My Longest Relationship
There are very few things from my early childhood that I recall as fondly as the start of my relationship with Nintendo. About 33 years ago, my family was given a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System as a family gift. I remember exciting space battles, sprints through the Mushroom Kingdom, and epic battles in Hyrule. I can also remember how Nintendo games made me feel even all the way back then: happy.
But that doesn’t mean my relationship with Nintendo has always been perfect and at one point we even went our separate ways. While I would eventually realize the error of my ways and find my way back to Nintendo, I sometimes think to myself: “why did I lose interest in Nintendo” and more importantly “what brought me back and keeps me coming back?”
What defines our relationship with a company that makes elaborate electronic toys? Is it okay to one day decide that it’s no longer for us? Most importantly, is it okay to realize and admit that we were wrong? Since I can’t answer those questions for everyone, I took a look back at my history with Nintendo to try to answer some of those questions for me and I have a feeling that this journey may be similar for some of you.
Enter the late 1980’s when my family was given our first introduction to Nintendo. The Nintendo had become almost as ubiquitous as VCRs, but they weren’t everywhere yet. Those families who did have the NES usually had the base console, a few games and a couple of controllers… we got this magnificent bastard:
This enormous, elaborate set is the NES Power Set, which not only included the console itself, but also came with two controllers, the NES Zapper, the Power Pad, and Mario, Duck Hunt, and Track Meet on one cartridge. Wonderful. This was the thing that got me hooked.
We had a decent library like Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Defender II, Legend of Zelda, and probably dozens of others I collected and played in the years. For many like me, the NES defined video games. I’m not sure if I knew what video games were prior to Nintendo but it didn’t matter. Nintendo was the only name I knew and the only one that mattered when it came to video games.
Of all the Christmas memories from my childhood I can really only recall one: the year I asked for the GameBoy. I opened every gift with a fervor hoping to reveal that coveted grey powerhouse, only to be more disappointed with each falling scrap of paper. As the last gift was being handed to me, my parents looked at each other with confusion and tears in their eyes as I had ripped it open to reveal the holiest of grails:
That small Christmas miracle was the moment that changed how I would look at games forever. The NES had brought video games into my life but the GameBoy had made playing video games anywhere a reality. It was the coolest piece of tech I had ever seen and was without a doubt my favorite childhood… anything. A short time later I would be introduced to the SNES, further expanding upon the wondrous adventures brought on by Nintendo’s commitment to only the best games.
Between the SNES and the GameBoy are some of my most critical memories ever in gaming. Metroid II, Super Mario Land 2, and Link’s Awakening defined my GameBoy obsession while Earthbound, Super Mario RPG, Pilotwings and A Link to the Past solidified my SNES library. Nintendo continued to be the only name I knew or cared about when it came to video games. While my early childhood gaming experiences were defined by Nintendo, they wouldn’t always be there with me when I took my next step.
Aside from the lucky few who had every console, most gamers my age can probably remember their first tough decision. Mine was between the much hyped Nintendo 64 or the new challenger: the Sony PlayStation. For most of my friends the Nintendo 64 was the easy choice: even to the kids who had a Genesis, Nintendo had been synonymous with video games. But for me something shifted in the 5th generation.
I think I was the only person in my group of friends who chose PlayStation over the N64 when it was time to jump to the next gen. What it came down to for me was a false sense of maturity in thinking that Sony’s machine somehow offered “more grown up games” than Nintendo, which I started to see as games for younger kids and families. While this is a hotly debated topic today, it also wasn’t a sentiment shared by all at the time.
Fortunately, I didn’t miss out on the era of games from the N64. With all my friends having games like GoldenEye, WCW/NWO Revenge, Smash Bros and Mario Party, I still very much experienced both ends of the 5th generation of consoles. Unfortunately for the Nintendo consoles I did have, I no longer had time for them.
