The 8-bit era of the NES can only be described as a Golden Age. It was a time of numerous classic games. Many of these classics were by Nintendo and had a lasting effect on the industry they revitalized.
Super Mario Bros., a game that redefined and became the new standard in 2D platformers. A game that to me was my first venture into the world of videogames, it was the game that made Mario a cultural icon. The man behind this labour of love was Shigeru Miyamoto a man whom to some is considered a genius and to millions a silent bringer of joy. Nintendo made games fun again, no one else at the time held as high a regard for their work as they did. They and the many third party companies who supported them brought video gaming to a higher level and earn the medium some much needed and well-deserved respect.
Some of the NES genre busters and unforgettable classics
Super Mario Bros. - One of the most successful videogames of all time wasn’t the first appearance for the famous plumber brothers Mario and Luigi. Appearing in the classic arcade game Donkey Kong and the original Mario and Luigi one screen wonder title ‘Mario Brothers’. Super Mario Bros originally appeared in the Arcades across the US but because of the disinterest and diminishing popularity of the machines it was barely noticed. Where it was noticed was in the home console field, launched together with the NES in the western market. Miyamoto and his talented team of developers created a remarkable side scrolling 2D masterpiece that was both simple and brilliantly complex at the same time. It was one of a kind, sure there were 2d platform games available but this was the first true 2d platform adventure title and it revolutionised the way games were made and perceived as it provided true scrolling and not limiting the player to one screen. Mario and Nintendo were becoming household names and Mario was on his way to Mickey Mouse style recognition. This was my first venture into gaming and it was remarkable; Goombas, Lakitus, Koopa Troopas, Bullet Bills, Piranha Plants, Underground Pipes and the legendary Warp Zones. It’s also in this game that Mario and Luigi develops their basic skills like jumping on enemies and throwing fireballs. The Star, Super Mushroom and the Fire Flower also appeared for the first time. The game was so deep it was mind-boggling. Miyamoto and Nintendo crammed so much into the 8 worlds that occupied the game that it gave gamers around the world a true experience than rather being merely fun and a time killer.
Evolutionary Rating: 10 - Not only did this game define and create what we perceive as a platform game but with its success and admiration amongst the masses it propelled videogames into the broader spectrum of society, a remarkable evolutionary step on its own. It showed that game could be as brilliant as any other form of media out there, and be able to provide one with an experience original and unattainable by other forms of entertainment and media. It brought structure to a medium where the common aspect of a game was to merely stay alive.
The Legend of Zelda - For anyone who has had the pleasure of playing this brilliant game whilst the term RPG only referred to PC text based adventures this game brought myself and many Nintendo fans out there a new type of adventure. It had a wonderful story, a real sense of wonder, and a truly remarkable quest with a story that instantly drew the player in. The quest had Link searching for 8 dungeons that each held a piece of the mystical Triforce of Wisdom and of course to rescuer Princess Zelda who has been kidnapped by the evil Ganon. This was the first game that used the MMC chip that allowed the screen to scroll both vertically and horizontally, a remarkable feat on the NES and brought a whole new style of gaming to the player. This was also the very first game for the system that sold over 1 million copies, so it makes this the first true blockbuster title and helped gain recognition for games as a successful medium of entertainment. This also propelled Shigeru Miyamoto into the spotlight as a true expert in game creation, and helped strengthen Nintendo’s name as a reputable company that produced stellar games.
The Legend of Zelda had a perfect balance in terms of difficulty and progression as players were awarded and upgraded when completing tasks: which introduced the famous hearts and heart pieces, the boomerang, the bow, rupees, keys, the game had it all. The dungeons got progressively harder and complex with puzzles and classic Nintendo elements appearing for the first time, like defeating every enemy in a single room to be then rewarded with a key. An added bonus was that Nintendo made it that when the game was completed and played again it was harder and items were located in different locations, which helped expand the game’s lifespan.
Evolutionary Rating: 10 - A game as influential as and as well revered as this has definitely helped shape and inspire many of the games we play today. It was both a technological wonder as well as a brilliant game, as the MMC chip was a great device on its own. A game that was released in 1986 so early in the NES’s lifecycle this is truly a masterpiece of gaming, and to sell over a million copies is a great achievement by Nintendo.
Zelda remains one of the most popular video game franchises of all time. New installments of the series sell phenomenally well, as a majority of gamers know and love the Zelda series.
Using the MMC1 chip, which allowed the screen to scroll both horizontally and vertically, this game was not essentially a plat-former in the Mario sense but it provided gamers with an original gaming experience, which pushed the game and its sequels into the spotlight. Its design and gameplay were non-linear and this appealed to gamers along with a great sci-fi story and feel. All through the game the hero, Samus Aran, was referred to as “he” but the big surprise came to gamers in the end sequence and it revealed the Samus was in fact a “she”. The game got critical success with its great and complex game play and the fact that the hero was girl helped further boost its success. Miyamoto wasn’t responsible for this Nintendo masterpiece but another man by the name of Gunpei Yokoi, who was responsible for the Game&Watch series and NES games like Kid Icarus and Metroid, and his most popular creation the Game Boy. Metroid was a remarkable game that had a more mature theme than most of Nintendo’s flagship games.
Evolutionary Rating: 10 - Searching and destroying all the Metroids and then confronting the The Motherbrain, this was one Nintendo game that strayed from the usual “kid” themes and gave players a great game with a cool science fiction plot. The added twist of making the hero female was definitely a cool one, and this was not an easy game to complete. It was definitely ground breaking for its time that provided an original non-linear quest that is still respected today.
Nintendo themselves played an intricate part in evolving videogames with the NES and that’s not to say that they were alone in doing this, some notable companies that also created games that inspired people and helped shape the industry are listed below.