10 Most Significant Nintendo Inventions
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On September 19th, Hiroshi Yamauchi, the longtime former president of Nintendo, passed away from pneumonia at a hospital in Japan.
Yamauchi, who was 85, served as president of the gaming giant from 1949 to 2002, shepherding it from a modest card-game company to a massive force in global youth culture, with games, consoles and lovable -- and hateable -- memorable characters.
Like fellow tech legends Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Yamauchi's decision to drop out of college didn't hinder his ability to succeed. In 1949 he took the helm of a then-60-year-old Japanese card company. After striking a deal with Disney to allow Nintendo to produce co-branded playing cards in 1959, Yamauchi took the company public in 1962, thanks to the success his move brought.
And while Nintendo's expansions into many other markets failed, its new toy-manufacturing division helped it stay afloat when its cards lost popularity, and served as the base for their eventual evolution into the video-game market.
Yamauchi's business acumen and capacity to recognize talent and innovation -- he turned Gunpei Yokoi, the inventor of the Game Boy, from an assembly line maintenance worker into a major player at Nintendo after seeing a small robotic arm Yokoi had made for fun -- helped Nintendo avoid the pitfalls that doomed other companies like Sega and Atari.
In honor of his passing, and to celebrate his life's work, let's take a look at the top 10 things Nintendo brought to the world under Yamauchi.
The game with possibly the most confusing name/main character relationship in history, The Legend of Zelda introduced us to the adorable go-getter Link and spawned a million sequels. Never before has dressing in all green and wearing a nightcap looked so cool.
Yamauchi’s last console release was the GameCube. While it went on to be massively more successful than Apple’s cube computer, the GameCube had only a respectable showing compared to its peers the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. Still, unlike the Sega Dreamcast, the GameCube allowed Nintendo to survive long enough to release the much more successful Wii.
It’s got to be the simplest game this side of Tetris, but Duck Hunt was one of the first first-person shooters, and the simple act of knocking those pretentious ducks out of the air set the stage for all the zombies, mutants, headcrabs and everything else that we have shot since.
If there’s a game with more sequels than Final Fantasy, that’s a game with too many sequels. While Final Fantasy has been associated with the Sony PlayStation since FFVI, the long-running series -- which is single-handedly responsible for most people’s understanding of Roman numerals and has inspired many an enterprising youth to create a papier-mâché sword about the size of a car -- first debuted for the Super NES.
If you’ve ever sat on a couch and mashed buttons until your fingers were raw and blistered, you’ve probably played some version of Super Smash Bros. While the game is pretty simple and generally puts people with no experience on the same footing as veteran gamers, the pure joy of seeing Metroid and Kirby face off is unparalleled.
Though it debuted without a color screen, unlike its rivals, the Game Boy’s long battery life -- and, importantly, capacity to play Pokemon Red and Blue -- allowed it to move to the top of the handheld heap. Anyone who says they wouldn’t geek out for a few hours if someone placed a functioning Game Boy in their hands right now is a dirty, dirty liar.
Although the N64 lost ground to Sony’s rival PlayStation, Time’s 1996 “Machine of the Year” also introduced the world to GoldenEye 007, one of the best-rated games -- and highest-selling Nintendo games -- of all time. And Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Mario Kart 64. Oh, and did we mention the Ocarina of Time?
Although the Super NES was a shade less high-tech than many of its contemporary competitors, it has consistently been considered one of the top gaming consoles of all time. Chief among its achievements was the inclusion of Super Mario World, which introduced the world to the titular lovable overall-wearing scamp and a host of other pixelated pals.
For some reason, these little critters got famous as Pokemon and not Pocket Monsters, but there’s not a marketing exec in the world who would deny the power said monsters held over youngsters in the ‘90s -- and continue to hold to this day. Whether you’d pick Charmander, Bulbasaur or Squirtle, no one could resist the wacky world of tall grass, training gyms and the woefully un-supervised violence of Pokemon on the Game Boy.
Mario and his fraternal bro Luigi are two of the most famous video-game characters in history and a symbol of unreachable success for moustachioed joggers everywhere. Like with almost every early Nintendo franchise, it’s a wonder how the game became as popular as it did; on paper, the tale of an Italian plumber running through giant pipes doesn’t sound that appealing. But anyone who’s ever played Mario Kart knows all that goes out the window when the thrill of the chase is upon you.