OOP: Nintendo Power

R.I.P. Nintendo Power

Remember when Nintendo had power? Power of the monthly magazine variety, I mean. According to numerous sources, Nintendo Power has just one issue remaining before it joins countless other expired bits of print media. While the magazine had been owned and operated by Nintendo for years, the company rid itself of the publication in 2007. Without Nintendo’s direct support, there’s little hope that Nintendo Power could continue, even in a digital format.



The Beginning

As an enthusiast magazine, Nintendo Power‘s reason for existence dissipated with the proliferation of the internet. However, if we take a step back to 1988, the magazine was nothing short of amazing. The Nintendo Entertainment System ruled the land, but if you wanted to see or learn anything about it beyond your own system and the games you owned, you needed Nintendo Power.

Long before the cheat/dev code device Game Genie was released, Nintendo Power was there with its “Tips and Tricks” section. Remember, this was back when an arcade game that was designed to siphon quarters from your pocket might come to the NES with a single life for the player. An additional life might be granted after a billion points, but by then, that $50 game might be too difficult to continue playing. In addition to “Tips and Tricks,” Nintendo Power had entire maps of games. That’s a fact that Nintendo reminded us of with every purchase, as each game came with an advertisement and subscription form for the magazine. The ad had a tiny ‘Legend of Zelda’ map that was just legible enough to make you wish for the full-sized version.

When I think about entering “ZELDA” as a save-name to access the game’s second quest straight away, or using the famous Konami code in ‘Contra’ to get thirty lives, or actually being able to beat the ‘Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest’ password system, or about ducking behind the white blocks in ‘Super Mario Bros. 3’, I have to credit Nintendo Power.


Back then, what did it matter if the magazine was really just a marketing vehicle? Commercials for video games of that era were usually live-action farces filmed on porno sets. (I may be exaggerating that slightly.) TV ads certainly weren’t a good way to learn about games that you might want to buy. On the other hand, seeing a game on the printed page, each screenshot revealing a sense of the game far beyond what you’d find on the label or box art, was fully worth the price of subscription.

The Middle

I recall reading on a list of future releases, devoid of any additional information, that there would be a game released at some point called ‘Earthbound’. I was instantly captivated by the name. A later Nintendo Power issue that featured ‘Earthbound’-themed scratch-and-sniff cards revealed a completely different game from what I had initially imagined.

For a long time, Nintendo Power rarely deviated from its formula of two featured games, the cheats sections, the game poster, and the letters section. However, I remember one legend begot by the magazine.

This original Game Boy survived as the structure that surrounded it yielded to bomb damage during Desert Storm. Knowing personally what it takes to break an original Game Boy, I have no problem believing this.

Another favorite issue of mine featured the Virtual Boy. The entire issue was in 3D, complete with little “Virtual Boy” branded cardboard glasses. Of course, being themed around the Virtual Boy, all the pages were black, with red and black screenshots. It wasn’t a great look for a magazine.

In one more memorable issue, Nintendo Power revealed the controller for the Nintendo Ultra. A top-down shot of the N64’s controller was nothing short of perplexing. Later isometric views had to be coupled with bananas just so that the eye would have something recognizable to grasp onto.



The End

Despite having a subscription off-and-on after the debut of the N64, Nintendo Power never again had a scoop for me. Even now, the EGM cover featuring ‘GoldenEye’ comes to mind before thinking of Nintendo Power‘s less elegant version. The internet quickly displaced gaming magazines, which were stuck with crummy screenshots for 3D games and could never keep up with the gaming news cycle. Frequently, featured games would be delayed or canceled by the time magazines hit newsstands. First-party publications like Nintendo Power, the Official PlayStation Magazine and the Official Xbox Magazine had a theoretical advantage in access to their respective companies, but at a cost of objectivity. If readers had to discount the ratings, the reviews lost all credibility.

Sony sold its magazine with bonus discs that had game demos and videos, and Microsoft followed suit. For some time after the internet took over the game news and strategy side, players were still willing to pay for demo discs. Nintendo didn’t share this practice, and certainly never shipped demo cartridges for the N64. By controlling Nintendo Power, the company was able to bundle subscriptions with strategy guides and games. Best Buy even sold subscription packets mixed in with the games. Unfortunately, Nintendo Power missed out on being the type of magazine that you might find in a waiting room or on an airplane, a business that could have carried it indefinitely.

As if competition from the internet didn’t hurt it enough, the dwindling third-party support for Nintendo platforms and the company’s own slow release schedule, which left its consoles with fewer and fewer titles, also had a debilitating effect on Nintendo Power. In order to feature two games a month, the magazine needed 24 titles a year. When the N64, GameCube and now the Wii each hit the final years of their respective console cycles, it was hard to come up with 24 games that could interest players, even when adding in handhelds.

