Since their beginnings, when Donkey Kong became the sensational sleeper hit that everyone was talking about, Nintendo has created lovable characters and family friendly games. When it comes to memorable and timeless video game characters, few companies can offer up rivals to match the sweetness, longevity, and pure adoration that fans attribute to many of the longest surviving Nintendo characters.
With Nintendo having pulled in over 12 billion in sales associated with its lovable Italian plumber Mario alone, and the recent release of their new Nintendo DS, it’s safe to say that they’ve touched popular culture deeply. Whether you’re a hardcore gaming geek or even a borderline technophobe, you’re probably familiar with some of the following long-lasting characters. Let’s take a look at some of these famous cultural icons of the digital world, most of whom have undergone serious transformations along the way.
Nearly as popular as his arch-nemesis Mario, Bowser has filtered through the dark side of the Mario series in almost every incarnation of the game. He’s the character that’s easy to hate, but only in the most lovable of ways.
Most resembling a turtle gone bad, Bowser might be evil and greedy, and often out to kidnap Princess Peach, but he’s still creating soft spots in gamer’s hearts. He’s the villain the majority of people would prefer to have as a friend. That’s so much so that you might just see a Bowser replica stashed amongst someone’s Ninja Turtle collection!
Rescuing Princess Peach is as much a part of many people’s collective consciousness as is taking a shower each day. In fact, more than you’d imagine might well confess to having skipped a few showers along the way so that they could keep playing a marathon session to rescue her!
So famous is her damsel in distress routine that you’d swear there were hints of her character in virtually every Hollywood movie where a hapless maiden awaits the rescue of a suave suitor.
It can be easy to confuse people’s Halloween costumes sometimes, particularly when they try to dress up as Link, the main protagonist in Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda. That’s because his appearance is reminiscent of the much older legend, Robin Hood.
But with his sword and arrows, Link has managed to enthrall millions of players who wanted to delve into a rescue-the-fair-maiden themed game. Perhaps most memorable for his ‘regular-boy style,’ Link has long been a character that’s very easy to identify with. That might explain why he’s still seen on backpacks across age ranges at schools!
Whether it’s evil Orcs from the Lord of the Rings, or Ganon from The Legend of Zelda, evil has an ugly face! Don’t be surprised if the evil villain you encounter at your next Mardi Gras dress up party is Ganon, aiming to achieve dominion over all! While already strong and powerful, his character has always fallen victim to the rhetorical question, “What do all men with power want? More power.”
That’s Ganon to a T, whose lust for power is never satisfied while the game is turned on. So deep is his lust for complete dominion that you’d be forgiven for thinking he might have originally been based upon the real world Napoleon Bonaparte! However, with his dark armor, cape, and thick boots, you won’t be accidentally mistaking Ganon for the meticulously French styled Napoleon any time soon.
Synonymous with Nintendo itself, Mario is the name that replaced the original, very bland ‘Jumpman.’ In need of a quick hit to save the company from sure oblivion, Nintendo managed to put out the successful Jumpman in time to save the company. The lovable character that jumped about got his name from the then Nintendo landlord, who stopped by to collect the overdue rent as the game was being produced.
Few stories begin so toughly and end so well! Over 12 billion dollars in sales and licensing revenues later, it’s clear that Nintendo had a true hit with its mustachioed wonder. It’s hard not to think of Mario in daily life, when coverall wearing handymen arrive on the scene to repair anything from a leaky faucet to the potholes in the road!
About as famous worldwide as King Kong, Donkey Kong’s naming origin was less auspicious than King Kong’s arrival in New York City. Donkey Kong means ‘stupid gorilla,’ so it’s not quite a flattering name choice! But without the existence of this particular gorilla, Mario might never have had so many chances to prove his mettle, and thus win so many hearts.
Perhaps because he was a ‘stupid gorilla with a girl’ so similar to King Kong, Donkey Kong is memorable on par with the legendary Empire State building scene that contains the first ‘Kong.’ The damsel in distress routine was never done better than when there was a giant gorilla around!
If creating a large part of video game history is as important to the popular culture as the movies that Hollywood churns out, then one could be forgiven for ascribing Nintendo with nearly as much importance as Hollywood. Future generations will always have those initial, simple 1980’s characters to study in detail, just like old films. But, far more fun than simply watching the characters on a silver screen, the beauty of Nintendo’s efforts is that they created something that can be participated in. And that’s something that creates lasting memories!