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Featured Article

How I Got My NES

In 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System exploded onto the scene. The system was so popular, it jump-started the industry that had just come crashing down on itself. Nintendomania was running wild. Every kid wanted an NES and come Christmas or birthdays many of these children got a system. Not me though, my system came to me through a strange series of events.

The NES was priced at $99.99, which was about $79.99 too much for my family to justify spending, especially since I had a perfectly good Atari 2600 at home. My parents didn’t care that Super Mario Bros. wasn’t on the Atari, a Nintendo was just not in the budget. I was just going to have to continue enjoying my cousin’s Nintendo whenever I went to visit him or play at the neighbor’s house.

A year went by and having a Nintendo of my own was now just a passing memory. I had no options, it wasn’t like I was old enough to work. I wasn’t even in elementary school yet. My only hope was to grow up really, really fast and buy one for myself. Lucky for me, fate would intervene.

My step-grandfather was a sheriff near Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, a place you might know as Mount Pilot from The Andy Griffith Show. My father grew up there and most of my family lived nearby. We’d go visit a few times a year, enjoy the country, and I would get to hang out with my uncle Jeff, the cool uncle. Jeff was in his early twenties, had an old Mustang, big muscles, and tons of Star Wars models in his room. He was everything a four year old boy could ever wish to be.

One day, my step-grandfather was at the local jail when he had a prisoner offer him a deal. The prisoner had a brand new Nintendo with all the hookups and Mario/Duck Hunt. He was able to keep the system at the jail to pass the time, which seems like a fantastic way to do “hard” time. 

You’d think someone in jail would want to keep anything to help the time pass by, but not this guy. He was out of cigarettes and his addiction was slowly destroying him. He offered the shiny new Nintendo to my step-grandfather in exchange for two cartons of cigarettes. It took just five minutes to swing by the store to pick up the cigarettes, and upon returning home, my step-grandfather presented my uncle with his new Nintendo.

About a month later, my family made a trip up to the mountains to visit my grandmother and Uncle Jeff proudly showed off his Nintendo. I spent every moment that I possibly could playing Mario on the giant twenty-seven inch TV in the living room. For the first time, my dad was able to see how much I truly loved Nintendo. I was never overly passionate about Atari, but Nintendo was another story. As the weekend came to a close, my dad asked his brother if we could borrow the Nintendo. A twenty dollar bill was exchanged and I was the proud temporary owner of a Nintendo Entertainment System.

Over the next month, the Nintendo and I were one. I knew this might be my only chance to ever play Mario this much, so I took full advantage of it. I killed hundreds of goombas, shot a lot of ducks, and failed time after time to save the princess. As the month came to an end, my dad called up my uncle to rent the system for another month. It cost my dad another twenty bucks, but seeing the joy that I got from the system was worth it. It also didn’t hurt that one night he rented Al Unser Jr's Turbo Racing and became addicted to it. Between the renting of the system and the late fees he paid on that game, we could have bought a new system.

The previous Christmas, instead of getting a Nintendo, I got a tent. What a four year old needs with a two person tent, I’ll never know, but someone thought it was a good idea. I pulled everything out of the bag once, but after realizing there was no way I would be able to put it together I gave up. Maybe it was divine intervention, because the tent was about to get me what I truly wanted.

My uncle had a huge camping trip coming up with some of his buddies. He called my dad to ask if he could borrow his tent. My dad, always the salesman, immediately thought about the tent bag collecting dust in the hall closet. He proposed a trade- my little red two man tent for the Nintendo. My uncle was reluctant to agree, but once my dad explained that he had already made $40 and was now getting a tent for something he didn’t even pay for, he relented.

So, after a year and a half, I finally had my Nintendo. I never had that dramatic Christmas or Birthday moment where I freaked out screaming over my new Nintendo, but just having a Nintendo was good enough for me.

For the next six years, the Nintendo and I were inseparable. It went with me on vacations, it accompanied me on several moves, and even survived my parent’s divorce. Actually, you might say it’s the only thing that helped me survive my parent’s divorce.

The Nintendo Entertainment System is a fantastic system, and is one that I still love to this day. I have so many great memories with playing the various Mario games, Double Dragon, Contra, and Excite Bike. When I look back at my childhood, I can honestly say that the NES is what truly defined it. 

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splatkillwill Posted on Mar 16, 2021 at 12:44 AM

I got my first NES a little over 10 years after that. The PlayStation and N64 were the thing at the time. But I just remember 2 different uncles and one family friend raving about Super Mario Bros. I ended up getting one of said uncle's NES (and later his Apple //c) with Code Name: Viper, SMB/Duck Hunt, and The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World. My parents didn't like video games so I played in the garage with an old UHF/VHF TV my grandparents let me have from a shed.

massreality Posted on Apr 18, 2017 at 12:17 PM

@shakin_steak It's always interesting how important products of our past come into our lives, especially when you are a child and have no control.

shakin steak Posted on Apr 16, 2017 at 05:10 AM

Great story, I'm reading this for at least the 2nd time now. I also had trouble getting a Nintendo at first, and it wasn't because we already had an Atari. I don't remember what ultimately happened, sad to say. But I think when my dad asked if we would spend our own allowance money and we said yes, he decided to cover the difference. I presume my parents discussed the issue with other parents and realized it was a trend that couldn't be ignored like action figures and cable TV.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Aug 18, 2015 at 05:30 PM

One of the most original stories I've read on the site. if there is a more roundabout way of getting a Nintendo, I've never heard it. Seriously, loved it.

mickyarber Posted on Aug 18, 2015 at 07:55 AM

Very fun article! Brings back a lot of memories of my own and what I went through to get mine.

onipar Posted on Aug 18, 2015 at 04:01 AM

Wow, what a cool story! I wish I could remember how I got my first Nintendo, but I guess it was just a mundane occurrence for me. Loved reading this one, cheers!

Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 18, 2015 at 12:31 AM

Great story mass! What a odd and interesting way to finally end up with an NES.

The year I and my brother first got an NES of our own was probably the greatest Christmas (as far as sheer number of awesome presents) I ever had. Not only did we get the NES and games, but also we each got our own ATVs! It was crazy. I'll never forget that Christmas.

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