Nintendo Entertainment System Turns 35 Today

On October 18, 1985, Nintendo debuted the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America, the home console system that revolutionized the gaming industry. Although the Nintendo Company was founded in 1889 in Kyoto, Japan, as a toys and playing cards manufacturer, the company found global success with its arcade games in the early 1980s.

The origins of the NES, however, were quite complicated. Originally, Nintendo was in negotiations with Atari to market a cartridge-based console called the Family Computer, or Famicom, as an Atari product in Japan under the name Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System. After the deal fell apart, Nintendo decided to go it alone.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1985, Nintendo unveiled the NES, a new version of the Famicom, with a case designed by Lance Barr that included a “zero insertion force” cartridge slot inspired by VCR technology. The first edition of the NES was released along with 18 games, including Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, Kung-Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Wild Gunman and Wrecking Crew, among others.

By 1990, 30% of homes in the United States owned the NES, compared to 23% for all personal computers, yet the arrival of superior systems like the 16-bit Sega Genesis marked the beginning of the end for the pioneering console. In 1995, Nintendo discontinued the NES in both North America and Europe.

The NES resurfaced in 2016 when Nintendo released the NES Classic Edition, which sold four million units worldwide. Despite being replaced by more advanced systems, the legacy of the NES is undisputed. Nintendo was responsible for keeping developers from publishing and distributing software without licensed approval, which in turn, led to higher-quality games.

The console also helped launch some of the most iconic franchises in game history, such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Castlevania, Square’s Final Fantasy, and Enix’s Dragon Quest. All in all, the original NES sold 61.91 million units worldwide and changed the course of the gaming industry forever.

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