Nintendo is great. They’re great for their fantastic games, their innovative consoles and controller designs. Their successes push the industry forward, and their failures drive them to be a better company. They’re great because they care about providing their consumer with a fun and memorable experience. Sure, they’re a company that wants to make money, first and foremost, but they understand that to make money, you better have a great product.
Consider this murderer’s row of greatness: the NES, SNES, Game Boy, Gamecube, Game Boy Advance, DS, 3DS, Wii U, Switch. Out of these five home consoles and four handhelds, only two (Gamecube, Wii U) haven’t been huge sales successes.*
The NES revitalized the games industry in the West and expanded millions’ minds about what home console gaming could be.
The SNES perfected what the NES began. Many genres, including 2D platforming, fighting, and JRPGs, reached their peak here.
The Game Boy used ancient technology to replicate console experiences onto a portable system. The unparalleled success of Tetris and Pokemon didn’t hurt either.
The Gamecube found Nintendo at a height of experimentation, both with newer titles (Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin) and established franchises (Super Mario Sunshine, Wind Waker, Metroid Prime).
The Game Boy Advance was the handheld sequel to the SNES that all Nintendo fans desired, complete with remastered titles (Super Mario Advance, FFIV-VI) and brand new ones that wouldn’t have fit on the SNES (Castlevania series, Advance Wars, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga).
Nintendo’s more recent consoles and handhelds have asked us to embrace duality.
The DS revolutionized the handheld market with dual-screen action right before mobile gaming became huge.
The 3DS introduced 3D play and a stronger processor into a DS shell, and while the headaches are real, so too is the huge library of solid titles (Super Mario 3D Land, Bravely Default, Animal Crossing: New Leaf).
The Wii U is an awkward console tethered to an enormous tablet controller (you could play games on the tablet if your significant other wanted to watch “Mad Men” or something). When the console works (Super Mario Maker, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Hyrule Warriors, Yoshi’s Wooly World), it’s a joy to play.
Finally, the Switch, the console that’s only three years old, yet already feels like it’s a welcome part of Nintendo’s classic hardware pantheon. Its blend of home console and handheld action makes it the perfect Nintendo experience, and I have no idea how the company will improve on this simple, brilliant formula.
For a brief moment, all millennials were in one accord.
The series Nintendo is Great will explore every game ever released for a Nintendo console/handheld, beginning with the Famicom and working our way up to the Nintendo Switch. We will eventually cover Nintendo’s limited arcade output, Game and Watch handhelds, and maybe some of their earlier toy creations. For now, we’re sticking to their home consoles and portable handhelds.
This is an enormous undertaking, but it must be accomplished. We will inevitably grow weary of the overwhelming amount of baseball and gambling games found on the Famicom and Super Famicom. Please don’t be surprised when those posts are short.
Currently, the Nintendo is Great posts are the opinions of me, Dylan Cornelius, and I do not pretend to speak for all of the Archive. Eventually, other authors will tackle this series and offer their differing viewpoints. At the end of the day, we will all (hopefully) still be friends.
*Yes, I (Dylan) did leave out the the Virtual Boy, the N64, the Game Boy Color, and the Wii in the “greatness” list above. I don’t hate these consoles/handhelds, but they’re not Nintendo at their best.
The Virtual Boy is a beautiful clunky mistake. No one asked for a pricey pseudo-handheld console thing that played games only in red, but by gar, that’s what Nintendo delivered in 1995. Their first real misstep.
The Nintendo 64’s focus on expensive cartridges really hurt the system’s catalog and allowed Sony and the PS1 to swoop in and provide more cinematic and varied experiences via discs. Sure, the console had some killer titles (Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007, Harvest Moon 64), and a bunch of exclusive weird ones (Space Station Silicon Valley, anyone?), but it’s the Nintendo console I return to the least.
The Game Boy Color should have come out in the mid ’90s instead of late 1998. It was discontinued in early 2003 (though games support had all but dried up by 2002), only had a handful of decent titles (out of a library of over 1500 games!), and was quickly usurped by the far-superior Game Boy Advance in 2001.
The Wii was a breath of fresh air… for about two years. After that initial batch of brilliance (Twilight Princess, Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy), the pickings were slim for years. Shovelware reigned supreme, and Nintendo seemed content to coast on its success (Mario Kart Wii and New Super Mario Bros Wii are two of Nintendo’s laziest titles ever – and, sadly, two of their most successful).
–featured image courtesy of LEGO Ideas