By Olivia Brown
August 4th, 2023
From the creation of Pikachu and numerous well known creatures in the Pokémon franchise to Tom Nook and the gang in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the reigning powerhouse of the video game industry has been and continues to be Nintendo. Ever since the very first video game in 1958, people have been enamored by these electronic and virtual games.
As technology progresses further and advancements are made to the video game industry, users cannot help but feel a sense of nostalgia, not just from older games and systems but also from what it brought to their relationships with family and friends.
Nintendo was founded in Kyoto, Japan in 1889, far before video games were even a thought in anyone’s minds, as a company selling playing cards. It was nearly a hundred years later that they developed the Game & Watch series, which hosted a range of handheld electronic games. This was then followed by their iconic release of “Donkey Kong” in 1981, only a year later.
From then on, our favorite characters—Mario and Luigi, Pikachu and Charizard, Link and Zelda, and many others—were born and began their rise to popularity.
But these characters and their associated games aren’t the only thing that Nintendo is known for; their wide range of consoles throughout the years keeps things fresh. These continuous releases, however, made it easy to look back and remember what kept us occupied growing up.
Joshua Smith is an avid video game player and has kept up with the company and each of their newest consoles and popular games; he commented that he has had consoles ranging from the classic Nintendo 64 to a range of the Nintendo DSs to the newest Nintendo Switch.
There is a certain appeal that Nintendo holds that gamers notice and appreciate. Smith said, “I tend to be drawn to Nintendo’s game design and art styles. They tend to stand out from other gaming developers in their variety of gameplay. Nintendo isn’t known for one specific kind of game. I feel like that’s why I have always been drawn to them, because I have a range to choose from.”
But Smith isn’t the only one who enjoys Nintendo and everything that makes it what it’s known for today. From its beginnings the company has drawn in its crowds not only for the range in game designs and game play but also for its ability to bring people together to create memories that are remembered longingly for decades which derives the feeling of nostalgia.
Nostalgia is a tricky thing to completely understand and even more so when it comes to why people get nostalgic over something like playing video games. Dr. Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at LeMoyne College in New York, explained what nostalgia was in an interview with the American Psychological Association (APA). She defined nostalgia as “the notion of longing for or missing aspects of a person’s personal lived past.”
Batcho also mentioned that “it’s part of what bonds us to the most important people in our life: our parents, our siblings, our friends. As we go through life, it can broaden out and extend to a wider sphere of the people we interact with. It’s a social connectedness phenomenon and nostalgia is in that sense a very healthy pro-social emotion.”
On a smaller scale, nostalgia with video games can stem from the fact that many people used to use games as a form of bonding experience with siblings, parents and friends. Michigan State University student Jenna Piotrowicz said that she remembered clearly playing Super Mario games with her siblings. “Playing Super Mario games, Wii Sports and Mario Kart reminds me of playing with my brother and sister when we were young; it’s something that I have a fond remembrance of.”
Another video game fan and lover of the classics, James Brown, remembers using games as a way to spend time with his friends. “Back in the 80s, they had video arcades, which were the ‘go to’ things for teenagers, but you don’t see many of them nowadays. My good friend in middle school and I used to go to the arcade in the mall close by to play ski ball and arcade games like Qbert and Pac Man.”
This feeling of connectedness is one that also binds society together on a larger scale which can be seen in a few different ways, from fashion trends returning to the rising interest in vinyl records. In this case, the return of retro or vintage editions of favorite games has been connecting adults back to their video game roots. This phenomenon is called “retrogaming.” Retrogaming is attributed to the RetroGames company created by Robert Frasure in the 1990s that had a hand in classic gaming systems, and it means that older games and consoles are being “revamped,” so to speak, and are making their comeback. Games such as The Legend of Zelda, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Mario Kart are all considered retro video games, and each of them play on the nostalgia that comes with them.
One device that Nintendo created to profit off of the feeling of nostalgia is the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) Classic Edition. This console was released in 2016, briefly discontinued due to higher demand than expected and made a well received comeback a year later.
Being an affordable console with pre-downloaded games that many remember playing during childhood — examples including Galaga, Kirby’s Adventure, The Legend of Zelda and more — there is no question as to why it was popular. These games hold nostalgia because of the design, the characters and just being something that older individuals remember as something well loved when growing up.
It isn’t just the NES Classic Edition that is satisfying the nostalgia in gamers. There are plenty of older games that are being revamped on modern devices such as the Nintendo Switch. Michigan State student Savannah Harris said, “Since they created Nintendo Switch recently, I’ve seen so many people play their nostalgic games in a different format and love it.”
For example, with the release of the newest Pokemon Scarlet and Violet video games on the Nintendo Switch, gamers are feeling the same joy that came with every new Pokemon release. Smith commented, “Pokemon has always been around. I remember playing Pokemon Pearl on the DS. They have a way of making the gameplay different each time while continuing to make it old school.”
But this new Pokemon generation has its advancements that keep it exciting. “It’s the first open world that Nintendo has made. They keep the old concepts of catching pokemon and battling the gym leaders while also opening it up with a new world with new pokemon, routes and story lines. They’ve kept the game fresh while also scratching that nostalgic itch.”
Whether a person enjoys playing something made by Nintendo or another popular gaming company, nostalgia in video games continues to hold strong because of the memories of the classics and the idea of longing for the simplistic. Nintendo of America’s mission is said to be “to put smiles on the faces of everyone we touch. We do so by creating new surprises for people across the world to enjoy together.” It is easy to see how they’ve upheld their mission for generations as individuals of all ages look back at their childhood with nostalgia and see the continuous face of Nintendo.
Oliviah Brown is a 5th year senior double majoring in English and professional writing, and minoring in digital humanities. Her aspirations are to use her studies to pursue a career in editing. When she’s not studying, she is usually reading or figuring out new recipes to bake.