intendo Entertainment System
(Redirected from NES)
"NES" redirects here. For other uses, see NES (disambiguation).
"Family Computer" redirects here. For the 1977 VideoBrain product, see VideoBrain Family Computer.
Nintendo Entertainment System
Official Nintendo Entertainment System logo
Family Computer logo
Nintendo Entertainment System with controller
Nintendo Family Computer
Top: Nintendo Entertainment System with controller
Bottom: Nintendo Family Computer ("Famicom") with controller
Also known as Family Computer/Famicom (Japan)
Hyundai Comboy (Korea)
Type Home video game console
Generation Third generation
JP: July 15, 1983
NA/KR: October 18, 1985
EU: September 1, 1986
Retail availability 1983–2003
Introductory price ¥14,800 (Japan)
$179 (US Deluxe Set)
NA: August 14, 1995
JP: September 25, 2003
Units sold Worldwide: 61.91 million
Japan: 19.35 million
Americas: 34.00 million
Other: 8.56 million
Media ROM cartridge ("Game Pak")
CPU Ricoh 2A03 8-bit processor (MOS Technology 6502 core)
Controller input 2 controller portsc
1 expansion slot
Super Mario Bros. (pack-in), 40.23 million (as of 1999)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (pack-in), 18 million (as of July 27, 2008)
Super Mario Bros. 2,
Predecessor Color TV-Game
Successor Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Nintendo Entertainment System (commonly abbreviated as NES) is an 8-bit
home video game console that was developed and manufactured by
Nintendo. It was initially released in Japan as the Family Computer
(Japanese: ファミリーコンピュータ Hepburn: Famirī Konpyūta) (also known by the
portmanteau abbreviation Famicom (ファミコン Famikon) and abbreviated as FC)
on July 15, 1983, and was later released in North America during 1985,
in Europe during 1986 and 1987, and Australia in 1987. In South Korea,
it was known as the Hyundai Comboy (현대 컴보이 Hyeondae Keomboi) and was
distributed by SK Hynix which then was known as Hyundai Electronics. The
best-selling gaming console of its time, the NES helped revitalize the
US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983. With the
NES, Nintendo introduced a now-standard business model of licensing
third-party developers, authorizing them to produce and distribute
titles for Nintendo's platform. It was succeeded by the Super Nintendo
In 2009, the Nintendo Entertainment System
was named the single greatest video game console in history by IGN, in a
list of 25. It was judged the second greatest console behind the Sega
Dreamcast in PC Magazine's "Top 10 Video Game Consoles of All Time".
Main article: History of the Nintendo Entertainment System
a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made
plans to create a cartridge-based console called the Famicom, which is
short for Family Computer. Masayuki Uemura designed the system. Original
plans called for an advanced 16-bit system which would function as a
full-fledged computer with a keyboard and floppy disk drive, but
Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi rejected this and instead decided to
go for a cheaper, more conventional cartridge-based game console as he
felt that features such as keyboards and disks were intimidating to
non-technophiles. A test model was constructed in October 1982 to verify
the functionality of the hardware, after which work began on
programming tools. Because 65xx CPUs had not been manufactured or sold
in Japan up to that time, no cross-development software was available
and it had to be produced from scratch. Early Famicom games were written
on a system that ran on an NEC PC-8001 computer and LEDs on a grid were
used with a digitizer to design graphics as no software design tools
for this purpose existed at that time.
The code name for the
project was "GameCom", but Masayuki Uemura's wife proposed the name
"Famicom", arguing that "In Japan, 'pasokon' is used to mean a personal
computer, but it is neither a home or personal computer. Perhaps we
could say it is a family computer." Meanwhile, Hiroshi Yamauchi decided
that the console should use a red and white theme after seeing a
billboard for DX Antenna which used those colors.
creation of the Famicom, the ColecoVision, a video game console made by
Coleco to compete against Atari's Atari 2600 Game system in The United
States, was a huge influence. Takao Sawano, chief manager of the
project, brought a ColecoVision home to his family, who were impressed
by the systems capability to produce smooth graphics at the time, which
contrasted with the flickering and slowdown commonly seen on Atari 2600
games. Uemura, head of Famicom development, stated that the ColecoVision
set the bar that influenced how he would approach the creation of the
Original plans called for the Famicom's cartridges to be
the size of a cassette tape, but ultimately they ended up being twice
as big. Careful design attention was paid to the cartridge connectors
since loose and faulty connections often plagued arcade machines. As it
necessitated taking 60 connection lines for the memory and expansion,
Nintendo decided to produce their own connectors in-house rather than
use ones from an outside supplier.
The controllers were
hard-wired to the console with no connectors for cost reasons. The game
pad controllers were more-or-less copied directly from the Game &
Watch machines, although the Famicom design team originally wanted to
use arcade-style joysticks, even taking apart ones from American game
consoles to see how they worked. There were concerns regarding the
durability of the joystick design and that children might step on
joysticks left on the floor. Katsuyah Nakawaka attached a Game &
Watch D-pad to the Famicom prototype and found that it was easy to use
and caused no discomfort. Ultimately though, they installed a 15-pin
expansion port on the front of the console so that an optional
arcade-style joystick could be used.
Uemura added an eject lever
to the cartridge slot which was not really necessary, but he felt that
children could be entertained by pressing it. He also added a microphone
to the second controller with the idea that it could be used to make
players' voices sound through the TV speaker.
console was released on July 15, 1983 as the Family Computer (or Famicom
for short) for ¥14,800 alongside three ports of Nintendo's successful
arcade games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye. The Famicom was
slow to gather momentum; a bad chip set caused the initial release of
the system to crash. Following a product recall and a reissue with a new
motherboard, the Famicom’s popularity soared, becoming the best-selling
game console in Japan by the end of 1984.
