Nintendo consoles

The lost world of the first Nintendo consoles

Before Nintendo embarked on its own distinctive creative direction in video games, which revolutionized the industry in the 1980s, it played following the leader by creating the first uniquely Japanese consoles that were inspired by American gaming trends. dominant at the time.

In the 1970s, dedicated home game consoles that played variations of the hit game Atari Pong were incredibly popular, with dozens of manufacturers stepping into the ring. Nintendo was no exception and contracted with Mitsubishi to develop its own line of dedicated Pong-type consoles between 1977 and 1980. As the machines progressed they became more sophisticated, playing far more than ‘a simple game of Pong. You can almost see Nintendo gaining its creative voice by tracking these gadgets through time.

In the slides to come, you’ll see five first dedicated Nintendo consoles (all of which had a set number of built-in games that couldn’t be changed), a rare handheld game, and finally, a Japanese console that blew the lid off. everything for the veteran game creation company. All predate the 1985 appearance of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States, which made the company’s name famous in the Western world.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Nintendo collector Erik Voskuil and his excellent site for drawing my attention to some of these consoles. Most of the photos of these rare early Nintendo consoles were scanned by Mr. Voskuil, who did more to introduce the English-speaking world to these rare Nintendo gems than anyone I know of.

When you’re done reading, I’d love to hear about your first experience with Nintendo products in the comments. What was your first Nintendo console?

1. Nintendo Color TV 6 game (1977)

Nintendo’s very first console (seen here) was a joint effort with Mitsubishi Electronic, and it played three variations of Pong: hockey, volleyball, and tennis. All in glorious color, notice, which was a notable feature at the time. You could play each of the three matches in singles or doubles, which (in marketing logic) brought the total number of games to six. This console and its sister that you’re about to see have sold pretty well in Japan, paving the way for future Nintendo consoles.

(Photo: Nintendo)

2. Nintendo 15 Color Television Game (1977)

Nintendo 15 Color Television Game (1977)

The TV 15 game seen here launched at the same time as the TV 6 game, and it featured detachable hand controllers as well as 15 game modes, including tennis, volleyball, hockey, ping-pong, and tennis. shooting game, which were all more or less variations. from Pong. Of course, it was necessary to have fun with two players, which partly explains the high number of game variations.

(Photo: Nintendo)

3. Nintendo Color TV Racing 112 game (1978)

Nintendo Racing 112 color television set (1978)

In 1978, Nintendo began to move away from Pong clones by introducing this console – complete with steering wheel and gearshift lever – which played 112 variations (!) Of the same color air racing game. With two plug-in paddles for multiplayer racing action, it sounds like a lot of fun.

(Photo: Nintendo /

4. Nintendo Color TV Game Block Breaker (1979)

Nintendo Color TV Block Breaker Game (1979)

This Block Breaker unit, which played a game very similar to the hit arcade title of Atari Breakout (1976), marked a notable change for Nintendo in video games: it was its first console to display the name of Nintendo prominently displayed on the case. This is because it was the first video game console designed by Nintendo. Even more impressive, legendary Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is said to have designed its case. Considering the increased complexity of the gameplay (and the six game modes), a lot of people say this is the funniest entry in Nintendo’s Color TV Game series.

(Photo: Nintendo)

5. Nintendo computer television game (1980)

Nintendo computer television game (1980)

In 1978, Nintendo released Othello (based on the popular strategy game) in the arcade. Two years later, he designed a home version of the game called Computer TV Game. It did exactly what you would expect: allowed one or two players to play Othello on a home TV. But it did so in a way you might not expect, including the Othello arcade circuit board in its plastic shell. As a result, the unit turned out to be bulky and expensive, making it a very rare Nintendo artifact today.

(Photo: Nintendo)

6. Nintendo Computer Mah-Jong Yakuman (1983)

Nintendo Computer Mah-Jong Yakuman (1983)

And what is this weird Nintendo curiosity that we have here? Not exactly a video game console, but a sophisticated electronic version of the popular Asian game Mah-Jong in portable battery-powered form. I find this portable console most interesting insofar as it informs the Game Boy (released six years later) in its use of a link cable. By connecting two Yakuman handhelds with a special cable, two players could compete against each other on the go. Very neat — very Nintendo.

(Photo: Nintendo /

7. Nintendo family computer (1983)

Nintendo Family Computer (1983)

And here we have the culmination of Nintendo’s early experiments in video games: the Nintendo Family Computer (or “Famicom” for short), a cartridge-based home television console released in 1983 that served both as a showcase for the game. Nintendo’s growing list of blockbuster original arcade games (think Donkey Kong, Mario Bros.) and a new home for industrious Japanese video game designers (think Square, Namco, Enix). Two years later, a redesigned version of the Famicom would emerge in the West as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and the rest is history.

(Photo: Evan Amos)

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