With my TV having only one input, I opted to give my GameBoy, SNES and all games and accessories to my nieces and nephews which my then brother-in-law sold at some point. I may not regret choosing the PlayStation – but I regret making the mistake of letting go of my two favorite game consoles of all time for the next best thing. Moving on from both the GameBoy and the SNES in favor of the Sony PlayStation ultimately resulted in my relationship with Nintendo coming to an end completely.
Still Distant But Crossing Paths
Over the next 15 or so years I dabbled in Nintendo here or there without fully committing. I got to play the GameCube once or twice but didn’t enjoy what I played. But while Nintendo’s home consoles did nothing for my grown up sensibilities, I did still have love for their portable gadgets. I picked up both a GameBoy Advance and an SP when they launched and while I loved my time with each of them I never thought enough to take the plunge to a GameCube.
Between 2002 and 2015, I would have no real interest in the Nintendo home console offerings. Even when I worked at Best Buy during the Wii craze of 2007, it just didn’t seem like a system that was going to take time away from my PS2 or XBOX 360 play, despite the hype. Something was missing to really bring me home. I still found myself thinking I was above Nintendo’s home offerings.
In the same 13 year span, different events brought Nintendo back into my life in minimal, odd ways. Several different broken relationships saw me end up with a new (old) SNES, a DS Lite and a Nintendo Wii. But with rarely, if ever, playing them, these were just systems in my collection and not a gateway to reconnect.
Reunited and It Feels So Good
Sometime in 2013, a little game called A Link Between Worlds was released and I was reminded of a promise I’d made to my friend who had been trying to get me back into Nintendo games for years: “Aaron, if they ever make a sequel to A Link to the Past, I’ll buy a Nintendo console again.” Sure enough, they did. I still wasn’t sold on this whole “3DS thing” but a friend of mine was gracious enough to loan me his console and his copy of ALBW to see what I thought. I blew through that game in a week and then I was having serious doubts: did I want a Nintendo system again?
A few weeks later I had made up my mind. I bought a gently used 3DS XL and several games off of a friend for a more than reasonable price and began buying, playing and collecting Nintendo games again. But what changed? Surely it wasn’t just the nostalgia generated by a sequel to one of my favorite games ever. Maybe that was enough to help me see what I was missing but, so far, I thought I was only interested in Nintendo’s portable offerings.
Then came a bombshell: The Nintendo Switch reveal trailer. Initially, I was let down. After just finding myself getting back into a Nintendo console, they announced a new hybrid system that threatened to eat up all of my portable gaming goodness. This would surely be the end of the 3DS and my relationship with Nintendo again. But, over time I became more and more intrigued with the idea of the Switch. After talking with friends about it and actually unboxing and playing with it for the first time, I knew I needed one. I knew I wanted to be a part of the craze.
I begged my wife to let me spend way too much money on a Switch, a few games, some extra controllers and began a dive into the cavernous world of the Switch that I still to this day have yet to come up for air for. Nintendo’s impeccable 3DS brought me back with feelings of nostalgia and the reminders of my fondness of the GameBoy and the Nintendo Switch found a way to remind me that games are just as much about fun as they are portability and convenience. While it was ultimately my choice to call it quits, they were the ones who fought to win me back and, right now, it feels like I’m here to stay.
Will It Last?
Many of my decisions surrounding Nintendo happened during my mid-late 20s where I admittedly didn’t know as much as I thought. I definitely went through a stage where I felt I had outgrown certain things but as I got older my perspectives changed and maturity became less about “being too old” for certain things and more about admitting “these are things I enjoy, regardless of what others may think.”
Most people will tell you that not all relationships are built to last, let alone relationships that are severed and mended like my ties with Nintendo. As far as the immediate future, I see nothing to indicate that Nintendo and I will be on separate paths again. I take full responsibility for how I felt about Nintendo for a time and, now that I’m a little older and a little wiser, I know I made the right choice coming back.
What’s exciting still is my future with Nintendo. Not only do I see myself growing old with their excellent games and systems, but I get to introduce my son to Nintendo games and consoles as he gets older. His birthday this year will be celebrated with his first system: a Nintendo 2DS XL and I can’t wait to make some new memories with Nintendo and my son.