10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Nintendo Entertainment System
Learn some cool ish that you probably didn’t know about the little console that could.
IT WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED THE FAMICOM
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) came to the United States in 1984, but it was preceded by a Japanese version in 1983. Called the Famicom (for family computer), it featured a glaring red and white design, far less cool than the gray system American gamers received the following year. The controllers attached to the Famicom system came with built-in microphones, a feature that was dropped. You could never play a Japanese game on the Famicom system because the cartridges were smaller. The Famicom system also received add-ons that never made it to the U.S., like a floppy disc drive and a BASIC package that came with a keyboard to program your own games.
IT HAD THE FIRST CROSS-SHAPED D-PAD, EVER
Gunpei Yokoi, creator of the GameBoy (and, uh, Virtua Boy), was also the inventor behind the very first cross-shaped D-pad. Originally designed for a handheld version of Donkey Kong, Nintendo realized that it was just what they needed for their new console.
ONLY TWO GAMES DIDN’T COME IN GRAY CARTRIDGES
The big, gray NES cartridge (or ‘Game Pak’) only featured different colors for two games, ‘The Legend of Zelda’ and ‘Zelda II: The Adventure of Link,’ which were available in gold, plastic carts. You might have seen a few games in black or blue cartridges as well, but those were unlicensed games without that oh-so-important Nintendo Seal of Approval.
THE NES HAD Downloadable Content AND ALMOST ALLOWED ONLINE GAMBLING
The Famicom modem was released for the system in Japan in 1988. It didn’t allow for online play, but there was actually a small amount of downloadable content released on the service. This modem was used to check for game cheats, jokes, weather forecasts, and even make live stock trades. It was tested in the U.S. by the Minnesota State Lottery to allow gamers to play all of their games for a service charge of $10 per month.
Parent groups balked at the idea of allowing gambling through a system targeted at children under 18, however, and the plan was nixed.
THE POWER GLOVE SOLD 100,000 UNITS
While it’s generally considered to have been incredibly inaccurate and pretty much the worst way to play a game on the NES, the Power Glove was intriguing to a whole lot of gamers. This overpriced accessory appeared in the Fred Savage gaming movie ‘The Wizard,’ in which the villain uses it to perfectly control a match of ‘Rad Racer.’ Nintendo managed to take in $88 million off of this add-on. The two games that were made specifically for the Power Glove (‘Super Glove Ball’ and ‘Bad Street Brawler’) hardly moved any units, however, and the accessory was ultimately deemed a failure, albeit a profitable one.
A NES GAME ONCE SOLD ON EBAY FOR More Than $22,000
The rarest licensed Nintendo game of all time is generally considered to be ‘Stadium Games,’ an Olympic-style track and field competition. Fewer than 200 copies made it to consumers before the game was recalled and retooled to fit the Power Pad; it’s the game that many people got bundled with ‘Duck Hunt’ and ‘Mario Bros.’ when they bought their consoles. It’s estimated that around 20 copies still remain in good condition, though, and an unopened copy sold on Ebay a few years ago for $22,800.00.
But the rarest Game Pak that didn’t make it to retail? The Gold Nintendo World Championships cartridge, a game that was only given out to finalists for the 1990 competition.
THE SUCCESS OF THE NES WAS DUE TO R.O.B.
Nintendo knew that it was releasing the NES at a dangerous time. The great video game crash had just happened and Atari 2600 cartridges were cluttering up bargain bins all around the country. Their idea was to market the system to kids, but how to convince those parents to pick up a system? Get their kids to cry that they want the robot!
Thanks to some clever commercials starring R.O.B., Nintendo sold a million NES systems the first year. Then they dumped R.O.B. when the word was out on the gaming system. He had outlived his usefulness when people realized that the games with him were garbage, and, like the Power Glove, very few games supported him. He’s still plotting his revenge to this day…
BLOWING ON YOUR CARTRIDGES HELPED DESTROY THEM
Everyone who had an NES eventually had problems getting a game to play, dealing with that annoying blinking power light by pulling out the cartridge and blowing on it. But did you think you were blowing dust out of it? You weren’t. You were actually lining the contacts with a layer of moisture from your breath – spit, basically. And by doing that, you were contributing to oxidation of the copper contacts, and eventually the game wouldn’t work at all.
THERE WAS ALMOST A HELLRAISER FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Developer Color Dreams was very close to creating the only FPS on the system, but the problem was that the NES couldn’t handle it. ‘Hellraiser’ was supposed to run on its own internal processor called the Z-80, which would have three times the power of the NES itself and supposedly portray 16-bit graphics. The cartridge would also contain a whopping 64k of RAM to handle the graphics, which were supposed to be stunning for the time. As for the actual game, it would see players trapped inside the Hellraiser puzzle box, racing around trying to find a way out of the maze while avoiding Pinhead and the other Cenobites, shooting anything on the way.
But despite the appearance of an ad in gaming magazines that showed the tech, Color Dreams realized that the price of the processor and RAM would have raised the price of each cartridge to around $80, and although they had such sights to show us, the project was scrapped.
SUPER MARIO BROS. IS THE BEST-SELLING NES GAME OF ALL TIME
While ‘Super Mario Bros.’ was helped immensely by being packed in with many system bundles, the game managed to sell over 40 million copies. ‘Super Mario Bros. 3,’ which sold 18 million copies, is in second place, while ‘Super Mario Bros. 2,’ which sold 10 million copies is third. There were 62 million NES systems sold and more than 500 million games, so chances are that if you had an NES, you had Mario. The two simply didn’t exist separately.