Nintendo is one of the biggest names in video gaming and consoles – but did you know the company began in the Victorian era?
It was founded in Kyoto, Japan, in 1889 – as a manufacturer of playing cards. The company gradually gained popularity in the early 20th century thanks to its hanafuda style cards – a type of small cards in a deck of 48 which were widely enjoyed across Japan at the time.
It wasn't until the 1970s that Nintendo moved into the electronic gaming that made it internationally famous.
In 1977, it released its first home gaming console, the Colour TV-Game but real breakthrough came in 1981 with the arcade game Donkey Kong. This featured Jumpman (later known as Mario) and Donkey Kong.
It was an instant hit and immediately established Nintendo as a major player in the gaming market.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) soon followed in 1985 – and for many this revolutionized the gaming industry. It featured popular titles like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid.
Nintendo's innovation continued with the Game Boy in 1989.
This soon became the world's best-selling handheld console. It offered gamers the freedom to play their favourite games on the go.
In the mid-1990s, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to maintain its position as a leader in the console market against stiff competition from Sega and Sony. In 1996, the Nintendo 64 arrived, featuring 3D graphics.
The launch of the Nintendo DS in 2004 was another breakthrough in handheld gaming. And the 2006 release of the Wii revolutionized the industry with its motion-sensing controllers.
Gaming was now attracting a wider audience, including casual gamers and families. The Wii sold over 100 million units.
The success continued with the Nintendo Switch, which combined a home console and a portable system. It sold over 85 million units.
The Nintendo Games
Throughout this history Nintendo has become known for creating iconic games including:
Super Mario Bros (1985)
One of Nintendo's most significant contributions to gaming history has a simple formula: Mario, an Italian plumber, is on a quest to rescue Princess Peach from the evil Bowser.
The game's side-scrolling gameplay, vibrant graphics, catchy music, and memorable characters made it an instant hit.
The Legend of Zelda (1986)
This introduced players to Link as he embarked on a quest to rescue Princess Zelda and defeat the villainous Ganon. The non-linear exploration, challenging dungeons, and rich narrative set new standards.
Players assumed the role of Samus Aran, a space-faring bounty hunter and navigated through a vast alien world. The game's surprise twist ending was groundbreaking.
Donkey Kong (1981)
This classic arcade game marked the first appearance of Mario (known as Jumpman) and Donkey Kong. Players controlled Mario as he tried to rescue a princess from a giant ape.
Super Mario 64 (1996)
With the leap to 3D gaming, this set a new standard. Its innovative gameplay and design left a profound impact.
Pokémon Red and Blue (1996)
Kickstarting the global phenomenon of Pokémon. This franchise's captivating concept and trading features became a cultural sensation.
The expanding impact
The enduring popularity of classic Nintendo characters has transcended traditional gaming platforms and expanded into various modern incarnations.
Nintendo's themes have continued to thrive in other forms of entertainment including:
Themed Slots and Casino Games
Nintendo's iconic franchises found their way into casino gaming. Developers created themed slot machines and casino games featuring characters like Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon. Now many of the top online slots sites will have at least one slot game that includes a character from the Nintendo portfolio.
These games often incorporate elements from the original games, including iconic soundtracks, familiar visuals, and references to in-game mechanics. They create a nostalgic and entertaining experience for players.
Merchandise and Collectibles
A wide range of Nintendo products are available, including action figures, clothing, and collectibles. Fans can find everything from plush Mario toys to replica swords from The Legend of Zelda series.
Animated TV Shows and Movies
Several Nintendo games have been adapted into animated TV shows and movies. The most notable is Pokémon. There have been animated adaptations of Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda too.
Theme Park Attractions
Nintendo's collaboration with Universal Studios resulted in the creation of Super Nintendo World theme park areas, which immerse visitors in interactive experiences based on games.
Nintendo has ventured into mobile gaming with smartphone versions of Super Mario, Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem.
Collaborations and books
Characters like Mario and Link have appeared in brands like LEGO to create interactive building sets. Nintendo's characters have been adapted into comic books, graphic novels and novels too.
Overall, the strength of Nintendo's brands and themes has proved to be timeless and versatile. Its traditional video games have left a legacy that extends into other forms of entertainment.
This means that from slots to movies, Nintendo continues to capture the imagination of both new and long-time fans.