The Nintendo Entertainment System Launched 33 Years Ago Today In Japan


The Nintendo Entertainment System (commonly abbreviated as NES) is an 8-bit home video game console that was developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It was initially released in Japan as the Family Computer (Japanese: ファミリーコンピュータ Hepburn: Famirī Konpyūta) (also known by the portmanteau abbreviation Famicom (ファミコン Famikon?) and abbreviated as FC) on July 15, 1983, and was later released in North America during 1985, in Europe during 1986, and Australia in 1987. In South Korea, it was known as the Hyundai Comboy (현대 컴보이 Hyeondae Keomboi) and was distributed by SK Hynix which then was known as Hyundai Electronics. It was succeeded by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

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The best-selling gaming console of its time, the NES helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983. With the NES, Nintendo introduced a now-standard business model of licensing third-party developers, authorizing them to produce and distribute titles for Nintendo’s platform.

In 2009, the Nintendo Entertainment System was named the single greatest video game console in history by IGN, in a list of 25. It was judged the second greatest console behind the Sega Dreamcast in PC Magazines “Top 10 Video Game Consoles of All Time”


The NES was released after the “video game crash” of the early 1980s, whereupon many retailers and adults had regarded electronic games as being merely a passing fad, and many believed at first that the NES was another fad. Before the NES/Famicom, Nintendo was known as a moderately successful Japanese toy and playing card manufacturer, and the popularity of the NES/Famicom helped the company grow into an internationally recognized name almost synonymous with video games as Atari had been during the 2600 era and set the stage for Japanese dominance of the video game industry. With the NES, Nintendo also changed the relationship of console manufacturers and third-party software developers by restricting developers from publishing and distributing software without licensed approval. This led to higher quality software titles, which helped to change the attitude of a public that had grown weary from poorly produced titles for other game systems of the day.

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The NES hardware was also very influential. Nintendo chose the name “Nintendo Entertainment System” for the US market and redesigned the system so it would not give the appearance of a child’s toy. The front-loading cartridge input allowed it to be used more easily in a TV stand with other entertainment devices, such as a videocassette recorder.

There were many prominent game franchises that originated on the NES. The system’s hardware limitations led to game design similarities that still influence video game design and culture. Some of the more important franchises that debuted on the NES were Nintendo’s own Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, Capcom’s Mega Man franchise, Konami’s Castlevania franchise, Square’s Final Fantasy and Enix’s Dragon Quest franchises. All of these still exist today.

NES imagery, especially its controller, has become a popular motif for a variety of products, including Nintendo’s own Game Boy Advance. Clothing, accessories, and food items adorned with NES-themed imagery are still produced and sold in stores. Such items include hats, shirts, underwear, wallets, wrist-bands, belt buckles, tins containing mint candy, and energy drinks.

On July 14, 2016, it was announced that a miniature NES (titled the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition in the US, Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and Australia) would be released on November 11, 2016 (November 10 in Australia) with 30 built-in games including Metroid and the Super Mario Bros. trilogy. The system will feature an HDMI output and a controller similar to the original NES controller. The controller will be able to hook up to the Wii remote to be used with Wii and Wii U Virtual Console games.

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