- This article is about the game. For the series itself, see The Legend of Zelda (Series). For other uses, see The Legend of Zelda (Disambiguation).
The Legend of Zelda is the first installment of the Zelda series. It centers its plot around a boy named Link, who becomes the central protagonist throughout the series. It originally came out in 1986 for the Famicom Disk System in Japan and internationally on the NES in 1987. It has since then been re-released for several systems, including the Nintendo GameCube, the Game Boy Advance, and the Virtual Console. The Japanese version of the game is known as The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda.
"A long, long time ago the World was in an age of Chaos.
"In the midst of this chaos, in a little kingdom in the land of Hyrule, a legend was being handed down from generation to generation, the legend of the 'Triforce'; golden triangles possessing mystical powers. One day, an evil army attacked this peaceful little kingdom and stole the Triforce of Power. This army was led by Ganon, the powerful Prince of Darkness who sought to plunge the World into fear and darkness under his rule. Fearing his wicked rule, Zelda, the princess of this kingdom, split up the Triforce of Wisdom into eight fragments and hid them throughout the realm to save the last remaining Triforce from the clutches of the evil Ganon. At the same time, she commanded her most trustworthy nursemaid, Impa, to secretly escape into the land and go find a man with enough courage to destroy the evil Ganon. Upon hearing this, Ganon grew angry, imprisoned the princess, and sent out a party in search of Impa."
"Braving forests and mountains, Impa fled for her life from her pursuers. As she reached the very limit of her energy she found herself surrounded by Ganon's evil henchmen. Cornered! What could she do? ... But wait! All was not lost. A young lad appeared. He skillfully drove off Ganon's henchmen, and saved Impa from a fate worse than death."
"His name was Link. During his travels, he had come across Impa and Ganon's henchmen. Impa told Link the whole story of Princess Zelda and the evil Ganon. Burning with a sense of justice, Link resolved to save Zelda, but Ganon was a powerful opponent. He held the Triforce of Power. And so, in order to fight off Ganon, Link had to bring the scattered eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom together to rebuild the mystical triangle. If he couldn't do this, there would be no chance Link could fight his way into Death Mountain where Ganon lived."
"Can Link really destroy Ganon and save Princess Zelda?
The game itself introduces a new level of gaming for its time, one that includes roleplaying, action, adventure, and puzzle/logic.
Barring Link's progress are Creatures he must battle to locate the entrances to nine underground Dungeons. Each Dungeon is a unique, maze-like collection of rooms connected by doors and secret passages and guarded by monsters different from those found on the Overworld. Link must successfully navigate each Dungeon to obtain one of the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. Dungeons also conceal useful items, such as a Boomerang for retrieving items and stunning Enemies and a Flute with magical properties. The first six Dungeons have visible entrances, but the remaining three are hidden. Except for the final Dungeon, which can't be entered until the previous eight have been completed, the order of completing Dungeons is somewhat arbitrary, but many Dungeons can only be reached using items gained in the previous one.
Non-linearity, the ability to take different paths to complete the game, separated The Legend of Zelda from its contemporaries. Link can freely wander the Overworld, finding and buying items at any point. This flexibility enables unusual ways of playing the game; for example, it's possible to reach the final boss of The Legend of Zelda (but not defeat him) without actually taking a Sword. Nintendo of America's management initially feared that players might become frustrated with the new concept, left wondering what to do next. As a result, the American version of the game's manual contains many hints, tips, and suggestions for players.
After completing the game, the player has access to a more difficult quest, officially referred to as the Second Quest, where Dungeons and the placement of items are different, with Enemies stronger. Although a more difficult "replay" wasn't unique to The Legend of Zelda, few games offered a "second quest" with entirely different levels to complete. Interestingly, entering "ZELDA" as the player's name starts the Second Quest immediately. The Second Quest can be replayed each time it's completed.
Shortly before starting development for Super Mario Bros., Shigeru Miyamoto began developing The Legend of Zelda as a launch title for the Famicom Disk System. Miyamoto got inspiration from his own explorations to the countryside and hillsides around his home for an adventure game. Seeking to create a fairytale setting, co-developer Takashi Tezuka drew inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels when writing the story. With the medieval sword and sorcery theme set, Miyamoto wanted to have treasure hunting gameplay to also bring in the sense of adventure seen in movies such as Indiana Jones. The game began as a two player dungeon creator, but later became a one-player game with underground dungeons that surrounded Death Mountain, with forests, lakes, and Hyrule Field added eventually as they wanted to explore aboveground too. Miyamoto wanted to call the game The Legend of something, so a PR planner suggested Zelda, the name of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife.
