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The NES Story Began On This Day 31 Years Ago

Posted by Damien McFerran

We are Family (Computer)

31 years ago today, Nintendo Co., Ltd. released the Famicom console in Japan, an event which would herald the beginning of the firm's wildly successful relationship with home video games.

Hitting store shelves at 14,800 Yen (around $145 / £84 / 107 Euros), the system wasn't an instant hit with the Japanese public. Sales were initially sluggish and an issue with production forced Nintendo to recall the first batch of consoles in order to replace the motherboard. By the end of 1984 things were very different indeed — the Famicom was the best selling games console in its homeland. A western release would follow in 1985, where the console was renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short.

Is the Famicom older than you, or are you withered enough to recall when it appeared on the scene and changed the industry forever? Share those memories with a comment below.

Image courtesy of The National Media Museum.

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User Comments (49)

eviLaTtenDant

#1

eviLaTtenDant said:

Is the Famicom older than you, or are you withered enough to recall when it appeared on the scene and changed the industry forever?

Yes and yes.

ledreppe

#2

ledreppe said:

I'm 35, and remember getting the PAL version in the mid-late 80's (memories a little fuzzy to remember exactly!). I've still got that system plugged into an old c.r.t tv ready to play. I still remember the day I went to Dixons (kids, ask your Dad what that shop is) and buying the system with Super Mario Bros (off course) and the zapper and duck hunt. One of the best memories I have of purchasing a new system.

SpookyMeths

#3

SpookyMeths said:

Before my time. I was introduced to gaming in a time when NES was still very popular and the SNES was just breaking into the scene. The N64 was the first system I was actually old enough to ride the hype train from announcement to release though.

Apparently the Sega Genesis and I have birthdays about 6 weeks apart though. Late 1988 for the both of us.

Yorumi

#5

Yorumi said:

I'll be 31 in september, so yes it's older than me, and I grew up with an nes.

Samurai_Goroh

#6

Samurai_Goroh said:

I was born around the time the Super Famicom was hitting the Japanese shelves. So, it's older than me, but I played a lot of NES on my childhood, it was my first contact with gaming.

ekreig

#7

ekreig said:

So, the NES is a whole 12 years older than me. I grew up with a PS1 in the house, so yeah, way before my time. I DID get to play a few rounds of SMB1 and Duck Hunt at a friend's house as a kid, however. I'm pleased to say I remember being thoroughly impressed with it.

Jakeman

#8

Jakeman said:

I am 32 this year and had an Australian NES when I was a kid (it was actually my very first home console).
I still remember watching the movie "The Wizard" starring Fred Savage and finding out where the flute (warp zone flute) was hidden in SMB3.
My cousins [who are around the same age] also had an NES as well. We would always either play NES games together (since they lived close to us) or borrow them from each other. One of my cousins actually got the Battletoads game for his birthday one year (what a difficult game that was)!
Also the game cartridge would never stay in the system by itself. We used to have to hold the game down inside it with a battery. The same thing happened to my cousin's system as well. We also used to blow into the game cartridge if the game wasn't working.

HanSolo57

#11

HanSolo57 said:

I had a Colecovision when I was 6 and fell in love with Nintendo because of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.
Then it was all about Nintendo.
Thank you Colecovision.
That I still have.

elstif

#12

elstif said:

The NES was my first console and I´m older...
I will never forget Xmas 1988 when my father bought the Mario Bros./Duck hunt bundle, I was 9 at the time. That NES is still going strong BTW and believe me I played it a lot more than any other console I owned afterwards

Blue-Thunder

#13

Blue-Thunder said:

I'm 45 and I can remember 1983. I didn't get the NES till 1990 and the rest is history.

Has the Euro been devalued? :-) £84=€170!

Blue-Thunder

#14

Blue-Thunder said:

When I bought my NES I had actually went to buy a Mega drive. I had £150 on me. I knew the MD was £150. What I didn't know was it didn't come with a game, I didn't have another £50 for a game. I seen the NES with SMB and Duck hunt in the store and bought it instead for £120.

