“I’m a lifelong, diehard Nintendo fan.” It’s a statement I’ve both spoken and typed – often verbatim – many times over the years. The problem is, it’s kind of a lie.
I genuinely remember the very first moment I laid eyes on Super Mario Bros. in action. I know where I was, who I was with, what level was being played, all of it. I had never seen anything like that, and although I had already been playing Atari since I could hold a joystick, I knew I was changed forever by that moment. However, that would only be my first crush; my first true love was The Legend of Zelda. My 7 year old brain couldn’t even believe that a game could be so big and deep. And so it went, one masterpiece after another, deepening my love for Nintendo and the amazing games they made. I just knew that I’d be pals with Mario, Link, Samus, and the rest for life.
Then came the 16-bit era, and we got a Genesis instead of a Super NES. I was just entering my early teen years, and the edginess of Sega’s black box and the “cool” games and characters it was bringing me seemed to mesh well with the sensibilites of a boy who was outgrowing Tiny Toons and moving on to X-Men. I didn’t completely outgrow Nintendo just yet – I had friends with Super NESes and would spend hours playing Super Mario Kart with them. But that felt more like a fun little diversion from the real gaming in my life, which was Sonic and Streets of Rage and the version of Mortal Kombat with blood and fatalities still intact. Meanwhile, I was slowly convincing myself that the Super NES was the inferior system and I didn’t want or need it. Final Fantasy? Too nerdy. Super Metroid? I had one friend tell me it wasn’t that good so of course that’s the opinion I latched onto. And what’s with this new Mario game where Mario is a crying, screaming baby? I was a teenager now. I didn’t play baby games anymore!
By the time I had made the choice to get a PlayStation instead of an N64 – I still wasn’t old enough to buy my own consoles and I certainly wasn’t going to convince my parents to get me multiple consoles in a single generation – I was done with Nintendo. I had grown up and moved on, or at least that’s what I told myself. This stance was all too easy to maintain as most of my N64-owning friends were all about Goldeneye for multiplayer and didn’t really play Mario Kart 64 or Super Smash Bros. What about Ocarina of Time? Surely the triumphant 3D debut of my first love won me back over? Nope…I was too busy playing Metal Gear Solid. You know, grown up stuff. Plus I hadn’t played a Zelda game since the NES so I had lost touch with the series anyway.
The ironic thing is that I actually played a lot of the more lighthearted, cartoony-type PS1 games – Parappa the Rapper, UmJammer Lammy, Klonoa, Crash 2 and Spyro 3 are among my favorite games for the system – but I had come to identify myself more as the gamer who was playing Twisted Metal, Resident Evil, Tony Hawk, Tekken, and so on. Of course I’d covet the occasional Nintendo game, but as we all know, they were few and far between on the N64 so there was usually a month or so of hearing about something new and then another 10 or 11 months of not so much – and meanwhile, the PS1 seemed to have a new game that was at least worth talking about every few weeks.
So when did I come back into the Nintendo fold? I was finally old enough and had the disposable income to buy multiple systems, so in addition to my PS2 and Xbox I decided what the hell, might as well get a Gamecube, too. And that’s when I reconnected with my old love and realized that she was, in fact, my soul mate. Part of it was just being older and less concerned with everything I played being “cool” and starring anti-heroes in dark, gritty worlds – and also being an adult and simply not caring anymore who would judge me for playing Animal Crossing or Mario Sunshine. Another part was that Nintendo was feeling particularly creative and brave during that era, creating several quirky new franchises and taking some big risks with their existing ones, most of which paid off beautifully. So the plants aligned and I was in a position to be won back over at the exact time when they were creating the types of games that would do so.
I also used that disposable income to go back and catch up on the Nintendo I had missed, and naturally, was every bit as enamored as I would’ve ever been with Super Metroid, Link to the Past, Ocarina, Paper Mario, the various Kirby games, and all the other fantastic games I didn’t get to experience when I thought I was too cool for them. And because I filled in those gaps in my Nintendo history, it was like I never really missed out on them, so ever since I’ve felt comfortable in claiming being a Nintendo fan all along. Maybe it’s not entirely honest to make that statement without an asterisk, but I’m going to continue to do so, as my Nintendo experience – and my thorough love for it – is still complete…even if I did things a little backwards.