I can’t believe it has already been 30 years since the Family Computer was originally released in Japan. It retailed on July 15th, 1983 for ¥34,800. While the rest of the world was going through the great videogame crash, things were very different in Japan. A small Japanese card manufacturer and toy maker decided it was time to move from their Game & Watch portable arcade game series to something far more serious. The Family Computer would achieve new heights on the global scene when the hardware was reworked and released as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES for short, in 1985. Today we’re going to talk a bit about Famicom though, which is what the Japanese people called the Family Computer for short. The name stuck, as the official successor to the Family Computer wasn’t the Super Family Computer, but actually the Super Famicom.
When the Famicom originally launched it had a meager three titles available, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. When all was said and done there would be hundreds of unique and groundbreaking games available for the system. The vast majority of classic franchises had their start on this incredible machine. It’s not just the individual franchises that people remember so fondly, but how this one platform introduced entirely new genres. In short, the Famicom was the introduction of the modern videogame industry. Before Famicom games were extremely simplistic, often single-screen arcade games. With the Famicom, that all changed. Suddenly videogames had scrolling screens, there were worlds to explore, and children no longer needed to imagine what a forest looked like. It wasn’t just some green screen, there were actually pixelated trees! With the release of the Famicom and all these incredible games the market flourished unlike anything the world was prepared for. This was the start of the Nintendo age of videogames.
While the Famicom may not have been the most powerful of all the 8-bit platforms, it was certainly the most successful. It is estimated to have sold between 60 and 70 million units, far outpacing its closest rival. No one knows for certain the exact sales as at this point in time no one was actually keeping count.
The Famicom would eventually get a sister system in the form of the Famicom Disk System (February 21st, 1986), which harnessed the power of the Famicom and paired it with a disk add-on. Memorable titles for the Disk System include the original Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, and many others. The Famicom would also see a remodel on December 1, 1993 in the form of the AV Famicom, which allowed the system to use a composite connection instead of the old RF connections the Famicom had.
It’s funny as I sit here and look at my own Famicom. I think to myself how archaic it now appears. It had two controllers, both hardwired into the system, and the cables were extremely short. One of the controllers had a built in microphone, and bizarre things like that. At the end of the day though, it didn’t matter, these strange design choices led to one of the very best videogame machines of all time, and clearly the most influential and important. Our videogame market owes everything to this little red and white box.
Happy Birthday Famicom, you were one in a million!
So now that I’ve talked a little about the old girl, what are some of your fondest memories from the Famicom or the NES?