Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

40 years ago today, video game history changed for the better.

That might sound a bit hyperbolic, but there's no denying that Nintendo's first home console — or at least the first one with interchangeable cartridges in a form we still recognise as a 'console' today — made a huge impact. Video games would not be where they would be today without this little white and red unit.

Simple in its design with slots to fit two red and gold controllers, the Family Computer dropped onto the market on 15th July 1983. Known as the Home Cassette-type Video Game: Family Computer, Nintendo's console originally launched with ports of three first-party arcade games — Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. Two of those would be rereleased and reissued multiple times over the years, while one — Popeye — would be much, much harder to get your hands on.

Things weren't all bright and sunny from the offset after early revisions of the console reportedly crashed, but by the end of 1984, the Famicom was the best-selling video game console in Japan with over 2.5 million units shifted. Nintendo wouldn't crack into the video game market in North America proper until 1985, but it did manage to get into arcades through the Nintendo VS. System, which was largely based on the Famicom's hardware. The rest, as they say, is history.

Incredibly, while the NES was discontinued in 1995 in North America and Europe, the Famicom was still in production in Japan until 2003. The very last Famicom was manufactured on 25th September 2003.

The Famicom (and NES) has sold 61.91 million units since its release. It's the home of so many Nintendo franchises — Super Mario Bros.; The Legend of Zelda; Metroid; Kid Icarus; Mother. This is also the console where many huge third-party series made their debut, such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Mega Man, Castlevania, Contra, and many, many more. Tons of popular licenses, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, and even Disney with DuckTales jumped onto the bandwagon and spawned some classics.

It's safe to say, even if you've never owned an NES, you've probably played more than a few of the games on the console — whether in a compilation, a remaster, or a remake, the NES's legacy speaks for itself. And many of them are available on the Nintendo Switch Online service.

In the space of a few years, Nintendo went from a humble Japanese toy manufacturer to one of the biggest names in the technology and entertainment industries. It salvaged the reputation of the video game industry in the West, and quickly became the video game developer. There's a reason your parents probably ask if you're "playing your Nintendo", regardless of what console you're actually plugged into.

Nowadays, while many of the NES's big games are playable in multiple different fashions, there are still tons of classics that have never been rereleased or are not easily accessible. While Nintendo released the NES Classic and has also got those NES games on NSO, you can play the original The Legend of Zelda pretty much anywhere, while other titles like Little Nemo and Faxanadu are oft-forgotten.

There's so, so much to the Famicom — it's a hugely important games console for multiple different reasons, and its influence can still be felt today. Nintendo's high watermark for quality was established way back in 1983, and while many titles haven't aged too gracefully, we have an endless amount of love and respect for the system. We probably wouldn't be here without the little white and red system.

Do you have any fond Famicom/NES memories? Vote in our polls below and chat about the game console that started all of our Nintendo journeys below in the comments.

Have you ever owned a Famicom? (612 votes)

  1. Yep, and I still have one!15%
  2. I used to, but not any more8%
  3. I have an NES but never imported a Famicom38%
  4. I've always wanted one for my collection11%
  5. I've never even owned an NES!29%

Do you still play Famicom/NES games today? (574 votes)

  1. All the time, all on original hardware10%
  2. On NSO or retro compilations, yes45%
  3. Occasionally, but not very often37%
  4. Nope, I don't have a way to play them7%
  5. I've never, ever played a Famicom/NES game2%