If you had to sum up the gaming industry in one word, there are a plethora of choices to choose from. You could choose to say “Microsoft.” After all, the computer company headed by Bill Gates is a giant in the games industry. With hits like Halo and Gears of War, it’s difficult to look past the invention of the Xbox and Xbox 360 as revolutionary.
Or, you could say “Sony.” Sony transitioned from sound accessories and speakers to video games in the 1990s. With the advent of the PlayStation, 3-D gaming was introduced into the gaming world and changed the landscape of gaming as you know it.
But, despite these words holding immense importance and significance for gamers, there’s one word that may transcend all of these: Nintendo. Before the days of Master Chief and Crash Bandicoot, there was Mario. Before Sonic paved the way for super-fast gameplay, Kirby slowed down the way you thought about games. If Microsoft and PlayStation are the students of gaming history, then Nintendo is the father. It’s the company that boggled the minds of players and onlookers alike. They were the ones that introduced the basic element of platforming and transitioned gaming from top down-shooters and Pong to the 2-D platforming you still play to this day.
With a vast history under its belt, the company of Nintendo has some extraordinary facts behind it. For instance, the character of Luigi isn’t an original design. It seems Luigi just can’t win. This list compiles 20 of the most mind-blowing facts about Nintendo. You’ll have a greater appreciation for them after reading this article.
20 There's a Real Life Mario Kart Track
Mario Kart is one of those franchises that can make or break friendships. Sure, it’s all fun and games when you turn on the N64 for a retro night or power up your Wii U for a couple of hours of fun with your friends and family. But, the experience quickly turns into a savage fight for supremacy when your mom ends up using a blue shell on you on the last lap and she ends up beating you. But, what if I told you that you could do this in real life?
Waterloo Labs has created an amazing experience that brings the world of Mario Kart to life. Created by engineers Ben James and Hunter Smith, the track uses unique coding to let you speed up your go cart when you snag a mushroom. The “item boxes” are suspended by rope hanging over the track. If you want to take game nights to the next level, head over to waterloolabs.com to get your fix.
19 Nintendo Invented a Knitting Machine
Yes, this was almost an actual thing. How? Not too sure. But, the NES was everywhere in the late 80s and early 90s. Since it seemingly couldn’t do wrong, the minds behind the growing company decided to try and branch out. With VR? No. Knitting.
According to a brochure that was released on Facebook by a former Nintendo employee, this wasn’t just a knitting game. It was a knitting machine. While people aren’t really sure how the knitting machine actually works, the premise was that you could legitimately knit a sweater. Through the use of the NES. It’s an odd combination, but one that may have been crazy enough to work. But, it didn’t. Imagine if this would have caught on, though! You can only wonder at all of the horrible sweaters we’re never going to see.
18 Nintendo Operated “Love Hotels”
If knitting was the super family friendly invention that we never asked for, this falls on the other end of the spectrum. Originally a card company, Nintendo was focused on selling cards. With naked ladies on them. After a long while in the gambling industry, they branched out into another foray: love hotels.
This is the translation for the English speakers of the U.S., and they would probably equate motels to what these love hotels were. They were places where people would travel to and have sex. Strange times, the 60s were. Nintendo even owned a taxi company that would take you to these hotels! But, even though these love hotels are similar to motels, they’re a lot fancier. The behavior being done in them is the same, but the love hotels were better fashioned.
Sometimes, they would even be seen as a luxury. You could bring prostitutes to them and have a great time. Nintendo’s weird.
17 The Game Boy was the First System Played in Space
When you go into space, you’d have to figure that it’d be pretty hard to do almost anything. For instance, just moving around the space shuttle requires some acrobatic skills as you don’t have gravity on your side. But, we’re human. And humans continue to innovate in amazing ways. We’ve gone into space and cured numerous diseases. We’ve also played video games in space.
