Nintendo is 130 years-old today. Founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi and originally called Nintendo Koppai, the company changed video games, Saturday mornings and long car journeys for the entire world.
Originally Nintendo sold hanafuda playing cards. And although the Koppai in their name means ‘cards’, it’s still unclear what Nintendo meant to its founder. There are various translations but the most common one ‘leave luck to heaven’, isn’t backed up by any historical records.
What we do know is that after asking ourselves what Nintendo had ever done for us, we were surprised to find that it had, in fact, done a great deal, including babysitting us for much of our childhood.
From owning an original NES console while everyone else had a Sega Mega Drive, to the grey brick of a Game Boy that saw us through countless journeys via bonding with our childhood friends over Goldeneye, Nintendo has been present at seminal moments in our and, we suspect, your life too.
Here are three of our favourites
You will be hard pressed to find any man of a certain age (30 plus) who has not, at some stage, held the three-pronged Nintendo N64 controller in his hand like a digital Philipe Starck lemon juicer and spent some time killing bad guys for Queen and country. After Pierce Brosnan helped revive the Bond franchise in 1995, he was immortalized, along with Sean Bean, in a first person shooter, launched in 1997. Winning several awards and praise for its realistic style, it showed us what games were going to look like in a post-DOOM world and soaked up hours of our summer holidays.
De de duh de de duh de duh duh…you can hear the theme tune in your head and see Mario and Luigi jumping around the side-scrolling world on their way to rescuing Princess Toadstool from Bowser. Mesmerising, easy to get going on but hard to get good at, the game sold 40 million physical copies after its launch in 1985 -that’s as many copies as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours- and was credited with saving the games industry.
Developed off the back of an arcade game, Super Mario Bros spawned a whole series of sequels, perhaps most notably Mario Kart which is still going strong 25 years later. Mario Kart Tour, for Smartphones, is set for release on 25 September.
Tetris for the Game Boy
If, like us, you were terrible at nearly all computer games: running around in circles on Fifa, crashing on Need for Speed, and get shot very quickly during Call of Duty, then perhaps you also loved Tetris on the Game Boy? And even completed it. Several times over.
The Game Boy itself was a brilliant piece of engineering and design. Small enough to be taken anywhere, chunky enough to feel robust, it was also, worryingly enough, the same size as a book. Launched in 1989 and quickly outselling the competition, Tetris and the Game Boy was the perfect synergy between game and console.