It’s Nintendo’s 129th birthday! Here’s a short history

Nintendo just marked an incredible milestone this weekend: 129 years!  Nintendo was first established on Sept. 23, 1889. The company may have started out small but look what it has become. A truly iconic brand in the vast gaming industry. Throughout the years the company has constantly had to reinvent itself and find its market and luckily for us fans it did. Below we’ve compiled a few lesser known (and fun) facts about Nintendo, its many consoles and some of its iconic games.

Background of Nintendo

Way back in 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi began manufacturing “Hanafuda” (flower cards). They were Japanese playing cards in Kyoto. So Nintendo originally began as a playing card company. If you happen to get your hands on those cards now I am sure they are worth quite a bit. Next, in 1902, Mr. Yamauchi began manufacturing the first western-style playing cards in Japan. These cards were originally supposed to be exported, but the cards surprisingly became popular in Japan as well as the rest of the world. 1933 marks when the company became known as Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. About 20 years later in 1951, the name changed again to Nintendo Playing Card Co.Ltd.

It wasn’t until 1963, however, that Nintendo changed its’ name to Nintendo Co., Ltd. and started manufacturing games in addition to their playing cards. The 1980s is where Nintendo really made a name for itself when Nintendo of America Inc. in New York was created. They began selling their “GAME & WATCH” product line in Japan, the first portable LCD video games with a microprocessor. Our man Shigeru Miyamoto created the game Donkey Kong. As well as the hero, originally called Jumpman, who like many knows went on to become Mario. Soon after that, we got the first portable gaming consoles for home use, Japan got the Famicom in 1983 and year later they renamed it the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) when it launched worldwide in 1984.

46 million units sold worldwide

When the NES first hit the market, it did extremely well. It went on to sell 46 million units worldwide. The library of games grew to 65 titles. In Japan they released the Super NES Super Scope and Mario Paint with the Super NES Mouse Accessory (which have since become collector’s items). That is quite an impressive number for a company that started out selling playing cards!

500,000 N64 systems purchased on day one in Japan

Nintendo made the leap in the 3D world of gaming with the launch of the Nintendo 64  which first launched in Japan on June 23, 1996. Thousands of people lined up to get their hands on this beauty and a crazy 500,000 units were sold on that day alone. With the recent NES Classic and SNES Classic Editions released and a possible N64 Classic on its way could we possibly see a repeat of these sales? Who knows?

That plumber

We can’t talk about Nintendo’s 129th Birthday without mentioning the huge Mario franchise. This series alone has grossed over $12 Billion in sales and sold over 500 million copies of its various titles. It is literally the best -selling video game franchise of all time. Who would have thought a mere plumber could go on to video game domination?

Ocarina of Time broke pre-order records

After the huge success of Zelda on NES and SNES, fans were eagerly awaiting the 3D version after seeing Super Mario 64. They got their wish in 1998 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time finally made its debut on the N64. This game actually broke pre-order records of any video game to date in 1998. 2011 also marked the 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda Series. Well done Zelda!

Mario Kart

Mario Kart has had many versions but one worth noting would be Mario Kart 8 in 2014. Once it launched, it receievd strong review scores. It also can boast that it sold over 1.2 million copies worldwide in its first weekend alone. People sure love their Mario Kart!

Gotta catch ’em all

You can’t mention Nintendo’s long history without talking about the Pokemon franchise. Since Pokemon launched on the Gameboy in Japan on Feb. 26, 1996, it has become a global phenomenon. Pikachu, our favorite electric mouse, has become the iconic mascot for the franchise. Besides games, Pokemon has had many movies, tv episodes, spin-off games and merchandise to boot. Players to this day are still trying to catch them all.

Final thoughts

Nintendo for myself, like many other fans, had a huge impact on my childhood and really influenced my love of gaming. My first experience was my brother’s original Gameboy, playing Pokemon Red Version and later playing The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I was then introduced to the N64 with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Yes, I have ventured off to other consoles and games but Nintendo will always hold a special place in my heart. Congratulations to this company on this remarkable milestone. What are some of your favorite Nintendo memories? Feel free to share them with us!


Tarah Bleier