The 1980s brought to the world many great inventions, music, movies and people in general. Microsoft Windows 1.0, the CD-ROM, E.T., The Karate Kid, Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise all made their way onto the scene during the 80s. During this decade there were several gaming consoles that made a dramatic and lasting impact throughout the world.
The Sinclair, Commodore 64, ColecoVision, Atari 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis and Nintendo Game Boy were among the biggest name gaming consoles released during this decade, with the Sinclair being perhaps the least popular/successful. Both the Sinclair and Commodore 64 were destined to face a significant uphill battle against the power houses of Nintendo, Atari and Sega. The ColecoVision enjoyed some success with such games as Mr. Do and BurgerTime, but it would also fold under the oncoming tidal wave of Mario and Sonic (as would Atari). The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in the United States in 1985 and can certainly be considered the most important video gaming console of all-time. While the Atari helped generate excitement with its full list of games, the Nintendo is what brought a significant amount of new gamers to the marketplace. The Nintendo offered games with new features not previously seen on older systems and graphics that far outweighed its predecessors.
Part of the success associated with Nintendo and Sega as opposed to the other systems was strong brand recognition. Anyone, even non-video gamers, could easily identify the Mario character with Nintendo and Sonic the Hedgehog with Sega. Mario and Sonic drew people into these systems as fans with the games and endless merchandise that promoted the games. Once people were drawn in for Mario and Sonic, they began to explore all of the other games on the consoles. The more people playing a wider variety of games, the more successful the consoles were due to increased sales.
Nintendo was very successful by creating more classic, brand name games after Mario came on board such as The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania. Each of these games generated a popular following among fans which led to a long line of sequels. The Nintendo’s graphics, at 8-bit, were better than anything else on the market place. The Sega Master System also had an 8-bit system with cartridges but not nearly as much brand recognition as the Nintendo.
Sega did not experience their success until Sonic the Hedgehog arrived for the 16-bit graphics Sega Genesis system, building a brand name for the company and attracting millions of new gamers. The system itself offered much better graphics and game play with its advanced features, and took over the market leadership from Nintendo until the Super Nintendo arrived in the 1990s.
Finally, Nintendo branched out into another segment of video gaming by going portable with the Nintendo Game Boy. The Game Boy offered many of the great titles from the regular Nintendo but in smaller form that kids could take anywhere with them as long as they had batteries. The Game Boy also offered a “link up” feature which allowed friends to play against each other in games such as Tetris.
I was a player of all these video game systems as they evolved and identified myself more with the Mario/Zelda/Castlevania games than the Sega games. My memories of these games involved late nights with friends playing endless hours, trying to beat the games and move on to the next ones.