||Following a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made plans to produce a cartridge-based console. Masayuki Uemura designed the system, which was released in Japan on July 15, 1983 for ¥14,800 alongside three ports of Nintendo’s successful arcade games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. The Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) was slow to gather momentum; during its first year, many criticized the system as unreliable, prone to programming errors and rampant freezing. Following a product recall and a reissue with a new motherboard, the Famicom’s popularity soared, becoming the best-selling game console in Japan by the end of 1984.
Encouraged by its successes, Nintendo soon turned its attention to the North American market. Nintendo entered into negotiations with Atari to release the Famicom under Atari’s name as the name Nintendo Enhanced Video System; however, this deal eventually fell through. Subsequent plans to market a Famicom console in North America featuring a keyboard, cassette data recorder, wireless joystick controller, and a special BASIC cartridge under the name "Nintendo Advanced Video System" likewise never materialized.
Finally, in June 1985, Nintendo unveiled its American version of the Famicom at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Nintendo rolled out its first systems to limited American markets on October 18, 1985, following up with a full-fledged North American release of the console in February of the following year. Nintendo simultaneously released eighteen launch titles: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, and of course, Super Mario Bros..
In Europe and Australia, the system was released to two separate marketing regions (A and B). Distribution in region B, consisting of most of mainland Europe (excluding Italy), was handled by a number of different companies, with Nintendo responsible for most cartridge releases; most of region B saw a 1986 release. Mattel handled distribution for region A, consisting of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, starting the following year. Not until 1990 did Nintendo’s newly created European branch take over distribution throughout Europe. Despite the system’s lackluster performance outside of Japan and North America, by 1990 the NES had become the best-selling console in video game history.
Shortly before ceasing production of the system in North America, Nintendo released a radically redesigned console (known as the AV Family Computer in Japan and the NES 2 in North America) that corrected a number of problems with the original hardware.
As the 1990s dawned, however, renewed competition from technologically superior systems such as the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive (known as the Sega Genesis in North America) marked the end of the NES’s dominance. Eclipsed by Nintendo’s own Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the NES’s user base gradually waned. Nintendo continued to support the system in America through the first half of the decade, even releasing a new version of the console, the NES 2, to address many of the design flaws in the original NES hardware. The final games released for the system were as follows: in Japan, Adventure Island 4 in 1994, and, in America, among unlicensed titles, Sunday Funday was the last, whereas Wario's Woods was the last licensed game (also the only one with an ESRB rating). In the wake of ever decreasing sales and the lack of new software titles, Nintendo of America officially discontinued the NES by 1995. Despite this, Nintendo of Japan kept producing new Nintendo Famicoms for a niche market up until October 2003, when Nintendo of Japan officially discontinued the line. Even as developers ceased production for the NES, a number of high-profile video game franchises and series for the NES were transitioned to newer consoles and remain popular to this day. Nintendo’s own Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid franchises debuted on the NES, as did Capcom’s Mega Man franchise, Konami’s Castlevania franchise, and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises.
In the years following the official "death" of the NES in the West, a collector’s market based around video rental shops, garage sales and flea markets led some gamers to rediscover the NES. Coupled with the growth of console emulation, the late 1990s saw something of a second golden age for the NES. The secondhand market began to dry up after 2000, and finding ROMs no longer represented the challenge it had in the past. Parallel to the rise of interest in emulation was the emergence of a dedicated NES hardware "modding" scene. Such hobbyists perform tasks such as moving the NES to a completely new case, or just dissecting it for parts or fun. The controllers are particular targets for modding, often being adapted to connect with personal computers by way of a parallel or USB port. Some NES modders have transformed the console into a portable system by adding AA batteries and an LED or LCD screen.