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 adjective stretching positivity related is drawing to a close after 24 years of publishing, and the only really surprising thing is that they were still making the magazine at all. If you’d asked me to put a guess on when they’d stopped, I would’ve tossed out a date that started with a 19 and ended somewhere around the coming of the N64.
For me, and I suspect most others as well, Nintendo Power can only ever be associated with rectangular grey plastic of one form or another. If the magazine hadn’t included such nice walkthroughs and level maps for alot of really good NES games, it never would have caught on, because otherwise it traded exclusively in hokey jokes and relentless boosterism for questionable products. Pointless comics about some kid named Nester (yes, we all saw what you did there) weren’t helping things.
But those walkthroughs 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 Maniac Mansion, 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 just 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 dick, 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 the tagline “Now You’re Playing with SUPER Power” had a vaguely cold war era broken English ring to it. 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 us all 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 send in those Solar Jetman high scores.