The Legacy

The magazine’s first cover image, a diorama for ‘Super Mario Bros. 2’, is burned into my memory. That picture was so often included not only with Nintendo games, but also on all those subscription cards that came with Nintendo Power. As obsolete as the magazine has become, I will still remember it fondly as the ultimate gaming resource of its era.


Link to the Past Poster


  1. Like most people, I haven’t read Nintendo Power in years. Didn’t even realize it was still being published. But I was 14 when it premiered, the prime target audience, and I absolutely cherished the first few years of issues. I’d read and re-read articles about certain games many times over. I eventually sold all those old issues on eBay, but kind of wish I hadn’t.

    I also called the Nintendo Help Line more than a few times when I got stuck in difficult games. The problem was that my mother wouldn’t let me call a toll number from our house. So I had to save up spare change and make the call from a pay phone at the local supermarket. I’d need to plop in quarters in the middle of talking to the game masters, take notes, and then run home to try out the expert professional advice I’d received.

    Good times. 🙂

  2. Yeah you didnt get a better magazine than this back in the day, I worshiped getting these in the mail when I had a subscription, shame so much of the past and my childhood are going bye bye, getting older sucks 😉

    • Nintendo Power was special back then in away that Club Nintendo can’t hope to match.

      The kind of perspective granted from seeing the world before and after the advent of the internet is a part of getting older. Plus, we get awesome home theaters- my first TV was a Zenith that took a minute to turn on after flipping the switch.

      • William Henley

        Do you happen to remember all the video game related shows that came out as a result? I remember one show where the kids would run through a mall maze and pull video games off the shelf. Of course, any thought of Kids’ gameshows also brings back memories of Double Dare, Finders Keepers, Fun House, and I’m Telling. I don’t remember the name of the video game show – it came on in the morning as I was waking up to get ready for school. My mom would turn it on for me to keep me from falling back asleep.

        I was a big fan of Captain N The Game Master. There was also Super Mario Bros that came on ABC and there was The Super Mario Brothers Super Show that was a daily syndicated show. I usually didn’t watch Monday – Thursday, but on Friday, they had The Legend of Zelda, which I liked. “Well excuse me, Princess!” The weekend Super Mario Brothers was much superior to the Super Show. The Super Show also had the live-action Mario Brothers in it. It was just painful, even as a kid, to watch.

        I do remember the one episode of Super Mario Brothers that had Milli Vanilli guest star. Couldn’t understand why they had them doing voice work – the group couldn’t speak English and couldn’t voice act.

        I also remember Sonic the Hedgehog. Once again, the daily show that ran in syndication was BAD, with Sonic being constantly distracted by chilli dogs. However, the weekend show on ABC was fantastic! I would love to see that series make its way to Blu-Ray!

        I also vaguely remember Pac-Man from when I was very little, but mostly I remember the Nintendo themed shows.

        I also remember Nintendo was so big that there was a breakfast cereal “Nintendo, Its a Cereal now! Nintendo! Super Mario Brothers!”. However, just like with the TV show, it had both Mario Brothers and Zelda cereal. I HATED the Mario Brothers because it had marshmellows in it, and I HATE marshmellows. My mom got to where she stopped buying it, because I wouldn’t even touch the Mario Brothers half. However, at that time, she started buying Crunch Berries, because I realized that it tasted really similar to Zelda.

  3. JM

    We got Nintendo Power from 1990-2005, with our free copy of ‘Dragon Warrior’!

    Of course, as kids, we never knew selling tomatoes was code for puff-puff.

  4. Funny you should mention “NP missed out on being the type of magazine that you might find in a waiting room or on an airplane, a business that could have carried it indefinitely.”, because I just visited Nintendo’s Benelux headquarters last week and they had a stack of magazines (Dutch & English) in the waiting room/lobby 🙂

    Of course, that’s just preaching to the converted …

      • William Henley

        Oh, come on, when you are sick, the hidden pictures are about the only thing you feel well enough to do! To this day, I will still reach for the Highlights – unless they happen to have a copy of Popular Science laying around.

  5. William Henley

    I think I have every single one of those issues except for the FF4 Advance and the Zelda Seasons one. There was just something cool about Nintendo Power.

      • William Henley

        It’s been so long, but there were a couple. The Ninja Gaiden II strategy guide got a LOT of abuse.

        While I didn’t have this issue myself, I think the very first issue had a walkthrough of the Legend of Zelda. Going back and looking over the review, I guess that was the Super Mario 2 magazine.

