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1. Boxy Console Design
After Atari helped kick off the video game crash, Nintendo was scared to make their console look like a game console. This is why they made the NES look like a blocky VCR instead (and even why they called it an “entertainment system” instead of a “game system”).
However, this kicked off decades of ugly, blocky consoles. The new worst offender is the Xbox Series X/S, which has all the aesthetic appeal of a Minecraft block.
2. Misleading Advice
The original Legend of Zelda is...well...legendary. But one of the most annoying aspects of the game is characters telling you “secrets” that are confusing, misleading, or even downright wrong.
This, too, is likely a side effect of bad localization. But this kicked off other games (such as Castlevania II and Zelda II) doing the same thing. It made these games hard to play, and a cynical person might wonder if Nintendo wasn’t trying to force you to subscribe to Nintendo Power to figure out what the hell these games are talking about!
3. Terrible Localization
If you grew up playing NES, then you grew up playing titles with awful localization. And sure, there is a certain charm to insane dialogue such as “a winner is you.” But most of us would prefer an accurate translation.
However, Nintendo proved that bad translations still sell. So Sega would start doing it (Zero Wing, anyone?) and Squaresoft never stopped (hello, Final Fantasy VII). Whenever you shake your head at an awful translation, just remember that Nintendo helped make this popular.
4. Unwieldy Controllers
Nintendo’s original controllers featured a normal design. But starting with the Nintendo 64 and continuing into the GameCube, they started giving us really weird and often uncomfortable controller designs.
This influenced other developers. The Dreamcast controller (with its one analog stick) was clearly modeled after the N64 controller. And while it had two analog sticks, the original Xbox controller seemed inspired by Nintendo’s “make the controller huge and uncomfortable” philosophy.
Fortunately, the ongoing success of Sony helped to normalize sleek and comfortable controllers.
5. Crappy Online Options
Somewhere along the way, online gaming became Nintendo’s Achilles heel. It wasn’t until the Switch that we had online options that are barely acceptable, and you still need to fiddle with friend codes and a smartphone app just to get started.
However, Nintendo has thrived despite its hatred of online gaming. And this led to so many games getting rushed online multiplayer (after all, Nintendo had proven gamers would buy this crap regardless of multiplayer quality). While Nintendo gets points for keeping same-screen multiplayer alive, their weirdness towards online gaming has really held the industry back.
6. Cute Mascots
The idea of a video game mascot seems so natural now. But we didn’t really have popular game mascots until Mario.
Mario is iconic, of course. But he kicked off decades of developers trying to create new “cute” mascots. Bubsy, Ristar, Aero, Gex...you can lay the blame for so many crappy mascots pretty directly at Nintendo’s feet!
7. Bad Game Clones
Ever play mobile games? While there are some great titles out there, the marketplace is littered with awful clone games that are ripping off better titles.
However, Nintendo helped to make game clones both mainstream and popular. As everyone knows by now, the American Super Mario Bros 2 was basically just a reskinned version of Doki Doki Panic. Nintendo proved that clones can succeed at the highest level; is it any wonder the app store is a mess of copycat games?
8. Console Variations
Nowadays, it’s annoying figuring out which game system you want. Do you want a digital-only version of the newest Xbox or PlayStation? Before that, players had to wonder if it was worth buying a “Pro” version of the PS4 or the slightly fancier “Xbox One X” over the “Xbox One.”
This annoying trend arguably goes back to Nintendo. Between different colors and versions of the Game Boy, DS, and 3DS, Nintendo helped prove gamers would keep going back and buying the same product, incentivizing console variations from every company.
9. Scarcity in the Digital Age
It’s never too late for Nintendo to start a terrible trend. And their latest idiotic trend is artificial scarcity in the digital age.
To celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary, the company released Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Switch as well as the addictive battle royale game Super Mario Bros 35. They even released a new Mario-themed Game and Watch. But they decided to stop selling the game and system and even letting players access the new battle royale game.
All of this was a cynical attempt to drive up sales. Sales of things that were going to sell like hotcakes anyway!
10. Official Hatred of Fan Games
Nintendo generally has a very positive reputation. However, they are absolutely notorious for having fan-made video games featuring Nintendo characters taken down. In some cases, they’ll even yank down a type of game and then release their own version (which happened with Super Mario Bros 35).
Sadly, this inspired other companies to do the same. Sega went after the Streets of Rage remake, Konami went after the Metal Gear remake...the list goes on and on, and all inspired by Nintendo’s petty ass.
11. Motion Control
The Nintendo Wii was a surprise hit. And the secret to its success was the unique motion control design.
However, this led to others trying to bite their style in a bad way. For example, PlayStation Move controllers weren’t completely terrible, but they weren’t great, either (just ask a PSVR player). And the Kinect ended up being useless for anything except verbally pausing Netflix.
12. Promotional “Journalism”
Most gamers of a certain age have a soft spot for Nintendo Power. But this magazine is arguably how Nintendo basically destroyed games journalism.
Nintendo had their own colorful magazine that was dedicated to telling you to buy as many Nintendo products as possible. Obviously, Nintendo had first access to all new games developers made. And this kicked off the trend of modern developers withholding access to video games if a review site dares to give a rating that’s too low for their new AAA game.
13. Flashy (But Useless) Accessories
While game accessories existed before Nintendo, they helped make accessories more mainstream. Sadly, though, they also helped make completely useless accessories a part of gaming culture.
The most infamous of these accessories was, of course, the Power Glove. And Nintendo’s competitors would follow, with Sega giving us things like the Activator and even the Video Jukebox VJ.
14. Simple Portable Games
Nintendo helped define portable gaming with the release of the GameBoy. Along the way, though, they started a trend of portable games being overly simple.
Beyond some fun, first-party games, the GameBoy had a lot of shovelware that was barely better or more advanced than a Tiger Electronics game. Many of GameBoy’s would-be competitors followed, and it arguably wouldn’t be until the Sony PSP that we regularly got handheld games with depth and complexity.
15. Blurring the Lines of Games and Collectibles
On paper, Amiibo is a pretty cool idea. In practice, they have been a real pain in the ass. Bad distribution and supply made certain Amiibo hard to track down, meaning you couldn’t access certain features in your favorite games without spending a small fortune on the secondary market.
Nintendo basically blurred the line between playing games and hunting down collectibles. This arguably made in-game loot boxes more popular (incentivizing players to shell out cash for things like character skins) while encouraging companies like Thinkgeek to start selling Totaku Figures based on popular game characters.