Nintendo: A History of Electronic Gaming


 A History of Nintendo Worldwide

Nintendo, as we know it today, has its roots in a history that goes back much farther than most might think.

The foundation of the company lies in the production of playing cards way back in 1889.

Fusajiro Yamauchi began manufacturing “Hanafuda” or Flower Cards – Japanese-style playing cards in Kyoto, Japan.

In 1902, Mr. Yamauchi began manufacturing the first Western-style playing cards in Japan.

Originally intended for export, these playing cards quickly became popular in Japan

Nintendo game cartridges

Yamauchi Nintendo & Co.

In 1933, the company was established as an unlimited partnership.

1947 saw Mr. Yamauchi begin a distribution company, Marafuku Co. Ltd.

By 1951 the company’s name had changed to Nintendo Playing Card Co.

In 1959 the company started producing and selling cards with Walt Disney characters, opening up a new market in children’s playing cards, resulting in a boom in the card department.

The 1960’s saw a rise in bowling as a major pastime in Japan.

disney playing card

Nintendo Home Bowling

home bowling

With Japan’s post-war fascination with American Culture and pastimes growing, the sport of Bowling became increasingly popular with Japan topping out with about 3,700 bowling alleys at the height of the craze in the late 1960s.

Nintendo jumped on this frenzy and produced an “At-Home” bowling game that promised the feel of a full-size alley, right in your home with a “life-like mechanical bowler”, “ball return” and a “semi-automatic pin setter”.

The box design with its Western-style figures and English text suit the Japanese perception of the classic American Pastime.

By 1973 the popularity of bowling was waning and to repurpose those now abandoned bowling alleys, Nintendo developed the Laser Clay Shooting System, designed specifically for repurposing bowling lanes, giving them a new lease of life.

woman bowling in kimono          nintendo laser clay big box

Nintendo’s First Electronic Games

In 1974, Nintendo developed an image-projection system and utilized the 16mm film projector in amusement arcades and began exporting the systems to the US and Europe.

In co-operation with Mitsubishi Electric, 1975 saw the development of a videogame system using an Electronic Video Recording Player for the Japanese market.

By 1976 Nintendo had introduced a Microprocessor to the system and by 1977, the company had developed home-use videogame systems called, “TV Game 15” and “TV Game 6”.

In March of 1978, Nintendo released a simplistic arcade cocktail game based on the board game “Othello” called “Computer Othello”. With no joystick, players were left to move game pieces around using a series of ten colored buttons.

In 1979 Minoru Arakawa, son-in-law of Nintendo’s Japanese chief Hiroshi Yamauchi, opened Nintendo of America in New York City and started an operations division for coin-operated games.

woman playing with nintendo

Nintendo TV Game 15

nintendo tv game 15

Nintendo TV Game 6

nintendo tv game 6

The Birth of Mario

The company created a wholly owned subsidiary, Nintendo of America Inc. in New York. Nintendo began selling the “GAME & WATCH” product line in Japan, the first portable LCD videogames with a microprocessor.

Nintendo artist Shigeru Miyamoto created the game Donkey Kong. The hero, originally called Jumpman, is a carpenter racing to save his girlfriend, Pauline, from a crazed ape.

Jumpman was later renamed during the establishment of Nintendo of America’s headquarters by Nintendo Co., Ltd.

In honor of Jumpman’s resemblance to their office landlord, Mario Segali, he was later renamed ‘Mario’.

early mario game console

Donkey Kong & NES

In 1981 Nintendo developed and distributed the coin-op video game “Donkey Kong” quickly becoming the hottest-selling coin-op game in the business.

By 1984 Nintendo launched worldwide what would later be known as Nintendo Entertainment Systems or NES.

Classic hits like Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda were released.

The Game Boy was released in 1989 and was the first portable, handheld game system with interchangeable cartridges.

By the year 2000 the Game Boy had become the most popular selling console ever as sales surpassed 100 million.

game boy

Valuable Nintendo Collectibles

  • Vintage Gaming systems

sony dsc


  • Original antique and vintage Nintendo playing cards

vintage disney playing cards

  • Nintendo at-home games such as Bowling, Twister

antique twister      antique game

  • Original vintage game cartridges, especially Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.

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