Nintendo’s 11 past consoles have received anywhere from 14 to 1,737 games.
I was recently reading about the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s latest video game console that follows the same pattern of all of its recent console releases (one generation of technology behind; based around at least one major gimmick; online play clearly unimportant; leaning heavily on exclusive titles to generate sales). The Switch has been sold out pretty much everywhere since it debuted a few months ago and that trend looks to continue; apparently demand is so high that Nintendo and Apple are butting heads over component supplies that are required for both the Switch and iPhones.
The craziest part of the Switch’s huge early sales? There are almost no games available for it. Right now, there are only 12 titles on sale at Amazon. Twelve! And one of them is called 1-2 Switch, and it’s a game that should’ve been packaged with the console to demonstrate the various features of its gimmick. (Instead, it costs $48, and the system comes with zero games.)
More games will certainly fill out the lineup over time — at least, that’s the hope. But, based on Nintendo’s history, the number of games could be anywhere from two more to like 3,000 more.
I went through Nintendo’s annual reports for each of their past 11 systems to see just how many games each got before it was shuffled off to that big video game nursing home in the sky.
Here are the 11 Nintendo consoles, in order of the number of games they got (in North America)…
11 | Nintendo Virtual Boy, 14 games
I’ve written more on Virtual Boy than — err — virtually anyone else. (That includes my 11 Points in Defense of Nintendo Virtual Boy, which still elicits emails to this day.) Its run was so short that its launch games were released on August 14, 1995 and its final game was released on March 22, 1996. There wasn’t even enough time in there for a Virtual Boy baby boom.
10 | Wii U, 165 games
The console that launched a million “Should Nintendo get out of the hardware game?” hot takes, Wii U is still receiving a slow, slow trickle of games; even that should dry up soon. At least the Wii U got a couple of great games. (Super Mario 3D World is low key considered one of the best Mario games ever; and Super Mario Maker was a game that would’ve changed my life back when I was eight. Unfortunately I’m multiple decades past being eight.)
9 | Nintendo 64, 297 games
I was surprised to see the 64, which is no less than revered, had so few games. I guess it’s a testament to making your shots count, since at least 10 percent of those games reach “favorite game ever” for multiple people. (For me, it’s Mario Kart 64 and The New Tetris. I — the horror — was never a Goldeneye person.)
8 | Nintendo 3DS, 444 games
Games are still coming out for the 3DS, which has extended its shelf live by evolving into the New 3DS and (even though this is the opposite of how evolution works) the 2DS.
7 | Nintendo Gamecube, 552 games
The Gamecube got off to an iffy start by debuting with a Luigi launch title (Luigi’s Mansion) rather than a Mario one, but it held on long enough to rack up a pretty broad library. It was also the final console that would have quite a few titles that are also available on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles; ever since Nintendo started going for gasps with their console gimmicks, ports have been fewer and farther between.
6 | Nintendo Entertainment System, 679 games
Believe it or not, the final official release in North America for the O.G. NES was Wario’s Woods on December 10, 1994. For comparison’s sake, the Super Nintendo was released on August 23, 1991 and the N64 was released on September 29, 1996. Wario’s Woods is like that Japanese soldier who was stranded on an island for decades after World War II and refused to believe the war was over once he was finally rescued.
5 | Super Nintendo, 719 games
In a huge disparity, the Japanese version of the Super Nintendo got 1,398 games — nearly twice what the North American market received. It also got the spectacular rainbow color scheme rather than the purple and prone-to-fading gray utilitarian North American color scheme. No wonder the Sega Genesis owned the market over here.
4 | Nintendo Game Boy, 965 games
The Game Boy had the longest shelf life of any console (especially once the Game Boy Color came out). It debuted in 1989 and wasn’t shuttered for the Game Boy Advance until 2001. No other console on this list got anywhere CLOSE to a decade on the market. And no future electronics product ever will.
3 | Game Boy Advance, 1,021 games
For whatever reason, this is a rare case where North America got more games than Japan (1,021 to 789). I’m not sure why; my best guess is that in the early 2000s, people in Japan had already moved on from portable game systems thanks to a more advanced selection of cell phones. Meanwhile over here we could only play Snake on our phones, and while it’s a very good game, a handheld console was still necessary.
2 | Nintendo Wii, 1,262 games
Wii was so explosively popular — and the games were, in many ways, so incredibly simplistic — that companies just started cranking them out with reckless abandon. Eventually the novelty of the Wii’s mechanics faded, but at least we got enough third-party darts, cooking and dancing games to last us a lifetime.
1 | Nintendo DS, 1,737 games
I never would’ve guessed it, but the DS, somehow, was the second-best selling video game system ever (behind only the Sony PlayStation 2). Are the mid-2000s just a total blur? I don’t remember a time when it seemed like the Nintendo DS was that popular. But in its roughly six years as Nintendo’s signature handheld, it averaged approximately four new games every five days. Sweet, merciful crap!