E3 2021 is just around the corner, though with a whole lot of competing events and streams it’s not quite the industry-defining occasion of the past. Yet Nintendo will be ‘there’ with a day that’ll feature an E3 Nintendo Direct and three hours of Treehouse demonstrations streamed for your pleasure.
Despite the absence of a physical event in an LA convention centre, this is pretty much the same formula as in more recent E3 events (prior to the enforced ‘year off’ in 2020), right down to the Direct broadcast run time of around 40 minutes; we’re also getting a little less Treehouse time than in the past, but that’s understandable in the context of a virtual event and ongoing disruption to work routines. Nevertheless, it’ll be exciting to see Nintendo’s big pitch of Switch titles due this year and next.
Setting expectations appropriately is the order of the day, but that can be tough when it comes to Nintendo. Perhaps E3 2021 won’t have the magic of previous years, or maybe it’ll blow us away and entertain us in surprising ways. Either way, we decided it was a good time to reminisce on some of the most iconic and legendary Nintendo E3 moments ever.
Looking back over two-and-a-half decades, there are plenty to choose from, but we’ve selected a handful of our very favourites — a top 5, in no particular order. We begin by travelling back to the pre-Wii days of 2004…
DS and Twilight Princess are revealed (or anything else from 2004, frankly)
2004 was a pretty epic event for Nintendo; arguably a key moment in terms of its marketing and image in the West, and its role in truly introducing Satoru Iwata’s vision to the world. Reggie Fils-Aimé made his memorable debut — “I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games” — and pulled the original DS out of his jacket pocket. At that point the system seemed like an enormous gamble, especially an odd-looking two-screen setup with a touchscreen as a key feature. Of course, it sold incredibly well and led the way to a golden era for the company.
At that same show we had that most treasured of E3 moments — a huge game reveal. Remember that at this point we’d had just three 3D Zelda games, two on N64 and then the cel-shaded Wind Waker. The reveal of Twilight Princess for GameCube, the crowd reaction and then Shigeru Miyamoto’s triumphant appearance; that was a moment of E3 history.
“Who’s Your Daddy” (2005)
Though they undoubtedly had a hugely productive working relationship, it also seemed to be the case that former company President Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aimé had fun in each other’s company. We’ll see more examples of this further on, but this little nugget of locker room banter from 2005 was pretty memorable.
This is also quite early in Satoru Iwata’s deliberate effort to be a visible leader for the company; this wasn’t his first presentation in English, but it was also quite early on. It seemed special, though, to have Nintendo’s CEO so committed to communicating in English at events such as E3, and also doing so with humour and a little panache. This moment was pure ‘fun’, and was typical of Nintendo’s live shows in this era.
Oh, and this was also the show that first unveiled the Wii, at that point ‘Nintendo Revolution’. There’s that, too.
“My Body Is Ready” (2007)
This top five won’t consist entirely of meme-worthy quotes, we promise, but this had to be on the list.
This was a giddy time for Nintendo, too, with the Wii fresh on the scene and interest in its various approaches to games and controls generating huge excitement. With DS also hot, this was a period when Nintendo realised it was onto something special.
This famous quote came in a demonstration of Wii Fit, of course, with Bill Trinen translating for Shigeru Miyamoto on stage. As was often the case with Fils-Aimé, he was completely relaxed and happy to indulge in a joke. The moment wasn’t just about the line, but the jokey self-awareness of the ex-Pizza Hut executive’s less-than-svelte physique, and his gag about selecting ‘heavy’ clothing to literally lighten the result.
Classic Reggie, classic Nintendo.
That Zelda: Breath of the Wild Reveal (2014)
Was the reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild representative of the final game? Well, yes and no — Nintendo may have done a Ubisoft / EA / every other Triple-A publisher and produced a concept cutscene beyond the capabilities of Wii U (and eventually the Switch). It felt like it didn’t matter, though, because the idea it implanted in the minds of Zelda fans was enough to thrill.
3D Zelda games before this one had generally been one large world broken into obvious segments, albeit with a big field or portals in the sky separating them. The way Breath of the Wild was pitched — even if a little cliched in terms of ‘yes, you can go to those mountains in the distance’ — was perfect; it wrapped with a neat CG moment that introduced Link and the first Guardian.
This game had multiple incredible trailers at E3, but the initial reveal and the potential it showed for franchise was rather special.
Those Amazing Puppets And, Sadly, Iwata-san’s Final E3 (2015)
It was a reflection of Satoru Iwata’s continual commitment to attending E3 that it felt shocking when Nintendo announced that the President would miss the 2015 event due to illness. At that stage it was explained that it was serious enough for Iwata-san to skip travel, but that he was still very much working and in charge of the company. Sadly, the voice performance that Iwata-san gave would prove to be his final E3 appearance — he passed away around a month later, on 11th July 2015.
How typical of Nintendo, though, to deal with the difficulty of Iwata-san’s illness and produce a wonderful presentation of puppets, representing Satoru Iwata, Reggie Fils-Aimé and Shigeru Miyamoto. Relying on the best in the business, Nintendo enlisted The Jim Henson Company to (re)create its three most famous executives and the Star Fox crew, and ‘Nintendo Muppets’ was as fun as it sounds (and a charming way of introducing Star Fox Zero, too).
Objectively, this wasn’t a great show for Nintendo in terms of games. The Wii U was truly toiling at this stage, and the company would have no doubt been looking ahead to NX / Switch even at that point. There is the added sadness of Satoru Iwata’s illness which makes looking back on this extra poignant, but the humour of the puppet segments and genuine affection for all things Nintendo shown in this presentation make it one of our collective favourite Nintendo E3 memories ever.
So, those are our top five E3 moments from Nintendo, but which is your favourite? Let us know in the poll below, or share others in the comments.
Those are some of the standout moments of Nintendo at E3, but of course there are many more that give us fond memories. The Wii era gave us interesting reveals, there was the 3DS reveal in which a lot of demonstrators with systems tethered to their bodies walked out to greet the crowd — yeah, that one was a little odd. There was a fun CG ‘fight’ between Iwata-San and Reggie to reveal Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, Miyamoto-san’s lovely enthusiasm showcasing Pikmin 3, and Doug Bowser’s quirky albeit predictable introduction alongside a giant Bowser… and then there were the moments that didn’t quite come together.
As always, we’d love to read about your favourite iconic Nintendo E3 moments in the comments; which is your most treasured E3 memory?
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