The lights are on
If Nintendo’s recent Tomodachi Life and E3 announcements are any indication, the company is slowly losing its mind, and it has cameras on hand to capture the insanity – not that we’re complaining. Nintendo’s recent announcements have been as entertaining as they are bizarre, but they are not a new phenomenon. Nintendo’s general approach to marketing has always been strange, and we’re taking a look at some of the strangest commercials and videos to ever come from the company.
The Conker's Bad Fur Day commercial that looks like a Fiona Apple music videoNintendo has always embraced its young demographic, but for the Nintendo 64 exclusive Conker’s Bad Fur Day, it and developer Rare decided to do the exact opposite of what it was known for with a crass, offensive, and violent game that just happened to look like a childish platformer. Conker's Bad Fur Day's commercials stayed in line with the game’s theme showcasing a bizarre dream state of drugs, booze, and an animatronic squirrel. I remember seeing it a lot during episodes of South Park, which makes perfect sense.
The disgusting Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island commercial that is basically a remake of the restaurant scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of LifeThe focus and pitch of the commercial is there is a lot of content in this new Mario game. It’s one of the many bullet points explaining why Yoshi’s Island is a great game, but it’s certainly not at the top of this list. Nintendo not only chose a weird aspect of the game to highlight, but it also highlighted it in a weird way by showing a large man eating so much food that he explodes. It’s disturbing and wouldn’t be out of place as the opening scene of the movie Se7en.
The commercial where an entire child population wears Mario masks, has parkour and wire-fu super powers, and only shops at one storeThe commercial starts out innocently enough with a pleasant soundtrack and children excited to get home and play video games, but it takes a sharp left turn when children start flying, leaping from rooftops, and riding in top of subway trains. Also, one guy gets hits by a bus, and barely stops to catch his breath. The commercial takes another left turn (so we’re now heading back towards the way we came) when they all appear at their destination store wearing Mario masks. It’s effective marketing in that you don’t soon forget about it after seeing it.
The Super Smash Bros. N64 commercial where Nintendo characters beat each other up to The Turtles’ "So Happy Together"Years before Dead Rising 3 took the same song and set it to slow-motion zombie slaughter, Nintendo used it to punt our expectations out of the stratosphere with a commercial where those loveable Nintendo characters started to beat the crap out of one another. This was how many of us learned Super Smash Bros. existed – seeing Yoshi, Mario, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong beating each other up to a pleasant soundtrack.
WE ARE NINTENDO. YOU CANNOT BEAT US.At one point, Nintendo thought it would be better to issue consumers a direct challenge, as opposed to explaining why it would be a good idea to buy Nintendo hardware and software. For some reason it decided that the best way to issue this challenge was with a poorly animated CGI business man, and 3D approximations of some of their characters. I don’t think Star Trek’s Borg have money or anything resembling a consumer society, but if I saw this appearing on screens strewn about a Borg ship, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
The Zelda commercials that thought rapping or simply yelling the names of the game’s enemies was the best way to sell the gameWe’re all familiar with the original Zelda commercial which used some of its precious air time to remind kids that their parents help them hook up their NES. The rapping is laughably bad, but we tend to ignore the lyrics which don’t highlight the game’s open world or exploration. Instead it lists the names of the game’s enemies.
In another commercial, Nintendo cut out the rapping middle-men, sets, lighting, and costumes in order to have an actor with strange hair shout the enemy names to apparently no one, other than the voices in his own head.
The insane French DS commercial that I totally understand why it never aired in the United StatesThe DS has a touch screen, which was uncommon when the handheld released in 2004. It was a major selling point for the Game Boy Advance successor and the French way of making sure people knew about it involves a bizarre series of suggested uses; pulling airplanes out of the sky, throwing poop back into a dog’s bowels, and dealing with locker room bullies in an…interesting way. There is a very quick shot of Metroid Prime: Hunters at the end of the commercial which is the only thing reminding you that this is a commercial for a video game handheld and not just a bizarre power-trip daydream.
Special mention:This commercial isn’t for a Nintendo game or hardware, but it is weird, and it is for a Nintendo product. When you aren’t confused by seeing people having their heads turned into television sets, make sure to pay special attention to the marshmallow transformations.
For more looks at assorted video game commercials, including the best, worst and weirdest, Nintendo’s most memorable, and a discussion of the history of Zelda commercials, hit the links.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.