I admit it; I was a latecomer to the Nintendo phenomenon. Despite having played games since I was sat down as a five year old in front of my neighbor’s brand new Atari, I was not an instant convert when Nintendo’s system arrived here in the United States. It’s not that I didn’t like games; my friends and I spent our allowances in the arcade and even played and programmed our own games on the Apple and Commodore 64. But by the time my younger sister brought Nintendo’s system into our house in the late 1980s, my free time was taken up by girls and garage bands.
That all changed when I got to college and shared an apartment with a guy who worked at a game store. We shared a Sega Genesis and a Super NES between us and, now that I could dig into Nintendo’s whole catalog, I discovered the joys of games like Secret of Mana and PilotWings, Final Fantasy II and MarioKart. These are experiences that still linger in my mind and whose memory can even now bring a smile to my face.
Maybe you never had the chance to experience Nintendo that way. Let’s say you’re one of the strangely expressive minority who have nothing better to do than look for opportunities to criticize Nintendo’s games as immature. Assuming for a second that you’re actually right, you’d still be wrong to discount Nintendo’s considerable influence on the industry as a whole. Not only did the company give other publishers and manufacturers the confidence to bounce back from the videogame crash of the mid 1980s, but it did so on the backs of franchises which are still top sellers today – Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Castlevania. Where would gaming be without those franchises and, more to the point, where would those franchises be without Nintendo?
So say what you will about Nintendo’s kiddie systems and family-friendly catalog. Even if the characterization is true, imagine how much poorer our industry would be without Nintendo’s continued presence. Just try to imagine for a moment a market where World of Warcraft existed and The Legend of Zelda never did. Or a world where the engineers who make our smart phones never heard of the GameBoy. I can’t do it.
If you need any further proof of the significance of this videogame giant, you don’t need to look any further than this issue’s articles. In Who Cares About Mario?, Chris Chafin tries to uncover the truth behind the claim that Nintendo offerings are skewed toward younger gamers. Meanwhile, Tim Latshaw uses Kirby to prove that the claim, even if it’s true, might not necessary be a bad thing. Kyle Orland’s The World in a Chain Chomp outlines the surprises lurking beneath the surface in Super Mario Bros. 3. Logan Westbrook rounds out our offerings this week by attempting the seemingly impossible task of sorting out the Zelda continuity in his article, Ocarina of Timelines.