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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Nintendo Has Had Some of the All-Time Best E3 Moments

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Welp. Nintendo won't be on the floor at E3 2023. Neither will Xbox. Sony… well, we knew Sony and the ESA haven't been hitching horses for a while now. So that means the "Big 3" are no-shows at what we had all hoped was going to be a triumphant, perhaps even jubilant, return of the most legendary gaming show of them all. I'm not going to write about "Is E3 even relevant?" or "do we still need a show like E3?" Those pieces have already been written, often by people much more talented and wise than I. Instead, I just want to say, as a fan of video gaming, how I am truly bummed out to see E3 once again falling to the wayside. Some of the greatest E3 moments of all time come from Nintendo, and while they stopped doing live conferences in 2012, their E3-timed Directs have been some of the most memorable parts of E3 without technically being part of E3.

While Nintendo wasn't doing live press conferences, its presence on the showfloor was always massive and one of the places you absolutely, positively had to visit if you were among those lucky enough to attend E3. Usually Nintendo would have a Treehouse live event immediately following its Direct, and we'd be treated to several hours of live gameplay of games we only just learned about. It was all so exciting and fun, and this year it's gone.

I feel safe in saying Nintendo has had more memorable E3 moments than anyone else.

Will we get a Direct during the E3 window? I'm kind of thinking we won't. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but Nintendo's biggest game in half a decade drops at the start of May and anything they're holding for the holiday season wouldn't really benefit from a June reveal. So not only is Nintendo not going to have a physical presence at the LA Convention center, but I don't think we're going to see a Direct during E3, either.

I do feel safe in saying Nintendo has had more memorable E3 moments than anyone else. It was a Nintendo E3 moment that birthed one of the most enduring online memes with the "Reaction Guys." (related: it was a previous Nintendo E3 uh… moment… that spawned the first half of that meme).

E3 2005: A Nintendo Revolution

While not quite as legendary as the previous year's E3 presentation, 2005 saw the first, official reveal of the "Nintendo Revolution," which would go on to become the Nintendo Wii. Watching Satoru Iwata casually reveal the prototype, which he was hiding in his jacket, is just one of those magical Nintendo moments. But the crowd really gets going when Iwata announces Virtual Console and the promise we'd have the opportunity to play games from every Nintendo console. "The idea of a single device transporting us back to the first Excitebike, Earthbound, or Punch-Out!! should make us all feel young again."

E3 2014: Robot Chicken and Smash

Watching this presentation again is so weird. If I'd never seen it before, and someone were to describe it to me, I'd think they were making it up. It's this beautiful, absurd fever dream put together by Robot Chicken and features a choreographed fight sequence between Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime leading to the reveal of the new Super Smash Bros. I'd forgotten how awesome this was. Go and watch it again. You'll see.

E3 2018: Every Fighter… Ever

The presentation itself lacked the memorable moments between segments, and watching it again, this is a pretty by-the-books E3 Direct. It's pretty much indistinguishable from any other Nintendo Direct. However, E3 2018 saw the announcement that every fighter ever to have appeared in Super Smash Bros was coming to Ultimate. It didn't seem possible, and yet not only did they come through with the promise, they added EVEN MORE as the years went on. This E3 holds a special place in my heart, since it's the one and only E3 I've been to, and I was within grabbing distance of Shigeru Miyamoto. Grabbing Mr. Miyamoto is frowned upon both by IGN and Nintendo, so I had to compose myself. I also feel like, while Nintendo had an incredible 2017 with the release of the Switch and Breath of the Wild, 2018 was the year the Switch absolutely cemented its place in popular culture, and I think Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had a lot to do with that.

E3 2015: Nintendo Muppets

Not technically Muppets, I know, but they were created by The Jim Henson company. The melding of two titans of creativity gave us one of the best and bittersweet Nintendo digital E3 presentations of them all, as it would be Satoru Iwata's final showing as Nintendo's president. It was also 2015, when things were looking pretty awful for Nintendo as a company. The Wii U never caught on, and is largely considered a failure as a console, and the first game featured, Star Fox Zero, is… well, it had some interesting ideas. But the whole presentation is just so full of heart, it captures the feeling we Nintendo fans hold inside of us better than any other presentation.

E3 2004: Pretty Much Everything About It

I mentioned it earlier, but the Reaction Guys meme was birthed at this Nintendo E3 press conference. The first photo in the meme was taken in 2003, when Nintendo announced Pacman vs. for GameCube. But I'll get to that second photo in a bit, because, man. Where even to start? I guess at the beginning. Logical enough. The whole thing kicked off with someone most of us didn't recognize, an imposing figure by the name of Reggie Fils-Aime. "My name is Reggie. I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names, and we're about making games." Legend! The reveal of the biggest President in gaming was a pretty interesting way to start things off, but then we got the reveal of the Nintendo DS during the same presentation. It wasn't quite the Earth-shattering moment of other console reveals, but in hindsight, maybe everyone should have clapped a little louder.

The most incredible Nintendo E3 moment of all time happens at the end of the presentation. It's important to point out, E3 2004 was still very much a business-focused event, and a fair portion of the presentation included sales figures and bar graphs. Iwata came out after the DS presentation and talked at length about Nintendo's successes and how the DS was going to change things up, once again, but then he mentioned Nintendo's next console. There's an audible gasp from the crowd when he says "home console," by the way. He goes on to confirm Nintendo is working on a new console, one that will "create a gaming revolution." It was our first hint at the Nintendo Revolution, and man was it exciting.

If you've never watched a video of the Twilight Princess reveal taken from the crowd's perspective, I highly recommend doing so.

At the very end, Reggie thanked the crowd and casually offered a look at just one more world players could soon visit. As the trailer rolled, it seemed both new and somehow familiar, but as the camera spun around a realistic Link riding Epona, all doubt was removed and the crowd went bananas. That was the source of the second part of the "Reaction Guys" meme, and you can feel it from watching footage taken with the crowd in place. The conference hall just explodes with joyous energy, with people screaming out in disbelief at what they're seeing in front of their eyes. Seriously, if you've never watched video of the reveal taken from the crowd's perspective, I highly recommend doing so. Even if you aren't a fan of Zelda, or Twilight Princess, the energy is just so pure and real, it's impossible not to smile. And then Miyamoto comes out with a Hylian shield and Master Sword!

Even if Nintendo does an E3-timed Direct this year, without the following excitement from those who get to experience Nintendo's offerings on the show floor, I think we're all worse off. It's a huge blow for fans who've dreamed their whole lives, as I did, of getting their hands on games announced only hours before. I'm hoping the return of E3 as an in-person event is merely experiencing growing pains and the blowback from negative economic conditions. For Nintendo fans, I really hope Nintendo returns to E3, and I hope everyone gets to experience the magic in-person at least once.

Of course there are a lot more Nintendo moments to love and share. What are yours?

Seth Macy is Executive Editor, IGN Commerce, and just wants to be your friend. You can find him hosting the Nintendo Voice Chat podcast.

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