It makes sense that the Game Boy was the console of choice. You can’t really plug into anything, and the Game Boy runs on batteries. The historic feat was pulled off by a Russian cosmonaut named Alexsandr Serebrov. What game do you think he played? I’ll give you a hint: you can play this game for hours and hours and never win. The answer is Tetris.
16 There Were Only 400 Games Developed for the N64
Ah, the sweet memories of childhood. The times when you could play outside unsupervised and not have to worry about your parents hovering over your every move. It was also the sweet, sweet time of the N64 (at least, for readers in their mid to late 20s). No matter your age, the Nintendo 64 was an absolute blast. Not to mention, revolutionary.
However, did you know that only 400 games were developed for this wonderful console? Indeed, not many games made it all the way from the developer’s minds to the home of gamers. For comparison, 714 games were created for the NES. This is a drastic cut when you compare the two.
Maybe it was the cutting edge technology of the N64 that made it difficult to create for. Or, maybe it was the fact that technology began to develop faster during the mid 90s. Whatever the reason, all 400 are probably remembered by someone out there. For better or worse.
15 The N64 Controller was Created Specifically for Super Mario 64
It’s heavily regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. It’s lived a healthy life, living through its original run in the late 90s, the retro phase of the late 2000s and now is a popular commodity on streaming platforms in the form of speed running. Super Mario 64 has built a legacy that is hard to compare.
Since it was such a powerhouse launch title for the N64, it makes a lot of sense that the N64 controller was designed with Super Mario 64 in mind. One of the most iconic aspects of the game happens before the real gameplay even starts. The player is sitting at the screen and can manipulate Mario’s face and contort it into all sorts of odd and wacky angles.
This is done by the joystick, which was pretty radical at the time. While the d-pad and three-button combo was the bread-and-butter of consoles, the N64 took a chance. And it paid off in some major ways.
14 Mario was Originally Supposed to be a Popeye Franchise
Yep. It’s true. Instead of controlling a plumber in suspenders who’s trying to save a princess in a castle, you could have been controlling Popeye as he battled baddies and was on a quest to save Olive Oil. Imagine how that would have turned out.
Originally, when Nintendo came up with the concept of the Mario game, they wanted to use Popeye. After all, he was an established character that had been around for decades. In practicality, it’s not a bad idea. But, there was one Goomba that stood in the way of their plan: they couldn’t obtain the rights.
It seems Popeye was on lockdown. So, what happens when you don’t succeed? You try and try again. Instead, Nintendo kept their little sprite and decked him out in some different colors to differentiate from Popeye. It seems to have worked.
13 In the World of Pokémon, You Can Eat Them
Whoa. Wait just one minute. You’re telling me that Pokémon, one of the family-friendliest games on the planet, is really full of some crude and bizarre ideas that wouldn’t cut it in the real world? Yep. Specifically, you can eat Pokémon.
While at first this may not seem like much of a problem, think about it. Sure, Pokémon can be considered as animals. However, they tend to be much more than the normal animal. In fact, you could almost argue that Pokémon have their own languages and personalities. With this in mind, it’s hard to wrap you brain around the fact that you can indulge in some tasty Pokémon at some restaurant.
Now, it needs to be stated that there’s only one instance of this occurring in the games. It’s not a common thread in the universe. Still, it’s something that is strangely odd and a bit brash.
12 The Japanese NES has a Built-in Microphone
Hmmm. It seems that everything is cyclical. Whether it’s fashion, sports or video games, everything tends to come full circle. The video game world is no different. With the advent of the failed Kinect for the Xbox systems, voice commands have been around for quite some time. For instance, you could talk to your console all the way back in 1986.
In Japan, the team at Nintendo created a special NES that you could talk to while playing The Legend of Zelda. Mainly, the mic was used to defeat Pols Voice. All you had to do was make noise-and the enemy died. What a cool invention!
So, whenever you shout at your TV to change channels, just remember that some of this wonderful technology can be traced back to Link and his quest to save Zelda.
