Nintendo needs no introduction. The company is so synonymous with the video game industry that it’s often used as a generic term for the entire medium by the general public. As such, it should come as no surprise that there is a deep and storied history of Nintendo’s roster of characters and franchises in spin-off media.
With new television shows and movies on the horizon, it’s a perfect time to take a deep dive into a lesser-known aspect of Nintendo’s history. What follows is a breakdown of the greatest gaming hits in the medium of comic books from the beloved company.
10 German Club Nintendo Comics Have Become Meme-Worthy
Club Nintendo, not to be confused with the Nintendo Rewards program, was a German sister series to the American Nintendo Power magazine. Much like its United States contemporary, it would provide readers with a selection of Nintendo-focused reviews, previews, and of course, comics. Starting in 1991, these short and often two to four-page strips have become most infamous for their dark subject matter and adult themes. It’s unfortunately difficult to narrow down the exact creators of the comics as they were written by the editorial staff of each issue with art outsourced to unnamed mangakas from Work House Co. in Japan. Some of the most memorable moments include Wario making a deal with the literal Devil to kill Mario, and when the multicolored Yoshis learned a lesson about racism.
9 Jim Shooter’s Valiant Comics Created The Nintendo Comics System
Valiant Comics is a lesser-known publishing company created by ex-Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, which would eventually create its own stable cast of superpowered heroes. However, during the late 80s, Valiant was cutting its teeth on licensed Nintendo and WWF comics.
The collection of Nintendo comics from the company was listed as The Nintendo Comics System. While Nintendo Power’s Howard & Nester would predate the Valiant series by a year, it was the combined power of the Comics System line and DC’s Atari Force that were the first major pushes of the video game industry into the land of comic-dom.
8 Metroid From Magazine Z Told Samus’ Backstory
Koji Tazawa and artist Kenji Ishikawa are responsible for the 2003 16 part metroid series first published inside Magazine Z by Kodansha. It detailed the background and history of Samus Aran leading up to the events of Metroid Fusion. Unlike other spin-off media, where most of the content is ignored for forthcoming releases, many of the elements and ideas first proposed in this series would later be incorporated into Metroid: Other M. Despite some inconsistencies with previously established canon, this story is a must-read for big-time Samus fans curious about her history.
7 Howard & Nester Are Where It All Started
Howard & Nester or Nester’s Adventures as it would later be called was THE primary comic strip that ran through every single issue of Nintendo Power up until volume 55 in 1993. The comic centered around Nintendo mascot Nester and his adventures through the varied worlds of the company with Howard – a character based on the real-life Howard Phillips who ran the Nintendo Fun Club. Howard was written out halfway through once his real-world parent left the company to work for LucasArts. Nester himself would eventually leave the magazine in ’93 as mentioned, but he’d return a few more times during milestone events including the very final issue of Nintendo Power, which now depicted the titular character as a grown adult father. He tells a parable about the feeling of accomplishment derived from playing games, and Howard’s iconic bow-tie can be seen framed on the back wall.
6 Super Mario Adventures Was The First Mario Manga
Super Mario Adventures was a comic strip that ran in Nintendo Power. It was created and drawn by Charlie Nozawa with Kentaro Takekuma on plotting. While The Nintendo Comics System predates the Adventures For a scant few years, this was the first time Nintendo created a comic series in-house for their own magazine. The scant 13 issue series details the usual story of Mario and Luigi having to save Princess Toadstool from the threat of marrying Bowser. The series loosely adapted the forthcoming games and was also the first manga (depending on how you count it) of the character.
5 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Was Made By A Legend
Out of all Nintendo franchises, The Legend of Zelda is the best suited for a comic book adaptation. That’s why it’s no surprise that the Nintendo Power adaptation of A Link to the Past by Shotaro Ishinomori became such a smash hit. Ishinomori is no stranger to manga and tokusatsu fans as he’s most famous for creating chibi 009, super sentaiand Kamen Rider. His expertise translated perfectly into the lighthearted and childlike atmosphere of Zelda. A Link to the Past features simple and expressive art with the kind of peppy and fantastical writing one would expect from the franchise.
4 Animal Crossing: New Horizons Is Just As Lovable As The Game
One of the most recent comics on this list, Animal Crossing: New Horizons by Kokonasu Rumba is an absolutely adorable read. Clearly written by someone who was as equally obsessed with the game as most people have been over the last few years of the pandemic, the stories read like fan web-comics with earnest humor rather than official releases from Nintendo. Rumba’s art is also perfectly representative of the game and maintains the cutesy vibe without sacrificing quality. It’s also (thankfully) not one of the manga that western fans had to wait several years for.
3 Pokémon Adventures Is Considered The Definitive Adaptation By The Game’s Creator
Pokemon has a varied history when it comes to comics. The most infamous is pokemon pocket monsters by Kosaku Anakubo, which is well known for its violence and nudity. However, according to series creator Satoshi Tajiri, pokemon adventures by Hidenori Kusaka, Mato, and Satoshi Yamamoto is the comic that “most resembles the world I was trying to convey.”
It debuted in 1997 and, depending on how you count it, has continued to be released somewhat consistently up until the writing of this article.
two Kirby of the Stars: The Story of Dedede Who Lives In Pupupu Was Over Ten Years Of Poyo
Hirokazu Hikawa presented readers with such a fantastic series of Kirby-themed comics that they’ve recently collected some of the best in Kirby Manga Mania. On top of that, the collection also features the first new chapter by Hikawa in over ten years! The series was largely aimed at children with tons of slapstick humor, but any fan of the video games would know that’s perfectly in line with the tone of the franchise… most of the time. If that doesn’t entice anyone, it also features Kirby getting drunk on alcohol or “loopy juice” as the Viz Media localization called it.
1 Twilight Princess By Akira Himekawa Is Peak Zelda
The mangaka duo of Akira Himekawa made up of Honda A and Nagano S has been making Zelda manga since 1999’s Ocarina of Time adaptation. The run has had its peaks and valleys, but the most recent adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has become the best of their work and quite easily the best Nintendo comic ever released. Not only does it remain accurate to the game, but it also keeps true to the dark themes and mature messages without sacrificing anything in translation (like with earlier adaptations). Any spoilers, and yes there are spoilers unique to the manga, would be a disservice to interested parties, so the best voucher that can be given is this emphatic recommendation: Pick it up ASAP!
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