Everyone has played Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Duck Hunt, Wii Sports, or Pokemon at some point in their life it seems. A lot of people grew up playing some form of Nintendo. I wanted to chronicle my life as a gamer, my evolution as a Nintendo fan, and my recent decisions regarding the current state of the Nintendo I once fell in love with.
For the world it began in 1985 with the release of Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros. combo pack. For me it began in 1987 at a laundromat in Delphos Kansas. A small town the people in the next town over haven’t even heard of. Up to that point I was an Atari guy, we had an Atari machine at our house we used to play the crap out of that thing, mostly games nobody ever remembers the names too along with a few favorites like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Haunted House, etc. My arcade experience was mostly confined to Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man at the local bar in town we sometimes ate at as it doubled as a restaurant. Then there I was sitting in a laundromat bored out of my mind begging my mom for quarters to play one of the video games they had in the corner. I don’t for the life of me remember what the other two games were but I do remember the one I dropped my $.25 cents into, it was a game called Donkey Kong featuring this tiny man jumping over barrels and climbing ladders. At first I hated the game, man it was hard compared to Pac-Man my previous arcade favorite, but something about it kept drawing me back.
I remember it was 1987 because I was barely 5 years old, I hadn’t started Kindergarten yet, I was living in Delphos Kansas and I was born in 1982 so it had to be 1987. I also remember having mixed feelings about the game. Then we moved to another town called Minneapolis, Kansas. It was New Year’s Eve going into 1988, my family was attending a party with some friends my parents had made, this kid named Marvin who I remember very little about. What I do remember is when I asked if they had an Atari they said no, I should have been bummed but what they did have was so much better. They took me downstairs to the play room where they kept all their toys, had the TV set up for the kids and they was this VCR-sized machine with these funny gray “tapes” stacked up beside it and the kid was holding an ugly little square controller with 2 buttons playing a game I never seen before, it was called The Legend of Zelda. He let me try it out and I was hooked immediately. Forget Atari man I wanted one of these, what were they called Intendos? I wanted one so bad. I spent the rest of that year BEGGING my parents for an Intendo I needed an Intendo bad. (yeah I didn’t learn it was Nintendo until we got one, that Christmas.)
It was the Christmas that almost didn’t happen though. See my mom had promised me a younger brother and in April of 1988 she brought me home, nope not the brother she promised, but ANOTHER sister, I mean come on I had one older and one younger than me I was surrounded by icky girls I was ready for a boy in the house to help me tear the place down. Well needless to say the “bundle of joy” came along early enough in the year there was some doubt what sort of Christmas we would end up with. Turns out most of the fears were for naught as under the tree was a present in a HUGE box larger than any we as a family had seen up to that point. Christmas Day arrives and we tear into it me and my two sisters that were old enough to do so and BEHOLD the Intendo machine I been begging for! Yeah parents made me forget that my baby brother was missing some parts. Oh well plugged my gaming machine into the TV, powered up some Duck Hunt and blasted Ducks till it was time to go back to school. Yeah it was a year after I had gotten my first taste of Nintendo before we had one in our home but man it was worth it, my tiny little six-year-old hands couldn’t be seen without a Nintendo control pad in them for a VERY long time.
Fortunately for us there were not on, not two, but THREE stores in town that rented Nintendo games so I was lucky to get to experience so many “great” games ranging from the hotly anticipated Who Framed Roger Rabbit to the nobody heard of before Little Nemo, to a bunch of games I can’t even sarcastically pretend were good because honestly I totally forgot their names they mostly sucked. Still even if the rentals were hit or miss, we had one gem at home, Super Mario Bros. Not Mario Bros. no we had SUPER Mario Bros. In the 80’s Rad, Awesome, Ultra, Super, Radical, or Mega, if your thing didn’t have one of those words in the title it wasn’t really worth your time. I played that game to death, literally poor Mario died countless deaths on his quest to save the poor princess from the evil turtle.
I don’t know if it was coincidence or what but it also happened that my favorite cartoon at the time and accompanying toy line also featured some beastly looking Turtles, so I was able to “pretend” my Leonardo action figure was “King Koopa” and any Optimus Prime action figure was Mario and I could re-create my favorite “scenes” from the game over and over, with toys. It was about this time my hobby of Nintendo began to become an obsession the likes of which would dominate my youth for many years to come.
I enjoyed the early days of the NES tremendously, randomly renting one game after another as my parents were too cheap to buy us that many games, and the few they did buy were sadly from the bargain clearance rack which meant they usually were games nobody heard of or nobody wanted to play. I wasn’t complaining though man I loved that little gray box. I loved it so much my parents bought me a small black and white TV and set it up next to my bed so I could sit and play at night before I fell a sleep. I thought once I discovered Nintendo there was no going back the world had changed and Atari was quickly fading into memory.