Encouraged by this
success, Nintendo turned its attention to the North American market,
entering into negotiations with Atari to release the Famicom under
Atari’s name as the Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System. The deal was
set to be finalized and signed at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show
in June 1983. However, Atari discovered at that show that its competitor
Coleco was illegally demonstrating its Coleco Adam computer with
Nintendo's Donkey Kong game. This violation of Atari's exclusive license
with Nintendo to publish the game for its own computer systems delayed
the implementation of Nintendo's game console marketing contract with
Atari. Atari's CEO Ray Kassar was fired the next month, so the deal went
nowhere, and Nintendo decided to market its system on its own.
The proposed Advanced Video System bundle, including cassette drive and wireless accessories.
plans to market a Famicom console in North America featuring a
keyboard, cassette data recorder, wireless joystick controller and a
special BASIC cartridge under the name "Nintendo Advanced Video System"
likewise never materialized. By the beginning of 1985, the Famicom had
sold more than 2.5 million units in Japan and Nintendo soon announced
plans to release it in North America as the Advanced Video Entertainment
System (AVS) that same year. The American video game press was
skeptical that the console could have any success in the region, with
the March 1985 issue of Electronic Games magazine stating that "the
videogame market in America has virtually disappeared" and that "this
could be a miscalculation on Nintendo's part."
At June 1985's
Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Nintendo unveiled the American version
of its Famicom, with a new case redesigned by Lance Barr and featuring a
"zero insertion force" cartridge slot. This is the system which would
eventually be officially deployed as the Nintendo Entertainment System,
or the colloquial "NES". Nintendo seeded these first systems to limited
American test markets starting in New York City on October 18, 1985, and
following up with a full-fledged North American release in February of
the following year. The nationwide release was in September 1986.
Nintendo released 17 launch titles: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu
Land, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber,
Kung Fu, Pinball, Soccer, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew,
and Super Mario Bros. Some varieties of these launch games contained
Famicom chips with an adapter inside the cartridge so they would play on
North American consoles, which is why the title screen of Gyromite has
the Famicom title "Robot Gyro" and the title screen of Stack-Up has the
Famicom title "Robot Block".
For more details on this topic, see History of the Nintendo Entertainment System § North America.
(Robotic Operating Buddy), an accessory for the NES's 1985 launch.
Although it ended up having a short product lifespan, R.O.B. was
initially used to market the NES as novel and sophisticated compared to
previous game consoles.
The system's launch represented not only a
new product, but also a reframing of the severely damaged home video
game market. The video game market crash of 1983 had occurred in large
part due to a lack of consumer and retailer confidence in video games,
which had been partially due to confusion and misrepresentation in video
game marketing. Prior to the NES, the packaging of many video games
presented bombastic artwork which exaggerated the graphics of the actual
game. In terms of product identity, a single game such as Pac-Man would
appear in many versions on many different game consoles and computers,
with large variations in graphics, sound, and general quality between
the versions. In stark contrast, Nintendo's marketing strategy aimed to
regain consumer and retailer confidence by delivering a singular
platform whose technology was not in need of exaggeration and whose
qualities were clearly defined.
To differentiate Nintendo's new
home platform from the perception of a troubled and shallow video game
market, the company freshened its product nomenclature and established a
strict product approval and licensing policy. The overall system was
referred to as an "Entertainment System" instead of a "video game
system", which was centered upon a machine called a "Control Deck"
instead of a "console", and which featured software cartridges called
"Game Paks" instead of "video games". To deter production of games which
had not been licensed by Nintendo, and to prevent copying, the 10NES
lockout chip system acted as a lock-and-key coupling of each Game Pak
and Control Deck. The packaging of the launch lineup of NES games bore
pictures of close representations of actual onscreen graphics. To reduce
consumer confusion, symbols on the games' packaging clearly indicated
the genre of the game. A 'seal of quality' was printed on all licensed
game and accessory packaging. The initial seal stated, "This seal is
your assurance that Nintendo has approved and guaranteed the quality of
this product". This text was later changed to "Official Nintendo Seal of
For more details on this topic, see Nintendo Entertainment System § Third-party licensing.
with the Famicom, Nintendo of America marketed the console primarily to
children, instituting a strict policy of censoring profanity, sexual,
religious, or political content. The most famous example was Lucasfilm's
attempts to port the comedy-horror game Maniac Mansion to the NES,
which Nintendo insisted be considerably watered down. Nintendo of
America continued their censorship policy until 1994 with the advent of
the Entertainment Software Rating Board system.
Robotic Operating Buddy, or R.O.B., was part of a marketing plan to
portray the NES's technology as being novel and sophisticated when
compared to previous game consoles, and to portray its position as being
within reach of the better established toy market. While at first, the
American public exhibited limited excitement for the console itself,
peripherals such as the light gun and R.O.B. attracted extensive
In Europe, Oceania and Canada, the system was released
to two separate marketing regions. The first consisted of mainland
Europe (excluding Italy) where distribution was handled by a number of
different companies, with Nintendo responsible for most cartridge
releases. Most of this region saw a 1986 release. The release in the
Netherlands was in Q4 of 1987, where it was distributed by Bandai BV. In
1987 Mattel handled distribution for the second region, consisting of
the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.
Not until the 1990s did Nintendo's newly created European branch direct
distribution throughout Europe.