        There was a touring Nintendo gaming show. I was 9 or 10, so I don’t remember much about it, but I remember reading up all the tips in the magazines, and going. They had hundreds of NESes lined up. Problem was, there was a huge lag for some reason between the controller and the system. Plus you had to play standing up, which I was not used to, and it was similar to the kiosks now that you see in the store where you cannot really move or turn the controller. The control interface was so bad, it was probably the ONLY time I ever died in Level 1-1 of the original Super Mario Bros.

        They had hundreds of Gameboys lined up. They were not actually out at that time, so the only game was Tetris. I remember how everyone else was OOing and Awing, but I was totally unimpressed. I was complaining about the lack of color and how hard it was to see the LCDs, and how the screen started to smear when the action got fast. A couple of years later, I bought a Game Gear, and was burned by lack of third-party support. I only ever owned one game for it, and that was the game it came with, and it was so difficult, I could not get past the first level. You know, sinking $150 into something when you are 11 – back in the early 90s, was something – I worked all year to save that up, cutting yards and such, just to be burned like that. I never owned another hand-held system. I had some of the mini-arcade games back in the 80s. And that was something else I couldn’t understand – why could I get one of those, which had a larger screen, and were in color, for about $30 each, but the gameboy was B&W and cost like $100.

        I also fondly remember standing in line 2 hours to play Super Mario 3 for five minutes. Really stupid, because the game came out the next week, and I rented it the day it came out. When you are 9, you have some strange priorities.

        Back to the magazine, I also remember an issue that went in depth (or at least I thought it was in depth at the time) into their new system, the SuperNES. I devoured that magazine.

        Then, there was the review for Zelda 3: A Link to the Past. I think it was the first game that Nintendo Power ever gave a perfect score to. I just remember my eyes bugging out at the screenshots and maps, but thinking that Nintendo was pretty biased to give their own game a perfect score. Then I played the game! It is still on my list of all time favorite games, and I still play it in the Wii Console.

        I also remember the issue where they first introduced the Konami code. Wow!

        So sorry to go off remaniscing like this. I just have some great memories of the NES and SNES, and Nintendo Power. But I didn’t buy another Nintendo system until the Wii, and now I hardly use that to play anything other than the classic games (And Zelda Windwaker for the Gamecube – in my opinion the best Zelda game of them all). I just remember my disgust with the N64 controller, and the fact that it was cartrage based. At that time, I converted over to PC gaming, and I became a Playstation fanboy. So glad I held off though on buying my first CD-Rom based console, and went with PC at that time – I thought that Sony didn’t have a chance and that the CD-I was going to dominate the market.

        • I never owned a Game Gear, and I actually respect its tech now more than I did then. The Game Boy was a tank, and Super Mario Land 1, 2, & 3 (Warioland) alone did such an excellent job of making the most out of the limitations. Like the NES, there were tons of awesome games, but I won’t go into it here.

          Buying the Virutal Boy at launch (could run for about 20 minutes on its eight AAs) was my great big buyer’s remorse.

          Seeing the footage of Super Mario Bros. 3 in that movie ‘the Wizard’ was like marketing directly to my soul. The end of level b&w areas were mind-blowing. I will say that the the SMB 3 cover, another 3D diorama with an angry sun was another iconic NP cover.

          One last last thing that did not mention directly in this article was the disk drive system for the N64. Nintendo Power basically treated it like it would be here in the states eventually, and when Nintendo made the smart choice not to bring it over, the magazine just kind of stopped talking about it. (Similar to the Virtual Boy failing) The conflict of interest and the restrictions were very messy.

          • William Henley

            Remember the expansion port on the SNES? When it came out, Nintendo Power was hinting that it was for a future CD-Rom system. That never really came about, but after the dismal failure of the SegaCD and the Sega32X, can you blame Nintendo? I think the expansions to the Genesis, while a great idea, just confused customers, and Nintendo rightly just developed a whole new system instead of messing with expansions.

      • William Henley

        Hey, do you remember the posters? I had them all hanging on my ceiling. I think my brother has all my posters now. My favorite I was a bit upset with because it was in a different form factor than the others, but it was for the original Final Fantasy. Man, was that a beautiful poster. The artwork was incredible!

        • I bought the original Final Fantasy based solely on the artwork- the castle in the globe in front of the sword and axe. Great purchase.

          The flip side of that Killer Instinct poster is a walk-through of the Super Nintendo game, the Phantom 2040. (think Billy Zane movie ‘the Phantom’) I thought about putting it in the article but it is really unsightly.

          About ten years ago, I found among my belongings the old Link to the Past poster, which I subsequently framed with a green matte. That drawn image of the Master Sword waiting among the shadows of the Lost Woods is as timeless as the best elements of the franchise.

          • William Henley

            I forgot about the maps on the back! I am thinking there were a couple I Xeroxed, because I wanted the artwork on my wall, but needed the map for some game I was playing.