My love of Nintendo even stretched into other areas of my life. I begged mom to buy Mario valentines day cards for my friends, I had Mario on my folders and notebooks for school, I watched the cartoon/TV extravaganza the “Super Mario Super Show” faithfully, even more so than my previously beloved Transformers. If Mario was on one channel and even Ninja Turtles, which I enjoyed, was on the other, Mario one every time. I even watched that movie, I won’t say the name you remember, and I was, well I liked parts of it, seeing Mario and Luigi on the big screen in their costumes was, um sorta satisfying, but, okay it was a mess of a movie that almost killed Nintendo for me but I sat in the theater hoping to enjoy it nonetheless, I even convinced my parents to buy a copy on VHS because as a kid I believed if I kept watching it would eventually get better. Yeah I was wrong sue me.
Things were progressing along just fine until one day I questioned Nintendo’s value to me. A friend of mine showed me his new game consoles, the Turbo Grafix 16. He bragged how it was so much better than Nintendo because it was 16 bits and Nintendo was “only” 8 bits. I didn’t know what the hell a bit was but if this machine had more of them it must be better. So I started looking through comic books to read Turbo Grafix ads and saw, it had a few games that looked cool. I started putting the work on my parents to buy me a new 16 bit machine and they shot it down dead with, when Nintendo makes one we will consider it. I thought that will never happen Nintendo is stuck in the past their machine is too popular there is no chance they will ever replace it. Of course I was 8 at the time what did I know. To be fair Super Mario Bros. 3 had just came out and well that game, 16 bit or not 16 bit, was a damn fine game that reminded me bits, what are bits, this game is FUN and fun is the name of the game. So my interest in Turbo whatsitcalled faded and I plunged head first into my world of Nintendo.
Then everything changed in 1992. I was at another friends house who was showing me his newest toy, the Super Nintendo! Wait a Nintendo that was SUPER and not “regular” I had to have one. This put me on a quest to once again convince my parents I needed a new Nintendo player. Dad wasn’t falling for it, he just got the Nintendo three or four years prior, if they can’t last ten years he felt they weren’t worth the money spent on them. And so I waited. Christmas 1993 came and still no Super Nintendo under the tree. By this time I had begun to amass quite a collection of NES carts so I wasn’t exactly in a huge hurry to you know upgrade. That is until one fateful day everything changed for good, this time there was no going back. Sitting on the bus another kid showed me his new toy, the Sega Game Gear. My best friend at the time had a Game Boy and I already had dozens of those Tiger things at home so I was vaguely familiar with the concept of a hand held gaming device, but the tiny screens I just wasn’t sold. He was playing a game called Super Star Wars. I had played this game on NES and felt the Game Gear version definitely played better. Then he plugged in his Sonic cart. WHAT IS THIS? A “Mario” game that was actually as good as or even *gasp* better than Mario? Oh man I fell in love so hard with Sonic I immediately began to lose all interest in that lame Plumber from the Mushroom Kingdom. (This was the SAME Mario my mom had used to convince me cleaning the toilet was fun because “Mario is a plumber and plumbers clean toilets” yeah I fell for it, Doh!)
With my friends posters and Sega promotional material I now knew I had to have this new machine, the Sega Genesis. I had forgotten all about Super Nintendo and abandoned my quest to get one now I turned all my attention to Genesis. It was an easy sell, my parents were Sunday school teachers, the word Genesis is in the Bible it must be good right? It worked, a little nudging, some careful planting of evidence and on my 12th birthday my parents gave me a Sega Genesis console with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 packed in! Whoo hoo I was happy. Yeah sorry Nintendo, Sega had Sonic, Mortal Kombat WITH the blood, Turrican, Shinobi, Streets of Rage, the BETTER Mighty Morphin Power Rangers games (shut up I was 12,) and it had not one but TWO totally amazing X-Men games and boy was I an X-Men nut by this time. The 16 bit wars were easily the best time to be a gamer and I loved drawing battle lines and picking what I knew was the right side, Sega Genesis all the way baby, it had games, it had Sega CD, it could play music, it could play Karaoke CD’s (didn’t know what they were but hey it could play them so it was cool!) Man I jumped on the Sega bandwagon so hard, to this day my online discussion forum handle more often than not is Sega Gamer 12, a throwback to getting a Genesis on my 12th birthday. Good times were had for a very long time.