I can remember carrying the console home that night and my then girlfriend had a face on her like a slapped arsh :-). She was probably annoyed I didn't spend the money on her. :-D

That console changed my life, for the worse.

rdrunner1178

#15

rdrunner1178 said:

Yep. Remember getting a NES with Super Mario & Duck Hunt. It was a huge step above the Atari 2600 we had. Have had every Nintendo system since.

Falchion

#16

Falchion said:

Even though the famicom is 13 years older than me, the nes was the first home system i played. Because my dad (not a huge gamer) had a NES and nothing else in 2000 haha

JosieC84

#19

JosieC84 said:

I've just turned 30 on Saturday so the NES is just about one year older than me. The NES possibly is older than most diehard Sony and Microsoft fans.

xj0462

#20

xj0462 said:

so today the famicom, the second greatest console(after the almighty sega genesis) was made today? if so than Happy birthday famicom!!!

Darknyht

#21

Darknyht said:

No, but I remember it becoming popular. My family owned an Intellivision and Odyssey II prior to it's release, and a C-64 and/or IBM PC during it's life.

chiptoon

#23

chiptoon said:

I had a Famicom, my first console, joyfully bought to put an end to loading games from tapes to my ZX Spectrum. Unfortunately they hit South Africa a bit late, and it was only 2 and a bit years til I bought a Mega Drive.

Fandabidozi

#24

Fandabidozi said:

I've never taken the time to really study a picture of the Famicon before - it is gorgeous!
If I ever make it to Japan on hols will def pick one up, its a wee work of art.

SavoirFaire

#25

SavoirFaire said:

I still have my NES, and it still works just fine. Who expects a xbox360 or ps3 to still work 15 years from now, much less 30? Nintendo stuff is built to last! :)

PvtOttobot

#26

PvtOttobot said:

The first console I ever followed the release for was the DSi... yep. I never bought it of course! and I'd had a PS1, a Wii, a Gamecube, a Gameboy and a couple DSs by that point.

FritzFrapp

#27

FritzFrapp said:

A very happy birthday! Still remember getting mine from a shop in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia a few months later. As a teenager in the early 80s I'd bought all my Game & Watches, handhelds and electronics gear from that marvellous shop run by a lovely Lebanese guy. I haggled a very good price for the Fami, bless him.

Brilliant little machine to have at launch, though the software didn't really start hitting its stride until a couple of years later. Consoles still had a bit of a stigma to them, and I have to say a good 80% of my gaming at home was done on my Spectrum – a machine that I still feel had one of the greatest libraries of all time. The release of the Disk Drive in 1986 is when things became really special for the Famicom and the games just kept on coming. So many great games.

I'm very grateful to have been there at the birth of gaming from the early 70s onwards, as there'll never be quite the same level of excitement again.

Dpishere

#28

Dpishere said:

Though I never did own an NES myself, as a kid I would oftentimes go over to my grandmother's house and play hers. She even had both Super Mario Bros/Duckhunt and Super Mario Bros 3! Have much respect for the system that played a pivotal role in how we are gaming today!

xj0462

#29

xj0462 said:

@vamkar i doubt COD fanboys will ever respect the NES. or SEGA Genesis. or Playstation 1. or anything made before the xbox

xj0462

#30

xj0462 said:

@SavoirFaire made to last for the most part. i have 4 NES consoles, 2 work now and then, 1 works really well, and 1 spits the cartridge back up when you try to push the cartridge down

xj0462

#31

xj0462 said:

alot of people have stated they played alot of ZX spectrum before the NES. why was the ZX spectrum so popular in europe?

Kaine_Morrison

#33

Kaine_Morrison said:

I was born in 1980, I'll be 34 in September.
I was about 6 or 7 when my parents brought it home, the day after my dad came home from the hospital with shattered legs...

I remember hooking it up with the old RF switch! And while I wasn't the first to play it, I was the best at mario, I remember everyone in my family was going "nuts" at how good I was, yelling for me to jump, duck hide and to look out. I got all the way to the first Cheep Cheep stage before I died the first time. Everyone else died on level 1-1.

@JosieC84
Happy Birthday.

