A Look Back At Nintendo’s Long History Of Art, Music And Game Making Software – Feature

Pokemon Art Academy Mario Paint© Nintendo / Nintendo Life

Between the Super Mario Maker games, Miitopia, and now the soon to be released Game Builder Garage, the last decade has seen Nintendo embrace the creativity of its players to produce fun content for all to experience. It’s amazing to see the creativity of the communities that form around these games — whether they’re crafting incredible characters in Miitopia’s expanded Mii Maker tool or designing intricate courses in Super Mario Maker 2 — but for Nintendo offering creative suites and platforms to players is actually nothing new.

The ease of access to online sharing and social media has made it simpler for players to share their creations, and this has resulted in an explosion of games that foster and thrive on creativity. But even going as far back as the 1980s, Nintendo has been looking at ways to let their players get creative — in this article, we wanted to highlight some of the best.

Let’s start with the Family BASICs

1. Family Basic© Nintendo

What better place to start than at the very beginning: the Nintendo Entertainment System, or in this case Japan’s Family Computer specifically. In 1984 Nintendo would partner with everyone’s favourite defunct bumblebee, Hudson Soft, and Sharp Corporation to release Family BASIC, a piece of software that allowed Japanese hobbyists to program software through the Famicom and save it to specialised cassette tapes.

The title combines the name of the console with BASIC, a programming language commonly used in the ’70s and ’80s. Family BASIC was literal game development software, running on the 8-bit console. The program was pricier than normal, in part due to it coming with its own keyboard that functioned as the controller. The game was commercially successful and spawned two revisions, but it was a bit cumbersome to use; no doubt Game Builder Garage has been built to be a smoother experience for the user.

While nothing else on the system comes as close to developing entire pieces of software, Nintendo did release what it dubbed the ‘Programmable’ series of games which used the Famicom Data Recorder to save data to cassette tapes. These titles had customisable features included, often allowing players to make their own levels in the game and play them. Only three games were ever released in this series, though — Excitebike, Wrecking Crew and Mach Rider — and this functionality was limited to Japan. We imagine that even most Japanese players forgot they had this feature.

But no one could forget the next game, though.

Mario Paint palettes

Several elements found in Mario Paint get nods in Super Mario Maker, including the Fly Swatting Challenge.
Several elements found in Mario Paint get nods in Super Mario Maker, including the Fly Swatting Challenge. (Image: Nintendo / SatoshiLyish, YouTube)

Mario Paint needs no introduction. It is an absolute classic of the SNES library, selling 2.3 million units, and is often the go-to game when people think about Nintendo giving players ‘creative’ control.

It wasn’t game-making software this time, but instead a tool that allowed players to create drawings and music using the bundled SNES mouse. While its features were simple, it left a lasting legacy that inspired not only Nintendo with many of its future creative games – WarioWare: D.I.Y. and, of course, Super Mario Maker, for example – but also fans who have built up a dedicated community around the built-in music maker, developing incredible remixes with the game’s basic sound effects.

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