Topic: Nintendo's Golden Age and Dark Age

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Nintendo has had many highs and lows as a company. But which of those periods would you consider to be a true golden age, and which would you consider to be a dark age.

Here's my take.
Golden Age: SNES era. Even though I wasn't alive for part of it, I can definitely see how this was when Nintendo really hit their stride as both a game maker and a console maker. Other great periods in Nintendo's history would be the late GC/early Wii era, and the current era, but I just don't think those had the same impact as the SNES era, which cemented many franchises as industry staples

Dark Age: This was a challenge to decide between the N64/early GC days, and the late Wii/Wii U days, but ultimately I think I have to say Nintendo's dark age was 2010-2016, because unlike with the N64/GC, the problem wasn't just with console sales, but with the games themselves. Xenoblade Chronicles and Splatoon were really the only two 1st party home console games that came out in this period that made significant impact to their genres or franchises (on the handheld side, I'd say Fire Emblem Awakening filled this role). Everything else pretty much seemed content to refine and iterate, if even that. There were lots of games that weren't even that great from a redefine/iterating perspective, from Wii Play Motion to Game & Wario to Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival.

What would you consider Nintendo's Golden age and Dark age?

Edited on by iKhan

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I don't know enough about sales and things to speak from Nintendo's perspective, but from my perspective the Golden Age was definitely the N64. That was the only time we would have huge parties revolved solely around playing games (namely Smash Bros. and Goldeneye). Maybe that could be happening now for teenagers with the Switch or back with the Wii, but I was older by then and while I love those systems the sheer spectacle wasn't there. And there will never be a game again that touches the pure magic of seeing and playing Mario 64 for the first time when you had never seen 3D games before.

Dark Age for me would have to be SNES simply because other than Chrono Trigger, I didn't do much with it. I really have no other memories of any games other than Tetris Attack until I was older and able to play them on Virtual Console.


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THIS is Nintendo's Golden Age.

Yes, the SNES era had some absolute gems, but they've never had the sheer quantity of amazing and varied IP that they currently do.

In just the last generation they've added 3 new franchises to their permanent AAA-level roster, in Splatoon, Xenoblade and Fire Emblem (yes Fire Emblem has existed since forever but it sold hardly anything pre-Awakening and therefore could never justify a AAA sized budget). And possibly Mario Maker, if that becomes a permanent franchise (which it might not)

They've basically got a successful franchise in every major gaming genre now.

The Dark Age for me was probably the Wii. Yes it was a huge commercial success, but in terms of quality games, it was pretty barren. The only games from the Wii that I ever replay are the Galaxy games, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Skyward Sword.

Edited on by Dezzy

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For me Nintendo had more than one golden ages.

1st Golden Age was the NES.
2nd Golden Age was the Gameboy.
3rd Golden Age was GBA.
4th Golden Age was DS.
5th Golden Age was 3DS
and 6th Golden Age in the Switch.

All of those had grand success and one could argue that the Wii was also very successful.

Dark age was definitely Wii U. Such a disaster.

Edited on by Zuljaras



I disagree that 2010-2016 was a "dark age". If Nintendo had their home console division alone at this time I'd be more inclined to agree - but the 3DS was too good of a system to place in a "dark age" imo.

That said, I think the console industry is competitive enough that any dark age would be the end of a console manufacturer. I'd say that Sega had a dark age with the Saturn (in the West, at least), and...we know the end of that story. The current manufacturers have had low points (Nintendo with Virtual Boy and Wii U, most recently a very dead 2016, and Microsoft with a shoddy XBO launch), but these have been short enough to recover from.

I won't disagree that SNES was a golden age, but I'd also argue that we're experiencing a Nintendo Renaissance right now.



I'd say Switch is Nintendo's Golden Age because of the device itself being a hybrid and the games available. 3rd party games are flourishing, even Microsoft is supporting the Switch outside of Minecraft meanwhile plenty of 1st party franchises have some of their best games on the Switch.

Nintendo's Dark Age is easily mobile. Nintendo's mobile games' monetization have gotten increasingly questionable with Mario Kart Tour's monetization being absolutely disgusting.