11 You Don’t Need the Sensor Bar for the Wii
If you’ve ever rocked a Wii mote (and not had it fly out of your hand and ruin your TV screen), you’ve probably had a pretty cool experience. When the Wii hit store shelves in 2006, it looked a revolutionary machine. Most were curious about the motion capture technology and many were looking forward to it. When people fired up the Wii, they realized that the machine came with a sensor bar.
The sensor bar picks up the signal from the Wii and translates that into motion. At least, that’s what most people think. And it’s wrong. Due to the Wii mote housing an accelerometer, the wand is what’s sensing the motion. The sensor bar is really there as more of a guide post. You can use any source of light you want. One article even mentions trying it with candles. Just don’t burn your house down.
10 Link and Zelda’s Inspirations Came From Zelda Fitzgerald and Peter Pan
OK, time for a brief history lesson. In high school, you may have read a fantastic novel called The Great Gatsby. The classic story was written by an author named F. Scott Fitzgerald. Besides being a fascinating story in his own right, he was married to an equally eccentric woman. Her name? Zelda Fitzgerald. Miyamoto has stated that he wanted Zelda to have a mysterious quality around her. Pretty sure he nailed that aspect.
Link, on the other hand, is tied to Peter Pan. He’s a boy on a magical quest to defeat the bad guy and save the girl. Oh, and he’s decked out in green. That’s also an obvious nod to the Walt Disney movie. Miyamoto was a man who drew heavy inspiration from everything around him and it shows in one of the most famous franchises ever.
9 Kirby was Originally Named Tinkle Popo
He’s too cute. Seriously, the little pink blob that violently sucks up everything in its path is now an icon in the Nintendo franchise. With such a fun and playful nature, you may wonder why this amorphous blob has a human name. While it may be easier to relate to this thing if it has a name you might hear on the subway or at work, Kirby’s original name may have simply confused you. That’s because his name was originally Tinkle Popo.
Yeah, it’s a good thing the name was changed. Originally, the character of Kirby was just a placeholder sprite for a 2D-platformer. As development went on, the sprite just sort of stuck. The next thing you know, the testers are playing this game with a sprite and it generates a sort of odd charm. But, this charm may not have been there if they had stuck with Tinkle Popo.
8 Super Mario Bros. 2 Never Happened
This is for all the conspiracy theorists out there. Indeed, there are a ton of theories that state that Super Mario Bros. 2 isn’t a real Mario game. More specifically, the game is actually a dream. It all takes place inside Mario’s mind while he’s studying his eyelids. The crazy part? There’s some legitimate proof out there that sides with the game not occurring in the real world of the Mushroom Kingdom.
The best piece of evidence comes straight from the player’s manual of the game. It says that Mario enters the Subcon, “the land of dreams.” Not quite sure how you can interpret that any differently, because it’s clear that this Mario game is all in his head. While it’s one of the more famous theories out there, it’s less theory and more fact as the years go by.
7 Mario was Named after Nintendo’s Landlord
This one may take a little bit of explaining. When Nintendo was building up its arsenal of games, it needed a headquarters. After all, what game development company doesn’t have a headquarters (even if it is just one room)? With Nintendo creating memorable experiences, the company didn’t know what to name its main character after the legal issues with Popeye arose. Enter the landlord of the warehouse Nintendo was using.
His name was Mario. So, out of an act of fate, Nintendo decided to take a leap of faith and name their title character Mario. Even though it seems to be a random choice of name, the signature name has panned out pretty well. It helps distinguish the character from other one-off titles. He’s got dark hair and talks with an Italian accent. It seems the name “Mario” is a suitable choice.
6 Donkey Kong is the First Game to Involve Jumping
It’s a mechanic so ingrained into gaming today, that it’s hard to imagine a time when jumping in a video game was a foreign concept. If you trace games back to their roots, you realize that the likes of Pong and text-based adventures are the basic DNA structure of the early video game. With technology evolving in the early 1980s, game designers realized that they could take their sprites and make them jump off the ground. This would prove to be legendary.