The Legend of Zelda was originally released in 1986 as a launch title for the Famicom Disk System in Japan. Apart from facilitating data saving, the disk drive also added an extra sound channel on top of the Famicom's original five. This has caused the original release to sport a quite different sound compared to the more widespread NES cartridge release. This difference is most notable during the title screen.
The Book of Magic is known as the Bible in the Japanese version of the game. This was likely changed because it violated Nintendo of America's, at the time, very strict content guidelines which among others disapproved of any religious content or references inside games released for their systems. Strangely enough, all depictions of the cross were kept intact.
The Japanese Famicom Disk System version was included in a promotional package of Charumera-brand ramen, and was only given out as a prize for a contest. It is unknown what differences this version has compared to the original release, as the only available copies are extremely rare and incredibly expensive.
Graphics and Audio
Being a game originally designed for storage in a floppy disk, the game's graphics do not use too many elements; sprites are given different color palettes depending on their location in the overworld. For example, trees can be colored either green or orange; brick walls in dungeons are painted blue, green, yellow or white, and so on.
The game features three background themes: the overworld tune, the standard dungeon tune and the final dungeon tune. The first theme has become the franchise's main theme, and it is often reused in other games in the franchise. The dungeon theme is reused as the theme for the Royal Crypt in The Minish Cap and in the Color Dungeon in Link's Awakening DX. Sound samples such as the one when Link collects a new item and the one when a new path is open are also often reused in later The Legend of Zelda games.
The Japanese Famicom Disk System version of the game utilizes the disk system's additional frequency-modulation synthesis chip; the music and some sound effects sounds more advanced as a result.
With this game being the first ever in the franchise, it is the first time Hyrule is portrayed, and it is divided into numerous parts and landscapes, such as the Lost Woods, Death Mountain, a central lake, a forest, a graveyard, and a shore; as Link walks through them, he manages to find the hidden labyrinths where the fragments of the Triforce are kept. It's unknown whether or not the nameless regions reappeared in later games with official names.
Unlike most overworlds in The Legend of Zelda series, this incarnation of Hyrule is completely explorable from the beginning, meaning that Link can go to almost any corner and space of it, with a total absence of linearity. It should be noted that the overworld remains largely unchanged in the Second Quest, with the only changes being the locations of the labyrinths and of special prizes.
According to the timeline revealed in Hyrule Historia, The Legend of Zelda takes place in the "Downfall" branch, which, in a whole, takes place after Ocarina of Time. After Ganon is defeated in A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages and in A Link Between Worlds where Link and Zelda recovered the Triforce from Yuga-Ganon, Hyrule entered The Golden Era, in which the wise Hyrule monarchs used the Triforce to govern the land. After the king's death and the attempt of the Prince of Hyrule to assemble the complete Triforce, Hyrule was lead into the 'Era of Decline'. The Prince of Darkness, Ganon was revived, leading to the events of The Legend of Zelda. Six years later, the events of The Adventure of Link take place.
Both this game and its sequel are linked in continuity, since the first game revolves around retrieving two of the major fragments of the Triforce, and Ganon is fought in order to rescue Princess Zelda; the second game revolves around finding the third major fragment in order to revive an incarnation of Zelda that was comatose for a very long time, and to impede the revival of Ganon.
The Legend of Zelda is littered with mistranslations, direct word-for-word translations, and odd quotes.
- The intro story is written poorly, such as stating the Triforce piece Ganon stole is the "Triforce with power", instead of Triforce of Power. For the GBA and Wii Virtual Console ports, the message was entirely rewritten and corrected.
- This is the first Zelda game in which Ganon is written as Gannon. This spelling was also used in the Famicom Disk System version of The Adventure of Link and in the Super Famicom release of A Link to the Past.
- The Old Man is well known for his vagueness in messages. One of his most famous quotations is "DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE", indicating the Dodongo's weakness to bombs. Another odd quote is "DIGDOGGER HATES CERTAIN KINDS OF SOUND".
- The list of items is titled "all of treasures". The "of" was omitted in subsequent re-releases.
- When Link pays the Old Woman behind the waterfall, she will tell him to "Go up, up, the mountaintop." This was corrected to saying, "Go up, up, the mountain ahead". This refers to the path to Level 5.
