Retrocon 2024

How the Nintendo Entertainment System Changed Gaming Forever

via NES--still-the-best Deviant Art

It's that time of year again when the creme de la creme of the gaming industry converge at the mega gaming conference E3. Last year's attendance was almost 70,000 people who witnessed the biggest and most innovative developments in the video gaming industry. This year was a real showstopper, showcasing games with the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and graphics so clear and crisp that you could easily mistake the action taking place in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey for real-life footage.

While the industry has come a very long way from its humble origins over 30 years ago, when consoles first made it into our homes, it's important not to forget the roots of the industry where foundations were laid for the mind-blowing titles and platforms we enjoy today. Enter the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home console which launched back in 1985 in North America (1986 in Europe) and went on to become the best selling games console of the entire era. While there are plenty of more forgettable platforms which launched during the gaming boom of the 1980s, this one truly made a mark with titles and features that undoubtedly revolutionized the industry forever. Let's take a look back at some of the gone-but-not-forgotten NES titles and see how they changed gaming forever.

The Classics

There are countless NES titles which are household names today, that all gamers continue to play and enjoy. Few people in the world today aren't aware of the cultural superpower that is the NES flagship game Super Mario Bros., which instantly brings colorful memories of mushrooms, gold coins, lucky slots and, of course, those mustached Italian brothers. The Mario Brothers go way back to the very dawn of electronic gaming, gracing our arcades as early as 1980, but it was the NES which brought this plucky duo into our homes. The first Super Mario Brothers game to be available on a home console was released on NES back in 1985 and featured all the classic hallmarks that we know and love. It truly launched the brand into the dizzy stratosphere of a cultural icon and symbol of gaming. This also extends to characters that span the length and breadth of the Mario family like Donkey Kong, Wario, Princess Peach and Kid Icarus, all of which made their home console debuts on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The Mario dynasty isn't the only cultural classic first brought into our living rooms by the NES. The first ever title of the now extensive and hugely popular Final Fantasy series made its debut on the console, selling over 400,000 units following the highly anticipated release during Christmas 1987. The Final Fantasy series follows an intergalactic science fiction odyssey through space and time, and to this day, has spawned dozens of titles. Selling a grand total of over 135 million units, Final Fantasy is most successful game franchises of all time, all thanks to the humble NES!

Strategy Gaming

The enhanced capabilities of the NES, compared to its contemporaries, made it the first true home console that allowed players to explore in-depth strategy games involving lots of levels and possible outcomes. From detailed casino games requiring players to really test their skills, to complex sports games and puzzle adventures, the NES was truly able to bring an element of strategy and unprecedented depth to home gaming. One stellar example is the 1989 title Casino Kid which showcased dozens of popular casino games such as blackjack and poker, all requiring players to put their heads in the game in order to win. Instructions were not included in the game, so it was up to players to figure out blackjack skills like when to double down and when to split. And, with blackjack being described by Betway Casino as easy to pick up but difficult to master, it's not hard to see why so many hours were lost to the NES game. The capabilities of the NES meant that game developers could add plenty of depth and information to the games. What made Casino Kid stand out was the way which the rules of popular casino games were meticulously recreated to give gamers an unheard of, close-to-life experience.

The NES also allowed sports games to be popularized in a similar fashion, with revolutionary titles like Tecmo Super Bowl and RBI Baseball. Applying all the rules, conditions, and even real life players of professional sports, gamers could play a more immersive experience than ever before.

The Birth of Action Games

Action games have been around since time immemorial, with shoot 'em ups like Time Crisis being a staple of any 1980s mall arcade. However, the NES revolutionized home gaming with the ways in which it popularized super-fast, high action and pulse-racing action games which you could play from the comfort of your own living room. The military action shooter Metal Gear, which is now one of the world's most well-known titles, made its worldwide debut on the NES and was one of the first ever home console games that allowed players to seamlessly explore whole worlds with a diverse range of enemies and combat strategy.

Similarly, another legendary and iconic title The Legend of Zelda also changed the game completely when it launched on the NES back in 1986. Different than a simple Pac-Man style explorer that the original arcade version was, the NES release allowed players to explore open-world levels, collect items for later use in quests, and choose your own adventure. These features that are commonplace in games today were completely unprecedented back in the '80s.

We could list several more NES titles that revolutionized home console gaming but we want your thoughts! What NES game blew your mind the first time you played it? Share your memories in the comments below...

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