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Golden Age for me : NDS, 3DS, Wii, Switch

Dark Age for me : N64, Gamecube, Wii U, Nintendo games on mobile

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Zuljaras wrote:

For me Nintendo had more than one golden ages.

1st Golden Age was the NES.
2nd Golden Age was the Gameboy.
3rd Golden Age was GBA.
4th Golden Age was DS.
5th Golden Age was 3DS
and 6th Golden Age in the Switch.

All of those had grand success and one could argue that the Wii was also very successful.

Dark age was definitely Wii U. Such a disaster.


But I would add the SNES in there.

Edited on by linq



Nintendo hasn't had a "dark age" unless you only stick to their home consoles or are insanely picky about what games you play.

With that said, I have no love whatsoever for the N64. If I had to pinpoint a "dark age" for Nintendo in terms of what period had the games I was least interested in, it would definitely be the GBC/N64 era.

My second choice would be Wii/DS. The NDS had way too many games that were almost entirely focused on touch controls, and the Wii, outside of a few really amazing games, never particularly appealed to me.

On the positive side, I do think, for primarily handheld-oriented gamers, the transition from 3DS to Switch/Switch Lite was mind-bogglingly cool. It's like Nintendo skipped an entire generation of handheld devices.



Buizel wrote:

I disagree that 2010-2016 was a "dark age". If Nintendo had their home console division alone at this time I'd be more inclined to agree - but the 3DS was too good of a system to place in a "dark age" imo.


I think everything is relative. I love my 3DS, and there are still a bunch of games I'd love to play for it, even in the Switch era. However, I don't think the 3DS had anywhere near the same impact on the gaming industry or on Nintendo's own franchises as other generations of handhelds have had. It also saw the decline of both Mario RPG series, the NSMB series, and (as many people believe, though I disagree*) the Pokemon series. At the same time, the 3D gimmick never caught on like the DS's dual screens or the Wii's motion controls did.

For the era as a whole (including consoles), many Nintendo franchises saw what many regard to be their worst (or at least most disappointing) entries in this time such as:

3D Mario
2D Mario
Super Smash Bros
Star Fox
Paper Mario
Mario & Luigi
Mario Tennis
Warioware (if Game & Wario counts)
Mario Party

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Dark Age for me is NES. I was 3 when I got mine so "Nintendo Hard" didn't endear me to the system. Honestly if I didn't hate sonic and if A LttP didn't literally save my life, I would have been a SEGA/Sony fan I think. I respect the NES but I don't actually like the system or most of the games.

Golden Age is really hard for me, Nintendo has yet to let me down. Also for me anything that is great has cons that puts it on the same level as everything else. I think if you MADE me say something I'd say the wii era, in part because of the gcn functionality (so I'm cheating I know) and the VC functionality (so still cheating) but there were a lot of really unique games during the wii era and a lot of my favorite series have some of my favorite entries on the wii (harvest moon for instance, I love animal parade and tree of tranquility, brawl is my favorite smash and the last smash were I was actually engaged with the franchise). Also the blue ocean strategy that others dismiss was a sound one in that games were more unique, accessible and fun on the wii imo.

If you go by modded capability though I have to say the wiiu is still Queen. I loved the wiiu library and if you add the vc and wii capability along with modding in gcn capability via dolphin and it is the system to beat for me. The switch is my favorite hardware design but the wiiu is my favorite console all around. N64 was the system of wonder for me. Those graphics may be clunky now but I believed that game devs finally had the hardware to truly realize their ambitions with the N64...pity the library is so small and the Squeenix split happened. I think DQ 7 would have looked really nice on the N64.

If I go by singular library I'd have to say the DS though...its just I hate every handheld prior to the switch and only bought them because the library was so strong.

Edited on by Ryu_Niiyama

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Due to puberty I skipped the N64 / PS1 era.

So the trailblazing 3D polygon games are I struggle with as I have no nostalgia for them.