FritzFrapp

#34

FritzFrapp said:

@xj0462 "why was the ZX spectrum so popular in europe?"
A combination of affordable hardware and software, and an architecture that encouraged creativity – hence, a vast and greatly varied software library. I could easily pick a Top 50 Spectrum games list and each game would be substantially different, then I could pick another 50 list and the same would apply. And, without risk of exaggerating, probably another after that.

xj0462

#35

xj0462 said:

@Frapp i've seen some screenshots and videos of ZX spectrum games, and it loks like the 1980s european were able to overlook the crude(by late 80s early 90s)graphics and mediocre sound(keep in mind im NOT a graphics whore like a lot of other gamers are) but i guess its the GAMEPLAY theat matters...right?

meltendo

#36

meltendo said:

I'm 45 and got an NES my first year of college during my freshman year living in the dorms. Fave memory: on the day I got the first Zelda, there was a huge party on our dorm floor (kegs, pot, etc.). I played Zelda until 6am and everyone had literally passed out around me (wasted or just tired). Eventually I earned the nickname "Meltendo" since the younger brothers and sisters of my college buddies would literally call me for video gaming tips (there was no internet like today in 1987)

FritzFrapp

#37

FritzFrapp said:

@xj0462
Gameplay in combination with price (and novelty) is always going to be a good formula.
Britain had experienced a very heavy recession in the early 80s, the effects of which lasted in some parts of the country well into the late 80s. It's easy to overlook some things when they are the best you're going to be able to afford, or if they are simply the first time you could experience something like that in your own home.
The Spectrum launched in 1982 and was one of the very first affordable home computers in Britain. It made programming cool for a short while and was majorly responsible for the birth of the UK games industry. I myself learnt machine code and wrote and sold a couple of games on tape (26 copies!). Many of the famous names in European gaming you see today cut their teeth on the Spectrum or other computers of the time such as the Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro and Electron. The low price helped to generate a large userbase and the restrictive hardware encouraged programmers to find creative solutions. A good combination that made Spectrum software retain popularity, until the technological and bang-for-buck gulf to competitors started to become too great – around 1987/88 after the 16 bit Commodore Amiga and Atari ST were launched, and the Sega Master System and NES started to kick in.
With regards to your final question: in an audio-visual medium graphics and sound are always going to matter to some extent, but gameplay will always matter the most. Always.

eviLaTtenDant

#39

eviLaTtenDant said:

@SageWaterDragon The proud "born in 1984" me somehow read a "were you given birth after 1983 but yet have owned the console before the Super Nintendo appeared" between the lines.
And still i wasn't in the mood to talk about my experience with the console at that time.
In hindsight i shouldn't have posted anything at all, i agree.

xj0462

#40

xj0462 said:

@Frapp is rare(the people behind donkey kong country) a british company?
ive only ever played oone ZX spectrum game. a little known game called"jetpac" not sure if youve heard of it

FritzFrapp

#42

FritzFrapp said:

@xj0462
Rare is indeed a British company. Before they started trading under the name of Rare Ltd, the founders Tim and Chris Stamper traded under the moniker Ultimate Play The Game. Jetpac was the first game from Ultimate in 1983, released on the ZX Spectrum 16K and BBC Micro and later ported to the Commodore VIC-20. It was a massive seller – something like a third of all Spectrum owners had a (legal) copy.
The Stampers got an early look at the Famicom, decided that's where the future would lie, set up a new company within Ultimate called Rare Ltd that would start Famicom development, sold Ultimate (name and catalogue of games) to US Gold in 1985, and continued under the Rare Ltd brand. I believe they bought back the Ultimate rights from US Gold a few years later.
During the two years in their Ultimate Play The Game guise they enjoyed almost god-like reverence by Spectrum owners.

CTs_Lieutenant

#44

CTs_Lieutenant said:

I was eleven years old and it was Christmas 1988. We got our first ever computer/console, the NES. On Christmas day we played SMB and Golf and on Boxing Day I played Metroid, for hours. So much so that I was playing it in my dreams and I couldn't get it out of my head.

Twenty six years later and I'm still playing games, although I've had my peaks and troughs at different points in my life.

For me though the golden era was the 16bit and the Super Nintendo the greatest games machine ever created, but the NES is still a fantastic machine.

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