Nintendo is not perfect. I feel like this needs to be said at the outset. The company can be maddeningly stubborn, backward in their thinking about some things, overly reliant on one or two all-powerful decision-makers, and downright draconian when it comes to their handling of their back-catalog. Recently they’ve come under fire for the “joycon drift” problem that continues to plague left joycons on the Switch, as well as the sparseness of their NES/SNES online offerings. The $60 retail price for three hasty ports of three 3D Mario games is also a source of angst amongst many.
I get it: Nintendo is not perfect.
But if you think I’ve come here to bury Nintendo, you’re mistaken. I’ve come not to bury them but to praise them because, for all their faults, Nintendo is me. They’re as much a part of me as memories of Christmas morning.
I’ve been a “gamer” since I was old enough to be anything.
My parents bought my older sister a NES for Christmas, 1986. I was two years old but there is a half-faded polaroid of me sucking on a controller somewhere in the farmhouse attic where I grew up. Not three years passed before the NES became my bread and butter. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the hard one), Mario 3, Dr. Mario, Kirby’s Adventure, Metroid, Batman: Return of the Joker; I can go on. By the time the SNES came out, the NES was no longer my sister’s; it was mine, in my room, on my little thirteen-inch TV. There was no turning back, not even when the SEGA Genesis ad campaigns flashed on the screen during commercial breaks (probably during Batman: The Animated Series).
Other kids—who had been loyal to Nintendo during the NES days, and even who had gotten SNES consoles for Christmas—were starting to sway into SEGA’s camp, allured to the big blue letters by the promise of “blast processing” and Sonic the Hedgehog. But not me. While my friends played Ecco the Dolphin, I was playing Mario Kart. While they played Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (for some reason), I was playing Donkey Kong Country. Their Mortal Kombat had blood, mine had buttons. They had the SEGA 32X, but I had Star Fox. They had Sonic and Knuckles, but I had Super Metroid. No matter how hard my friends or my TV would encourage me, my answer was always the same.
I will ride or die with Nintendo.
Then came Sony, and all the childish “yeah huh” vs “nuh-uh” playground taunting of the old 16-Bit War suddenly became much uglier. Sony had CDs which, just by virtue of their being was a point-one for them over Nintendo, no matter how much I protested that zero load times was worth the smaller storage space. I won’t lie; it hurt paying $70 for some carts while PSX games were usually around $50, but I also can’t deny the feelings that welled up within me on Christmas of 1997, when I opened my N64, Mario 64, and Star Fox 64 and deemed it “best Christmas ever.”
Still, though, Sony was playing to win. SEGA fought their war with Nintendo by getting into an arms race and losing. The SEGA Genesis, plus the SEGA CD, plus the SEGA 32X made for an expensive, cumbersome set-up, and eventually kicked off the steady decline of SEGA as a major console player. Sony, on the other hand, played things much more shrewdly. They didn’t try to out muscle Nintendo (the PlayStation was, in almost every way, the N64’s inferior), so much as out-maneuver them. Signing deals for games like Final Fantasy, Castlevania, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Street Fighter, and more was the real death-blow to the N64. Nintendo fans would sometimes go an entire calendar year with only one or maybe two big games to get. Meanwhile, the PlayStation was dropping AAA titles every couple of months with no signs of slowing. All my friends had a PlayStation, and they all encouraged me and my Chrono Trigger, FFVI, Mario RPG-loving self to get one too. They showed me Symphony of the Night. They showed me Metal Gear Solid. They showed me Resident Evil. But still, my answer would remain unchanged.
I will ride or die with Nintendo.
I remember the day I bought the GameCube. It was the spring of 2002, just before I graduated High School. It was the first “big” thing I ever bought with money from my first job. Other kids saved up to buy a car. I bought Rogue Squadron II. Today this day it holds a special place in my heart. It’s Nintendo’s most underrated little machine, with my second favorite library of games (after the SNES). It was perfect, and it got curbed stomped by the PS2. But that didn’t matter anymore because now gamers had a new target and, for a time, it seemed like Sony and Nintendo fans could unite in their vitriol against this new player in the Console Wars: Microsoft.
The first X-Box was a giant, awkward, hot mess of a system, but the company learned from their mistakes and did things better with the X-Box 360. By the time it was released, I was married and feeling rebellious. I picked one up and, throughout its entire lifespan, I bought a grand total of two games for it: NCAA 2006 and NCAA 2014. Other than that, I was playing the Wii with my newborn son on my knee.
Ride or die, baby.
Sony bungled things with the PS3 and did nothing to entice me with the PS4, especially not with the Nintendo Switch keeping me busy. Microsoft’s Xbox One might’ve had a rocky start as well, but it ended up being a solid little system that I owned but never bought more than five games for. The Switch remains the champion of this generation in my household, with my three sons all playing it regularly, and me playing it when they go to bed. Nintendo will always be first for me, but now that I’m older, I see the pointlessness of “fanboying” and arbitrarily choosing sides in pretend “wars” that are only drummed up to satisfy corporate interests.
Long story short: As soon as the PS4 drops in price, I’m grabbing it and Ghost of Tsushima, no regrets. I’ll pick it up used, play the game through, and then sell it. I have no need for a PS4 and nothing about the PS5 entices me. Old video game habits die hard, I suppose.
As we recently covered, The very tempting X-Box Series S/X is due to arrive this fall and though I have dabbled with the company since they entered the console market, I have never fully embraced them. When asked if I had a video game preference, my answer will always be Nintendo and you’d have to pry out of me any hint of allegiance to any other console maker.
I may dabble in other consoles here and there but I will always come back home to Nintendo, not only because it is woven into my childhood memories, but also because they have always dared to go their own way. Sony will keep churning outnumbered PlayStations, with the same basic controller and very little innovation to be found. Microsoft will keep throwing money around, offering subscription deals, low prices, and games from studios they swallowed up like a giant city-eater from Mortal Engines, but both are offering the same basic experiences. The only difference is in the minutiae. PS5 and Xbox Series are coming in a few weeks. If you asked me what’s coming from those companies in six or seven years, I’ll have the answer ready to go: The PS6 and the X-Box Convoluted Name Here system.
But ask me what Nintendo is planning for 2025 or so, and I won’t have an answer. Who knows? It could be anything! I don’t know what they’re planning next, but I do know this: Ask me about it, and I’ll look at you as a kid on December 20th, staring at an obviously video game console-sized present sitting under the tree, just begging for me to open it. I know Nintendo isn’t perfect. I know they make some baffling and frustrating decisions, but I know this about a lot of things in my childhood, too.
And I still love them anyway.