The Nintendo Entertainment System's Control Deck
its complete North American release, the Nintendo Entertainment System
was progressively released over the ensuing years in four different
bundles: the Deluxe Set, the Control Deck, the Action Set and the Power
Set. The Deluxe Set, retailing at US$179.99 (equivalent to $433 in
2016), included R.O.B., a light gun called the NES Zapper, two
controllers, and two Game Paks: Gyromite, and Duck Hunt. The Basic Set
retailed at US$89.99 with no game, and US$99.99 bundled with Super Mario
Bros. The Action Set, retailing in November 1988 for US$149.99, came
with the Control Deck, two game controllers, an NES Zapper, and a dual
Game Pak containing both Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. In 1989, the
Power Set included the console, two game controllers, an NES Zapper, a
Power Pad, and a triple Game Pak containing Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt,
and World Class Track Meet. In 1990, a Sports Set bundle was released,
including the console, an NES Satellite infrared wireless multitap
adapter, four game controllers, and a dual Game Pak containing Super
Spike V'Ball and Nintendo World Cup. Two more bundle packages were later
released using the original model NES console. The Challenge Set of
1992 included the console, two controllers, and a Super Mario Bros. 3
Game Pak for a retail price of US$89.99. The Basic Set, first released
in 1987, was repackaged for a retail US$89.99. It included only the
console and two controllers, and no longer was bundled with a cartridge.
Instead, it contained a book called the Official Nintendo Player's
Guide, which contained detailed information for every NES game made up
to that point.
Finally, the console was redesigned for both the
North American and Japanese markets as part of the final
Nintendo-released bundle package. The package included the new style
NES-101 console, and one redesigned "dogbone" game controller. Released
in October 1993 in North America, this final bundle retailed for
US$49.99 and remained in production until the discontinuation of the NES
By 1988, industry observers stated that
the NES's popularity had grown so quickly that the market for Nintendo
cartridges was larger than that for all home computer software. Compute!
reported in 1989 that Nintendo had sold seven million NES systems in
1988, almost as many as the number of Commodore 64s sold in its first
five years. "Computer game makers [are] scared stiff", the magazine
said, stating that Nintendo's popularity caused most competitors to have
poor sales during the previous Christmas and resulted in serious
financial problems for some.
Comparison of NES from different regions. From top: Japanese Famicom, European NES and American NES
June 1989, Nintendo of America's vice president of marketing Peter
Main, said that the Famicom was present in 37% of Japan's households. By
1990, 30% of American households owned the NES, compared to 23% for all
personal computers. By 1990, the NES had outsold all previously
released consoles worldwide. The slogan for this brand was It can't be
beaten. In Europe and South America, the NES was outsold by Sega's
Master System, while the Nintendo Entertainment System was not available
in the Soviet Union.
As the 1990s dawned, gamers predicted that
competition from technologically superior systems such as the 16-bit
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis would mean the immediate end of the NES’s
dominance. Instead, during the first year of Nintendo's successor
console the Super Famicom (named Super Nintendo Entertainment System
outside Japan), the Famicom remained the second highest-selling video
game console in Japan, outselling the newer and more powerful NEC PC
Engine and Sega Mega Drive by a wide margin. The console remained
popular in Japan and North America until late 1993, when the demand for
new NES software abruptly plummeted. The final Famicom game released in
Japan is Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima IV (Adventure Island IV), while
in North America, Wario's Woods is the final licensed game. The last
game to be released in Europe was The Lion King in 1995. In the wake of
ever decreasing sales and the lack of new software titles, Nintendo of
America officially discontinued the NES by 1995. Nintendo kept producing
new Famicom units in Japan until September 25, 2003, and continued to
repair Famicom consoles until October 31, 2007, attributing the
discontinuation of support to insufficient supplies of parts.
NES was released after the "video game crash" of the early 1980s, when
many retailers and adults regarded electronic games as a passing fad, so
many believed at first that the NES would soon fade. Before the
NES/Famicom, Nintendo was known as a moderately successful Japanese toy
and playing card manufacturer, but the popularity of the NES/Famicom
helped the company grow into an internationally recognized name almost
synonymous with video games and set the stage for Japanese dominance of
the video game industry. With the NES, Nintendo also changed the
relationship between console manufacturers and third-party software
developers by restricting developers from publishing and distributing
software without licensed approval. This led to higher quality software
titles, which helped change the attitude of a public that had grown
weary from poorly produced titles for earlier game systems.
NES hardware was also very influential. Nintendo chose the name
"Nintendo Entertainment System" for the US market and redesigned the
system so it would not give the appearance of a child's toy. The
front-loading cartridge input allowed it to be used more easily in a TV
stand with other entertainment devices, such as a videocassette
The system's hardware limitations led to design
principles that still influence the development of modern video games.
Many prominent game franchises originated on the NES, including
Nintendo's own Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Metroid,
Capcom's Mega Man franchise, Konami's Castlevania franchise, Square's
Final Fantasy, and Enix's Dragon Quest franchises.
especially its controller, has become a popular motif for a variety of
products, including Nintendo's own Game Boy Advance. Clothing,
accessories, and food items adorned with NES-themed imagery are still
produced and sold in stores.
On July 14, 2016, Nintendo announced
the November 2016 launch of a miniature replica of the NES, titled
Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition in the United States
and Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and
Australia. The console includes 30 permanently inbuilt games from
the vintage NES library, including the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend
of Zelda series. The system features HDMI display output and a new
replica controller, which can also connect to the Wii Remote for use
with Virtual Console games. It was discontinued in North America on
April 13, 2017, and worldwide on April 15, 2017.
On August 14, 1995, Nintendo discontinued the Nintendo Entertainment System in both North America and Europe.
The Famicom was originally discontinued in September 2003. Nintendo offered repair service for the Famicom in Japan until 2007.
also: List of Nintendo Entertainment System games, List of Family
Computer games, and List of Family Computer Disk System games
Nintendo Entertainment System offered a number of groundbreaking
titles. Super Mario Bros. pioneered side-scrollers while The Legend of
Zelda helped popularize battery-backed save functionality.
Main article: Nintendo Entertainment System Game Pak
North American and PAL NES cartridges (or "Game Paks") are significantly larger than Japanese Famicom cartridges.
