Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / Famicom
15th July 1983 (Japan), 18th October 1985 (USA)
What's it like today?
Way back in 1983, Nintendo launched their "Family Computer" (later abbreviated to "Famicom") game console to the Japanese market. It met with huge local success, which soon spread into Europe and North America, contributing to a revitalisation of the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983.
Another instrumental side-effect of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), as it was known in North America and Western Europe, was the setting of a standard model of licensing third-party developers, authorising them to produce and distribute compatible software for Nintendo's platform.
In 1985 Nintendo continued on their wave of success with the launch in North America (see top picture). They did so using four distinct bundles: Deluxe, Control, Action and Power. The Deluxe set included R.O.B. (Robot Operating Buddy), NES zapper (a light gun), and two controllers. Control included the console, two game controllers, and Super Mario Bros. In 1987, Nintendo released a Basic set, which was simply the console with two controllers - no pack-in cartridge, but it did come with a book called the Official Nintendo Players Guide, which contained details on every game produced so far for the NES. Action was released later, in 1988, and came with two controllers, the NES Zapper, and a dual Game Pak featuring Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt. In 1989, Power contained everything in the Action set, plus a Power Pad, but with a triple Game Pak featuring Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt and World Class Track Meet. In 1990, two more sets were released: the Sports set was released containing the console, a NES Satellite infra-red wireless multitap adapter, four game controllers, and a Super Spike V'Ball/Nintendo World Cup Game Pak. The Challenge set contained the console, two controllers and Super Mario Bros 3 Game Pak.
Of course, with such huge global success, many clones were produced over the years. In Russia, an unlicensed clone was manufactured by Dendy, and in Eastern Europe in the 90's another clone branded the "Super Design Ending-Man BS-500 AS" was released, aka the "Terminator". In India, clones called the Wiz Kid and Little Master were popular. In Poland another clone called the Pegasus was released, and in Argentina they called it the "Family Game".
In 1993, Nintendo redesigned the Entertainment System, the NES-101 (HVC-101 in Japan) to make its appearance closer to that of the newer SNES, and packaged it with a new-style "dog bone" controller, but by this time the competition, not least from within Nintendo with their Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), had most definnitely caught up and overtaken. The NES-101 is much smaller than the original NES-001 model, and offers only RF output instead of RF and RCA (mono) outputs offered on the original - conversely, the HVC-101 offers only RCA, not RF. Production ceased in 1995, but many franchises and game series that started on the NES live on even today, including Mario, an Italian-American plumber who, along with his brother Luigi, has to defeat creatures coming up from the sewers in New York. Created by the same developers who wrote the video game Donkey Kong, it was one of the first ever platform games.
A total of 768 games were released for the NES during its lifetime to the North American market, with a few exclusively sold only in Japan.
A number of perhipherals were also released for the Famicom/NES, including a modem that allowed connection to a network, external sound chips to provide sound enhancements from some cartridges, and even a keyboard that was released along with Family BASIC, a BASIC interpreter. Most of these were only released in Japan.
For a more up-to-date model that plays your old NES and SNES game carts, why not pick up the Retro Duo NES/SNES Game System? It comes with two cartridge slots, one for NES and another for SNES, includes two SNES-style game controllers (the socket on the device is plug-compatible with the original SNES controller), and also outputs sound in stereo where depending on the game being played. Simply connect it to your modern day TV via standard composite video or S-video, insert one of your old cartridges and begin reliving all those old memories! Unfortunately it doesn't come with any game carts, nor any games built-in, but the good news is that it retails for just $49.99.
Unlike most new console remakes, this one is hard-wired to play only NES and SNES games - it does not use emulation, instead containing similar circuitry to the original NES and SNES consoles.
Original Launch Titles
Donkey Kong - Japan, July 1983
Donkey Kong Junior - Japan, July 1983
Popeye - Japan, July 1983
10 Yard Fight - US, October 1985
Baseball - US, October 1985
Clu Clu Land - US, October 1985
Donkey Kong Jr. Math - US, October 1985
Duck Hunt - US, October 1985
Excitebike - US, October 1985
Golf - US, 1984
Gyromite - US, October 1985
Hogan's Alley - US, October 1985
Ice Climber - US, October 1985
Kung-Fu Master - US, October 1985
Mach Rider - US, October 1985
Pinball - US, October 1985
Stack-Up - US, October 1985
Super Mario Bros. - US, October 1985
Tennis - US, October 1985
Wild Gunman - US, October 1985
Wrecking Crew - US, October 1985