"My name is Reggie. I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names, and we're about making games."—Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America, E3 2004
Nintendo is the world's most widely known video game company. Having been a major player in the video game industry since the late 1970s, Nintendo's influence on the video game industry has been both widespread and undeniable. Like every company, they've had their ups and downs, and are currently on a rather large "up", thanks in no small part to the runaway success of the Wii and Nintendo DS.
Although Nintendo started making the products it's most well known for in the 1970s, it was making things before that. These guys have been around for a while. Actually, a really long while: Nintendo dates to 1889, when the company founder Fusajiro Yamauchi created playing cards called hanafuda. The business was successful enough to create sufficient demand, and Nintendo had modest expansion through much of the 20th century (Nintendo continues to manufacture hanafuda, together with playing cards, Shogi and Go to this day).
Under the leadership of young Hiroshi Yamauchi after World War II, the company expanded its business model to everything from a taxi service to a chain of Love Hotels to children's toys. Many of those were invented by talented young people like Gunpei Yokoi, and Nintendo hit it fairly well with inventions such as the Ultra Hand, the Love Tester, and the Ultra Machine. Eventually, Yamauchi decided that Nintendo would become an entertainment and games company.
Tinkering around with solar cells and transistors lead Yokoi and another engineer to create a series of basic light gun games - shooting a bottle in the right spot would cause it to pop apart, a toy lion would roar, and so on. Moving these into abandoned bowling alleys gave Nintendo their Laser Clay Ranges, where players would insert some coins and shoot at electronic targets installed at the ends of lanes.
Basic video games like Pong and the Odyssey were becoming popular, and Nintendo soon created the Color TV Game 6, complete with cheesy plastic overlays. Soon after was the more powerful Color TV Game 12. Soon, Nintendo moved into arcade games, with help from games like the original Donkey Kong, which was designed by a young artist named Shigeru Miyamoto. Deciding that simple Pong clones were not enough, Yamauchi wanted to create a more powerful gaming system, one that was so much better than the competitors that it would not even be a choice as to which the consumer wanted. With this in mind, Nintendo eventually released the Family Computer in Japan.
The Family Computer, or Famicom, was a massive success. After only a few years on the shelves, it had a lock on 90% of the Japanese home video game market. Eventually, Yamauchi decided to expand overseas, and he asked his son-in-law Minoru Arakawa to run Nintendo of America. After braving some initial struggle, Nintendo of America found massive success with an arcade game starring a portly red carpenter and a large hairy ape, giving them the necessary capital and support to make more arcade games.
At this point (early to mid 80s), the American home video game market was dead from The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Deader than dead, really. Arcades were still booming, so Nintendo decided to give the home market a shot. Nintendo of America worked hard translating and porting games over from Japan, the system was redesigned several times to look more like a consumer electronic product and less like a video game machine, and several cool looking peripherals were designed to help sell the system - primarily, the NES Zapper Gun and R.O.B, the Robotic Operating Buddy. R.O.B. didn't do much, admittedly, but he still looked pretty good for the early 1980s.
Though early comments from testing with kids proved discouraging, with the typical comment from an 8-year-old being "this is crap!", Yamauchi told Arakawa to get the system out anyway. Showing some true entrepreneurial determination, he told Arakawa that they must get the system into the hands of the consumers - that was the only test that mattered. Working through the winter months, Arakawa and the fledgling Nintendo of America got the system onto store shelves in New York in time for the Christmas season of 1985. Over half of the 100,000 systems sold. Though not as successful as Nintendo had hoped, the retailers had seen the viability of the product.
More systems and games were shipped over to the States. Sales were slow at first, but word spread (as did Nintendo's distribution channels) and the system sold more and more - over 1 million systems by the end of the first year and 3 million by the end of the second. Consumer analysts were baffled, having predicted that the system would go the way of Atari and Coleco before it, but they didn't count on Nintendo's aggressive strategy and controlled releasing, which avoided the flood of terrible quality product that had caused the market to die before.
More games were translated. Original, American-developed titles were created. Licensing contracts were created and signed. Nintendo Power, a magazine all about Nintendo games, was published. Help lines and call centers were being used night and day. Soon, home video games were booming once again, and all of it was Nintendo's doing - they single-handedly revived the dead-in-the-water industry and guided the market to the smashing success it is today with a portly red plumber and a small grey box.
Though several companies have come and gone, Nintendo remains strong in both hardware and software thanks to a constant cycle of innovation with their consoles and games. Nintendo's first-party games are nearly always high in quality, and they show a remarkable commitment to ensuring that even long-running series like Zelda or Mario remain fresh and interesting with each new installment.
