Nintendo’s president just passed away — and he was probably a huge part of your childhood

Satoru Iwata
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime (left), Nintendo president Satoru Iwata (middle) and game director Shigeru Miyamoto (right) as puppets in a recent Nintendo video. Nintendo

You’ve no doubt played games shepherded into existence by Satoru Iwata, the former president of Nintendo who passed away on Sunday. From “Brain Training” to “Nintendogs” to “Wii Sports” tennis, Iwata shaped modern Nintendo. Chances are, you grew up on some of his games.

Beyond Nintendo, Iwata aimed to expand the common definition of what a game could be.

Before the wildly successful Wii launched, Nintendo published a series of interviews conducted by Iwata. In one interview, his employees turned the tables and asked him some questions. Here’s how Iwata responded to a question about Nintendo’s goal to expand gaming beyond traditional boundaries:

I believe that if we don’t make moves to get people who don’t play games to understand them, then the position of video games in society will never improve. Society’s image of games will remain largely negative, including that stuff about playing games all the time badly damaging you or rotting your brain or whatever.

But before Iwata was championing the expansion of gaming, he was creating games as a programmer. One of the games he worked on early in his career was “Balloon Fight,” an NES classic that iterated on another classic: “Joust.” The game showed up as recently as last month in the Nintendo World Championships, and was ported to the Wii U console via Nintendo’s digital service (“Virtual Console”).

Here’s a look at “Balloon Fight” in action:


Iwata also worked on a classic series that doesn’t get as much attention in the United States as it does in Nintendo’s home country of Japan: “Earthbound” (“Mother” in Japan). The game stars a young boy named Ness as he explores a bizarre world full of … memorable characters; the franchise is a cult classic more than anything else, and its characters have appeared in a variety of other Nintendo games.

The original game, known as “Earthbound: Beginnings” in the US, just launched on Wii U’s digital service in June. It looks like this:


Perhaps most importantly, and certainly most notably, Iwata helped create the fan-favourite Kirby character: a puffy pink ball of a creature that has the ability to temporarily take on the attributes of other creatures. In Kirby games, the character literally inhales another character, thus taking on its abilities.

 Kirby may be the most recognisable character he created while many of us were kids. It all began in 1992 with “Kirby’s Dream Land” and spawned a franchise that’s still going today.

In 2015’s “Kirby and the Rainbow Curse,” players piloted the pink puff around using the console’s stylus, drawing platforms into the world Kirby inhabits in order to progress. It’s a colourful, memorable dalliance, aimed at players of all ages: a fitting representation of Iwata’s enduring mark on both the company he led and the games he created.


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