E3 2021 is just around the corner, though with a whole lot of competing events and streams it's not quite the industry-defining occasion of the past. Yet Nintendo will be 'there' with a day that'll feature an E3 Nintendo Direct and three hours of Treehouse demonstrations streamed for your pleasure.
Despite the absence of a physical event in an LA convention centre, this is pretty much the same formula as in more recent E3 events (prior to the enforced 'year off' in 2020), right down to the Direct broadcast run time of around 40 minutes; we're also getting a little less Treehouse time than in the past, but that's understandable in the context of a virtual event and ongoing disruption to work routines. Nevertheless, it'll be exciting to see Nintendo's big pitch of Switch titles due this year and next.
Setting expectations appropriately is the order of the day, but that can be tough when it comes to Nintendo. Perhaps E3 2021 won't have the magic of previous years, or maybe it'll blow us away and entertain us in surprising ways. Either way, we decided it was a good time to reminisce on some of the most iconic and legendary Nintendo E3 moments ever.
Looking back over two-and-a-half decades, there are plenty to choose from, but we've selected a handful of our very favourites — a top 5, in no particular order. We begin by travelling back to the pre-Wii days of 2004...
DS and Twilight Princess are revealed (or anything else from 2004, frankly)
2004 was a pretty epic event for Nintendo; arguably a key moment in terms of its marketing and image in the West, and its role in truly introducing Satoru Iwata's vision to the world. Reggie Fils-Aimé made his memorable debut — "I'm about kickin' ass, I'm about takin' names, and we're about makin' games" — and pulled the original DS out of his jacket pocket. At that point the system seemed like an enormous gamble, especially an odd-looking two-screen setup with a touchscreen as a key feature. Of course, it sold incredibly well and led the way to a golden era for the company.
At that same show we had that most treasured of E3 moments — a huge game reveal. Remember that at this point we'd had just three 3D Zelda games, two on N64 and then the cel-shaded Wind Waker. The reveal of Twilight Princess for GameCube, the crowd reaction and then Shigeru Miyamoto's triumphant appearance; that was a moment of E3 history.
"Who's Your Daddy" (2005)
Though they undoubtedly had a hugely productive working relationship, it also seemed to be the case that former company President Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aimé had fun in each other's company. We'll see more examples of this further on, but this little nugget of locker room banter from 2005 was pretty memorable.
This is also quite early in Satoru Iwata's deliberate effort to be a visible leader for the company; this wasn't his first presentation in English, but it was also quite early on. It seemed special, though, to have Nintendo's CEO so committed to communicating in English at events such as E3, and also doing so with humour and a little panache. This moment was pure 'fun', and was typical of Nintendo's live shows in this era.
Oh, and this was also the show that first unveiled the Wii, at that point 'Nintendo Revolution'. There's that, too.
"My Body Is Ready" (2007)
This top five won't consist entirely of meme-worthy quotes, we promise, but this had to be on the list.
This was a giddy time for Nintendo, too, with the Wii fresh on the scene and interest in its various approaches to games and controls generating huge excitement. With DS also hot, this was a period when Nintendo realised it was onto something special.
This famous quote came in a demonstration of Wii Fit, of course, with Bill Trinen translating for Shigeru Miyamoto on stage. As was often the case with Fils-Aimé, he was completely relaxed and happy to indulge in a joke. The moment wasn't just about the line, but the jokey self-awareness of the ex-Pizza Hut executive's less-than-svelte physique, and his gag about selecting 'heavy' clothing to literally lighten the result.
Classic Reggie, classic Nintendo.
That Zelda: Breath of the Wild Reveal (2014)
Was the reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild representative of the final game? Well, yes and no — Nintendo may have done a Ubisoft / EA / every other Triple-A publisher and produced a concept cutscene beyond the capabilities of Wii U (and eventually the Switch). It felt like it didn't matter, though, because the idea it implanted in the minds of Zelda fans was enough to thrill.
3D Zelda games before this one had generally been one large world broken into obvious segments, albeit with a big field or portals in the sky separating them. The way Breath of the Wild was pitched — even if a little cliched in terms of 'yes, you can go to those mountains in the distance' -- was perfect; it wrapped with a neat CG moment that introduced Link and the first Guardian.
This game had multiple incredible trailers at E3, but the initial reveal and the potential it showed for franchise was rather special.
Those Amazing Puppets And, Sadly, Iwata-san's Final E3 (2015)
It was a reflection of Satoru Iwata's continual commitment to attending E3 that it felt shocking when Nintendo announced that the President would miss the 2015 event due to illness. At that stage it was explained that it was serious enough for Iwata-san to skip travel, but that he was still very much working and in charge of the company. Sadly, the voice performance that Iwata-san gave would prove to be his final E3 appearance — he passed away around a month later, on 11th July 2015.