Nintendo is currently the only one of the big three players in the current console wars to solely make video games and consoles; Microsoft and Sony are enormous titans in other industries  but Nintendo is forced to stay viable in order to compete in the game market. They must do this by keeping their products affordable and selling them at a profit, forcing them to use older technology instead of selling at a loss with newer technology. This also forces them to cut some features that the competing consoles have such as DVD/Blu-Ray playback and an expansive online service at the level that the Xbox Live and Playstation Network do. The stakes are also much higher for them, as they've stated that the day they no longer make consoles is the day they drop out of the game business entirely. Granted, business smarts may say otherwise if that day happens.
On the other hand, these same attributes also ensure that Nintendo is never hurting for cash. Nintendo is one of those rare few companies that not only makes a profit, but makes consistent profit and has a tremendous bank account saved up for 'rainy days'. Indeed, there has been no generation where Nintendo has not made a profit from day one where as competitors generally require years before hardware and software begins to make money. More than that, since Nintendo has such strong power as a company and as a brand, a good part of their success lies in transforming games into franchises. See Pokemon for a good example of how Nintendo parleyed a game into a everything from stores to movies. Suffice to say, while the stakes are higher for Nintendo, they're in the business of video games because they want to be despite easily being able to drop out and be a pure media company.
Nintendo also created and monopolized hand held units until the PSP arrived in 2004 (after which they merely dominated hand helds). The Game and Watch was the greatest hand held console in the 80s. Following it was the Game Boy in 1989, which was a similar success, thanks (in part) to the bundle-packaging of Tetris. Nintendo's biggest console failure was the Virtual Boy, which failed due to headache-inspiring pseudo-3D visuals and few good games besides Virtual Boy Wario Land. The Game Boy was succeeded by the Game Boy Color and the Game Boy Advance.
Nowadays, Nintendo is first in both the hand held and home console wars with the Nintendo DS and Wii, and while the creation of things like Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move have led to the Wii losing some of its steam, the recent release of the Nintendo 3DS (which, as the name implies, is the Nintendo DS's successor) and the confirmed followup to the Wii show that Nintendo isn't going to be leaving the hardware business anytime soon.
They also own the Seattle Mariners, a US Baseball team.
- Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): The eight-bit system that gave us many of the venerable franchises that are still around today. Credited with spurring the recovery of the industry after the Great Crash of 1983.
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES): 16-bit generation. It was the best seller of the generation, according to That Other Wiki.
- Satellaview: A Japan-only add-on for the Super Famicom allowing broadcast downloads of games through satellite radio, backed by live-streamed audio sometimes featuring voice-acting.
- Nintendo 64: While not so successful as its two predecessors, mostly due to sticking with the cartridge format over the cheaper and (for the time) high-capacity CD format, it did bring titles that are still highly regarded, such as The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64 and Golden Eye 1997, the latter of which managed to show that not all licensed games have to suck.
- Nintendo GameCube: Their first system to use optical discs, but like the Nintendo 64, it suffered from a lack of third-party development and lagged behind the competition. However, in recent years, the console and a handful of its games were Vindicated by History.
- Wii: The current system, the selling point being its simple motion controls. It has been the basis for a rise in Nintendo's fortunes, outselling its competitors by tens of millions. A focus on drawing in casual gamers, as well as drawing in the long-timers by assimilating its own past, as well as that of others, has been the impetus for that. The Wii became known for many of its health and sports-related games rather than the company's traditional run-and-gun gameplay.
- Wii U: The next-gen system.
- Nintendo Switch Dock: Included with the Switch and reportedly contains an additional GPU (the "Performance Module") to render high-resolution graphics for HDTV.
- Game and Watch: A popular series of handheld games that predated the Nintendo Entertainment System.
- Game Boy: The portable equivalent of the NES, their first handheld console that used interchangeable cartridges. Despite being less powerful than the other handhelds on the market, its superior battery life, Nintendo's hold of 3rd partys at the time and a little game known as Tetris led to widespread popularity.
- Game Boy Color: Same thing as the above, but with color and slightly more power behind it.
- Game Boy Advance: In graphical power, the equivalent to the SNES. One of the best-selling game consoles of that system, and the last 2D-gaming device dedicated created by Nintendo.
- Nintendo DS: One of the most successful gaming consoles ever created by Nintendo, next to the Wii. The first mainstream gaming device to utilize a touchscreen. Equal to the N64 in power.
- Nintendo 3DS: Just as powerful, if not more so, than the Wii, the handheld's major selling-point was its 3D features.
- Nintendo Switch: The forthcoming hybrid system transforms between a gaming tablet and a home console.
- Also see Nintendo Power, which for years was the company's in-house magazine and remains one of the most popular gaming publications.
Nintendo was once the go-to company for video-games, and as such, they hold a larger place in entertainment history than any other video game company. The list that follows is only a partial selection of an absolutely massive 30+ year lineup on at least five different consoles and many hand held variants:
- Animal Crossing
- Brain Age
- Captain Rainbow
- Custom Robo
- Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
- Dillons Rolling Western
- Disaster: Day of Crisis
- Donkey Kong
- Drill Dozer
- Duck Hunt
- Endless Ocean
- Eternal Darkness
- Excite series (ExciteBike, ExciteTruck, etc.)
