Warp Zones - A history of the Nintendo console

Warp Zones - A history of the Nintendo console

Since 1985, Nintendo has shaped the gaming industry - responsible for iconic franchises such as Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong and Pokémon. However, the company has encountered tough times recently, reporting losses due to the Wii U's poor performance. A recent press conference centred around its new console the Nintendo Switch - feted to bring Nintendo back to the pinnacle of the gaming industry. With that, we reflect upon some of the Nintendo consoles that paved the way.


Way back in the early 1980’s, the video game industry had crashed: countless company’s overloaded the market with consoles and cheap, poorly made games. Most infamously, E.T the game was so bad Atari dumped cartridges in the desert. By 1983 the market was dead.

Enter Nintendo with the ‘Nintendo Entertainment System’ (NES) which came to the American market in 1985, after being a hit in Japan. Thanks to an array of high quality launch games, it became a smash hit - revitalizing the market and cementing Nintendo at the forefront of video gaming. Their pioneering use of licencing meant there was no glut of poorly made third party titles; a practice still used today.

Best games:
Super Mario Bros. 3
The Legend of Zelda


The ‘SNES’ console continued Nintendo’s domination of the market -  leading off where its predecessor left off. However, this era of video gaming is most famously known for Nintendo’s rivalry with Sega who attempted to rival Nintendo market share with the Sega Mega Drive console (Genesis in America due to trademarking issues). Sega marketed its console as a ‘cooler, edgier’ alternative exemplified by its mascot Sonic the Hedgehog as well as an aggressive marketing campaign, successfully tapping into the teenager and adult markets as Nintendo was mostly marketed towards families.

Despite this, Nintendo managed to hold on and had the bigger share overall, however Sega’s popularity with older gamers meant that Nintendo’s reputation for kids and families stuck around for much longer than the company wanted, often as a point of mockery compared to its newer consoles.

Best games:
Chrono Trigger
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy VI
Super Mario World

Virtual Boy

The console that Nintendo want you to forget. A horribly gimmicky and eye straining brick that uses 3D effects poorly with ugly red and black graphics. It was a respectable idea gone wrong and represents Nintendo’s annus horribilis.

Best games



Nintendo 64

As we move into the era of 3D graphics, a dangerous competitor emerged in the form of Sony’s PlayStation which by the end of its reign had utterly taken over the market – thanks mostly to its appeal to a wider audience and its more varied gaming adventures. It also helped that it launched first, therefore it gained early market share for this generation.

While the Nintendo 64 is a fantastic system, it unfortunately started some problems that are still around today. Firstly, this was the gaming generation where the use of the CD rom became used rather than cartridges, something which Nintendo publicly stated it would not use due to concerns with piracy and durability. However using the CD rom was not only much cheaper, but it provided more storage space, as a result, many third party developers such as Squaresoft (later Square-Enix) and Konami did not want to develop for the system, jumping ship to the PlayStation. 

This console was known far more for its games,: Super Mario 64, which revolutionised the platformer and in-game camera movements, Goldeneye which popularised the first person shooter and multiplayer (it’s mechanics are still seen today in FPS games) and Ocarina of Time is widely considered the best video game of all time.

Best games:
Super Mario 64
Ocarina of Time


Thanks to the popularity of the PlayStation 2 and the arrival of Microsoft’s Xbox, the GameCube was pretty much left in the dust and was especially hit hard by the family friendly image it cultivated during the NES and SNES era. This made it tough to compete against the appeal of the more adult-friendly PS2 and Xbox. Another major factor was the PS2’s backwards compatibility for PS1 games and its use as a DVD player. This coupled with the console’s general lack of third party titles ensured it would be left behind

Best games:
Metroid Prime
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker


Nintendo’s knack for inventiveness payed off when its motion controlled Wii became a massive success. Despite it being graphically lower than the PS3 and Xbox 360, it was extremely popular with families and casual gamers, the company’s intended core market, thanks to among other things, Wii Sports which was packaged with the console for free. Nintendo, however, always had better first party games, and while third party was better, there was few to choose from.

Best games:
Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2
Xenoblade Chronicles
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Wii U

Here lies Nintendo’s current problems: its knack for being inventive meant its main gimmick of a screen in the controller was not explained properly, leading to confusion amongst consumers. Its name didn’t help with many mistaking it for another Wii console rather than a proper successor. With poor launch titles (its best games coming a year too late), third party developers jumped ship after poor sales – representing another nail in their coffin and leaving Nintendo well adrift of its rivals.

Best games:
Super Smash Bros for Wii U
Super Mario 3D World

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