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25 Things You Didn’t Know About Nintendo

On October 18, 1985, Nintendo released a small number of Nintendo Entertainment Systems in New York City, its first US market. It was bold move considering it was a time when most American consumers were more interested in personal computers than gaming systems. That first holiday season about 50,000 consoles were sold — which is only half of what Nintendo had produced. But by 1988, gaming had become a multi-billion dollar industry, and everyone and their mother had a Power Pad. Click through as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NES with a bit of Nintendo history and trivia.

1. Nintendo was founded as a company that made playing cards and it still dominates that market in Japan today.

2. The name “Nintendo” roughly translates to mean “luck-heaven-hall.”

3. The Japanese version of the NES, the Famicom (short for “Family Computer”), launched in 1983. It was the best-selling video game console in Japan by the end of 1984.

4. The original plan was to release an American version of the Famicom console through Atari called the “Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System.” The deal fell through after Atari discovered that Nintendo had previously worked with one of their competitors on an arcade version of Donkey Kong.

5. The Famicom hardware was given “a sleeker, more Western-friendly appearance” for American audiences. It was also intended to blend in with home entertainment systems.

6. The NES launched with 17 games, but only two were included with the console: Duck Hunt and Gyromite.

7. Super Mario Bros. was not among the original 17. It was available in Japan at the time, but was not ready for US markets yet.

8. Super Mario Bros. is the best-selling NES game of all-time at over 40 million copies. Number two is Super Mario Bros. 3, which sold 18 million copies, and then Super Mario Bros. 2, which sold 10 million copies.

9. Minoru Arakawa, the head of Nintendo of America, originally told stores that they only had to pay for product that sold — and that they could return everything else. He also offered to put up the displays. Even then, most retailers weren’t interested.

10. In order to differentiate themselves from other video game systems, Nintendo played up the accessories that made them different — the Zapper light gun and the Robot Operating Buddy.

11. The Famicom version of the NES Zapper looked like a revolver. The American version resembled a sci-fi ray gun, and was originally dark gray before US federal regulations required a color change to orange.

12. Another major difference from other consoles: unlicensed games wouldn’t work on the system; all games by third-party providers had to be approved by Nintendo; games were exclusive to the NES for two years.

13. Nintendo had promised a disk drive add-on for the NES in time for Christmas 1986, but it was never released in the States.

14. The NES was available nationwide in February 1986.

15. In 1990, Nintendo traveled across the US on a self-promoted World Championships tour, also known as Powerfest.

16. Other countries ripped off the NES under different names. Russia had a similar console called Dendy; India, Little Master and Wiz Kid; and in Poland, it was called Pegasus.

17. Mario is named after Nintendo of America’s warehouse landlord, Mario Segale, who was angry at the company for failing to pay rent. The character was originally called “Mr. Video.”

18. The NES inspired two films: 1989’s The Wizard, which starred Fred Savage, and 1993’s Super Mario Bros., which starred Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi, and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa.

19. Following new competition from 16-bit consoles, Nintendo announced that the Super NES would be released in September 1991.

20. Nintendo released the NES 2 in 1993. It addressed many design flaws of the original (like the dirt-prone cartridges) and was priced at only $45, but did not sell well.

21. What is the most rare (and expensive) NES game cartridge today? Stadium Events, a copy of which recently sold on eBay for a whopping $41,300.

22. The last licensed game released for the NES in North America was Wario’s Woods.

23. Nintendo of America officially discontinued the NES in 1995.

24. The NES was available in Japan until September 2003, making it the longest-lasting gaming console in their history.

25. In total, over 62 million NES systems and over 500 million games have been sold, making it the most popular gaming system of its time.

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