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Posted on Feb 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under NES, Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System, Action Set, NES Challenge

It's been a lot of fun following the thread of our site's NES Challenge, as members rediscover old classics or finally dive into games they were always curious about but never got around to playing. I've dipped into a handful of games myself, may of which I haven't played in decades. There's also been a fair amount of discovering how much better I was at games back then, when I had nothing but time on my hands and my reflexes and pattern recognition were better.

It's also given me reason to tell a story that I've been meaning to for some time now; how I got my first NES. I've mentioned bits and pieces of context around the edges here, but figured the story itself was worth a full article. So how did 8-year-old me get a Nintendo?

I'd played games before, in arcades, on our Vectrex, and on an old Radio Shack computer. But most of those games were fairly simple; a lot of fun sure, but not very eye-catching. When my friend Desiree got her Nintendo, that was when I first saw Super Mario Bros, and it was unlike anything I'd played before. The graphics, sound, gameplay, the huge world, it blew everything else away, and I couldn't get enough. Literally every moment I was over at her house I would ask to play it, and would get grumpy when she said no. I wouldn't stop until I defeated Bowser, and using the Zapper to shoot ducks was complete magic to me. I had no idea how it could work, and, like most of us, tried to shoot the dog after he mocked me when I missed all the ducks.

Basically, from that moment on I wouldn't stop bugging my parents for a Nintendo. For a good several months leading up to my birthday, I effectively made it clear that if I didn't get one, my disappointment would know no bounds. My brother and I lived with our mother at the time, and she always went out of her way to make Christmases and birthdays special for us. We got to invite our friends from school and she would plan activities like scavenger hunts, hiding clues in balloons we needed to pop, and all kinds of things.

Regular readers may recall me saying that my mom was always the worst at hiding her intentions about getting me presents I really wanted. I must've described the NES to her so many times that I wouldn't be surprised if she could even now describe the thing in great detail. But she always feigned ignorance. "Ok, now what is it again? What's it called, a Nin-what?" I was always patient with her, playing along because I saw right through her. I was so confident that I was getting one that when I went to school and invited my friends to my party, I flat out told them I was getting a Nintendo.

On the big day, it was especially exhilerating. I was still patient, partly because I had no doubt in my mind how things were going to end up, and partly because with all the games, cake, ice cream, etc, we had plenty to occupy ourselves with until it was time to open up presents. At long last that time came, and like most 8-year-olds, I got a lot of stuff, but there was no NES. I don't remember being disappointed, though. I think it was because I figured my mom had a trick up her sleeve, as with all the pleading I'd been doing I didn't believe my mother had it in her to lead me along (as I felt she had done at the time) and then disappoint me in front of all my friends. Heck, one of them had even brought their copy of Super Mario Bros 2 for everyone to play after I unwrapped my penultimate gift.

My mom tried to hold out, she really did. She had a smile on her face even as she let me linger for a bit, pretending like she didn't know what we were talking about. At some point, someone started chanting "Where's Travis' Nintendo? Where's Travis' Nintendo?", until all of us were chanting along with him. My mother, instead of getting upset or stressed at 10 children chanting at her, continued to smile as she went into her closet and pulled out a wrapped box that was just the right size.

I could hardly contain myself. But even then, my mom had an ace up her sleeve. Tearing into the wrapping paper, I discovered....more wrapping paper! She'd wrapped it in 6 layers of wrapping paper. I can still remember the excitement mounting with each layer I went down, my mom's smile getting bigger and laughing with joy at how I wouldn't let anyone else help me. Eventually, I burrowed through all the paper and found the Action Set, and oh was there cheering. That may have been the biggest hug I'd ever given my mother to that point.

It probably goes without saying that we did nothing else that day except play Super Mario Bros 2. It was the hot new title at the time, and we all took turns with the controller. I don't remember being confused, or even caring, why this game was so vastly different than the first game, it was simply a whole new adventure to explore, with new worlds, new enemies, and 4 different characters to try out. After that party, my life changed. I played every game I could get my hands on; it was all I wanted to do. As they say, the rest is history.

