It’s 1989, and you’ve convinced your parents to buy the Nintendo NES so you can play Super Mario Bros. in the basement. Flash forward to the late ’90s, and you’re putting hours into Poke’mon on the Nintendo Color. As the years keep coming, so do the consoles: the DS, the Wii, the Switch.
Casual gamers don’t often consider the work that goes into new consoles and the complex disks and cartridges full of adventure we’ve come to love. Well, grab a controller and hit the power button, this list will open your eyes to the fantastical world behind the scenes of Nintendo!
1. Mario wasn’t always a plumber: Because Mario was originally designed to climb buildings in the Donkey Kong Game, creator Shigeru Miyamoto first envisioned him as a carpenter. These days, he’s actually retired to make time for racing, sports, and parties.
2. The company is over 100 years old: Believe it or not, the Nintendo company has actually been around for more than a century. In fact, it was established in 1889 as a hanafuda playing card company. The video games didn’t even start until the 1970s!
3. Playing video games was recommended by doctors: Contrary to today, doctors used to think playing the Nintendo and other video games could help people with lazy eyes focus their sight. We’re pretty sure that advice no longer flies…
4. Pizza inspired Pacman: The iconic game’s hero was inspired by a pizza with a slice missing. What’s more, Pacman looks like the Japanese character for mouth, and paku-paku means to chomp. It’s nice when things work out.
5. Donkey Kong made the first vertical jump: In 1981, Donkey Kong became the first character to ever jump in a video game. Obviously, this was a gigantic breakthrough in the video game industry and allowed Mario to eventually jump over ravines.
6. Who was Jumpman?: Mario was originally called Jumpman. Nintendo developers didn’t love the name, and were inspired to change it after they saw the building’s landlord named Mario during a meeting.
7. If Mario has hops: According to the official Nintendo stats, Mario is 5’1. Since he can jump roughly 5 times his own height, he can jump — with no running start — 25 feet in the air. For context, the highest jump from standing was 5 feet.
8. The Game Boy was invented by a janitor: Gunpei Yokoi started working at Nintendo as a janitor so he could also tinker with the machines. He first invented a toy arm and used that as a ticket into the invention team, which released his Game Boy in 1989.
9. Their controllers were super innovative: Nintendo’s NES controller was the first to feature a directional pad. The N64’s controller popularized thumbsticks. The Wii introduced motion control, and the DS featured double screens (hence its name).
10. Zelda was named after a historic icon: Miyamoto, the creative mind behind The Legend Of Zelda, said that the character was named after Zelda Fitzgerald, a painter, novelist, and fashion icon in the 1920s. She was “a wonderful woman by all accounts,” he said.
11. They tried selling blocks: Somehow, without infringing any copyright, Nintendo once made its own block system that looked extremely similar to LEGO. It clearly didn’t sour any feelings, as a myriad of LEGO games now exist on Nintendo systems.
12. The simple design: In the world of Mario, clouds and bushes look exactly same. This is because Nintendo wanted to focus its creativity on the gameplay itself. Plus games had much less memory than they do now!
13. Mario + Koopa = Luigi: When Nintendo decided to create a brother for Mario, they didn’t waste too much time coming up with an original look for this new hero. They simply combined Mario’s body and Koopa’s color pattern and lengthened him a bit later on.
14. Cheat codes were for designers: The infamous Konami code (pressing up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right AB on a controller) was originally written for the game’s designers so they could skip ahead to where they wanted to edit. Now, people use it to cheat.
15. Zelda revolutionized gaming: Before The Legend Of Zelda came along, people just played video games over and over until they got tired, starting from scratch every time they died or turned off the game. With Zelda, people could finally save their progress!
16. The Nintendo DS units really sold: As of 2014, Nintendo had sold 125 million units of Nintendo DS. The DS didn’t hold the top sales spot long, though. The iPhone surpassed this record, but it was quite a feat for a handheld game console!
17. Their top-selling game is surprising: For nearly two decades, Super Mario Bros. held the record for being the top-selling video game, with the original version selling 40.24 million copies. However, Wii Sports beat this record in 2006 with 82.78 million.
18. Peach and Bowser used to toast their victories: The 1992 release of the first Super Mario Kart game for the NES showed Bowser and Peach popping bottles when they won a race, and “rather messily” drink champagne.
19. What Luigi’s name means: It is often said that Luigi’s name is a play on the Japanese word “ruiji” meaning “similar.” But in Italian, Luigi means “renowned fighter” or “warrior.” That gives you a whole different take on this famous guy, doesn’t it?
20. They almost produced a gaming phone: Nintendo considered making a special gaming smartphone in 2014. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t go through. There would’ve likely been too many limitations on memory and space for both phone and gaming functions.