The Big N has had its fair share of memorable moments at E3 over the past twenty or so years, giving us plenty of laughs, whether for good or not. From the lackluster reveal of the Wii U to Reggie’s iconic ascent to memedom, here’s Nintendo’s Top 10 Moments at E3:
10.) Robot Chicken Segments, E3 2014
Rarely does a company as labyrinthine as Nintendo truly reveal what makes them tick, the driving force behind their oftentimes topsy-turvy reasoning. At E3 2014, Nintendo did just that, allowing the creators of Robot Chicken to create a series of stop-motion videos that, in addition to making those familiar with the Japanese giant chuckle, also revealed a sense of brand awareness they hadn’t ever shown before. With one skit, Nintendo managed to address most of the issues that denizens of the Internet had held against them for years. Too many Mario games? Check. Too little awareness of the demand for a port of Mother 3? Check. Confirmation of Reggie’s status as a meme? Check. Self-deprecating humor doesn’t get much better than this.
9.) Reggie vs. Iwata, E3 2014
Another standout entry from E3 2014 came in the form of an amazingly campy, action-packed brawl between the late Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime. As a promotional piece for the release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U later in the year, the video’s humor was on point, relishing its own ridiculousness. Mr. Iwata’s willingness to “battle” with Reggie showed the passion and indelible joy that he brought to his work at Nintendo, the infectious levity that permeated his days as President of the company. He was a titan in the gaming industry, and yet a man that was never afraid to get directly (pun intended) involved in the promotion of his company’s products, a rarity in an industry driven more often by profits than passion. He was unique among executives, and a man whose tenure as President of Nintendo will fondly be remembered by fans for years to come.
8.) “My Body is Ready,” E3 2008
Things don’t get much better than this, folks. From Reggie’s dead-pan, I-have-no-idea-I’m-going-to-become-a-meme delivery, to Bill Trinen’s awkward chuckle, to Miyamoto simply saying “じゃあ, 乗ってください” (“OK, please get on [the balance board]”), this single video reiterates what makes Nintendo’s old E3 press conferences such a nostalgic joy to revisit. It’s so quintessentially Nintendo, chock-full of personality, personalities, and memorable moments that still manage to provide a few laughs when viewed today. Four years later at E3 2012, Reggie referenced the comment in a move which, while not quite as funny as the original, showed an incredible amount of self-awareness from a man whose job it is to stick as close to the corporate PR script as possible. After all, it’s good to laugh at ourselves every now and then.
7.) Metroid Prime: Federation Force, E3 2015
Sometimes companies crush gamers’ hopes and dreams at E3. Other times, they rent a steamroller and turn them into asphalt. Nintendo accomplished the latter when they unveiled Metroid Prime: Federation Force at E3 2015 in what might have been their most hated PR move of the millennium. The reaction to Metroid Prime: Federation Force was beyond bad, reaching levels of complete disdain. After all, Nintendo had taken their most beloved and cherished teen-and-adult-focused franchise, chibi-ized it and turned it into a team-based shooter, flying in the face of nearly thirty years of Metroid series history. Even Reggie commented on the game, stating “The reaction has been negative. There’s no sugar-coating it.” Here’s to hoping that at this year’s E3 gamers will get the Metroid game that they’ve been craving since 2007.
6.) Wii Music On-Stage “Performance,” E3 2008
Shigeru Miyamoto is one of the most recognized video game developers on the planet. As creator of several of the most popular video game characters in existence, it has long been the expectation that, much like a certain king of legend, every game he touches turns to gold, an instant masterpiece. Nintendo’s 2008 press conference showed just how flawed that assumption was. In what was one of Nintendo’s most awkward moments ever at a major press conference, Miyamoto was joined by a full “band” that played a screechy, ear-twinging performance of the Super Mario Bros. theme song on the company’s new game, Wii Music. The move was instantly panned, and when it released a few months later Wii Music was a mess, too simple for hardcore gamers, yet also lacking the simplicity of its brethren, Wii Sports and Wii Fit. It remains one of Nintendo’s most visible missteps in the Wii era.
5.) Super Smash Bros. Melee, E3 2001
Some games generate excitement, but none quite as much as new games in the Super Smash Bros. series. As the follow-up to one of the most beloved games on the Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros. Melee had a reputation to live up to, and Nintendo delivered at E3 2001. The trailer, an early version of the game’s opening movie, followed by a character reel, more than excited the crowd present at the Los Angeles Convention Center, with deafening cheers showering the trailer. As part of their promotion of the then-new GameCube, Nintendo’s unveiling of Smash did well to generate hype for the game that would become the system’s best-selling game, and remain Nintendo’s most visible e-sport nearly sixteen years later. It remains an example of how, when properly executed, a trailer can create instant demand for a new game, or even a fledgling platform.
4.) A New Face, A New Concept, E3 2004
Flash back to 2004. Smartphones hadn’t yet gained traction, HD was a funny buzzword, and most people’s internet connections topped out at 2 Megabits. Online multiplayer, while developing, was still in it’s nascent stages. The handheld industry had hardly changed in over fifteen years, and Nintendo had been reticent to innovate away from its incredibly popular Game Boy family of systems. With sales of the GameCube lukewarm at best, Nintendo decided that it was the time to innovate. Introduced on stage by the then-new Reggie Fils-Aime, the DS packed in features that were unprecedented in a handheld, possessing a touch-screen, Game Boy Advance backward compatibility, as well as wireless connectivity. That, coupled with an impressively-streamlined design (by 2004 standards) made the DS look like not only the future of gaming, but the future of technology. Nintendo tried something different in 2004, coupling a fresh face with a innovative idea, and it worked spectacularly, crafting the second-best selling video game system of all time in the process.
3.) The Problems With U, E3 2011
The Nintendo Wii U was troubled from its very start. While the initial reaction was far from negative, with the usual “oohs” and “aahs” that accompanied Nintendo’s E3 presentations, the Wii U’s first trailer was an unmitigated disaster. It focused almost exclusively on the GamePad, leaving the console to languish as a simple set piece. Every title showed off looked like a port of something from the Wii, with Nintendo obviously attempting to capitalize on the casual market that had made it so popular. While the technical capability shown in the short Zelda tech demo made it obvious that this wasn’t just a new controller, but a new console, their fervent focus on the controller ultimately cost them, and consumers would flock to Sony and Microsoft in the resulting confusion. Comparing this to the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer from this past October, and it’s stark what a difference five years can make. Nintendo has learned much about effective marketing in the time since, and while the Wii U will always have a unique spot in Nintendo’s history, it’s a shame that it didn’t get off to a better start.
2.) A Nintendo Revolution, E3 2005
2005 was a strange time for video games. Stuck firmly between the era of SD and HD gaming, 2005 served as a fork in the road for major console manufacturers. Should they aim to impress with HD consoles that, while more expensive, pushed the limits of graphical fidelity, or instead opt for less-expensive hardware that, while only outputting in SD, kept costs down for both consumers and themselves? While Microsoft and Sony opted for pushing the envelope of graphical fidelity with their new consoles, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo placed their focus upon one revolutionary (pun fully intended) feature that made the audience’s cheers reach a deafening pitch: the Virtual Console. Gamers would finally be able to download and play classic Nintendo games on the Revolution’s built-in flash memory, allowing games from the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 to be emulated on modern hardware for the first time, a huge step during a time when the only means of playing classic games was on the original hardware, or through ROMs available online.
1.) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, E3 2004
When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first shown for the GameCube at Space World 2001, many gamers were dismayed. Just a year earlier at Space World 2000 they had been treated to a tech demo showing off an impressively-rendered battle between Link and Ganondorf, with a visual style that was far removed from the cartoony, cel-shaded, humorous Link present in Wind Waker. For most of the mid-to-late 2000s, Wind Waker was the black sheep of the Zelda series, and fans clamored for a return to a more dark, mature Zelda. Nintendo listened, and at E3 2004, they more than delivered on that demand. The first trailer for what was to become The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers aplenty, especially at the revelation of a more mature and realistic Link shown near the end of the trailer. Making the event all the more legendary was the appearance of a sword-and-shield-wielding Shigeru Miyamoto, who said a few words regarding the project. Twilight Princess would ultimately release for both GameCube and Wii two years later to instant critical acclaim, as big a hit when it released as the trailer had been two years before.