The 25th Anniversary Edition: Video Games

Welcome back everyone to the Anniversary Edition. This is a series where we are highlighting the 25th anniversary of some of our favorite things. These include movies, TV shows, video games, comics and music that came out during the year of 1989.

Last week, we looked at music. This week, we will look at video games that came out in 1989. The year had a huge impact on the video game world as we know it in several fronts. On the hardware front, there were two major debuts. One major debut was the boom of the handheld system. Two handhelds systems debuted in 1989. One was the Atari Lynx. The Lynx was the first handheld featuring color graphics. It released in North America in September. The other handheld system that released that year was the Nintendo Game Boy. The more popular of the two handheld systems released that year, Nintendo hit a home run with the Game Boy. It released in Japan on April 21st and in North America on July 31st. The system would sell out its initial shipment of one million units in the U.S. within weeks of its debut. This was due in large part to the popularity of Tetris, the game that came packaged with the system as well as the price of the system at release (nearly $100 less for the Game Boy than the Lynx). The other major game that was a launch title with the Game Boy was Super Mario Land. The popularity of the Game Boy made Nintendo a major player in the handheld video game market, which can be felt even to today.

The other major hardware front was the beginning of the 16-bit era in North America. Two 16-bit systems released in North America that year. One was the TurboGrafx-16. The TurboGrafx-16 was the first of the 16-bit era consoles and was in essence a blend of 8-bit and 16-bit. It released in Japan in 1987 but made its debut in North America on August 19, 1989. It wanted to compete with the NES but would eventually be more in competition with other 16-bit consoles. This competition, along with some huge flaws (only one controller port, not being a true 16-bit console) led it to be left behind in that generation’s gaming war. The other console that debuted in North America that year was the Sega Genesis. When one thinks about the 16-bit era, one has to think about the Sega Genesis. It debuted in Japan the previous year but made its North American debut in 1989. Interesting enough the game that is most synonymous with the Sega Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog was not the initial game packaged with the system. That distinction would go to Altered Beast. It would be because of the popularity of Sonic that would help Sega become a major player in the video game market.

As well as some big hardware debuts, there were also some pretty big games that debuted in 1989. One of the most popular games that released was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Released by Konami (through its Ultra Games division), it was available in stores on May 12, 1989 on the NES. Due to the popularity of the franchise, the game would become a best seller. Another huge video game that released in North America that year was Mega Man 2. The Blue Bomber’s second adventure was released in Japan the prior year but released in North America in 1989.
The other big debut in video games in 1989? The Power Glove. Yes, the Power Glove. Made by Mattel, it was an accessory for the NES. It was featured prominently in the film The Wizard. The Power Glove was a cool concept but never really took off because of very few specific games for the accessory and it was a little buggy in its use. It did end up selling close to 100,000 units in North America.

1989 was a pretty big year when it comes to music. Thoughts about the Game Boy and Sega Genesis? Is there a game that came out in 1989 that isn’t listed here that you enjoy? Leave a comment and share them here. Next time, we will look at movies from 1989. Until then, fire up your old system (or virtual console) and enjoy some retro gaming.

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