80s, Blog, Video Games — September 23, 2014 12:39 pm

Our First Nintendo

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How old do you think Nintendo is?  If you said 29, you are incorrect.  In fact, the company was established 125 years ago on September 23, 1889.  Yes, 18xx.  As in, only four years after Doc and Marty crashed a train in the old west.

Nintendo was originally in the business of playing cards, but our generation remembers them best for changing the video game industry forever.  Their first video game console must have been pretty good to overcome the disaster that was the video game crash in the early 1980s (thanks, E.T.).

To celebrate this significant occasion, we decided to reflect back on how we both ended up with an NES.


I can’t remember a time without video games.  Perhaps, that makes me a lucky man.  Good times of sitting on my parents’ bed, playing E.T. for the wooden Atari 2600 make up my earliest memories.  Despite my long history of gaming, I’ve always been late to consoles.  By the time I got an NES, I was loosely aware that there was something “better” than Atari.  Also at this point, my family had upgraded to the Atari 7800 at a Toys “R” Us.  I didn’t see much difference between the two Atari systems (and still don’t, honestly), so I didn’t have high hopes.  I just wasn’t that excited about getting an NES.

That all flew out the window the night I knew I was getting one.  Suddenly, owning an entertainment system from Nintendo seemed like the most important transaction in my life.  My mom was really into video games (and still is), so my dad wanted to surprise her with the new purchase.  One fateful night in 1989, he and I made a covert run to the local K-Mart for the greatest in video game technology.

The experience wasn’t really what I expected.  At Toys “R” Us, all the consoles were lined up on display inside an aisle-long glass case.  You grabbed a paper ticket, paid for the piece of paper, and then exchanged it for a console at a little booth by the exit of the store.  This was not the case at K-Mart.  Instead, the electronics sales-rep handed us a red binder filled with pages of video game listings.  I was given the parental green light to pick one additional game for the NES, aside from the pack-in Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt.

Thumbing through the book, we both recognized a title from the Atari days: Donkey Kong.  It turned out to be the Classics edition that also included Donkey Kong Jr. on the same cartridge, so it seemed like a good two-for-one deal.  It also left me pretty confused when my third NES cart did not have a two-in-one feature.

dkclassics_001The game that started it all.

The sense of agony in the wait between making our game request and the electronics rep showing back up with our NES collection-to-be cannot be understated.  If you had told me 100 years went by, I would have believed it despite still being at least ten years off from the first signs of facial hair.

Finally, the magic moment came and I went home a champion.  To this day, I still own the exact same Nintendo Entertainment System and Donkey Kong Classics cart.  Donkey Kong Jr. for life.



I had a very different experience in obtaining my first Nintendo. While Lee grew up playing the Nintendo from the comfort of his own home, I was playing Intellivision and the Atari 7800, later joined by the Game Boy and Sega Genesis. In fact, it wasn’t until 2000 when I was 16/17 that I got my NES. I spent a decent amount of time watching my friends’ older siblings play, but I’ve always been more of a Sega girl.

A friend of mine’s father used to, I’m pretty sure but never confirmed, dumpster dive and ended up finding all sorts of classic games. This was back at a time when retro game collecting wasn’t really a thing, or at least not a thing that many people I knew did. So, this pal of mine would let me know when her dad would find a big lot and then I’d trek over there to pilfer through it.


A great source for classic gaming deals, apparently.

I don’t want to know how, but he’d find the greatest stuff– I even got a complete boxed Atari Jaguar for free from him (and I said it was the “greatest”, so calm down Atari fanboys who assume I’m a dude, yeesh. I love/hate it).

One day, this friend alerted me to a large NES lot that was waiting at her house. I walked over and was awe-struck. An NES, hook-ups, controllers, zapper, and 50 games were waiting for me. She wanted $50 for it, which I happily handed over.

After purchasing the lot, I couldn’t wait to get home. I called my mom to come pick me up (I was 16-ish, remember) and she was unamused. You know how moms will tear into you, but at least save you the dignity of not doing it around your friends at 16? That’s not my mom– she let me have it over the phone while my friend and her family gathered ’round, completely pissed and yelling that I’d “wasted” $50 on video games and I was on my own. An NES and 50 games might not sound like the biggest score ever, but it’s rather difficult to walk home 20 minutes while carrying all that when you’re a 5’1″ ladyfolk. No bueno.

I did make it home and I played the heck out of it, but kept everything upstairs, far away from my mom’s wrath. Maybe she just wasn’t a Nintendo fan.


What say you?  How did you end up with an NES?



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