During this time 35 years ago, a Nintendo icon was introduced to the masses in the form of the Famicom Robot – or as we know him today: R.O.B.!
Using similar photosensing technology as Nintendo’s Zapper light gun, the R.O.B. toy would initially release to the Japanese public in July 1985 with subdued fanfare. It’s main gimmick was to look at colors and lights on the game screen, and react in kind to help the player (e.g. by raising/lowering in-game doors) – although minor criticisms were leveled at how slowly R.O.B. moved around.
The robot peripheral would soon go on to become a centerpiece of Nintendo’s strategy to market the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the west – especially in the wake of North America’s 1983 videogame market crash, which killed consumer confidence in gaming consoles. The company would successfully market the NES and robot together as a toy to families – essentially making R.O.B. a sort of ‘Trojan Horse’ that got many children into gaming as a hobby.
Of course, R.O.B. would quickly fade in obscurity compared to the likes of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. As R.O.B. was only compatible with two NES titles (Gyromite and Stack-Up), most kids soon put aside the robotic buddy for bigger adventures. From here on, R.O.B. would only see some cameos in Nintendo-published titles such as F-Zero GX and the WarioWare series – as well as get a playable cameo in Mario Kart DS.
Then, R.O.B. finally got his big break when Super Smash Bros. Brawl re-introduced him as a fighter in its character roster! To this day, R.O.B. is still a mainstay in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, standing side-by-side with other gaming legends such as Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, and more.
While we probably won’t ever see Nintendo create a toy quite like R.O.B. again, the creative spirit behind his creation still lives on to this day. Nintendo Labo, for example, lets players become a robot themselves by using cardboard controllers and an Infrared camera.
What about you? Do you have any personal history with R.O.B.? Feel free to share with us below!