10 Reasons Why I Love Nintendo31
By Chris Littler
10 Reasons Why I Love Nintendo
If you’re thirty-five or under, odds are you grew up loving Nintendo. And why shouldn’t you have? Nintendo had all the good parts of Disney or Nickelodeon, except they were better because they were foreign.
Over the last twenty-odd years, Nintendo has provided what we needed: fun, wholesome entertainment that didn’t make sense and didn’t pretend to want to. On top of that, there was a constantly updated carousel of lovable characters, the kind of crass characterizations that probably made a lot more sense in Japan than they did in America. But that didn’t matter. We made do. We got busy smashing the neighbor’s pots, doing barrel rolls, kicking turtles and slapping the ground until bananas appeared. And apparently so were zillions of other kids.
Today, Nintendo is worth roughly $85 billion, but you wouldn’t know it based on their quirky homespun mentality (which has gone unchanged since the days they produced handmade hanafuda cards). That’s why Nintendo is, and always will be, our second-most beloved multi-national corporation. (BP Oil being our first.) I could go on for days giving you reasons why I think Nintendo is one of the best things that ever happened to humanity, but I wouldn’t want to take you away from all your valuable Pokemon for too long. There’s Rare Candy out there to find.
1. They have an amazing track record.
Nintendo has more popular franchises than any other game company. Just look at how many characters they own the rights to: Mario, Link, Samus, Donkey Kong, that chuckling dog from Duck Hunt – the list goes on and on. They’ve done a great job protecting their characters from being sullied by awful games. Every time we see Mario, we can rest assured he’ll be complemented by exciting gameplay, brilliant concepts, and ideas fresher than a cup of melted Glacius. Their dedication has paid off gloriously. While other companies have to pour millions into market-testing new characters and concepts, Nintendo can sit back and use all that money to try out new and brave ideas.
2. They have the most innovative games.
Speaking of brave ideas, is there any designer out there braver than Shigeru Miyamoto? Sure, we’ve never seen him jump on a grenade or anything, but that’s hardly part of his job description. The man who created Mario is the current head of the Entertainment Analysis and Development branch at Nintendo. Being the Godfather of Video Games, he could very well use that position to rest on his laurels and collect a paycheck. Instead, he pushes the company in new and unexpected directions. Take Super Mario Galaxy for example. Only a mind as clever as Miyamoto’s could have taken a game like that and not called it Mario in Space.
3. They give us something to play with our entire family.
The Nintendo Wii is hands down the most family-friendly console on the market right now. (What’s that XBox fanboys? Crying foul? Sorry, I can’t hear you over all your gut-splattering.) How many times have you walked into someone’s house and been surprised to see that unassuming console perched next to an outdated cathode ray tube television only to ask, “Did you accidentally buy a video game console instead of a DVD player?” Cut to: shooting down digital skeet with grandma and the rest of her bridge club… and they’re kicking your ass. Suffice it to say, none of that wouldn’t happen with a PS3 or an Xbox 360. They’re too cool for school, and far too cool for grandma.
4. They were our first love.
In 1983, the North American home video game industry took a nosedive so sharp you might have mistaken it for Slippy. For two years, analysts pondered whether or not the industry could possibly recover. Some predicted that the video game fad was over as quickly as it had started. Then, in 1984, Nintendo’s Family Computer (aka Famicom, aka Hyundai Comboy, aka Nintendo Entertainment System) was released. Suddenly, the industry’s outlook didn’t look so bad. In fact, it looked like Japan had swooped in and saved the day. The NES quickly became the first home console to find a permanent place in our hearts and our media cabinet. Anyone on our block who was anyone had one. Though they’re rarely seen around these days (they’re not nearly as hip as the N64), the NES was voted the greatest video game system of all time by IGN.
5. They’re trippy.
Nintendo has never lost its sense of fun. Well, maybe they lost a little, somewhere around Waialae Country Club: True Gold Classic. (Everyone’s allowed one crap gold game.) Missteps aside, they’re a video game company, and they’ve always acted like one. We hate it when these companies act like they’re too cool for school. (We’re looking at you Treyarch.) Every Nintendo release has a sense of playfulness to it. And with it comes a real sense of “hey man, whatever.” If you thought the original Mario Bros. was weird shit, then wait ‘til you get a load of Mario 2. (Birdo, anyone?) And if you thought Mario 2 was trippy, wait ‘til you grab the feather that turns into a raccoon suit in Mario 3. Things only get trippier from then on out – with heat-seeking turtle shells, a giant floating brain that goes by Mother and a dog that’s also a singer-songwriter. It takes a lot of courage to be nonjudgmental and different. Nintendo has always shown that courage.
Too weird? The answer is always: never weird enough.
6. They love mustaches.
The popularity of mustaches may come and go in the real world, but in the world of Nintendo, they’ll always be here to stay. The fine folks at Nintendo are genuine moustache-aholics. The company champions upper-lip fuzz almost as much as they do psychedelics and 3D. Take a look at this roster: Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Dr. Wily, Mike Haggar, Dr. Robotnik, Henry Hatsworth. These are all men not afraid to show off their manliness by way of facial hair. And before you say, “It’s an Italian thing,” get the hell out of here. It’s a counterculture thing. These guys don’t take crap from anybody. Not cops, not reptile kings, not anyone. Can you imagine what Mario would look like without his moustache? Don’t. You’ll hurt your brain.
7. They have the best propaganda rag.
Nintendo is only as powerful as the circulation strength of its advertisement-masquerading-as-a-real-magazine, Nintendo Power. I remember when I used to pour over the full-color illustrations and the pullout poster that sometimes had level maps on the back. I have fond memories of pouring over the reviews, which suddenly seemed biased when I realized that other video magazines reviewed games by other companies. Despite the clear bias the Power had, I don’t hold it against them. Even now, older and wiser as I am, I get a good chuckle out of the Letters to the Editor section. Most of the kids writing in are, like, eight.
8. They have the best music.
Okay, quiz time. If you had to get rid of your Theme Song to Welcome Back Kotter ring tone and replace it with only music made by one company, which company would it be? Nintendo, right? They’re the kings of catchy jingles that you can only get out of your head by listening to The Beach Boys or dying. The first level of Mario is a perfect example. Try to play through that without humming along. It’s impossible. And don’t even get us started on the opera sequence from Final Fantasy VI. If music be the food of love, then please play on… If you have any lives left.
9. They made road trips bearable.
The Game Boy revolutionized gaming in a way that’s still felt today. It wasn’t the first handheld gaming device on the market, but it was certainly the first that felt right. Bundled with Tetris, the original Game Boy sold over a million units in its first week of release. With the Game Boy Color, the two combined have sold over 118 million units worldwide.
10. They invented the cult video game.
If Sony and Microsoft suddenly kicked it into fifth gear tomorrow morning and released a thousand amazing video games and wiped Nintendo off the face of the planet, they’d still never be as good as Nintendo is. Why? Because Nintendo published Earthbound. Earthbound was the first video game that reached Rocky Horror Picture Show levels of self-awareness and parody. Despite the game having been made in Japan, it’s a uniquely American experience. It’s a poorly translated satire of American life and is just about the coolest goddamn thing I’ve ever played in my life. Not interested yet? In what other game could you team up with a martial arts master and shoot bottle rockets at an alien evil that can only be defeated by the power of prayer? That’s what we thought.
Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.