NES uses a 72-pin design, as compared with 60 pins on the Famicom. To
reduce costs and inventory, some early games released in North America
were simply Famicom cartridges attached to an adapter to fit inside the
NES hardware. Originally, NES cartridges were held together with five
small slotted screws. Games released after 1987 were redesigned slightly
to incorporate two plastic clips molded into the plastic itself,
removing the need for the top two screws.
The back of the
cartridge bears a label with handling instructions. Production and
software revision codes were imprinted as stamps on the back label to
correspond with the software version and producer. All licensed NTSC and
PAL cartridges are a standard shade of gray plastic, with the exception
of The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which were
manufactured in gold-plastic carts. Unlicensed carts were produced in
black, robin egg blue, and gold, and are all slightly different shapes
than standard NES cartridges. Nintendo also produced yellow-plastic
carts for internal use at Nintendo Service Centers, although these "test
carts" were never made available for purchase. All licensed US
cartridges were made by Nintendo, Konami and Acclaim. For promotion of
DuckTales: Remastered, Capcom sent 150 limited-edition gold NES
cartridges with the original game, featuring the Remastered art as the
sticker, to different gaming news agencies. The instruction label on the
back included the opening lyric from the show's theme song, "Life is
like a hurricane".
Japanese (Famicom) cartridges are shaped
slightly differently. Unlike NES games, official Famicom cartridges were
produced in many colors of plastic. Adapters, similar in design to the
popular accessory Game Genie, are available that allow Famicom games to
be played on an NES. In Japan, several companies manufactured the
cartridges for the Famicom. This allowed these companies to develop
their own customized chips designed for specific purposes, such as chips
that increased the quality of sound in their games.
Famicom Family mark started appearing in games and peripherals released
from 1988 and onward that were approved by Nintendo for compatibility
with official Famicom consoles and derivatives.
monopoly on the home video game market left it with a degree of
influence over the industry. Unlike Atari, which never actively courted
third-party developers (and even went to court in an attempt to force
Activision to cease production of Atari 2600 games), Nintendo had
anticipated and encouraged the involvement of third-party software
developers; strictly on Nintendo's terms. Some of the Nintendo
platform-control measures were adopted by later console manufacturers
such as Sega, Sony, and Microsoft, although not as stringent.
this end, a 10NES authentication chip was placed in every console and
another was placed in every officially licensed cartridge. If the
console's chip could not detect a counterpart chip inside the cartridge,
the game would not load. Nintendo portrayed these measures as intended
to protect the public against poor-quality games, and placed a golden
seal of approval on all licensed games released for the system.
was not as restrictive as Sega, which did not permit third-party
publishing until Mediagenic in late summer 1988. Nintendo's intention
was to reserve a large part of NES game revenue for itself. Nintendo
required that it be the sole manufacturer of all cartridges, and that
the publisher had to pay in full before the cartridges for that game be
produced. Cartridges could not be returned to Nintendo, so publishers
assumed all the risk. As a result, some publishers lost more money due
to distress sales of remaining inventory at the end of the NES era than
they ever earned in profits from sales of the games. Because Nintendo
controlled the production of all cartridges, it was able to enforce
strict rules on its third-party developers, which were required to sign a
contract by Nintendo that would obligate these parties to develop
exclusively for the system, order at least 10,000 cartridges, and only
make five games per year. A 1988 shortage of DRAM and ROM chips also
reportedly caused Nintendo to only permit 25% of publishers' requests
for cartridges. This was an average figure, with some publishers
receiving much higher amounts and others almost none. GameSpy noted that
Nintendo's "iron-clad terms" made the company many enemies during the
1980s. Some developers tried to circumvent the five game limit by
creating additional company brands like Konami's Ultra Games label;
others tried circumventing the 10NES chip.
Further information: § Unlicensed games
was accused of antitrust behavior because of the strict licensing
requirements. The United States Department of Justice and several states
began probing Nintendo's business practices, leading to the involvement
of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC conducted
an extensive investigation which included interviewing hundreds of
retailers. During the FTC probe, Nintendo changed the terms of its
publisher licensing agreements to eliminate the two-year rule and other
restrictive terms. Nintendo and the FTC settled the case in April 1991,
with Nintendo required to send vouchers giving a $5 discount off to a
new game, to every person that had purchased a NES title between June
1988 and December 1990. GameSpy remarked that Nintendo's punishment was
particularly weak giving the case's findings, although it has been
speculated that the FTC did not want to damage the video game industry
in the United States.
With the NES near its end of its life many
third-party publishers such as Electronic Arts supported upstart
competing consoles with less strict licensing terms such as the Sega
Genesis and then the PlayStation, which eroded and then took over
Nintendo's dominance in the home console market, respectively. Consoles
from Nintendo's rivals in the post-SNES era had always enjoyed much
stronger third-party support than Nintendo, which relied more heavily on
Companies that refused to
pay the licensing fee or were rejected by Nintendo found ways to
circumvent the console's authentication system. Most of these companies
created circuits that used a voltage spike to temporarily disable the
10NES chip. A few unlicensed games released in Europe and Australia came
in the form of a dongle to connect to a licensed game, in order to use
the licensed game's 10NES chip for authentication. To combat unlicensed
games, Nintendo of America threatened retailers who sold them with
losing their supply of licensed titles and multiple revisions were made
to the NES PCBs to prevent unlicensed games from working.
Games took a different approach with their line of NES products, Tengen.
The company attempted to reverse engineer the lockout chip to develop
its own "Rabbit" chip. Tengen also obtained a description of the lockout
chip from the United States Patent and Trademark Office by falsely
claiming that it was required to defend against present infringement
claims. Nintendo successfully sued Tengen for copyright infringement.
Tengen's antitrust claims against Nintendo were never decided.