            Man, I just wish I had all those posters still. I think they would all be hanging up again.

            So thanks for this article today. I haven’t had this much fun reminiscing in years!

  6. I’ll reply with a new post, because sometimes the replies come out wrong or after the other reply. Anyway.

    a) William, you made a funny typo with “Awing”. That’s actually a Nintendo-related pun! Great!

    b) What was the one GameGear Game (GGG?) you got stuck with, William? I’m curious

    c) I’m a fan of the GameGear, but I never had a decent working one. I have collected 4 copies of Sega’s handheld over the years (two from friends, two bought for $8), but there’s always SOMETHING wrong. Mostly the screen. Compared to my rock solid Game Boy (still working; ever since 1993). Speaking of solid, my Nintendo 3DS fell from a height of a mere 3 inches and was BROKEN. Kaput. Pathetic!

    d) The Disc Drive, the 64DD, is one my list of “wanted items”. Not cheap, though, on eBay

    e) ” That drawn image of the Master Sword waiting among the shadows of the Lost Woods is as timeless as the best elements of the franchise.” => I’d like to see that. Do you have a photo or a ‘Link’?

    • William Henley

      “Awing” was not meant to be a typo, more like a spelling mistake. I think I was looking for “AWEing”. But i see how its funny now.

      The Game Gear title was Sonic 2. My brother still has my Game Gear and has since picked up a few more titles at resale shops. Never had an issue with that Game Gear – its 20 years old now and still runs just as good as the day I bought it.

      As for the Nintendo Power Final Fantasy Poster, I don’t think this is it – I think it was actually a square poster, but this is similar. If I remember right, the one in Nintendo Power looked very similar to this, except more photo-realistic:

      • William Henley

        BTW, for those who did not have a Game Gear, the Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was NOT the same as the Genesis. I was disappointed, because that was exactly what I thought it was going to be. It was just extreamely difficult to play. Not that the gameplay was hard, but the bosses were next to impossible to beat. Like the first boss early in the game had to be as hard as some of the later bosses in the Genesis games. Sonic 2 kinda reminded me of Super Mario Bros The Lost Levels – rather than being an all new game, it like picks up in difficulty right where the previous one left off.

    • When Nintnedo released the the Ocarina of Time Master Quest for the GameCube (as a Windwaker pre-order bonus no less), that ended any serious interest in the 64 DD for me. Although it would be cool to see one in action.

      You should be able to see the poster that I was referring to now at the end of the post. I have seen the poster on ebay a few times, and I have seen at least one other framed version around.

      For me, starting with the DS lite- Nintendo abandoned the rough and tough capabilities of their hardware. The GBA and GBA SP were unstoppable, but my first gen DS lite quickly had a cracked hing and loss battery problem. I replaced it under warranty for Nintnedo but needed up passing it along and getting a black one that has held up. The second generation of DS lites all featuring a softer plastic that feels really cheap.

      I hope that you were able to get Nintendo to fix your 3DS, even if they just take it and send a different repaired one.

      • William Henley

        Wow, that poster is nice! I would love to find my Final Fantasy and frame it – I am sure that thing is worth some money now!

        • Retro overload is occurring. (I blame Video Power)

          They need to bring the Nintendo Cereal System back. That Sonic the Hedgehog show is surprisingly good, but that long running Adventures needs to die in a fire.

          Thinking about Captain N, it is so funny to think of Nintendo, Capcom and Konami collaborating even for just a sub license. And I still like the beginning of the Zelda cartoon. More proof that Milli Vanilli infiltrated all aspects of pop culture in a brief amount of time.

  7. Just got back from the Nintendo HQ, they did repair my 3DS. Mii Channel, Camera, Sound etc. all seem to work again. Then I try a game (both Sonic Colours as a physical game and Zelda: Four Swords Adventures as a download) and the black error screen returns.

    Sheesh, what a great repair job you did there, Nintendo!

    • Both my first run DSlite and my Xbox 360 Elite had to go back for repairs under warranty and what I received back were different systems. (Quick turnaround but basically someone’s repaired system) Those were both systems with a high volume of repair in the states.

      Have you tried running games with the wifi switch turned off?

      • No, I haven’t tried that. Will do that later tonight. It shouldn’t make a difference, though. Or rather: the games should work with the wifi, because some games allow you to go online.

        Thanks for the advice!

  8. I subscribed to this magazine when Pokemon was the biggest thing. The articles were well thought out, I liked when you had to have multiple magazines to complete the image on the spine. I think what made me ultimately not renew though was some of the repetitiveness and the lack of discounted offers to renew.

    • That actually sounds like a decent scam/strategy for NP. I often forget this, but if it were not for Pokemon during otherwise lean years, I doubt Nintendo would be anything like it is today.