The history of Nintendo began long before the Japanese gaming company released its monstrously popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console in 1985. Nintendo Koppai was founded all the way back in 1889 as a playing card company by Fusajiro Yamauchi [source: Jones]. In 1949, Fusajiro suffered a stroke and his 22-year-old grandson Hiroshi took over [source: Melia]. Over the next 63 years, Hiroshi Yamauchi would transform Nintendo into the world's most successful gaming company.
Anxious about the limited market for playing cards, Yamauchi tested other products and services, including a taxi company, instant rice, hourly hotels (wink-wink) and toys [source: Jones]. Nintendo had its first hit toy in 1963 with the Ultra Hand, an extendable plastic grabber with suction-cup fingers. Taking an interest in video game popularity, Nintendo got the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan, the world's first home video game console. In 1977, Nintendo released its first game console, the TV-Game 6, offering six versions of the same tennis game; it was eclipsed by Atari's iconic 2600 console [source: CBBC].
Yamauchi's big break came at the arcade. In 1980, legendary Nintendo video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto created the first arcade version of "Donkey Kong," featuring the hammer-wielding hero who would become Mario [source: CBBC]. When the NES console arrived in the U.S. in 1985, it featured Miyamoto's classic "Super Mario Bros." launching the best-selling video game franchise of the next three decades. Yamauchi remained at the helm of Nintendo until his death in 2013 at the age of 85 [source: Melia].