Dreams produced Christian video games under the subsidiary name Wisdom
Tree. It was never sued by Nintendo as the company probably feared a
public relations backlash.
Further information: List of video game emulators § Nintendo Entertainment System
NES can be emulated on many other systems, most notably the PC. The
first emulator was the Japanese-only Pasofami. It was soon followed by
iNES, which was available in English and was cross-platform, in 1996. It
was described as being the first NES emulation software that could be
used by a non-expert. NESticle, a popular MS-DOS emulator, was released
on April 3, 1997. There have since been many other emulators. The
Virtual Console for the Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U also offers
emulation of many NES games.
As the Nintendo
Entertainment System grew in popularity and entered millions of American
homes, some small video rental shops began buying their own copies of
NES games, and renting them out to customers for around the same price
as a video cassette rental for a few days. Nintendo received no profit
from the practice beyond the initial cost of their game, and unlike
movie rentals, a newly released game could hit store shelves and be
available for rent on the same day. Nintendo took steps to stop game
rentals, but didn't take any formal legal action until Blockbuster Video
began to make game rentals a large-scale service. Nintendo claimed that
allowing customers to rent games would significantly hurt sales and
drive up the cost of games. Nintendo lost the lawsuit, but did win on a
claim of copyright infringement. Blockbuster was banned from including
original, copyrighted instruction booklets with their rented games. In
compliance with the ruling, Blockbuster produced their own short
instructions—usually in the form of a small booklet, card, or label
stuck on the back of the rental box—that explained the game's basic
premise and controls. Video rental shops continued the practice of
renting video games and still do today.
There were some risks
with renting cartridge-based games. Most rental shops did not clean the
connectors and they would become dirty over time. Renting and using a
cartridge with dirty connectors posed a problem for consoles, especially
the Nintendo Entertainment System which was particularly susceptible to
operation problems and failures when its internal connectors became
dirty (see the Design flaws section below).
the Japanese Famicom, North American and European NES versions included
essentially the same hardware, there were certain key differences among
The original Japanese Famicom was predominantly
white plastic, with dark red trim. It featured a top-loading cartridge
slot, grooves on both sides of the deck in which the hardwired game
controllers could be placed when not in use, and a 15-pin expansion port
located on the unit's front panel for accessories.
NES, meanwhile, featured a front-loading cartridge covered by a small,
hinged door that can be opened to insert or remove a cartridge and
closed at other times. It features a more subdued gray, black, and red
color scheme. An expansion port was found on the bottom of the unit and
the cartridge connector pinout was changed.
In the UK, Italy and
Australia which share the PAL A region, two versions of the NES were
released; the "Mattel Version" and "NES Version". When the NES was first
released in those countries, it was distributed by Mattel and Nintendo
decided to use a lockout chip specific to those countries, different
from the chip used in other European countries. When Nintendo took over
European distribution in 1990, it produced consoles that were then
labelled "NES Version"; therefore, the only differences between the two
are the text on the front flap and texture on the top/bottom of the
The NES-101 control deck alongside its similarly redesigned NES-039 game controller.
October 1993, Nintendo redesigned the NES to follow many of the same
design cues as the newly introduced Super Nintendo Entertainment System
and the Japanese Super Famicom. Like the SNES, the NES-101 model loaded
cartridges through a covered slot on top of the unit replacing the
complicated mechanism of the earlier design. For this reason the NES-101
is known informally as the "top-loader" among Nintendo fans.
The HVC-101 control deck alongside its similarly redesigned HVC-102 game controller.
December 1993, the Famicom received a similar redesign. It also loads
cartridges through a covered slot on the top of the unit and uses
non-hardwired controllers. Because HVC-101 used composite video output
instead of being RF only like the HVC-001, Nintendo marketed the newer
model as the AV Famicom (AV仕様ファミコン Eibui Shiyō Famikon). Since the new
controllers don't have microphones on them like the second controller on
the original console, certain games such as the Disk System version of
The Legend of Zelda and Raid on Bungeling Bay will have certain tricks
that cannot be replicated when played on an HVC-101 Famicom without a
modded controller. The HVC-101 Famicom is compatible with most NES
controllers due to having the same controller port. In
October 1987, Nintendo had also released a 3D graphic capable headset
called the Famicom 3D System (HVC-031). This peripheral accessory was
never released outside Japan.
The VCR-like loading
mechanism of the NES led to problems over time. The design wore
connector pins out quickly and could easily become dirty, resulting in
difficulties with the NES reading game carts.
released the NES in the US, the design styling was deliberately
different from that of other game consoles. Nintendo wanted to
distinguish its product from those of competitors and to avoid the
generally poor reputation that game consoles had acquired following the
video game crash of 1983. One result of this philosophy was to disguise
the cartridge slot design as a front-loading zero insertion force (ZIF)
cartridge socket, designed to resemble the front-loading mechanism of a
VCR. The newly designed connector worked quite well when both the
connector and the cartridges were clean and the pins on the connector
were new. Unfortunately, the ZIF connector was not truly zero insertion
force. When a user inserted the cartridge into the NES, the force of
pressing the cartridge down and into place bent the contact pins
slightly, as well as pressing the cartridge’s ROM board back into the
cartridge itself. Frequent insertion and removal of cartridges caused
the pins to wear out from repeated usage over the years and the ZIF
design proved more prone to interference by dirt and dust than an
industry-standard card edge connector. These design issues were not
alleviated by Nintendo’s choice of materials; the console slot nickel
connector springs would wear due to design and the game cartridge copper
connectors were also prone to tarnishing. Many players would try to
alleviate issues in the game caused by this corrosion by blowing into
the cartridges, then reinserting them, which actually hurt the copper
connectors by speeding up the tarnishing.
authentication chip contributed to the system's reliability problems.
The circuit was ultimately removed from the remodeled NES 2.
