Top Games by Shigeru Miyamoto [Best Recommendations]

The former playing card company, and former toy company, Nintendo rose to prominence after shifting their focus on electronic entertainment and on the rising popularity of arcade games in the 1970s. While Nintendo was successful in Japan, things were very different overseas, especially in North America in the 1980s. With no brand recognition, Nintendo’s products weren’t selling as they hoped, unsold arcade cabinets piled up, and with the Video Game Crash looming just around the corner, Nintendo was on the brink of failure and perhaps would’ve abandoned the Western market. But after Nintendo made a gamble by giving a man the chance to make a video game, the company grew and the name Nintendo has become a household name, not only in Japan and America but around the world.

Shigeru Miyamoto is a humble man with quite the imagination. He was hired by Nintendo as an artist, designing the artwork for their arcade cabinets, designs for their characters, etc. Shigeru made his big break when the president of Nintendo tasked him to create a video game. That very moment and that very game, propelled Shigeru’s career to become one of the most influential people of all time.

Shigeru creates his stories from the experiences he had in childhood and he never followed trends. When big, muscular action heroes were the trend in the 90s, the gaming industry followed with games like Contra and Double Dragon. For Shigeru, he just created a mustachioed man who was angry at his pet ape for kidnapping his girlfriend. When making a science-fiction game, one would expect the characters in the game are a robot or an alien. For Shigeru, he created a space shooter featuring talking animals. Shigeru’s intention was very simple: make the games fun to play.

Honey’s Anime has compiled 5 games Shigeru Miyamoto has created throughout his career, and then briefly explain why these games saved the gaming industry and they’re the templates for future video games to come.

05. Pikmin

  • System: Gamecube, Wii
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: December 2, 2001

Pikmin started off as a Gamecube technical demo called Mario 128. The demo highlighted the Gamecube’s processing capabilities that it can render 128 Marios in real time with their own AI. Shigeru Miyamoto used this concept to create a real-time strategy game where the player controls a large number of units to do various tasks and control them during combat. Several gameplay designs were proposes, like a god game where you play as a god and control a small population of people to start a village, expand it, etc. Ultimately, Nintendo settled with a puzzle game called Pikmin.

You play as Captain Olimar, a tiny extraterrestrial who crash-landed on an uncharted planet after his ship got hit by a comet. Around the crash site, Olimar has encountered strange plant-like creatures called Pikmin and discovered he can use them to fix his ship by finding the parts that were scattered around the planet. With only 30 days left on his life support system, Captain Olimar must work steadfastly to recover the parts with the help of the Pikmin, and head home to his homeworld of Hocotate.

The gameplay is part resource management, part strategy. As Captain Olimar, you control various types of Pikmin to traverse high areas, make pathways, carry resources and parts, and use them to fend off giant predators roaming around. With the imagination of Shigeru Miyamoto, he created a game with unique characters and setting, making Pikmin stand out from the rest. Shigeru didn’t need a game to look cool or flashy, he needed a game that is simply fun to play. Had the game become a run-of-the-mill RTS, we’d end up controlling tanks and big explosions.


04. Star Fox

  • System: SNES
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo, Argonaut Games
  • Release Dates: March 1993

During the early years of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo was working closely with a British company called Argonaut Games on bringing 3D graphics on their consoles. After several prototypes, and showing the limitations of the hardware, especially the SNES, Nintendo has given Argonaut Games the green light to develop the very first GPU in a consumer product called the Super FX Chip. What it does is it helps the SNES with the calculations in rendering 3D objects. With the technology and hardware in place, all they need is a game and Argonaut Games were the lead programmers.

Various concepts, ideas, mechanics that work around 3D were proposed but they were all shot down by Shigeru because they were “cool” instead of “fun.” Shigeru’s strategy was simple: Build the game that works, it’s fun to play, and the remaining pieces will fall in later. Now that the programmers and Shigeru have settled with the type of game they want, all that is left is the story.

Shigeru Miyamoto wasn’t interested in stereotypical sci-fi heroes, so instead, he used animals from Japanese folklore, like foxes, falcons, and rabbits. He got this inspiration after passing through the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine, a close walk away from the Nintendo corporate office. Eventually, the story revolves around a race of animals from the planet Corneria of the Lylat System raging war against the planet Venom, ruled by the evil scientist Andross. Corneria assembled a small team of mercenaries led by Fox McCloud to break through Andross’ defenses with their advanced Arwing spacecraft and put a stop to his reign of terror.

Star Fox is an on-rails shooter where you control Fox McCloud and his Arwing in a full 3D environment that is made possible by the Super FX chip. You go through hoops, dodge enemy fire and fight gigantic bosses—Star Fox was very groundbreaking with its 3D graphics—and gave the SNES some extra street cred that it can do more than its competitor, SEGA, and their Genesis.


03. The Legend of Zelda

  • System: NES, Famicom Disk System
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: August 22, 1987

With the huge success of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US, the rising superstar Shigeru Miyamoto is already hard at work on a new game that defined the action-adventure genre. And that game is none other than the Legend of Zelda.

