Monday, August 24, 2020

The Famicom Rides Again


These are some happy Famicom games inside a happy Famicom.  

They have an interesting story which began back in the 80s.  A mom and dad  bought them for children who had seen them on the shelf in the toy section of their local department store.  Ice Climber  came first, SMB 3 a couple years later.  The kids loved them and played for hours.  They had pride of place in the family home, the Famicom nestled beneath the big TV in the living room.  The kids would invite their friends over to play and Famicom parties would follow.

Famicom games love being the centre of kids' attention.  This happy state continued for a few years.

Then something horrible happened.  The kids grew older.  They no longer loved Ice Climber and SMB 3.   Neighborhood kids no longer came by to play together. They stopped playing games altogether as they became teenagers.  The Famicom lost its prized position beneath the living room TV, replaced by a VCR. 

The Famicom and the games went into a box, which went into a closet to collect dust.

Years passed.  The kids became adults and left home.  The parents, now older, cleared out the junk that their kids had left behind, including the Famicom and games which they disposed of at a big recycling shop.  

They passed around the second hand market in limbo for a while, getting mixed in with other games similarly discarded by other families.  Eventually a  man in his 30s who was collecting Famicom games bought them and brought them to his home.

But this wasn't a reprieve.  They gathered dust in a box on his shelf for several years.  The man had too many games and too little time to spend playing most of them.  The games remained sad and lonely, reflecting on the good old days when they were the centre of childhood attention.

One day the man and his wife had a baby boy.  They loved him very much.  Three years after that, they had a baby girl.  They loved her very much too.  They made a happy family.

But the Famicom games continued to collect dust in a box. The man had even less time for them now that he was a father.

Then a couple of years later, a deadly pandemic swept the globe, terrifying people and forcing them to stay home.  The man's little boy and little girl couldn't go to school, couldn't play with other children, or even go to the playground.  This made them sad.

The man, wanting to make his kids happy, thought of what he could do.  He remembered the dusty box with the Famicom games in them.  He brought it down from the closet, blew the dust off and carried it down to the living room.

The boy and girl became excited.  What did their father have for them?

"I think you'll like this!"  he told them as he cleared a spot under their living room TV to put the Famicom.

The kids jumped around in excitement.

The man  turned the TV on, blew on the connectors for Ice Climber, put it in the slot and flipped the red switch.

Nothing happened of course.  You can't just toss a Famicom cart that hasn't been played in decades in and expect it to work the first time.  But after a few tries the man found the exact right position for the cart in the slot and the game worked.

The kids were by now almost literally bouncing themselves off of walls in excitement.  

"This is a Famicom" the man said to the boy "lets play".

And with that, the story of the Famicom and the games had come full circle.  Today they again sit under a living room TV, and are the  most beloved plaything of little kids once more.  

The End.


As I mentioned back in April, I pulled my Famicom and a few games out of the closet and gave them to my kids (mainly my son since he's old enough) to play with while they were stuck indoors with a lot of time on their hands.  That was four months ago and the Famicom has basically spent the summer of 2020 as the Most Amazing Thing Ever in my house, which I think is really neat.  Its probably been a while since a Famicom has been so loved, so I wanted to do a post about that.

I've given my kids about 20 carts including a lot of the classics (all the Mario games, Donkey Kong, Adventure Island, Ice Climber, Galaxian, Pac Man, etc) and my son especially loves them. My daughter likes SMB USA because it is pink.

The neat thing about giving kids a game system with colorful carts is that the carts themselves become toys.  We keep them to a 1 hour limit of game time per day, and always make sure they play with one of us (usually me) so that the Famicom is a socializing activity rather than an isolating one.  The games don't just sit there when they aren't being played though, they become cogs in the larger Lego and other block related toy ecosystem that exists in our home.  

My son loves to construct levels in an imaginary game with them.  This one is a water world, inspired by the ones in SMB and SMB 3:

He also likes to use them to construct streets that he can race cars on:

This here is a Famicom cart maze he built for Lego mini figs to go through:

Its been really fun watching all of this unfold, and even participating in it, over the summer.  

I'm not sure how long it will last.  The big difference between kids in the 80s and my kids is that my kids live in a world in which like 5 subsequent generations of increasingly powerful video game systems exist, so at some point they'll probably jump ship from the Famicom to one of those.  I of course own many other systems, but have been deliberately avoiding bringing them out because I know once they get a taste of a Super Famicom (let alone a Switch) the poor Famicom will go back to collecting dust.  At some point I'll let that dam break, but for now I'm very happy to see these Famicom games getting so much attention.

I'm also kind of happy that my son at least will grow up having some really nostalgic memories of how playing the Famicom with his dad got him through what would otherwise have been a kind of depressing summer during the pandemic in which he was kept away from his favorite places!


  1. What a great story. Great cartridge construction from your son, too. (Just don't let him set them up as dominoes and knock them over.)

    1. Thanks! He has done the domino thing actually, fortunately Famicom carts are sturdily built!

  2. Very impressive story. You passed the baton to your son for getting to know Famicom flawlessly. Among these cartridges, I guess that "Takahashi Meijin's Adventure Island" would be the most challenging one for your son. As you mentioned, sooner or later, your son will jump to Switch from peer pressure in school. You did great job to let your little boy know retro games step-by-step at this moment^-^

    1. Thanks! Yes, Adventure Island is challenging, he loves it but hasn't been able to get very far (actually I can't get very far in it either).

      And you are right, I think eventually peer pressure will force me to get him a Switch or something else more current. He's already showing a lot of interest in more modern games since he knows Mario is in a bunch of other games that he can't play on the Famicom. I'm thinking I'll give him my Super Famicom on his birthday since it is the logical next step.

  3. How do you like the idea of kinda cartridge sharing service? I was thinking that book sharing is very popular and why not to do the same with games? I shared my Zelda and do hope to scale