It makes me a little sad that I have no pictures of that day, but I'll never forget the memories. Even after 30+ years, it remains one of the best birthday parties I've ever had, and in talking with my mom about it, I know it still makes her extremely happy to know how special that birthday was for me.

In lieu of pics, I'll just say that the kid in this video was basically me from the ages of 8 til about 13. And the song is pretty incredible as well.

As always, I'd love to hear some stories from the community. If there's a particularly special party that you haven't shared yet, please feel free to do so in the comments below. And as we continue to tackle the massive library of NES games, these stories will be there with us.

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What an amazing story!  My story is pretty much the total opposite where my parents did not want me to have an NES (you know, brain rotting and such). My grandmother got me a telescope for Christmas; it was a display model and "unfortunately," it did not work. My older cousin took me to Brendle's (anyone remember those?) to return it and they didn't have any in stock. So what did I do?  I bought a NES. My parents were furious and made me tell my grandmother. My grandmother told my parents and I that she didn't care and only wanted me to have something I would enjoy. The big smack in the face was that it did not come with a game because it was the Player's Guide edition. I had to beg my Mom to borrow money and pay her back over time to even have a game for it. Reluctantly, she let me borrow the money to buy Metroid. The struggle was real.
I'm not familiar with Brendle's, but we had Woolworth's. My dad took me there for games until they went out of business. That's a fun story as well, luckily it worked out for you in the end. A bit more bumps in the road though. I'm curious though, was that your plan as soon as you saw your gift was a telescope or did you come up with it on the fly when you got "lucky" and they didn't have any replacement ones?
Man that's great!  Torturing kids in this manner is one of the great joys of parenting, and it is something I do to this day.  I'm sure my son and daughter see right through me, but I don't care.  I must have wrote down (feigned ignorance) "Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Smash controller" a hundred times on various pieces of paper in last Christmas just to keep it going.  Good times.

I don't quite have anything like that; I got an NES for Christmas back in '88, but it was fairly innocent (sort of, but I'll save that for another day), but my best friend's mom was the queen.  She would, on a regular basis, leave wrapped presents in the semi-open to be speculated on (or partially opened by my friend, in one case), then change the wrapping paper (or sometimes box) at the last moment.  It was always funny, and as an parent hilarious and comforting to know she always had out number, even when we thought we were being sly.
That must have been the best birthday party!

The first time I saw the NES was at my cousin's house and him and his friends had rented Mega Man 2 and I was just memorized watching them play all afternoon. He was an older cousin so I didn't dare butt in and just enjoyed watching from afar. After that I guess I talked about it non-stop and one of my dad's cousins had an NES at their house that they weren't playing (it was all retirees living there so I'm not even sure who bought it initially). We traded our Atari 2600 into a Radio Shack (I think?), and used the money to buy our very own NES with Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt for $40 (also a vague memory so it could definitely be incorrect). I don't think we even played Mario for the first week as I remember my whole family (grandma and grandpa who we were living with at the time too) shooting ducks and clay discs for quite a while before my parents and I decided we needed to save the princess.

As for best gaming related birthdays I don't have any elaborate stories like yours, but my parents rented me a SNES with Street Fighter II and I had 3 school friends over to play all night. So many awesome matches and we took turns beating it with Blanka and Zangief that night.
@zophar53: I really wanted an NES that Christmas, but my parents weren't trying to hear any of that. I went to return the telescope with the intention of getting a new one if they had it. They didn't, so I used the money to get what I wanted. So, I wasn't planning on it the whole time, but craving the NES and my cousin there championing me didn't help either.
@bombatomba: Oh man, leaving them out and changing the box or wrapping paper. Devious! I love that. I'm going to have to keep that one in mind for my theoretical future children.

Thanks for sharing, everyone! Always fun hearing the personal stories and memories.
It's always fun to hear such a big childhood moment. It sounds like your mom really knocked it out of the park. It's amazing how so much at that time revolved around that little grey box.

I've shared my story for those that want to go back and dig up a podcast.

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