This most basic of mechanic would go on to revolutionize gaming forever. Donkey Kong led to a spin-off, Mario, and the Mario franchise changed the entire world of gaming. Throughout the time that Mario’s been around, he’s morphed the gaming industry. And it can all be traced back to Donkey Kong.
5 Luigi is a Hybrid Creation
Ah yes, the character who’s always left out in the dust. The character who always gets made fun of and doesn’t ever garner any respect. Of course, Luigi is the subject of this scrutiny and has been for the past 25 years or so. Since Luigi has always been ragged on, it would be nice to report some information about Luigi being a strong and original individual. Sadly, Luigi isn’t even an original design.
When the minds behind the Mario games were thinking of creating a secondary character that could prove to be an asset to Mario, they realized that it could be done. However, in regards to technical specifications, it couldn’t. The team didn’t have enough resources to create a brand-new character. Instead, the designers decided to merge two pre-existing characters (Mario and a green Koopa). Blend the two together and you’ve got the plumber’s brother.
4 Nintendo Almost Made a Phone
With all the companies that are coming out with phones these days, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a gaming company could create a successful smartphone. After all, Microsoft has their own phone and Samsung actually has the reverse problem. They’ve branched out and made refrigerators and other large objects for your convenience.
Since everyone has a phone, it’s not a bad idea to try and create your own phone. If you could have your brand and logo in almost one billion people’s pockets, wouldn’t you do it? Nintendo almost went through with this idea, although it was at a time when cell phones were $5,000.
Dubbed the “Donkey Kong Mobile Phone", the phone would combine gaming and talking. If Nintendo only knew then what they know now, they may have become a juggernaut in the cell phone world. Instead, they’re a pretty successful gaming company. Not too bad.
3 Nintendo has Their Own Version of Legos
Like the combination of a phone and gaming system, Nintendo seems to be in a lot of different places at once. While dipping their hands into cell phones (and most recently, slot machines), the company that Mario built also forayed into the real world in the form of toys. Way back in 1968, they came out with a toy set that functions similarly to Legos and Lincoln Logs.
Named “N & B Blocks”, these toy sets were supposed to compete directly against Legos. As Legos were becoming the superior brand in the building block territory, Nintendo decided it was time to try and make their mark in this world. The venture proved to be futile. After about five years, it was becoming apparent that Legos had the toy world on lockdown. The N & B Blocks were discontinued a few years into the 1970s.
2 There was Drinking and Driving in Super Mario Kart
Being one of the first racing games involving childhood idols and villains such as Mario, Princess Peach and the devilish Bowser, Super Mario Kart was a hit. It generated a decent amount of money and was a great time to play. But, there’s one aspect of the game that rubbed American audiences the wrong way.
If you win a race, your character gets to celebrate. Celebrating, in general, isn’t the problem. It’s how the characters are celebrating that made the American audience cringe and cry out in protest. In the celebration, they pull out a bottle. A bottle of champagne. And they do their best college student impression with it. It’s pretty much gone in one gulp.
Americans thought that this was too “adult” for kids. The designers were forced to change the celebration and subsequently removed the bottle of champagne. Bottoms up.
1 Nintendo was Originally a Card Company
This is highly fascinating, as the company has evolved so much and has also come full circle in a unique way. Back in 1899, a fellow named Fusajiro Yamauchi wanted to create a card company. So, he created one. The cards in question are referred to as “Hanafuda.” To put it in simple terms, these cards are used to play several different card games. You can compare them to playing cards of today and all the different games you can play with them.
Yamauchi kept making these cards for an extremely long time. Until at least 1949. That year, the card company would adopt a name that would become legendary in the world. That name? Nintendo Karuta Co.
Even today, Nintendo still manufactures these playing cards. It’s funny that a company that started out in playing cards morphed into video games, and kept the game-playing going.