Just like the transition from Atari to Nintendo then Nintendo to Sega I felt there was always going to be a newcomer to take out the old timer. Atari failed to make a comeback with their Jaguar, and even before it was announced I knew Saturn would bomb because it was over priced 32X and 32X was a joke, even I could see that at only 12 years of age. So where was I to go now that Nintendo had lost my interest? Don’t count the lovable house that Mario built out just yet my friends. Nintendo and Sega were battling it out in the home console and handheld market, Sega was killing it in arcades and I was a huge arcade fan, something was brewing that made me rethink everything. Virtaul Reality. We stopped calling it VR pretty quickly and then just called it 3D gaming but between Doom, Area 51, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing, Tekken, Cruisin USA, Killer Instinct, Star Fox, this new “VR-3D” gaming craze was upon us and I had to get in. The question then was which of the new 3D consoles was I going to set my sights on? There were four on the market or just around the corner.
It was middle 1995, summer, I had a job now I could save up my money and buy my OWN machine. No need to involve the parents anymore. I was saving up for a new 3D gaming box but which one do I go after? The Sega Saturn, and it’s blocky, ugly games that were not at all fun like Genesis? Or would it be Atari and.. not not even on my radar was the Jaguar sorry pass. What about Sony and their new fangled Play Station majigger? Not sure how much faith I have in a company known for making tape decks so I turned my attention to the one last hope for gaming, Nintendo Ultra 64, which was just around the corner. I enjoyed Killer Instinct and Cruisin USA in the arcades, I played the heck out of Area 51, and I was even starting to feel some nostalgia for Mario after playing Super Mario All-Stars at a cousins house that summer. This had me thinking Nintendo was going to be my next purchase. I saved up, went down to K-Mart in August of 1996 and put my N64 machine and Super Mario 64 game cart on advance layaway. It was going to cost me a whole bunch of money but I felt it was worth it I wanted 3D Mario.
The day before I was supposed to pay it off/pick it up something changed. My dad had taken me into this pawn shop, which introduced me to a whole new world of shopping I had never experienced before, and they had a complete working Super NES for a mere $40 bucks! I was like wow wait a second drop $250 on an N64 and ONE game, or take home this machine, a shoe box full of great Super NES games, and have money left over to buy 3 pieces of a 5 piece drum set? I had to cancel my Layaway, take that money to the pawn shop and load up on Super NES games.
With a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis safely tucked away on my TV in my bedroom I was set for life baby. I was quickly reminded how much I enjoyed Nintendo games. I never fell for the 16 bit wars, I finally had both machines and I could honestly say they both gave me equal enjoyment over the years. Eventually this would morph into a half truth then Super NES would not only win out for me as the better machine overall, I would eventually settle on it as the greatest video game console, of all time.
Things were going good I was firmly back in Nintendo land. I grabbed me an N64 a couple short years latter, got a Game Boy Pocket then Game Boy Advance along the way, followed that up with an amazing and to this day very memorable Game Cube machine, got me a Nintendo DS and enjoyed it tremendously then suddenly Nintendo did the unthinkable, they made a machine I not only wasn’t excited for much, I grew to HATE. Unlike Super NES where the alternative was just as good for the most part, or the N64 where you kind of had to recognize it was your second machine with Playstation being the bulk of your source of gaming, now Wii was an entirely different beast. I quickly went from not that interested to HATING that worthless pile of garbage. I hated it so much that it was 3 years into Wii U before I could even consider getting it and despite having the same name, I personally felt it was the superior machine, it was the last straw for me. I never picked up a 3DS, I sold my DS when it became nothing more than SNES 2.0 with a few N64 remakes and a bunch of the casual crap flooding the Wii library. I realized my love was not for Nintendo the company, or even Nintendo products, it was always the Nintendo games and the characters within those games. I gotta say with Wii and Wii U I lost a lot of respect for the company, I began to lose hope and now just a few months away from their next machine, the NX, I just don’t think I can muster the energy to go through all of that again. This could be my final good by to Nintendo once and for all. Wii hurt me, bad, and Wii U didn’t do much to mend those wounds, in fact it just rubbed salt in a few cases and was barely a band aid at best.
I am here to say that barring a really mind blowing game that I absolutely can’t live without, that does NOT rely on some controller gimmick, and isn’t outrageously over priced outdated hardware, I am just not likely to even bother with NX and Wii U might be my last Nintendo console I ever buy, and if I sell it to buy more Game Cube games, which I might do, it won’t even be a console I own forever. I love Nintendo, at one time I loved them a lot, but I feel like the time has come to file for divorce and go our separate ways. Sony surprised me over the years consistently making the games and consoles I just wished Nintendo would and I figured I am done wishing Nintendo would JUST make a Playstation/modern Super NES and say to hell with it I am firmly now a Playstation gamer.
There is a chance I might buy that new NES Classic Edition console they just announced yesterday. Can they win me back? Only time will tell but as of right now I spend all my time gaming on my PS4 anyways, and I am saving up for a Playstation VR so it’s a long shot. I might download that Pokemon Go app in the meantime though.