Nintendo is the odd duck of the gaming industry. As Sony and Microsoft run forward as fast as they can, Nintendo is prancing to the left, picking flowers as it goes. It simply does things differently. With Nintendo, the gimmicks they employ when creating their consoles can either make or break them. As such, it is appropriate that we rank each Nintendo console, solely based on the gimmicks they employ. As such, we won’t be ranking the SNES, GameCube and Game Boy Advance, as they were more focused on iterating, without introducing anything too crazy. Without further ado, let’s jump into the rankings.
The NES is a bit of a weird case due to the climate it was released in. Essentially, the NES was forced to market itself as a toy due to the video game crash that almost killed the industry as a whole. Thus, the gimmick was packing in R.O.B. The Robot with every NES. While it clearly was a success, the NES was a massive hit, R.O.B. really only worked with like, two games. He sure was cute though. And hey, he made it into Smash Bros., where his entire race was essentially forced kamikaze fighters in Subspace Emissary. Okay, I guess that isn’t that good. While it wasn’t the biggest gimmick, it was a fun one.
The 3DS’s gimmick didn’t work for 80% of its lifespan. And then when it did work everyone stopped using it. Okay, interesting. By the time that the gimmick was refined with the New 3DS, nobody used it anymore, even the first party studios. Okay? Basically, the 3DS’s gimmick had potential, but nobody tapped into it to make use of it. Pokémon games ran at a cool 6 FPS when using 3D before they dropped it entirely. Such wasted potential. I mean at least it’s better than the Virtual Boy. Yeah we aren’t ranking her either. She’s in extra last place.
6 Wii U
Ahhhh, the Wii U. Miss you bae. If this system had a name that wasn’t the Wii U and was marketed correctly, it maybe could have sold more than one unit a month. The gimmick with the Wii U was the Switch Jr.- I mean the gamepad. The gamepad could be used any way that a developer wanted, either for offscreen play or for item management. There were other uses, but come on there were only two uses. Truly, developers didn’t know what to do with it, and the system didn’t sell anyway, so why keep trying to figure out what to do with it? While games like Nintendo Land used the gimmick well, those cases were too few and far between (just like the amount of times we actually got games on the system).
5 Game Boy
The Game Boy's major gimmick was a big one, mobile gaming. The Game Boy was the first system to make gaming on the go affordable and accessible. Sure, it certainly wasn't the most powerful console on the market, but it made handheld systems something that stuck. It was the first console to allow Sony's handhelds to sell 1/265 of Nintendo's, so that's certainly an achievement. The Game Boy was certainly not without its problems (it was on the go gaming that couldn't be played anywhere at all that had or lacked any sort of light source), but it made handheld gaming become a viable market that would still exist to this day. It also gave us Pokémon, and no matter how angry y'all are about that tree, that is absolutely something that deserves celebrating. And Wario. Not as good but still.
The DS line took everything that the Game Boy did and punched it right up to eleven. The system capitalized on touch screen controls, featuring two screens. The bottom screen was completely touch-enabled, allowing for basically any control scheme the developers wanted to be implemented. The DS was a huge jump for the handheld gaming industry, allowing for all sorts of different titles to come to Nintendo’s handheld platform. The system also featured backward compatibility with the Game Boy in its original incarnation, giving players a massive library to play with from the beginning. The original DS would set the standard for Nintendo handheld devices until 2017 when a brand new machine came into play.
The console that even got your grandma hooked, the Wii was the start of the motion control boom (and almost immediate collapse that followed in five seconds) that captivated the gaming industry. Say what you want about the system, there are certainly a whole lot of negatives (shovelwareshovelwareshovel-), but this system was absolutely revolutionary. Selling over 100 million units was huge, and games like Mario Kart Wii continue to be played to this day. With classics such as Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword and Action Girlz Racing, the possibilities of what to play on the Wii are completely endless.
The Nintendo 64’s big gimmick was also 3D gaming (done well), along with multiplayer. Both of these features existed in very limited ways before the system was created, but the Nintendo 64 expanded both. Most marquee titles for the system were in full 3D, while also being ya know, low-key revolutionary. Along with that, multiplayer games that weren’t simply pass-and-play finally made an impact with the Nintendo 64. Overall, the Nintendo 64’s massive influence over the industry due to the power of its gimmicks make it a force to be reckoned with.
The Nintendo Switch took the bold step to unify the handheld and console Nintendo machines and did it absolutely perfectly. With the Nintendo Switch, the console can be played in docked mode, on a TV screen, or in handheld mode. With the detachable Joy-Con controllers, anyone can jump into a game with you. The system is lightweight, compact, snappy, and, well it works. The concept that the Wii U failed to fulfill on is now fully realized with the Switch, and boy is it a great concept. This is what makes the Switch the best machine Nintendo has created in terms of gimmicks.