Famicom contained no lockout hardware and, as a result, unlicensed
cartridges (both legitimate and bootleg) were extremely common
throughout Japan and the Far East. The original NES (but not the
top-loading NES-101) contained the 10NES lockout chip, which
significantly increased the challenges faced by unlicensed developers.
Tinkerers at home in later years discovered that disassembling the NES
and cutting the fourth pin of the lockout chip would change the chip’s
mode of operation from "lock" to "key", removing all effects and greatly
improving the console’s ability to play legal games, as well as
bootlegs and converted imports. NES consoles sold in different regions
had different lockout chips, so games marketed in one region would not
work on consoles from another region. Known regions are: USA/Canada
(3193 lockout chip), most of Europe (3195), Asia (3196) and UK, Italy
and Australia (3197). Since two types of lockout chip were used in
Europe, European NES game boxes often had an "A" or "B" letter on the
front, indicating whether the game is compatible with
UK/Italian/Australian consoles (A), or the rest of Europe (B).
Rest-of-Europe games typically had text on the box stating "This game is
not compatible with the Mattel or NES versions of the Nintendo
Entertainment System". Similarly, UK / Italy / Australia games stated
"This game is only compatible with the Mattel or NES versions of the
Nintendo Entertainment System".
Pirate cartridges for the NES
were rare, but Famicom ones were common and widespread in Asia. Most
were produced in Hong Kong or Taiwan, and they usually featured a
variety of small (32k or less) games which were selected from a menu and
bank switched. Some were also hacks of existing games (especially Super
Mario Bros.), and a few were cartridge conversions of Famicom Disk
System titles such as the Japanese SMB2.
Problems with the 10NES
lockout chip frequently resulted in the console's most infamous problem:
the blinking red power light, in which the system appears to turn
itself on and off repeatedly because the 10NES would reset the console
once per second. The lockout chip required constant communication with
the chip in the game to work. Dirty, aging and bent connectors would
often disrupt the communication, resulting in the blink effect.
Alternatively, the console would turn on but only show a solid white,
gray, or green screen. Users attempted to solve this problem by blowing
air onto the cartridge connectors, inserting the cartridge just far
enough to get the ZIF to lower, licking the edge connector, slapping the
side of the system after inserting a cartridge, shifting the cartridge
from side to side after insertion, pushing the ZIF up and down
repeatedly, holding the ZIF down lower than it should have been, and
cleaning the connectors with alcohol. These attempted solutions often
became notable in their own right and are often remembered alongside the
NES. Many of the most frequent attempts to fix this problem instead ran
the risk of damaging the cartridge and/or system. In
1989, Nintendo released an official NES Cleaning Kit to help users clean
malfunctioning cartridges and consoles.
With the release of the
top-loading NES-101 (NES 2) toward the end of the NES's lifespan,
Nintendo resolved the problems by switching to a standard card edge
connector and eliminating the lockout chip. All of the Famicom systems
used standard card edge connectors, as did Nintendo’s subsequent game
consoles, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Nintendo 64.
response to these hardware flaws, "Nintendo Authorized Repair Centers"
sprang up across the U.S. According to Nintendo, the authorization
program was designed to ensure that the machines were properly repaired.
Nintendo would ship the necessary replacement parts only to shops that
had enrolled in the authorization program. In practice, the
authorization process consisted of nothing more than paying a fee to
Nintendo for the privilege. In a recent[when?] trend, many sites have
sprung up to offer Nintendo repair parts, guides, and services that
replace those formerly offered by the authorized repair centers.
Famicom 3D System
released a 3D headset peripheral called Famicom 3D System for 3D
stereoscopic entertainment. This was never released outside Japan, since
it was an utter commercial failure, making gamers experience headaches
Nintendo released a modem peripheral
called Famicom Modem. This was not intended for children. Instead,
adults would use it for gambling horse races, set stocking dates, use
their bank, and more.
The motherboard of the NES. The two largest chips are the Ricoh-produced CPU and PPU.
its central processing unit (CPU), the NES uses an 8-bit microprocessor
produced by Ricoh based on a MOS Technology 6502 core.
contains 2 kB of onboard work RAM. A game cartridge may contain expanded
RAM to increase this amount. The size of NES games varies from 8 kB
(Galaxian) to 1 MB (Metal Slader Glory), but 128 to 384 kB was the most
The NES uses a custom-made Picture Processing Unit
(PPU) developed by Ricoh. All variations of the PPU feature 2 kB of
video RAM, 256 bytes of on-die "object attribute memory" (OAM) to store
the positions, colors, and tile indices of up to 64 sprites on the
screen, and 28 bytes of on-die palette RAM to allow selection of
background and sprite colors. The console's 2 kB of onboard RAM may be
used for tile maps and attributes on the NES board and 8 kB of tile
pattern ROM or RAM may be included on a cartridge. The system has an
available color palette of 48 colors and 6 grays. Up to 25 simultaneous
colors may be used without writing new values mid-frame: a background
color, four sets of three tile colors and four sets of three sprite
colors. The NES palette is based on NTSC rather than RGB values. A total
of 64 sprites may be displayed onscreen at a given time without
reloading sprites mid-screen. The standard display resolution of the NES
is 256 horizontal pixels by 240 vertical pixels.
connections varied from one model of the console to the next. The
original HVC-001 model of the Family Computer featured only radio
frequency (RF) modulator output. When the console was released in North
America and Europe, support for composite video through RCA connectors
was added in addition to the RF modulator. The HVC-101 model of the
Famicom dropped the RF modulator entirely and adopted composite video
output via a proprietary 12-pin "multi-out" connector first introduced
for the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Conversely,
the North American re-released NES-101 model most closely resembled the
original HVC-001 model Famicom, in that it featured RF modulator output
only. Finally, the PlayChoice-10 utilized an inverted RGB video output.
stock NES supports a total of five sound channels, two of which are
pulse channels with 4 pulse width settings, one is a triangle wave
generator, another is a noise generator (often used for percussion), and
the 5th one plays low-quality digital samples.