How typical of Nintendo, though, to deal with the difficulty of Iwata-san's illness and produce a wonderful presentation of puppets, representing Satoru Iwata, Reggie Fils-Aimé and Shigeru Miyamoto. Relying on the best in the business, Nintendo enlisted The Jim Henson Company to (re)create its three most famous executives and the Star Fox crew, and 'Nintendo Muppets' was as fun as it sounds (and a charming way of introducing Star Fox Zero, too).
Objectively, this wasn't a great show for Nintendo in terms of games. The Wii U was truly toiling at this stage, and the company would have no doubt been looking ahead to NX / Switch even at that point. There is the added sadness of Satoru Iwata's illness which makes looking back on this extra poignant, but the humour of the puppet segments and genuine affection for all things Nintendo shown in this presentation make it one of our collective favourite Nintendo E3 memories ever.
So, those are our top five E3 moments from Nintendo, but which is your favourite? Let us know in the poll below, or share others in the comments.
Those are some of the standout moments of Nintendo at E3, but of course there are many more that give us fond memories. The Wii era gave us interesting reveals, there was the 3DS reveal in which a lot of demonstrators with systems tethered to their bodies walked out to greet the crowd — yeah, that one was a little odd. There was a fun CG 'fight' between Iwata-San and Reggie to reveal Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, Miyamoto-san's lovely enthusiasm showcasing Pikmin 3, and Doug Bowser's quirky albeit predictable introduction alongside a giant Bowser... and then there were the moments that didn't quite come together.
As always, we'd love to read about your favourite iconic Nintendo E3 moments in the comments; which is your most treasured E3 memory?
I have a ritual where I always watch the live reaction to the Twilight Princess reveal just before/during E3, therefore this is my favorite moment
For me, nothing will ever beat “Everyone Is Here!”
2015 Zelda breath of the wild. BWAHAHAH
2008, Wii Music, and the poor fellow forced to simulate playing the drums. Tragic.
2014, Fils-A-Mech. Nuff said.
I do love the puppets but another personal favourite is reggie’s “I feel just like a purple pikmin.”
The melee reveal was also a very big moment too. I think that was from e3 2001.
@Magician I know, how does the Wii Music reveal not make this list?
My most iconic E3 moment, courtesy of Reggie, 2007.
"Not next year, not next spring... December 3rd."
Reggie is the godfather of video game delay announcements. Before there was "next gen HD graphics are hard", and a pandemic, there was Reggie, getting it wrong, twice. (Game was delayed once until Feb then again until March).
HD is hard.
What about Iwata vs Reggie smash E3?
The Twilight Princess reveal is still probably the most hyped up I've ever seen a crowd get for anything in an auditorium
It's honestly magical how amped up everyone was watching that trailer
TO reinforce the idea of Satoru Iwata's communicating in English ... that's doesn't mean "he learns English". Like basically any COE in Japan, he's fluent in English and used to give interviews in English around this time. However, because the cultures are humour are so different, he always ended up not saying what he wanted to, saying something in the wrong context, or something like that and was extremely unhappy with the results.
So the commitment you have to have to learn how talk, tell jokes in, and effectively communicate technical language in context is INSANE. It's something you normally only learn to do by living in a country for years.
Part of it was motivated by the fact he felt his translators didn't do any better then he did speaking in English himself so he had NO way to address English speakers, but still, that's commitment.
For me nothing beats the reveal of the Nintendo Wii and Super Mario Galaxy
Great memories, thanks for the post. I chose the Breath of the Wild gameplay reveal, but I thoroughly enjoyed rewatching all of these, especially the puppets. Nintendo used to put a lot of effort into these presentations, and I'm thinking it had more to do with the personality of the people involved (Iwata-san primarily) than the direction the company's marketing is going. I remember watching them live and thinking, get past all of the theatrics, I want to know about the games! Now I enjoy watching the silly puppet show more than I did playing any of the games announced that year. This year's E3 "digital event" will probably be more of the current presentation format - game announcement, gameplay video, rinse and repeat - which isn't bad, since we all just want to know what games are coming, but it's very generic and lifeless compared to the highlights posted here. It's also interesting also how much more bravado Reggie and Iwata had in the 2000's, I'm guessing as a way to appeal more to American audiences. I can't see any Nintendo staff saying they were playing Smash Bros last night and were kicking you-know-what.
Original Brawl reveal for me, still to this day probably the game I've been the most hyped for ever.
Nintendo muppets will always be my favorite.
