Nintendo using 3D Gaming Technology? That’s so 1980s…

For most Nintendo fans, the 3DS marked the starting point of 3D gaming and the amazing technology which brings our favourite gaming characters to life. However, the 3DS wasn’t the first time that Nintendo played around with 3D technology, albeit with glasses. In fact, the ‘glasses-free’ 3D capability has been well established in Japan for quite some time, for example NHK studios in Shibuya, Japan have had a ‘Integral 3D’ cinema room for years. So is 3D technology in gaming really that revolutionary? Let’s take a look at Nintendo’s history of 3D:

  • 1988 – The Famicom 3D System

The Famicom (known to Westerners as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES) was a huge success in Japan, a true leap in the gaming world and with fast approaching competition from SEGA making 3D peripherals (the SegaScope) Nintendo decided to pour their efforts into making a 3D compatible system for their new console. The Famicom 3D system enabled gamers to experience three-dimensional gameplay, with the aid of some bulky goggles. The goggles used liquid crystal shutters and a vast amount of wires to give the illusion of 3D depth; however the expensive price tag and 7 compatible games led the Famicom 3D System to its inevitable doom.

  • 1995 – Virtual Boy

Miyamoto and Game Boy creator Yokoi had a dream to bring 3D visuals and depth to the portable gaming industry, unfortunately this dream was marred by headaches and nausea. The console was capable of displaying 3D visuals in red and black through an eye-piece and included a controller similar to that of the GameCube. Once again only a few games were made for the Virtual Boy, 22 in total, including Mario Tennis and 3D Tetris. This time however, Nintendo’s latest 3D invention made it out of Japan, with a short-lived release in North America, yet was discontinued the following year. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said the reason for the bad sales was due to the, “graphical ability which could only display red during the days of full-colored gameplay” and the fact that you looked ridiculous playing it.

  • 2001 – 3D on the GameCube??

In an interview with Iwata it was revealed that the GameCube console very nearly ventured into the realms of 3D technology, “to tell you the truth, GameCube is secretly designed to load graphical circuits which display graphics for right and left eyes respectively, for a future possibility of realizing 3D gaming experience.” Unfortunately, Nintendo developers found the liquid crystal that would be used to create the 3D effect was extremely expensive and would be unreasonable to market to most gamers. Iwata also disclosed that the GameCube game Luigi’s Mansion was originally designed to be released as a 3D game along with the 3D GameCube. The ghosts popping out at you would have looked incredible – I’m definitely hoping for a 3DS release.

So here we are, in 2011, with the new Nintendo 3DS and as I look back on Nintendo’s previously failed attempts at 3D I’m glad they have left it until now to bring out a proper 3D console. Although it may not be new technology and not always perfect – the 3DS is truly a 3D gaming success.

Source:  Third Quarter Financial Results Briefing for Fiscal Year Ended March 2010

3 Responses to “Nintendo using 3D Gaming Technology? That’s so 1980s…”
  1. ManiLink says:

    Interesting article! I LOVE 3D, always have done. So when I heard Nintendo were making a 3D console again I was ecstatic! I feel a lot of people give 3D a hard time though, calling it a gimmick and saying its a FAD that will die out again. In my eyes, 3D is the stepping stone to virtual reality and holograms etc. We can’t just jump into new technology – it needs to happen gradually. Right now we are teaching our eyes to see 3D and I’m sure once we are used to that there will be something else to provide even more immersion to future entertainment. Now Nintendo has taken 3D under its wings properly, Sony is pushing 3D tech and James Cameron showed the world how it can enrich a linear experience – I think this time it is here to stay – its has permeated every entertainment medium as of late and soon will become the norm. And once again Nintendo is at the start of it all. 🙂


  2. ktx8 says:

    I totally agree, the only thing I’m worried about is if 3D TVs catch on and horror movie adverts start popping out of the screen… It’s remarkable to see how Nintendo’s use of 3D has developed since the 80s, and it looks as though we’ve got more to look forward to in the future!


    • nintymadden says:

      Nice article Katy! Am actually looking on ebay for a Virtual Boy, be interesting to try out!! 🙂 Was at a BBQ today and my bf’s cousin was talking about the next gen with 3D changing how we see things, and he was talking about the Sony television’s, about him going to the pub to watch the soccer matches and how it annoys him to wear glasses. I whipped out the 3DS, and he was absolutly amazed at it, glasses free!


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