My first encounter with the NES came at the age of four. My parents and I had just moved into a “new” house – new to us, but in its current state, a ramshackle fixer-upper. I was frightened by the house’s dilapidated appearance, particularly my room which was one of the scariest in the house. Of course, I made this known to my parents on a regular basis. To satisfy his son (or, perhaps, distract him from a terrifying reality), my dad brought home an NES Action Set one random afternoon. I remember hugging it firmly with both hands; the box was almost as big as I was. The pictures on the box showcased two controllers, the console, a gun, and the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge. So much stuff. My wee mind was blown.
I hugged the crap out of this box.
Dad hooked up the system that afternoon, and I was off. Some of my first gaming memories are of me running headlong into the first goomba in Super Mario Bros., jumping with Mario as he jumped (my parents watching and cackling), and shooting ducks with the Zapper, the gun mere inches from the screen. I don’t remember if I was given allotted chunks of time to play or if I had unlimited play time. I also can’t recall when I became proficient at games, though I do remember beating The Little Mermaid when I was five (there was a victory party with my stuffed animals that night, I tell you). What I remember are the worlds the games crafted, and how sucked in I was by them. To me, NES games were a small step away from reality. While the NES didn’t consume my entire life, like some consoles do with kids today, it captured my imagination in a singular, defining way.
The hardest jump of all.
For millions of young Americans like myself, the Nintendo Entertainment System wasn’t just a video game console. It was the gateway to a world of adventure, unlike any other entertainment. Boys and girls were immersed in the worlds of Mario, Link, Samus, Simon Belmont, Mega Man, Ryu Hayabusa, among other curious heroes. Instead of simply reading about these characters’ exploits or watching their adventures on a television screen, we took part in them. The journeys of iconic characters on the Nintendo were our own. Not since Disney had a company unwittingly given birth to a stable of mythological characters, many of which continue to captivate both young and old alike three decades later.
Happy 30th birthday, old friend. Thanks for all the memories.