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History of video games

In the history of computer and video games, the third generation began in 1983 with the Japanese release of the Family Computer (later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the rest of the world). Although the previous generation of consoles had also used 8-bit processors, it was at the end of this generation that home consoles were first labeled by their "bits". This also came into fashion as 16-bit systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis were marketed to differentiate between the generations of consoles. In the United States, this generation in gaming was primarily dominated by the NES/Famicom.



The Family Computer (commonly abbreviated the Famicom) became very popular in Japan during this era and ended up crowding out the other consoles in this generation. The Famicom's American counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System, dominated the gaming market in Japan and North America, thanks in part to its restrictive licensing agreements with developers. Although the NES dominated the market in Japan and North America, the Sega Master System made large inroads in Brazil and Europe and the NES was never able to break its grip. The Atari 7800 also had a fairly successful life, and the Sharp X68000 began its niche run in Japan in 1987.

In the later part of the third generation (argued by some as part of the 4th generation), Nintendo also introduced the Game Boy, which almost single-handedly solidified, and then proceeded to dominate, the previously scattered handheld market for 15 years. While the Game Boy product line has been incrementally updated every few years, until the Game Boy Micro and Nintendo DS, and partially the Game Boy Color, all Game Boy products were backwards compatible with the original released in 1989.

The third generation saw many of the first console role-playing video games (RPGs). Editing and censorship of video games was often used in localizing Japanese games to North America. During this era, many of the most famous video game franchises of all time were founded. Some notable examples include Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Metroid, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Castlevania, Phantasy Star, and Bomberman.

This generation is often mislabeled as the "First Generation" as it saw the beginnings of the video game industry as we know it today (although the grouping of generations is largely arbitrary).

Nintendo versus Sega

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / Family Computer (Famicom) sold by far the most units of any third generation console in North America and Japan. This fact was partially due to its earlier release, but it mostly resulted from Nintendo's strict licensing rules that forbade developers from releasing their games on other systems if their games were released on the NES. This put a damper on third party support for the other, less popular consoles. However, Sega's Master System was more popular in Europe, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand, markets that were first reached by Sega. Many more games for the Master System were released in Europe and Brazil than in North America, and the console had a very long shelf-life in Brazil and New Zealand. In Europe competition was tough since NES failed to build the monopoly that it had in the US and in Japan. The industry started to grow in places west of the Soviet Union, including Lithuania via new programmers trained in that area. By the end of the generation there was no clear winner in Europe. The Master System was finally discontinued in the late 1990s, while Nintendo of Japan continued to repair Famicom systems until October 31, 2007.[1][2][3]



Name NES/Famicom PV-1000 Epoch Cassette Vision Supergame VG 3000 Sega Master System Atari 7800
Console Nintendo entertainment system.jpeg Sega master system.jpeg Atari 7800 pro system.jpg
Launch prices ¥14,800
$139.99 N/A N/A ¥24,200
Release date JP July 15, 1983
US October 18, 1985

AME February 1 1986
EU September 1 1986
WW January 1 1987

JP October 1983
JP 1984
JP 1985
JP October 20 1985
AME June 1 1986

WW September 1 1987

AME June 1 1986

WW September 1 1987

Media Cartridge and floppy disk (Japan only) Cartridge Cartridge Cartridge Cartridge and data card Cartridge
Top-selling games Super Mario Bros. (pack-in), 40.23 million (as of 1999)[4]
Super Mario Bros. 3, 18 million (as of May 21, 2003)[5]
N/A N/A N/A Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit) Pole Position II (pack-in)
Backward compatibility None None Epoch Cassette Vision None Sega SG-1000 (Japanese system only) Atari 2600
Accessories (retail)
  • N/A
  • N/A
CPU Ricoh 2A03 (based on

MOS Technology 6502
1.79 MHz (1.66 MHz PAL)

D780C-1 (Z80A)
3.579 MHz
4 MHz
1.19 MHz
NEC 780C (Zilog Z80 clone)
3.57 MHz (3.54 MHz PAL)
Custom, 6502C (based on

MOS Technology 6502)
1.79 MHz

Memory 2 KB main RAM
2 KB video RAM
256 bytes sprite RAM
28 bytes palette RAM
2 KB + 1 KB (character generator) 128 Bytes 128 bytes 8 KB main RAM
16 KB video RAM
4 KB main RAM
Video 64 sprites (8 per scanline)
256x240 resolution
25 simultaneous colors
53 color palette
8 colors 16 colors 128 colors (16 colors with 8 intensity levels each) 64 sprites (8 per scanline)
256x240 resolution
32 simultaneous colors
64 color palette
Unlimited sprites
320x200 resolution
25 simultaneous colors
256 color palette
Audio Mono audio with:
  • Two square waves
  • One triangle wave
  • One noise generator
  • One DPCM channel
  • One FM synthesizer (Famicom Disk system, Japan only)
Mono audio with:
  • One tone generator
  • One noise generator
  • One 1-Bit PCM
Mono Mono audio with:
  • Three square waves
  • One noise generator
  • 9-channel, 2-operator FM synthesizer (Japan only)
Mono audio with:
  • Two square waves

Worldwide sales standings

Console Units sold
Nintendo Entertainment System 60 million (as of August 4, 2007)[6]
Sega Master System 13 million (as of September 6, 2005)[7][8]


See also


  1. ^ "Nintendo's classic Famicom faces end of road". AFP. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-11-09.  
  2. ^ "初代「ファミコン」など公式修理サポート終了" (in Japanese). ITmedia News. ITmedia. 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  3. ^ RyanDG (2007-10-16). "Nintendo of Japan dropping Hardware support for the Famicom". Arcade Renaissance. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  4. ^ "Best-Selling Video Games". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  5. ^ "All Time Top 20 Best Selling Games". 2003-05-21. Archived from the original on 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  6. ^ "NES". Classic Systems. Nintendo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2007-12-04.  
  7. ^ Russell Carroll (2005-09-06). "Good Enough: Why graphics aren't number one". Game Tunnel. Retrieved 2007-10-28.  
  8. ^ Sam Pettus (2007-01-21). "SegaBase Volume 2 - Master System and Game Gear". Eidolon's Inn. Retrieved 2007-10-28.  


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