(Author’s Note – as of 03/07/07, I’ve updated this page, with details of the Switch)
Oh Nintendo. I type your name into Google and get almost immediately nostalgic. I see pictures of the Nintendo Entertainment System which reminds me of when my dad brought one home one Christmas, and my love affair with you began.
Some of the greatest, most enjoyable games I have ever played could be found on the NES. I vividly remember playing the original Super Mario Bros for hours on end, sitting with my brother to play Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, and getting frustrated with Super Mario Bros 3! The early 90s were a time of greatness for Nintendo, and characters like Mario and Link (of Legend of Zelda fame, which I will get to presently), and waiting patiently for the next big game.
(The Nintendo Entertainment System kicked started my love of all things Nintendo!)
Whilst the NES sparked my enjoyment of all things Nintendo, it was the Super Nintendo (also known as the SNES) that solidified my love for the company. I first had the chance to play on one at a friend’s house, playing Super Mario World (a great game!) and I would go on to get my own SNES, and I would become entranced by The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, Mario Kart and so many more great games. I still have my SNES, and it still works, and the games remain as great as ever – obviously the graphics don’t compare to modern consoles, but the game play is as strong as ever!
(The SNES is, to me, the greatest console I have ever had)
It’s fair to say that Nintendo’s next offering, the N64, was a big leap for the company. As other companies were jumping from 16-bit consoles to 32-bit ones, Nintendo went from the 16-bit SNES – to the 64-bit N64. However, it could be argued that Nintendo also missed a trick by sticking to cartridge-based games rather than disc-based ones, and the general reluctance of Nintendo to allow games with gore and violence meant hardcore gamers went for Sony’s PlayStation. Nevertheless, the chance to get fully-realised 3D worlds on Mario and Zelda games was one that could not be missed, and I loved the first-person shooter Perfect Dark – a very atmospheric, immersive game.
(The N64’s controller was unique in the gaming world, but oddly enough, despite it’s cumbersome appearance, it worked)
Next up came the Game Cube. For this, Nintendo moved on to discs at last – albeit small, micro-discs, and the Cube lacked several of the features of the PS2 and XBox (such as being able to play DVDs). Nintendo further cemented their reputation as a company for casual gamers, as once again, big, more adult-orientated games didn’t appear on the console. I enjoyed games like Star Fox Adventures, Luigi’s Mansion, and a few others, but honestly? The Cube wasn’t as great as it could have been. The Zelda game was good fun, but even that couldn’t save the Cube from mediocrity.
(Nintendo’s little purple box had some fine games but not enough of them)
Nintendo’s next offering is arguably one of their finest, and it certainly changed perceptions of video games, pushing other developers in new directions. The Wii featured a unique new controller, that could be used on a very physical level to control games and characters, and the idea of moving as you play took off big time. I firmly believe the Wii pushed Microsoft into developing their Kinnect service a lot sooner than they otherwise might have, and the similarities between the WiiMote and the PlayStation’s Move controllers are obvious. Nintendo opened up casual gaming in a whole new way with the Wii, and on top of that, some of the best games yet emerged on it. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (and Skyward Sword), Mario Kart Wii (fun but frustrating!) and a host of others meant the Wii was a huge success.
(The Wii is a terrific success story)
Now, you may have noticed that so far my page has not touched on Nintendo’s handheld consoles – the Game Boy series and the DS series. Don’t worry, these will be covered, as I have fond memories of these too!
I never owned Nintendo’s next console, the Wii U. I wanted it, but circumstances never led me to have one – and in hindsight, that might be a good thing. The Wii U’s touchscreen gamepad was considered cumbersome, and no games truly used the gimmick to its full potential. Whilst the Wii was a superb success, the Wii U was the exact opposite, leading some to wonder if Nintendo would remain in the console market for much longer. There have been some well-received games for the Wii U – Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and Breath of the Wild have all been released for the console – but the system has sold poorly, and the idea behind it wasn’t working.
(The Wii U has a unique touchscreen controller to compliment what happens on the TV)
The latest creation of Nintendo’s is an effort to create a hybrid home/hand-held console, that started life as the mysterious NX project, and last year was finally revealed as the Nintendo Switch.
(The Switch can be used either docked to the TV or as a hand-held device)
Through the goodwill of my beloved Mum and Dad, I am the proud owner of the Switch, which is one of Nintendo’s more innovative ideas, though old questions about Nintendo remain. Breath of the Wild (more about the latest Zelda epic in the link below) was a debut title for the Switch, and Nintendo re-released Mario Kart 8 for the system as well. A popular Wii U title, Splatoon, has received a sequel for the Switch, and console sales are, a few months on from its 3rd of March 2017 launch, strong. However, what Nintendo need to do is drum up third-party support, and that’s where they’ve historically fallen down – the hardware is simply not powerful enough to run titles like Star Wars: Battlefront or the various Call of Duty games. Nevertheless, adventure game Skyrim (usually referred to as an ‘adult’ Zelda game) is coming to the Switch, as is EA Sport’s flagship football game, FIFA 18. Nintendo have (in my view at least) dropped the ball big-time by failing to launch a mainstream Pokemon game for their new system – the hybrid nature of the Switch makes it ideal for a Pokemon adventure in the style of the classic Red and Blue combo, yet so far, Nintendo are not gracing the platform with such a title.
What’s next? Well, if the Switch is a long-term success then the natural way forward would be to beef up the hardware so it can support more powerful titles. A few companies are also looking at virtual or augmented reality games – how might Nintendo get involved in that? There are also no plans to scrap the 3DS just yet, despite the emergence of the Switch. I hope Nintendo can find a way to bring big franchises to their systems – a marriage like that would be tremendous.