Although Reggie setting that mother 3 begging dude on fire is a close second.
You can't forget the Robot Chicken segment for E3 2014.
My favorite has gotta be Reggie's body being ready. One joke can go a long way. But as for E3 being so soon, well my body isn't ready. And yet E3 will still come, regardless of when I'm ready. I just hope BoTW2 gets news, hopefully even a release date. All will be known in due time, in due time...
The Fils-A-Mech was hands down one of the best things I saw. I remember running into it on Miiverse, I think.
Watching this brings back everything that's missing from Nintendo today. That era was a key part of what's missing from Nintendo now. The company - the company itself - was fun. The people that ran it were fun. The people that ran it were part of the show, part of the product, involved in the product, and in the players world. Their personality shone through the products, the marketing, the presentation. They were a part of the whole lifecycle and experience of participating in their world. This was what made Nintendo FUN to be part of .
Back in the 80's we had faceless corporate fist Yamauchi & Arakawa, but they were still barely more than a garage shop, sitll had rough edges, and most importantly, we didn't know they were ruthless because there was no competition and they put on a good face of friendliness to the consumer, even if they were loathed by business partners.
We seem to have moved onto "faceless corporate Nintendo". You don't see the leaders, you don't need to see the leaders, the leaders wrangle investors and don't need to be involved with product. The product people fill their roles, quietly behind the scenes once again. There's the vendor, and the consumer, and the relationship is held at arms length. They 're not interested in the consumer, only the consumer's wallet. The mood of Nintendo itself shifted tremendously with the change in leadership.
Following Nintendo news, and the presenters, leaders was as much fun as playing the games. Now, there's a Product. You can hear about it in the official marketing firm through their official PR channels. You'll buy the Product. Please fill out this 10 question survey carried out by a third party statistics vendor to tell us what you think. We'll aggregate your data into useful actionables to increase net margin YoY.
the Wii U era Directs were bad because they used all these cheesy skits to hide the fact they didn't have many games
I was too young to lurk around the internet (probably wasn’t even broadcasted online at the time) but I remember watching the reactions to Smash Bros. Melee’s reveal a few years ago and that had to have been nuts. People were freaking out. Highly recommend giving it a watch on YouTube!
The Robot Chicken sketches for E3 2014 are definitely up there for me.
My personal favourite is E3 2010. Skyward Sword, the 3DS reveal, Kid Icarus: Uprising ("Sorry to keep you waiting!"), and Metroid: Other M (alright, that last one might be contentious, and also it was first shown at E3 2009, but still.), among others. But the best part was, of course, how they introduced Donkey Kong Country Returns: Reggie saying "If you listen, you can hear it coming." while Jungle Hijinx starts playing in the background - cue the DKCR announcement trailer. Awesome.
When it comes to more recent happenings, I have to put the E3 2019 presentation up there, because it has the best use of Doug Bowser's name, by having Bowser show up!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dsfr0q1wSc - Still worth it.
@RupeeClock Robot chicken one was the best! “Give us Mother 3!”
@Magician I bought Wii Music.........why did I buy Wii Music
I think the Twilight Princess reveal was better than the botw one. Me personally, I think Twilight Princess is the better game.
No Robot Chicken clips? Those were funny. lol
Robot Chicken is easily another great one, especially considering it was one of the times Nintendo of America outright said "no" to Mother 3.
How was "Reggie Fils-A-Mech" not included? Easily the best!
So many to choose, but I'm gonna go with Nintendo Muppets.
When it comes to E3 in general, nothing will ever beat the Giant Enemy Crab, RIIIIIDGE RAAAAACER and Tak Fuji's "One Mirrion Troops".
EDIT: another one of my favorite Nintendo E3 moments has to be when Pac-Man was confirmed for Smash 4 behind doors back in 2014. The idea of having my three favorite characters duking it out (Mario, Sonic and Pac-Man) along with Mega Man made that memorable to me.
i currently watching all Nintendo E3 conferences/Directs, when preparing myself for Nintendo E3 2021 Direct, Nintendo E3 2013 is the best conference so far followed by 2004/2019.
i hoping Nintendo E3 2021 Direct surpass E3 2013(Nintendo best E3).
The three muppeteers
2017s Metroid reveal felt really special to me as I taught nintendo had given up on Metroid after the federation force fiasco.
Possibly not a moment, but I remember E3 2006 fondly as it was the first time we were shown a plethora of great Wii titles for the first time.
I’m surprised the Donkey Kong Country reveal isn’t there. It was pretty amazing back in the day when the game that looked like it must be for the N64 was revealed to be a SNES game.
Two for me include the robot chicken one, and Zelda Wii reveal with Shigeru Miyamoto.
