Nintendo World Championships 1990 (1990, NES)

 

In honor of Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary, the Archive is playing every single release, re-release, port, and remake of the original Super Mario Bros.

 

PUBLISHED/DEVELOPED: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: 1990-ish

 

Most retro gamers know all about the legendary Nintendo World Championships ’90 cartridges. Only 116 cartridges were ever produced. 90 were colored gray, and were created specifically for the 1990 Nintendo World Championships; each finalist from the Championships was given one to take home, regardless of placement. The additional 26 were colored gold, and given as prizes in a Nintendo Power contest.

 

Pay off your house, or… waste a lot of money.

 

Due to their rarity, these cartridges are considered to be among the most valuable Nintendo “games” ever made (next to Stadium Events and Nintendo Campus Challenge ’91). As of this writing, a gray cartridge is listed on eBay for $149,999.99, and a gold cartridge is listed for – no joke – $1,000,000. Both are Wata-certified and are not reproductions (repros still sell for over a hundred bucks, which is ridiculous). We’re not one for shattering dreams, but unless you’re a wealthy entrepreneur who happens to collect NES games (apparently they exist – the last NWC gold cart sold for about $100,000 in 2014), the likelihood of one’s NES collection ever being complete is slim to nil, thanks to Nintendo World Championships ’90.

 

The price is several mints, and we’re not talking Andes’.

 

The Nintendo World Championships pitted American gamers from three different age categories against each other. Each gamer, regardless of age, would play the games contained on the NWC ’90 cartridge. Whoever got the most points within six minutes and twenty-one seconds of play won (the cartridge automatically stops play).

 

You sure you can handle this?

 

Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris were the games included, each with their own specific goal. In Super Mario Bros., you collect 50 coins as quickly as possible; in Rad Racer, complete a track made specifically for the tournament; and in Tetris, beat the high-score of 10,000 points. The final score is tallied like this: (Super Mario Bros. score) + (Rad Racer score x 10) + (Tetris score x 25) = final score. Getting a reasonable score on SMB and Rad Racer isn’t very difficult, but Tetris is the real wild card. It’s difficult to reach the high score unless you’re a robotic brick-laying machine (we never knew how slow we were at Tetris, until NWC ’90 enlightened us).

 

This screen is worth approximately $15,000.

 

After touring through 29 cities and with 90 finalists competing, Jeff Hansen won the “11-and-under” category, Thor Aackerlund won in the “12-17” category and Robert Whiteman won in the “18-and-over” category. Each winner received a $10,000 U.S. Savings bond, a 1990 Geo Metro convertible (?!), a 40″ rear-projection TV, and a gold-painted Mario trophy. Not bad for playing Nintendo!

 

You’ll need more points than that to beat Thor.

 

Nintendo would later resurrect the “Nintendo World Championships” brand for the event’s 25th anniversary in 2015, and again in 2017. These events were certainly welcome nostalgia blasts, and they did include a variety of games for contestants to play across all Nintendo systems. Still, they’ll never have the legacy of the original 1990 gathering.

 

Definitely cool, but not the same.

 

NWC 1990 was the first of its kind, a console-centered tournament where players competed to see who could get the highest score. Other high-score arcade tournaments took place in the 1980s, but no one tournament had ever focused on a specific console before. The excitement within NWC 1990 itself was undeniable. The prizes were too good (we wonder how long Mr. Aackerlund drove his Metro convertible?). Most importantly, Nintendo as a company was still fresh. Sales of the NES had skyrocketed in the late 80s, and by the time of the tournament, their name was synonymous with video games; people didn’t play the NES, they played “Nintendo.” Sega and Sony would later shift the gaming landscape considerably in the 1990s. For a brief moment, when Nintendo was gaming, they held a tournament that asserted their dominance and celebrated their greatness. Its likes will never be seen again.

 

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