Nintendo ROMs

Console History: Nintendo

The original Nintendo. This 8-bit wonder has brought joy to many and continues to be emulated on mobile devices and computers around the world. Known as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES in North America, and the Family Computer or Famicom in Japan, this device was Nintendo’s first foray into the game console industry — and it sure made its mark. However, despite having the same software, the Famicom and NES were actually physically quite different devices.

First released in Japan 1983, the Famicom was a huge success that really helped to revive what was at the time a fledgling gaming industry. It was marketed towards children, with a simple white and red color scheme and a plastic build. Two controllers were hardwired to the console, with slots on the sides for docking the controllers when not in use. Both controllers had a 4-way directional pad and A and B buttons, but the second controller lacked Start and Select buttons, though it did have a microphone which was used in a few games. Cartridges were loaded in on top, and were significantly shorter than their NES counterparts.

North America didn’t see the NES until 1985, and this machine was significantly different from the original Famicom. It was larger and more VHS-looking than the childish gaming console. With a grey and white color scheme with sparse red accents, the NES was much more unassuming and could simply blend into the background. Cartridges were longer and always grey — not like the multicolored Famicom cartridges — and sometimes they were just Famicom games with an adapter squished into a different shell. This time around, cartridges were loaded through a flap in the front, just like a VHS player, and the controllers were able to be disconnected. Both controllers featured Start and Select buttons, and neither had a microphone, meaning that certain games that used that feature didn’t have it on their NES versions.

A redesigned version of the NES was released in 1993 following the release of the SNES. It had a lighter white and red color scheme with a “dogbone” shaped controller and top-loading cartridge slot. This version is officially known as the NES-101 but is often informally referred to as the NES 2. At the time, it was simply a cheaper alternative to Nintendo’s own SNES, the NES’s successor.

Many famous games that still are popular today got their start on the NES. While it launched with ports from the Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye arcade games, it also saw the release of the first Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Metroid, and Final Fantasy games. With strict anti-piracy software and lots of third-party developers, Nintendo’s game system was a huge success and had over 700 games by the end of the its life cycle.

However, the console wasn’t without its flaws. Anyone who had a NES can remember blowing on cartridges to get them to work. While this may not have been the best thing to do for the cartridges, it quickly became an urban myth that spread like wildfire. The front-loading NES needed quite a bit of force to get the cartridges to go in, and that force would bend the pins every time a user put a game in. Over time, the pins would get more and more bent until the games became nearly unplayable. This was further exasperated by the kinds of metal that Nintendo used that were easily damaged and interfered with by dust.

Fans loved the NES, though, flaws and all. Today, the console lives on in the hearts and minds of those who grew up playing this revolutionary device. It can easily be emulated on PCs, smartphones, and tablets, and Nintendo has even made many NES games playable on the Virtual Console for the Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS.

So what are you waiting for? Get to emulating this one-of-a-kind console!