it launched, or the Wii U Gamepad.
The Nintendo Wii and Motion Controls
The Wii helped bring gaming into the mainstream like nothing before it, and its motion control gimmick caught on like wildfire. Developers flooded onto the console bringing out title after title, while Sony and Microsoft both quickly tried to follow suit with their own motion control devices.
At the time, the Wii was something so novel, and once again Nintendo had brought a unique spin on how we play our games. How many of us remember swinging around a Wii Remote as a tennis club? Of course, the Wii may not have ultimately been the best implementation of motion controls we’ve seen, but it definitely popularized the idea, and changed the landscape of gaming.
Party Games and Co-Op
As gaming has evolved, developers have tried to find more and more ways to provide people with ways to play together. Co-op and multiplayer games have grown tremendously in popularity, not to mention party games that can get multiple people in on the fun. No one has done more for party games and co-op with some hugely influential titles over the years.
The Mario Kart series alone has become one of the best party games you can possibly play, and generated a whole new genre of the kart racer. Countless companies have tried to use Mario Kart’s formula over the years, with titles like Crash Team Racing, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing, LittleBigPlanet Karting and many others. This is just one series too, and Nintendo has crafted many other party games like the wildly popular Super Smash. Bros, Wii Sports, and Mario Party, to name a few. Whether you’re playing co-op in New Super Mario Bros. or blasting other players in Splatoon, Nintendo has consistently proven that they can find fun ways to get people playing together, and others have followed suit.
Controller Designs and Innovations
If you look at any of your modern gaming controllers you’re sure to spot a few things that Nintendo has contributed to their design, and it might be more than you think. The addition of shoulder buttons on the NES controller helped add more functionality, something we’d see in nearly every gaming system since. The NES also helped popularize the cross design of the D-Pad. Then if you move onto the Nintendo 64, there’s two huge additions that totally changed control for video games. The Rumble Pack gave us the first games with rumble integration, and the analog stick, while primitive on the Nintendo 64, helped us move into a new era of 3D gaming.
Never Gave Up On Family Focused Fun
Above everything else, Nintendo has always had one focus, making video games fun for everyone. With each console and iteration of their series, they’ve done their best to provide engaging experiences for fans of all ages, and they’ve succeeded incredibly well. The Mario series consistently delivers quality experiences that are deep enough for older fans to get into, while accessible enough for those younger ones. The same can be said for many other Nintendo games like Zelda, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart, and Kirby.
Throughout the years, the company has provided gameplay innovations over and over to the industry, making them incredibly important to its formation and history. It’s absolutely no wonder Nintendo has so many fans that love their games and properties so much, years and years later.