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The Nintendo Entertainment System Saves Gaming in the ’80s

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Super Mario Bros NES 1985


Hello everyone, It’s the Ghetto Geek here. I just wanted to share a little bit of gaming history with you all.
In the early 1980s, the video game industry was in dire straits in the United States. A market saturated with poor-quality games and the infamous Video Game Crash of 1983 had left consumers skeptical of anything related to gaming. But then, in 1985, a little-known Japanese company named Nintendo released a revolutionary product that would not only rescue the gaming industry but also become an iconic part of pop culture: the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). In this article, we will explore the history of the NES and how it played a pivotal role in saving gaming in America.

The Video Game Crash of 1983

Before we delve into the NES’s success, it’s essential to understand the context of its arrival. The Video Game Crash of 1983 was a severe downturn in the video game industry, largely attributed to oversaturation, low-quality games, and a lack of consumer trust. The market was flooded with shovelware, leading to consumer disillusionment. Major companies like Atari faced massive losses, and many retailers wanted nothing to do with video games.

The NES’s Arrival

Nintendo, a long-established company in Japan, entered the American market in 1985 with the NES, which was initially released as the Nintendo Famicom in Japan in 1983. Nintendo’s approach was carefully calculated, focusing on rebuilding consumer trust and revolutionizing home gaming. The NES was a breath of fresh air with its sleek design, high-quality graphics, and most importantly, an innovative robot companion known as R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy).

Nintendo faced several competing brands and platforms during the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Here are some of the notable competitors:

  • Atari: Atari was a major player in the video game industry before the crash of 1983. While they faced significant challenges during the crash, they still attempted a comeback with consoles like the Atari 7800.
  • Sega: Sega was a significant competitor to Nintendo, particularly in the 16-bit era with the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in some regions). The Genesis was known for its “Blast Processing” marketing campaign and iconic games like “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
  • Mattel Electronics: Mattel released the Intellivision console, which was known for its advanced graphics and gameplay. While it didn’t achieve the same level of success as Nintendo, it was a notable competitor.
  • Coleco: ColecoVision was another competitor in the early ’80s with a strong library of arcade ports and unique accessories like the ColecoVision Expansion Module #1 (for Atari 2600 games) and the ColecoVision Roller Controller.
  • NEC: The TurboGrafx-16, known as the PC Engine in Japan, was a competitor to the NES. It was one of the first consoles to use the CD-ROM format for games.
  • Atari 7800: As mentioned earlier, Atari attempted a comeback with the Atari 7800, which was compatible with many of the popular Atari 2600 games.
  • Commodore: The Commodore 64, while primarily a home computer, had a vast library of games and competed with gaming consoles of the time.
  • Tandy/RadioShack: The Tandy Corporation, in collaboration with RadioShack, released the Tandyvision One, which was essentially a rebranded version of the Intellivision.

These competing brands and platforms, along with the challenges of the aftermath of the Video Game Crash of 1983, made the success of the NES all the more impressive and instrumental in saving the gaming industry in America.

R.O.B. was a clever marketing strategy designed to appeal to toy retailers who wanted nothing to do with video games after the crash. By positioning the NES as a toy rather than a video game console, Nintendo managed to get its foot in the door. This strategy was critical in making the NES more accessible to consumers.

Iconic Games and Franchises

The NES featured a lineup of incredible games that would go on to become legendary. Games like “Super Mario Bros.,” “The Legend of Zelda,” and “Metroid” showcased innovative gameplay, vibrant graphics, and captivating narratives. These titles not only rekindled consumer interest but also set the standard for game design, influencing countless future titles and franchises.

The NES also gave rise to iconic characters like Mario and Link, who would become symbols of Nintendo and continue to entertain generations of gamers.

The 10NES Lockout Chip

To maintain control over the games released for the NES, Nintendo introduced the 10NES lockout chip, an anti-piracy mechanism that prevented unlicensed games from being played on the system. While this decision was met with some controversy, it allowed Nintendo to maintain the quality of games on its platform and avoid the pitfalls that had plagued the industry in the past.

Reviving the Retail Market

In addition to innovative hardware and games, Nintendo’s “Nintendo Seal of Quality” assured consumers that they were purchasing a product of high standards. Retailers appreciated the company’s commitment to quality, which helped rebuild trust in the gaming industry. Nintendo’s strict licensing policies meant that only games meeting their standards could bear the official Nintendo Seal.

The NES’s success led to a resurgence in video game retail stores, helping to create a thriving gaming ecosystem. This revival paved the way for other game consoles like the Sega Master System and, eventually, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

Legacy and Ongoing Impact

The Nintendo Entertainment System’s success in the mid-1980s is nothing short of legendary. Its role in saving gaming in America was profound, and its legacy continues to influence the gaming industry. Nintendo’s commitment to quality, innovative game design, and renewed consumer trust laid the foundation for the video game renaissance that followed.

As we celebrate the NES’s contribution to gaming history, we should also recognize the impact it had on popular culture and the enduring love for its iconic games and characters. The NES was more than just a console; it was a savior of an industry and a cultural touchstone that continues to resonate with gamers and non-gamers alike.


The Nintendo Entertainment System’s arrival in America in 1985 marked a turning point in the history of gaming. With its innovative design, iconic games, and a very strict commitment to quality, it helped rebuild consumer trust and resuscitate a struggling industry. The NES’s influence is still felt in today’s gaming world, reminding us of the remarkable story of how it saved gaming in America and left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. Thanks for reading and checking out another factual story from Jordan The Producer only on The Ghetto Geek

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