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The golden age to me is the DS/Wii era and the dark age to me is the 3DS/Wii U era. There is so much creativity within the DS/Wii era that it was a shame to see much of that magic gone in the next generation libraries. The 3DS's and Wii U's hardware expanded the possibilities for what Nintendo could do, but they hardly ever explored what could be done in comparison to how the DS's and Wii's hardware had been used. There are a handful of instances where Nintendo just slapped together new ideas for their IPs instead of sensibly innovating them. A couple I liked, but overall it felt like a weird time. Throughout much of the last generation, I stuck with my DS library and treated my 3DS family systems (of which I have 2 working) as additional Nintendo DS systems.

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Nintendo is a bit like disney; both have had a number of highs and lows but here’s my take.

The true golden age would be the NES era: video gaming in the US was dead due to the great video game crash of 1983. The NES singlehandedly saved gaming and also laid the foundation for Nintendo in the future. Without the NES we wouldn’t be on here discussing Nintendo at all.

This lead to other companies to attempt to challenge Nintendo for market share and it was SEGA who pushed to challenge the NES with the Mega Drive. It flopped in Japan but successfully challenged Nintendo in the US and finally in Europe (we’d avoided the crash in 1983 because, at least here in the UK, micro computers ruled). So Nintendo’s dominance lead to some great competition and that lead to what many would regard as the greatest time to be a gamer: the Console Wars! SNES is released to fight off SEGA and we got two amazing 16 bit systems. You honestly couldn’t go wrong with whichever one you went for.

The next generation it was the PS1 which was a revolution (due to a lot of hubris on Nintendo’s part; it could’ve been the SNES PlayStation (imagine that!) but the N64 was still a great system with some brilliant games. However, it also marked the first in a string of strange decisions (sticking to cartridges, mini discs on the GameCube with no DVD playback etc). I personally love the N64/GCN era myself, but it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t the big N’s ‘dork-age’.

The Wii was a return to form, a silver age if you will. It was exciting to be a Nintendo fan again. The plucky little machine, so underpowered compared to its rivals but packed with great features and games harkens back to the OG Gameboy which achieved the same when I was a kid, seeing off much more advanced rivals due to sheer scope and personality.

Then...the Dark Times. I love the Wii U. I have most of the games for it. However, it was a terrible time to be a Nintendo console fan. For the first time I sat there thinking ‘what are they doing?’. They just didn’t seem to have a particular direction and yes, the 3DS (which got off to a VERY shaky start) was a different story but the Wii U was truly a worryingly dark time to support Nintendo.

Now, those of you saying the Switch era is a golden age, well, you’re not entirely wrong. It does feel similar to the Wii era; three rival machines with Nintendo offering something significantly different to the others. So it is more of a harkening back to the Wii era for me. This is the pattern that they will probably follow for a while, gone are the days of them trying to directly compete in-terms of power (the last time they really did that was SNES/N64). They have found what works for them (never underestimate Nintendo) but long gone are the days when they were number 1. The true golden age was NES/SNES where they were largely dominant.

NES/SNES golden age in terms of market dominance and direct competition in terms of power.

N64/GCN dork-age losing out to newer rivals (adorably so though).

Wii/DS silver age success once again but in a different position to rivals than golden age.

Wii U the dark times....

Switch renaissance era.

Edited on by Gamecuber

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I almost don't think Nintendo is capable of having a dark age, at least if we're comparing it to any other major company's dark ages.

Though I do agree with your general point that the first half of the 2010s were a time for Nintendo to do nothing new or interesting. Reminder to people that they released 3D World only two years after 3D Land, which were games made specifically to make 3D Mario more like classic styled 2D Mario. And between those two games, they released THREE NSMB games as well. Absurd.

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Golden age was definately the 90s. SNES and N64 had full Nintendo culture. Dark age would be Wii-Wii U due to their abandonment of the hardcore gamers imo.

That being said, from what I know the 7th gen wasn't really a very good gen in general.

