13 Things You Didn't Know About Nintendo

Nintendo is one of the oldest and most beloved companies around. Seriously, after 120 years and counting, there are more than 200 Mario games alone and dozens of consoles and handhelds. But did you know that the original Mario and friends celebrated their victories with a bottle of bubbly? Here are 13 things you probably didn't know about (nearly) everyone’s favorite video game company.

1. Way before video games, Nintendo made sexy playing cards.
Most people know that Nintendo started off as a playing card company, but did you know they made cards with sexy pinup models? That fits into Nintendo's history of weird sexual stuff, like the fact that they owned "Love Hotels" at one point and were party to some weird, vaguely pornographic games in the early years of NES.

2. Donkey Kong basically invented jumping.
Mario made his debut in Donkey Kong in the early 1980s as a sprightly fellow by the name of "Jumpman." Why Jumpman you might ask? It's because he was one of the first characters to ever actually jump up in a game. Sounds crazy now, but that was apparently all it took to completely blow someone’s mind in the 1980s.

3. Bushes and clouds are literally the same thing in Super Mario Bros.
The limits of game memory back then led to many, many shortcuts in early Nintendo games. For instance, the distinctive puffy clouds in the original Super Mario Bros are the exact same thing as those little green bushes on the ground. It's not just the bushes and the clouds though; multi-use objects are all over the original Mario universe.

4. Luigi is the lovechild of a Mario and Koopa.
Not literally – that would be gross. But in another shortcut due to limited memory, the Mario designers had to get creative with the second character. They used Mario’s general body shape and the color palette from the yellow and green Koopas to create Luigi. Poor guy can never get out of Mario’s shadow.

5. Game Boy was invented by a janitor.
Okay, so that’s a slight overstatement, but it's not far off. Gunpei Yokoi was working maintenance on the assembly line in a Nintendo factory when company president Hiroshi Yamauchi came around. Yamauchi noticed a toy that Yokoi had built in his spare time. That toy became the Ultra Hand, a best seller for the company, and Yokoi moved from the assembly line to the design suite. Yokoi then turned a boring old calculator into Game & Watch, another huge best seller, and then created the Game Boy: the crown jewel of handheld gaming devices.

6. Duck Hunt was somehow a remake of another shooting game.
Duck Hunt and its iconic zapper pistol are part of the NES legend, but the NES version was based on a different game from 1973 called the Laser Clay Shooting System. Not quite as catchy as "Duck Hunt," but probably just as addictive.

7. Nintendo really thought about making a phone.
Instead of an iPhone or Android, you could have had a, um, Donkey Kong Mobile in your pocket. The idea was a Game Boy merged with a smartphone, which is basically every phone on the market these days. With Nintendo announcing a renewed mobile gaming strategy, maybe a Nintendo phone isn't so far fetched anymore. The company has had its hands in a lot of different projects (they own the Seattle Mariners, for one thing) but a Nintendo phone would've been a game-changer.

8. The NES held the record for most console sales in history all the way through 2006, when Nintendo released the Wii.
For kids who grew up in a Super NES/N64 world, that should be surprising. But the original NES system was the king for decades, until the Wii set the world on fire. The two combined have sold more than 130 million units.

9. Mario has a 27-foot vertical leap.
A fun fact based on some research into Mario’s height in pixels. In the original Super Mario Bros., our portly plumber friend can apparently jump higher than LeBron James and Michael Jordan combined. For reference, Mario could probably touch the rim on three basketball hoops stacked on top of each other. Get that man a Knicks contract!

10. Nintendo made a LEGO ripoff.
LEGO is as iconic as it gets, but Nintendo gave their own interlocking block system a try. It clearly didn't sour any feelings, as myriad LEGO games now exist on Nintendo systems. Bricks can't get in the way of good business.

11. Super Mario Kart featured drinking and driving.
The original Mario and buddies racing game had characters like Bowser and Princess Peach celebrate their victories by pulling out a bottle of champagne and chugging away. Those uptight Americans said “No way!” and so Mario and friends were forced to celebrate sober.

12. More Nintendo DS units have been sold than iPhones or Game Boys.
Here’s one for kids too old for a handheld system: when the DS debuted, it blew all other handhelds out of the water, and continues to do so. It’s sold 125 million units, and has very few signs of slowing down with new versions debuting every few years.

13. Paul Rudd appeared in a power glove commercial.
Besides the cheesy nineties graphics, it looks like Rudd could have recorded that commercial yesterday. He is truly ageless.

Evan Scott Schwartz is the Tech editor for Supercompressor. His favorite Nintendo game of all time is Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball.