Last week, a quiet press release that largely went unnoticed outside of a few sentimental blog posts announced the end of an era that most people didn’t even realize was still underway, namely, the era of Nintendo Power. Yes, if you missed it, the venerable source for everything both Nintendo game related and credibility stretching positivity related is finally drawing to a close after 24 years of publishing, and the only surprising thing about it is that they were still printing the magazine at all. If you’d asked me to put a guess on when they’d stopped, I definitely would’ve tossed out a date that started with a 19.
For me, and I suspect most others as well, Nintendo Power can only ever be associated with games in rectangular grey plastic form. In the era of the internet and photo-realistic graphics, it must have looked like a dinosaur. Frankly, even in it’s heyday, it wasn’t exactly pushing the boundaries of gaming journalism. It was a stroke of genius that they included helpful maps and walk-thrus for some really good games, because otherwise it traded exclusively in hokey jokes and relentless boosterism for questionable products. Pointless and dull comics about some kid named Nester (yes, we all saw what you did there, Nintendo Power) weren’t helping things.
But those walk-thrus and maps! Only the early onset hipsters denied using them. “I don’t even OWN a Nintendo Power, bruh. I beat Super Mario 3 before Fred Savage’s weird little brother made it cool.”
Without the tips, maps and screenshots Nintendo Power provided, most of us would wander endlessly through a game like Maniac Mansion, just picking up every piece of junk or food you found that wasn’t glued to the wall and sacrificing the lives of your closest friends so you could rifle through Aunt Edna’s drawers or fuck with Weird Ed’s Hamster. For sure, it was a hell of a lot fun to fire up the space-capable Edsel and watch it annihilate the garage, but it didn’t get you any closer to finishing the game.
But armed with Volume 16 of Nintendo Power? Suddenly you became a manuscript-writing, meteor-arresting dynamo! If you stole pointless stuff from the house, it was because you wanted to be a jerk, not because you didn’t have anything better to do. You cleaned out the fridge for fun, not because you were absolutely sure a can of whipped cream might somehow come in useful later on in the game.
My memories of Nintendo Power end in the SNES era, when they updated their tagline to “Now You’re Playing with SUPER Power.” The magazine really hadn’t changed by then, it was still doling out the same chipper optimism for games both great and terrible alongside the much appreciated walkthrough for Final Fantasy 3. The only difference between then and when they started was the number after Final Fantasy, and the different date on the spine of the magazine.
Although I didn’t read it or even know it still existed for the last 15 years, I would imagine it carried on pretty much as it always had. I’ll always look back kindly on those early years, and hearing the news of the end certainly stirred up my nostalgia for the first issues and the games they helped so many of us enjoy, but I can’t say it was surprising beyond the fact that it hadn’t happened sooner. Although I suppose this does mean that I definitely waited too long to submit those Solar Jetman high scores.