The Classic Gaming Guide to Nintendo Consoles

We call every tissue a Kleenex and every adhesive bandage a Band-Aid. For a while in the ’80s, we also called every gaming console a Nintendo. The company had conquered the market, becoming eponymous with the concept of gaming itself.

Today, there are still plenty of Nintendo consoles on the market. A brand new Nintendo Switch console, the Switch 2, is supposedly on its way this spring. Can you believe that it was once rare to find gaming consoles you could fit in your home, let alone in your hand?

Consoles are getting smaller and smaller, but the video game giant doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. They may be the gaming experts, but it’s clear that Nintendo is not here to play! How did they transition from playing cards to video games, and what might gaming look like for the company in the future?

We’ve decided to take a casual stroll down memory lane, looking back on some of the biggest shifts in the history of the Nintendo gaming console. Keep reading for a brief but radical history of Nintendo video games.

1972 – The Magnavox Odyssey

From its founding in 1889 until 1949, Nintendo was strictly a playing card company. A collaboration with Disney lead to expansion, and they dabbled in everything from vacuum cleaners to toys. They first struck gold when they began producing electronic toys in the late 1960s.

They wouldn’t release a video game console until the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, which came with a light gun. The team who created the product kept experimenting from there. They would go on to perfect the concept of the platformer video game with the release of the Donkey Kong arcade cabinet.

1980 – The Game and Watch

From there, Nintendo took its first foray into going small with the Game and Watch. This was a small, watch-style console that included a single, simple video game. Different models came with different games, making them fashionable, collectible, and functional.

By 1991, Nintendo had sold over 43 million Game and Watch units.

1985 – The Nintendo Entertainment System

1983 heralded a video game crash. Poor quality releases had wiped out a majority of the companies producing products in the gaming space. Nintendo was temporarily the last man standing, with no competition in the gaming market.

Originally called the Famicon, the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES) was the first to come with a Seal of Quality. Nintendo promised that all of their gaming releases would be personally vetted. They only allowed five third-party game releases per year so no rotten eggs would sneak through the cracks.

This was the shift that drove other companies to compete. The NES controller remains the standard template for all console gaming controllers to this day. Developers at Nintendo created ample upgrades to the system, from the ability to “save your game,” to modems and headset gaming.

1989 – The Gameboy

From there, Nintendo designers used what they learned from the NES and went back to their first success – a small, handheld console. The Gameboy combined the portability of the Game and Watch with the ability to change game cartridges. It wasn’t the first handheld console, but it was the first console with a 30-hour battery life, which made a huge difference for gamers.

1991 – Super Nintendo

The Super Nintendo console was just what it sounds like – an NES with a few supercharged upgrades. One of these upgrades was Mode 7 Technology, which simulated 3D-like gameplay. Thus, iconic games like Mario Kart became possible.

You can still Find Great Super Nintendo Games online today.

1996 – Nintendo 64

The Nintendo 64 marks the shift to a Renassaince in 3D video game design and production. This was due to the Reality Coprocessor, which made highly rendered graphics possible.

The N64 was the first console with a three-handled controller. It also continued to use cartridges, which was a limiting factor.

1998 – The Gameboy Color

In the meantime, Nintendo released The Gameboy Pocket and The Gameboy Light, which were variations of the original Gameboy. The revolution came in 1998, however, with the release of The Gameboy Color. It was a better console overall but was still compatible with previous releases.

Along with the Gameboy Color came some memorable accessories, like the Gameboy Camera and Gameboy Printer.

2001 – The Gameboy Advance and Gamecube

The Gameboy advance was like a portable, handheld Super Nintendo console. It was backward compatible with all of Nintendo’s previous handheld releases. At this point, it was obvious that there wasn’t another competitor in the handheld console sphere.

That same year, Nintendo released the developer-friendly Gamecube home console. It was Nintendo’s first console to use discs instead of cartridges. Ultimately, it was not very popular.

2004 – Nintendo DS

Nintendo had the handheld market in its palms, but how could it improve upon one of the top gaming consoles? They decided to add a second screen, a “Dual Screen,” and thus the Nintendo DS was born. The DS has a touchscreen, wifi connectivity, and a rechargeable battery.

The DS was arguably the most successful video game console in history.

Nintendo Today

Console development did not stop there. Since the release of the Nintendo DS, Nintendo has also released:

  • Nintendo Wii (2006)
  • Nintendo 3DS (2011)
  • Nintendo Wii U (2012)
  • Nintendo Switch (2017)

The Nintendo Switch might be the biggest revolution in Nintendo consoles in decades. The console is both a home and portable system. Games can now play on the couch, then pick up the Switch and take their game to go.

The Future of Nintendo Consoles

It’s unlikely that Nintendo consoles are going to keep getting smaller, but a look at current gaming trends might help us to predict the future. Gaming consoles might be transitioning from hand-held to the VR space. There’s no telling whether or not Nintendo will jump on this trend, but either way, we can’t wait to see where our favorite gaming company goes next!

When there’s a new Nintendo release out there, you know we’ll be the first to let you know! In the meantime, check out the rest of the blog for more compelling history and entertainment news!