- Fire Emblem
- For the Frog The Bell Tolls
- Fossil Fighters
- Game and Watch
- Glory of Heracles
- Golden Sun
- Hotel Dusk: Room 215
- Ice Climber
- Kid Icarus
- Kiki Trick
- The Last Story
- The Legendary Starfy
- The Legend of Zelda
- Magical Vacation
- Meteos (Co-published with Bandai)
- Mole Mania
- Nintendo Wars
- Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan
- Panel de Pon
- Rhythm Heaven
- Sin and Punishment
- Star FOX
- Super Mario Bros. (series)
- Swap Note
- Trace Memory
- Wii Sports
- Hiroshi Yamauchi
- Shigeru Miyamoto
- Satoru Iwata
- Gunpei Yokoi
- Hirokazu Tanaka
- Koji Kondo
- Mahito Yokota
- Shigesato Itoi
- Masahiro Sakurai (Project Sora)
- Reggie Fils Aime
- Brownie Brown
- Camelot Software Planning
- Good Feel
- Game Freak
- HAL Laboratory
- Intelligent Systems (responsible not just for games, but for Nintendo's development tools)
- Rare (sold to Microsoft in 2002)
- Retro Studios
- Bleached Underpants: Before video games, one of their ventures was a chain of Love Hotels.
- Console Wars: The longest-standing player in them today. The Sega Genesis vs. SNES conflict was one of the most infamously brutal in gaming history.
- Create Your Own Rival: Nintendo is the reason why Sony got into the video game market, and the decision to use cartridges on the Nintendo 64 indirectly led to the PlayStation's success. (See the SNESCDROM page for more details) However, despite the PS 1 and PlayStation 2 out-selling the N64 and Game Cube, Nintendo is still going strong, and the Wii is selling better than the Play Station 3 could ever dream to. In the end, Nintendo just made things Nintendo Hard for themselves, with an end result that's pretty good for everybody.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: After their experiment with discs with the Famicom Disk System led to massive piracy on the system, Nintendo has been massively cautious when it comes to piracy ever since. Most system updates for the Wii have been intended solely to kill potential exploits for homebrew.
- Excuse Plot: The company had their original heyday when this was the norm, but they've still applied it to certain franchises today, sometimes because of the Grandfather Clause, other times because they've found that having a plot is secondary to the quality of the main game. Miyamoto himself has gone on the record to say that sometimes a plot can be an obstruction to the quality of the gameplay, regardless of how good the plot itself is.
- Giant Hands of Doom: The developers of this company seem to like this type of boss.
- Grandfather Clause: Nintendo games in general aren't exactly known for having good stories and deep characters but hardly anyone seems to care, probably because they've always been this way and people don't usually play them for the plot. Most of the stories are rehashes, Mario still rescuing Peach (or some other girl) from Bowser.
- Heroic Mime: Most of their leads are this or have been this, but some have been given a voice, for better or for worse.
- Iconic Logo: Red for most of the company's video game-making history, but officially switched to gray in 2006.
- Mascot: Mario, who is also considered to the mascot for video games in general.
- Mercy Mode: Their patented Super Guide, which was made as an excuse to bring back Nintendo Hardness without alienating less skilled players.
- Nintendo Hard:
- Trope Maker and Trope Namer; largely the case with NES games, present in a small few titles since, and coming back through the creation of the Super Guide feature in recent first-party games.
- Not in just the games they made, the NES versions of Battletoads and Ghosts N Goblins were much harder than their Sega and Arcade Counterparts.
- Platform Game: Codified this genre. While Nintendo have many many successful games, series, and IPs spread over a variety of genres, some of the most loved and well-received series and franchises are of this genre as well.
- Rule of Fun: The foundation of game design at the company.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Many of their franchises gravitate heavily towards the idealistic end of the scale.
- Super Title 64 Advance: They are mostly associated with this trend, doing it with their own games and sometimes letting third party developers do it when releasing on their consoles.
- Surprise Creepy: They have a reputation for making sweet, family-friendly games... and thus a lot of the weirder and scarier elements of games they develop or publish tend to blindside people.
- The Great Video Game Crash of 1983: Their success with the NES helped end it. Also, many of their long-standing business practices developed to combat the problems that led to the Crash in the first place; their disinterest in making games for iOS prior to 2016, despite fervent demands from investors, had its roots in Nintendo's efforts to avoid the pre-Crash market over-saturation by keeping their console exclusives.
- Tonka Tough: ALL of their consoles were/are nigh-indestructible, especially the Game Boy and GameCube. The usual joke is that Nintendo products are made of Nintendium.
- In the Nintendo World store in New York City, there is a original Nintendo Game Boy that was hit by artillery fire during the First Gulf War and still is running.