The NES supports
expansion chips contained in certain cartridges to add sound channels
and help with data processing. Developers can add these chips to their
games, such as the Konami VRC6, Konami VRC7, Sunsoft 5B, Namco 163, and
two more by Nintendo itself: the Nintendo FDS wave generator (a modified
Ricoh RP2C33 chip with single-cycle wave table-lookup sound support),
and the Nintendo Memory Management Controller 5 (MMC5).
Further information: Memory management controller
See also: List of Nintendo Entertainment System accessories
addition to featuring a revised color scheme that matched the more
subdued tones of the console itself, NES controllers could be unplugged.
They nevertheless lacked the microphone featured in Famicom
The game controller used for both the
NES and the Famicom featured an oblong brick-like design with a simple
four button layout: two round buttons labeled "A" and "B", a "START"
button and a "SELECT" button. Additionally, the controllers utilized the
cross-shaped joypad, designed by Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi for
Nintendo Game & Watch systems, to replace the bulkier joysticks on
earlier gaming consoles’ controllers.
The original model Famicom
featured two game controllers, both of which were hardwired to the back
of the console. The second controller lacked the START and SELECT
buttons, but featured a small microphone. Relatively few games made use
of this feature. The earliest produced Famicom units initially had
square A and B buttons. This was changed to the circular designs
because of the square buttons being caught in the controller casing when
pressed down and glitches within the hardware causing the system to
freeze occasionally while playing a game.
The NES dropped the
hardwired controllers, instead featuring two custom 7-pin ports on the
front of the console. Also in contrast to the Famicom, the controllers
included with the NES were identical and swappable, and neither
controller possessed the microphone that was present on the Famicom
model. Both controllers included the START and SELECT buttons, allowing
some NES localizations of games, such as The Legend of Zelda, to use the
START button on the second controller to save the game without dying
first. However, the NES controllers lacked the microphone, which was
used on the Famicom version of Zelda to kill certain enemies.
The NES Zapper, a light gun accessory
number of special controllers designed for use with specific games were
released for the system, though very few such devices proved
particularly popular. Such devices included, but were not limited to,
the Zapper (a light gun), the R.O.B., and the Power Pad. The original
Famicom featured a deepened DA-15 expansion port on the front of the
unit, which was used to connect most auxiliary devices. On the NES,
these special controllers were generally connected to one of the two
control ports on the front of the console.
Nintendo also made two
turbo controllers for the NES called NES Advantage and the NES Max.
Both controllers had a Turbo feature, a feature where one tap of the
button represented multiple taps. This feature allowed players to shoot
much faster during shooter games. The NES Advantage had two knobs that
adjusted the firing rate of the turbo button from quick to Turbo, as
well as a "Slow" button that slowed down the game by rapidly pausing the
game. The "Slow" button did not work with games that had a pause menu
or pause screen and can interfere with jumping and shooting. The NES Max
also had the Turbo Feature, but it was not adjustable, in contrast with
the Advantage. It also did not have the "Slow" button. Its wing-like
shape made it easier to hold than the Advantage and it also improved on
the joystick. Turbo features were also featured on the NES Satellite,
the NES Four Score, and the U-Force. Other accessories include the Power
Pad and the Power Glove, which was featured in the movie The Wizard.
the end of the NES's lifespan, upon the release of the AV Famicom and
the top-loading NES 2, the design of the game controllers was modified
slightly. Though the original button layout was retained, the redesigned
device abandoned the brick shell in favor of a dog bone shape. In
addition, the AV Famicom joined its international counterpart and
dropped the hardwired controllers in favor of detachable controller
ports. The controllers included with the Famicom AV had cables which
were 90 cm (3 feet) long, compared to the standard 180 cm (6 feet) of
The original NES controller has become one of
the most recognizable symbols of the console. Nintendo has mimicked the
look of the controller in several other products, from promotional
merchandise to limited edition versions of the Game Boy Advance.
The Japanese Famicom has BASIC support with the Family BASIC keyboard.
number of peripheral devices and software packages were released for
the Famicom. Few of these devices were ever released outside Japan.
BASIC is an implementation of BASIC for the Famicom, packaged with a
keyboard. Similar in concept to the Atari 2600 BASIC cartridge, it
allows the user to program their own games, which can be saved on an
included cassette recorder. Nintendo of America rejected releasing
Famicom BASIC in the US because it did not think it fit their primary
marketing demographic of children.
The Famicom Modem connected a
Famicom to a now defunct proprietary network in Japan which provided
content such as financial services. A dialup modem was never released
Family Computer Disk System
The Famicom Disk System was a
peripheral available only for the Japanese Famicom that used games
stored on "Disk Cards" with a 3" Quick Disk mechanism.
Main article: Family Computer Disk System
See also: Memory management controller § Famicom Disk System
1986, Nintendo released the Famicom Disk System (FDS) in Japan, a type
of floppy drive that uses a single-sided, proprietary 5 cm (2") disk and
plugs into the cartridge port. It contains RAM for the game to load
into and an extra single-cycle wavetable-lookup sound chip. The disks
were originally obtained from kiosks in malls and other public places
where buyers could select a title and have it written to the disk. This
process would cost less than cartridges and users could take the disk
back to a vending booth and have it rewritten with a new game. The disks
were used both for storing the game and saving progress and total
capacity was 128k (64k per side).