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Speaking in terms of quality of games (and systems, to an extent), and not financially (which is completely and totally irrelevant to my opinion, so that's why):

Golden Age: Nintendo 64/GCN (this also includes some portable games during the time, like Pokemon GSC). Maybe it's just because I was a kid to teenager during this time and thus easier to please, but the games during this era really pleased me. I think nearly all of them have ultimately had a sequel that outdid them, but the reason that this era in particular sticks out is that it was just an era of amazing game after game, whereas the sequels that beat them for me have been very sporadically released. I think it set a high standard for me that no generation beyond has even come close (aside from when the 3DS was revealed - which sadly some of those games turned out to be flops, like Paper Mario Sticker Star - but I mean the sheer amount of games announced for the 3DS right off the bat was incredible, and a lot of them did pan out pretty well).

Dark Age: Wii. The games I adored so much on the GCN? Almost none of them got a sequel on the Wii that I enjoyed. I was a bit floored at the drop in quality that so many of the franchises I loved went through on the Wii. Not that the Wii did nothing good - the Virtual Console was a great new feature, and playing online in Mario Kart Wii was a total blast. However, another thing that took down the Wii for me was the motion controls. I don't like motion controls. I just want a regular controller. The only game that seemed to actually use the motion controls in a non-gimmicky way was Skyward Sword, and even there it was frustrating because it didn't respond properly for some of the moves. In the end, the motion control was just a gimmick that was forced on games that absolutely did not need them. Like Animal Crossing City Folk - that game was made substantially worse by motion control. You couldn't even get past the system's menu without using the Wii Remote.

Edited on by Harmonie


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@iKhan I would argue that the Wii-U era was Nintendo's weakest era. Not just as a matter of sales but of hardware content and software releases. While the N64 and Gamecube eras saw lower sales, there are a plethora of titles from those systems that are widely beloved to this day. Also the hardware is still historically important. The N64 had early innovations in 3D games and the first smash hit console based 3D game: Mario 64. And the Gamecube controller remains a gold standard to this day. Further the Game Boy Player and Game Boy transfer pack (and the Super Game Boy) all laid the groundwork for the Switch being a hybrid device.

On the other hand the Wii U era saw very little in terms of "beloved games" on the system and most of those games have gotten or are getting or likely to get, ports to Switch. While the Wii U conceptually likely also helped lead to the Switch, very little of the Wii U's hardware actually had an impact. Nintendo didn't even keep the pro controller design from the Wii U era, instead going with Xbox 360 style instead.

While the Wii U era was certainly the dark age from Nintendo, I would say the Switch has been a golden age. I don't think anyone can argue that the Switch hasn't been a resounding success! And the Switch has boasted a rich library of games that hasn't been seen since the days of the SNES. I would honestly argue that the library of games on Switch surpasses the SNES era in terms of quality and variety. Considering smaller indies and download only titles it certainly has a larger library!

My personal nostalgia choice would be the N64, Gamecube Game Boy Color, GBA era. Nostalgia reasons alone.

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Interesting topic! I don't know enough about some of the older systems' games to make any reasonable claims so on a purely personal level, the golden ages for me would have to be the original DS era due to it being this weird time where absolutely everyone at my school within two years up or down of my grade owned a DS. Didn't matter how cool you were/n't, everyone was making flipbook style animations on Pictochat, everyone was messing around in New Super Mario Bros, everyone was showing off what new minigame they'd found on the eShop.

Another would be the Switch age, for reasons many above have detailed. Completely revitalised the gaming landscape for many people. Haven't seen such a keen interest in the layman picking up a Nintendo console since the aforementioned original DS.

And finally, the Gamecube and N64 eras. So many vivid memories of playing games like Conkers Bad Fur Day, Melee, Mario Kart Double Dash, Mario Party 4, GoldenEye, Majora's Mask/Ocarina of Time, the Metroid Prime titles, and more. Mario Party 4 might be the best party game ever made; can't think of a single game I'd rather play with a group of rowdy drunkards at 4am.

If I had to pick a dark age, it'd certainly be the Wii U age. Didn't get into the console til the end of its life cycle. Had a lot of fun with it, picking up all the important titles in bargain bins, but yea. Wasn't entirely sold on its main gimmick, found it to be a very gross looking thing, and while I adore a fair few titles that came of it, it's not a console I have any reason to return to.




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