Nintendo has been at the forefront of video game innovation and success for over thirty years. Of course, the Japanese company was founded way back in 1889, but its unique touch in the world of gaming started in the early 1980s. There was actually a video game crash in 1983, and North America nearly had to wave goodbye to gaming altogether. But thanks to Donkey Kong in arcades and the NES, North American gaming was saved in 1985.
Nintendo has certainly had its ups and downs, filled with undeniable success (hello Nintendo DS) and head-scratching failures (hello Virtual Boy). However, throughout the rich history of Nintendo, one thing has always rung true. Nintendo games are designed to make people happy, and they almost always succeed in doing so.
I’m a massive Nintendo fan, but I’m also a realist. The past half-decade has been pretty rough for Nintendo and its fans. The Wii U was a disaster on so many levels. The magical luster of the Wii had long gone, and the Wii U was caught somewhere inbetween being sort of innovative and completely behind the times. But even as the console itself failed, the games were terrific. If I made a list of my favorite games of the past five years, there’s no way I’d leave off Super Mario Maker, Splatoon, Smash Bros for Wii U, and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze.
Nintendo may be the butt of all jokes when it comes to third-party, but when it comes to their first party games, they are just so much fun! Whether it be Super Mario World or Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart 64 or Smash Bros Melee, Pikmin 2 or Splatoon 2, A Link to the Past or Breath of the Wild, I am always smiling ear to ear when playing Nintendo games.
This year has been one of the most exciting times to be a Nintendo fan. It’s similar to being a fan of a sports team that has been down in the dumps for years and is finally starting to turn things around. The Switch’s sales success has been great, with recent projections pointing to possibly 14 million consoles being sold in its first year. That 14 million would be more than the Wii U ever sold!
Meanwhile, the games library has been remarkable. It started with a huge bang in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it seems like nearly every month another big game is released with the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids, and more. All these games have been received very well by critics and have sold even better. The third-party support still isn’t what it should be, but the Switch indie scene, also known as “Nindies,” is helping to fill that void.
It’s hard to imagine a video game console having a better opening eight months than the Nintendo Switch — especially considering the failure of the Wii U.
Enter Super Mario Odyssey… Wow.
If a video game’s rating was entirely based on the number of smiles it gives you, Super Mario Odyssey might be the greatest game of all time. I’ve put over fifty hours into the newest Super Mario title, and I still can’t get enough of it. The music, the level design, the animation, the art-style, the controls, the feel — every aspect of the game feels like it was designed to make me smile. With yet another game dedicated to happiness and smiles being added to the Nintendo portfolio, their long list of jovial games continues.
One of the remarkable things about Super Mario Odyssey is that the world didn’t know it existed nine months ago. It was first revealed in January, then shown again at E3 in June, and here we are in October playing one of the most polished video games ever made. There’s no way any sober Nintendo fan would have expected they’d be playing both a brand new 3D Zelda and 3D Mario in the same year. Further, there’s no way anyone could’ve expected they’d both be considered perhaps the best games ever in their series’. (If you’d like to read our full review of Super Mario Odyssey, you can do so here!)
There’s no doubt that Nintendo are still behind in online functionalities. That being said, Nintendo was the first major console provider to use the d-pad, shoulder buttons, analog thumbsticks, triggers, touch screen, dual screen, motion controls, controller vibration, and more. The most amazing part about all of these features is that they were almost all entirely designed with the games in mind, to make them more fun.
With Microsoft finding its identity in online play, PlayStation focusing on fantastic single player narratives, and both of them duking it out for third-party bragging rights, Nintendo is still, after thirty plus years, carrying the torch for games that make me happy. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.