The Prince of Darkness Ganon has stolen a part of a powerful artifact called the Triforce, and used it to engulf the Kingdom of Hyrule into chaos. In order to prevent Ganon from ruling the land, Princess Zelda has hidden away the remaining pieces of the Triforce within deadly dungeons. But alas, the princess was kidnapped by Ganon and the Triforce will soon fall into his clutches. Standing in his way is a young boy named Link, and armed nothing but a shield, sword, and courage, Link sets out on a grand adventure finding the missing pieces of the Triforce to save Princess Zelda and save the world from the evil Ganon.

The inspiration behind the making of the Legend of Zelda came from Shigeru’s childhood when he explored the woods, fields, and caves around his hometown of Sonobe, Japan. He wanted to express his feeling of adventure and wonder to the players through Zelda’s open-world gameplay and freedom to start the game wherever and whenever they choose. When you start the game, you start in the middle of nowhere and it’s up to you to know where to go. This feeling of creating your own experiences and your own adventures are what made The Legend of Zelda so fun to play and memorable.


02. Super Mario Bros.

  • System: NES, Famicom Disk System
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: October 18, 1985

Due to the success of Donkey Kong in the US, Nintendo is sitting pretty in the US market, selling a ton of arcade cabinets. Their next step is to bring their Famicom game console from Japan to the US, but sadly the Video Game Crash of 1983 happened. With the interest of video games in the US at an all-time low, and the video games stigma that came along with it, video games weren't in everyone’s interest back then. Nintendo eventually manages to sell the Famicom—renamed to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)—to North America to a resounding success, all thanks to its “killer app”, Super Mario Bros., a game co-designed by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto.

You are Mario and you must traverse the 8 worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Toadstool from the clutches of the evil Koopa King Bowser. You stomp over enemies, collect power-ups, jump over platforms and obstacles until you reach the final castle where the princess is locked away.

Super Mario was revolutionary at the time with superior graphics than any of the Atari 2600 games, more vibrant colors, higher resolution sprites, eye-catching artwork, with background art instead of black backgrounds and simple, yet responsive, controls. Shigeru learned a lot ever since Donkey Kong and made a fun game that popularized the platformer genre, and Super Mario Bros. went on to spawn tons of sequels and it’s one of the best-selling games ever.

The game is simple to control with colorful graphics, but the gameplay is addicting and challenging with levels offering tons of secrets to discover, the game appealed to gamers of all ages. Super Mario Bros. was bundled with the NES and that helped the console sell, and revitalized the game industry in the US. Suffice to say, Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. saved the Gaming Industry during its infancy.

And since we are talking a lot about Donkey Kong…


01. Donkey Kong

  • System: NES, Arcades
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: June 1986

Donkey Kong is certainly not Shigeru’s first game, that goes to Radarscope where he helped with the development, but Donkey Kong was his first game that he directed and designed. And speaking of Radarscope, the arcade boxes and hardware used by Donkey Kong have repurposed Radarscope arcade boxes due to limited resources and the arcade machines failing to sell in the North American market resulting a lot of them stuck in the warehouse collecting dust. The then Nintendo president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, decided to convert the unused arcade boxes into something new and asked Shigeru to design a new game around it.

With the help of industry legend Gunpei Yokoi as supervisor, the newly assigned game director Shigeru began working on a story that involves a story between a carpenter, and angry ape and the carpenter’s girlfriend, and then build a game around. That game is none other than Donkey Kong.

You play as Jumpman—soon to be called Mario—and you must rescue your girlfriend Pauline from the giant gorilla named Donkey Kong, atop a building that’s still under construction. You ascend the building by climbing ladders, jumping over barrels, and remove rivets that hold the building together. You win the game once you removed all rivets and Donkey Kong falls to his defeat.

Donkey Kong was the very game that helped propel Shigeru Miyamoto’s career—making more great games—and inspired future game designers with his creativity and imagination. The game’s massive success also helped Nintendo recover in the US, essentially saving the company from bankruptcy, and made a strong foothold in the US market. It’s safe to say Shigeru Miyamoto’s Donkey Kong saved Nintendo and helped place Nintendo as one of the giants in the gaming industry. Shigeru’s creative mind and dedication to create a fun game about rescuing a girl from the bad guy are reasons enough why Donkey Kong is Shigeru Miyamoto most influential and life-changing game.


Final Thoughts

If you’ve been gaming for the past 30 years or so, chances are you’ve played, or at least heard of video games like Super Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, or other video games by Nintendo. These games are one of the most influential games ever, they created the gaming industry—an industry so big, it rivals Hollywood. Nintendo may not be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and realistic graphics, but they are at the forefront of providing games that are fun to play and appeals to gamers or non-gamers of all ages. Shigeru Miyamoto was given a platform to share his experiences as a kid, and convey them in the form of video games.

This industry needs Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto that games should be about having fun, and not trick your audience by spending more money on microtransactions in games that have stagnated so much, every game look and play the same. If the industry does that, us gamers will experience more games that will take us on unforgettable grand adventures, instead of spending money for a gold-plated gun.

Antoine Rizal

Writer

Author: Antoine Rizal

I've been an anime fan for as long as I can remember. Actually, anime is very much a part of me now for I have extended my reach beyond just watching them. I am a fansubber for more than 8 years now and contributed a lot to the anime community. Me and my group has translated shows, manga, drama CDs and doujinshi. Right now I'm learning Japanese so I can better serve the community and read interesting stuff about the Japanese culture as well.

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