They are all better than dull bowser!
@HammerGalladeBro Hit the weak points for massive damage!
Think another noteworthy E3 Nintendo moment is basically the entirety of their 2010 presentation considering just how many big games they showed one after the other AND introduced the 3DS with the return of the Kid Icarus series. Not even the live demo of Skyward Sword going wrong could take away the pure momentum that presentation had.
When Windwaker broke during a live play through. 😂 So glad Nintendo went to pre recorded.
I personally think this was better than most of the examples on your list, and I think the crowd reaction reflects similarly too:
I began paying attention to E3's at the end of the GBA's lifecycle, right when the DS phat was announced. I miss all of those E3 conferences. Even the Nintendo Directs were so much fun under Iwata.
I have high hopes for this year's E3 Direct, if only for it to be a banger with great games to announce.
@NEStalgia Everything you described was Iwata's Nintendo. He truly was a wonderful leader for the brand. It's a tragedy he left us far before his time, and as you said, Nintendo feels much more corporatized in his absence.
No further evidence is needed than the Switch's UX: basic and business-like, with only the smallest nuggets of personality or personalization. I'll never forget the Wii's UX, dripping with cosy, whimsical charm.
I wonder what Reggie is up to now. I wonder...
I get that this is all about ‘moments’ rather than the show itself. However as cute as the Muppets bit was, it seemed to be there in the hope people would notice the Muppets and not stare too long at an awful fanbase-trolling E3 disaster cementing itself as the low point in an era that was a dud all round.
Some of the others just serve as a reminder of how bad the suits-on-stage-talking format was instantly rendered obsolete by the Nintendo Direct idea.
2010 was non-stop games and for the DS, Wii, and the just announced 3DS. However, my favorite 'bit' remains the 2014 Robot Chicken interludes. Simply brilliant.
I really, really miss the old Nintendo. That leadership team was just super special.
I still don't think any E3 presentation since has been as good as that 2014 one. Fantastic games all around along with the Zelda reveal.
@Ulysses And the WiiUs UI. Almost unusably slow, sadly, but the Plaza, complete with all the Nintendo leadership personalities wandering around at random was so inviting and fun.
Corporate Nintendo is so remarkably unfun. It saddens me that it's so financially successful in it's current state. Using Iwatas platform, no less.
It's one reason I've been enjoying following Xbox lately. Sony and Nintendo went full corporate, while MS of all companies..... When you set up a new console it asks if you want to add Larry Hryb to your friends list, and Phil Spencer randomly plays online games with the general players. It's so much more like Iwatas Nintendo than -=NEW=- Nintendo is.
Thomas, you should do a top five cringe moment next.
Non-Specific Action Figure
Iwata starring at bananas
Surprised no one seems to remember these. Non-Specific Action Figure for Smash
@Dindunuffin He did the best job.
@NEStalgia I agree somewhat.
Yeah.. this is a side effect of choosing business people rather than product people to run a company. Furukawa unfortunately does not seem to be a product-minded person. I think investors tend to be wary of product-minded leaders and I guess Nintendo going into the doldrums between 2012 and 2015 lead to Furukawa becoming CEO. Although I strongly doubt the Switch would have been conceived under his leadership.
I don't agree entirely, though, cause we do get moments like Miyamoto showing us Super Nintendo World.
2008 was pretty cringeworthy. That was the first and last time we were introduced to Cammy Dunaway. The hardcore scared her off lol.
I really liked the E3 with Non- Specific Action Figure.
The Muppets were great, shame that E3 didn't have a lot to really pack a punch though. I think the year before they did the collab with the Robot Chicken guys and that one was really good too, and as I recall that had a stronger showing of games as well.
I miss those earlier E3 Directs where they were trying to make each one special in it's own way, Robot Chicken theme one year, Muppets the next. You'd hope they could have kept those kinds of traditions going (I have to wonder if those were something that Iwata really pressed for). Like I could see some sort of Lego collab E3 Direct or maybe since they're working with illumination on the Mario movie, a CGI direct, though that would be a lot of extra work I'm sure, so I get why they didn't keep them up I guess.
The puppets were for me the most memorable happy nintendo moment. Iwata is the best. rip.
That moment where their muppet bodies transform into the Star Fox team was one of the best reveals E3 has had... shame about the game...
But I do wish Nintendo would do more Muppets and Robot Chicken (you forgot that one) styled E3 events to keep them different to everyone else. The Nintendo Direct formula has been copied and done to death now (I think Sonic Central even used their voiceover!)... time for something more, Nintendo...
That's my favorite.
It has to be My Body Is Ready. It's ICONIC!
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