Further information: Family Computer Disk System § Disk Writer and Disk Fax kiosks
variety of games for the FDS were released by Nintendo (including some
like Super Mario Bros. which had already been released on cartridge) and
third party companies such as Konami and Taito. A few unlicensed titles
were made as well. Its limitations became quickly apparent as larger
ROM chips were introduced, allowing cartridges with greater than 128k of
space. More advanced memory management chips (MMC) soon appeared and
the FDS quickly became obsolete. Nintendo also charged developers
considerable amounts of money to produce FDS games, and many refused to
develop for it, instead continuing to make cartridge titles. Many FDS
disks have no dust covers (except in some unlicensed and bootleg
variants) and are easily prone to getting dirt on the media. In
addition, the drive uses a belt which breaks frequently and requires
invasive replacement. After only two years, the FDS was discontinued,
although vending booths remained in place until 1993 and Nintendo
continued to service drives, and to rewrite and offer replacement disks
Nintendo of America initially planned to bring the
FDS to the United States, but rejected the idea after considering the
numerous problems encountered with them in Japan. Many FDS games such as
Castlevania, Zelda, and Bubble Bobble were sold in the US as cartridge
titles, with simplified sound and the disk save function replaced by
passwords or battery save systems.
of NES hardware remained in production for many years after the original
had been discontinued. Some clones play cartridges from multiple
systems, such as this FC Twin that plays NES and SNES games.
Main article: Nintendo Entertainment System hardware clone
thriving market of unlicensed NES hardware clones emerged during the
climax of the console's popularity. Initially, such clones were popular
in markets where Nintendo never issued a legitimate version of the
console. In particular, the Dendy (Russian: Де́нди), an unlicensed
hardware clone produced in Taiwan and sold in the former Soviet Union,
emerged as the most popular video game console of its time in that
setting and it enjoyed a degree of fame roughly equivalent to that
experienced by the NES/Famicom in North America and Japan. A Famicom
clone was marketed in Argentina under the name of "Family Game",
resembling the original hardware design. The Micro Genius (Simplified
Chinese: 小天才) was marketed in Southeast Asia as an alternative to the
Famicom; Samurai was the popular PAL alternative to the NES; and in
Central Europe, especially Poland, the Pegasus was available. Samurai
was also available in India in early 90s which was the first instance of
console gaming in India.
The RetroUSB AVS, an FPGA-based hardware clone of the NES that outputs 720p via HDMI.
unlicensed clone market has flourished following Nintendo's
discontinuation of the NES. Some of the more exotic of these resulting
systems have gone beyond the functionality of the original hardware and
have included variations such as a portable system with a color LCD
(e.g. PocketFami). Others have been produced with certain specialized
markets in mind, such as an NES clone that functions as a rather
primitive personal computer, which includes a keyboard and basic word
processing software. These unauthorized clones have been helped by the
invention of the so-called NES-on-a-chip.
As was the case with
unlicensed software titles, Nintendo has typically gone to the courts to
prohibit the manufacture and sale of unlicensed cloned hardware. Many
of the clone vendors have included built-in copies of licensed Nintendo
software, which constitutes copyright infringement in most countries.
most hardware clones were not produced under license by Nintendo,
certain companies were granted licenses to produce NES-compatible
devices. The Sharp Corporation produced at least two such clones: the
Twin Famicom and the SHARP 19SC111 television. The Twin Famicom was
compatible with both Famicom cartridges and Famicom Disk System disks.
It was available in two colors (red and black) and used hardwired
controllers (as did the original Famicom), but it featured a different
case design. The SHARP 19SC111 television was a television which
included a built-in Famicom. A similar licensing deal was reached with
Hyundai Electronics, who licensed the system under the name Comboy in
the South Korean market. This deal with Hyundai was made necessary
because of the South Korean government's wide ban on all Japanese
"cultural products", which remained in effect until 1998 and ensured
that the only way Japanese products could legally enter the South Korean
market was through licensing to a third-party (non-Japanese)
distributor (see also Japan–Korea disputes).
NES Test Station
NES Test station (Lower Left), SNES counter tester (Lower Right), SNES
test cart (Upper Right), And the original TV that came with the unit
The NES Test Station was a diagnostics machine for the Nintendo Entertainment System introduced in 1988.
was a NES-based unit designed for testing NES hardware, components and
games. It was only provided for use in World of Nintendo boutiques as
part of the Nintendo World Class Service program. Visitors were to bring
items to test with the station, and could be assisted by a store
technician or employee.
The NES Test Station's front features a
Game Pak slot and connectors for testing various components (AC adapter,
RF switch, Audio/Video cable, NES Control Deck, accessories and games),
with a centrally-located selector knob to choose which component to
test. The unit itself weighs approximately 11.7 pounds without a TV. It
connects to a television via a combined A/V and RF Switch cable. By
actuating the green button, a user can toggle between an A/V Cable or RF
Switch connection. The television it is connected to (typically 11" to
14") is meant to be placed atop it.
At the front of the Test
Station are three colored switches, from left to right: a green switch
for alternating between A/V and RF connections when testing an NES
Control Deck, a blue Reset switch, and an illuminated red Power switch.
The system can test:
NES test station AC adapter Pass or Fail test demonstration.
Game Paks (When set to this, the test station would run like a normal NES.)
Control Deck and Accessories (NES controllers, the NES Zapper, R.O.B. and Power Pad)
Upon connecting an RF, AV, or AC adapter to the test station, the system displays a 'Pass' or 'Fail' result.
was a manual included with the test station to help the user understand
how to use the equipment, or how to make repairs. The manual came in a
black binder with a Nintendo World Class Service logo on the front.
Nintendo ordered the older manuals destroyed when an updated manual was
issued, due to the manuals' confidential content.
Nintendo provided an add-on called the "Super NES Counter Tester" that
tests Super Nintendo components and games. The SNES Counter Tester is a
standard SNES on a metal fixture with the connection from the back of
the SNES re-routed to the front of the unit. These connections may be
made directly to the test station or to the TV, depending on what is to