In the credits, all but the executive producer Hiroshi Yamauchi are listed under pseudonyms. Designer Takashi Tezuka is credited as "Ten Ten," sound composer Koji Kondo as "Konchan," programmer I. Marui as "Marumaru." At the time, nicknames were commonly used among Japanese game developers as a company measure against employee poaching.
Producer and director Shigeru Miyamoto is listed as "S. Miyahon," a mistranscription of his name — 本 can be read as either "moto" or "hon." This is widely believed to be another error in translation. However, in a leaked prototype of the game, many of the staff — including Miyamoto — were credited under their real names. The pseudonym "Miyahon" was thus chosen deliberately for the final release.
- Main article: Speedrun Records
|Any%||Schicksal||26m 55s||November 26, 2021|
|Any% (All Glitches Except Up + A)||Schicksal||27m 54s||January 6, 2021|
|100%||Schicksal||33m 28s||February 12, 2022|
|100% (All Glitches Except Up + A)||lackattack||35m 15s||January 30, 2022|
|Low%||Greenmario||30m 12s||January 20, 2022|
|Sword-less||lackattack||32m 26s||May 12, 2019|
|Extreme Rules||lackattack||1h 25m 24s||September 27, 2015|
|Any% (Second Quest)||Eunos||2m 19s||February 3, 2021|
|Any% (Second Quest, No ACE)||Schicksal||30m 38s||May 26, 2021|
|Any% (Second Quest, No ACE or Up + A Glitch)||Schicksal||32m 56s||May 4, 2022|
|100% (Second Quest)||Schicksal||40m 41s||December 4, 2021|
|100% (Second Quest, No Up + A Glitch)||Schicksal||49m 2s||March 14, 2022|
|Low% (Second Quest)||lackattack||38m 45s||February 12, 2022|
|Sword-less (Second Quest)||lackattack||34m 40s||May 5, 2022|
|Extreme Rules (Second Quest)||lackattack||1h 27m 5s||May 7, 2022|
The Legend of Zelda was commercially successful, selling a million copies nearly a year after its release, and cumulating a total of 6.5 million copies worldwide, making it the fourth best-selling Nintendo Entertainment System game of all time.
IGN journalist Craig Harris awarded the Game Boy Advance version of the game with an 8.0 out of 10, praising its faithful adaptation from the original version; Damien McFerran from Nintendolife gave the Virtual Console version (Wii) the same score, praising the length and the complexity of the quest. Nintendojo staff, when reviewing the GCN edition (Collector's Edition) praised the game for its "innovative and unique gameplay system, remarkably deep puzzle solving, and an epic score". Nintendo Power, in the December 2009 issue, placed the game third in the list of best The Legend of Zelda games, citing its influence on gaming industry and praising its gameplay.
Ports and Remakes
A remake of the original game, BS The Legend of Zelda, was broadcast via the BS-X Broadcasting System for the Super Famicom. The gameplay is similar to the original, but differs as the game's central heroes are the mascot characters of the BS-X Broadcasting System, who are otherwise supposed to be based on the player as the character's name and gender is associated with the broadcasting ID. Aside from the initial green tunic, the male character wears a backwards baseball cap, and the female character has long red hair.
In 2003, Nintendo released a bundle for the Nintendo GameCube which included the Collector's Edition, in which The Legend of Zelda is playable. This version notably provided a different and more accurate translation of the game script, which was used in most subsequent ports of the game. It also included a few other changes, such as reduced screen flashing to prevent seizures.
Animal Crossing, also released in 2003, includes a number of emulated NES games as furniture pieces, though some are inaccessible without a cheating device. The Legend of Zelda is one such unobtainable game.
The Legend of Zelda saw a port on the Game Boy Advance as part of the "Classic NES Series" re-releases in 2004.
Ports of The Legend of Zelda were released on the Virtual Console service for the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and the Wii U. The Wii Virtual Console port was released in 2006 in most regions, releasing alongside the launch of the service. The 3DS Virutual port was initially available on August 31, 2011, as one of the games eligible for free download as part of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, a service available to players who bought a 3DS before its price dropped on August 11, 2011. It was later released to the public in 2012 in most regions. The Wii U Virtual Console port was released in 2013. Nearly all Virtual Console ports uses the updated changes from the 2003 Collector's Edition version, with the exception of the 3DS Virtual Console port, which instead uses the original game's script.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl features a number of timed, short demos of classic games, called "Masterpieces", in which players may only play up to a certain number of minutes depending on the game. The Legend of Zelda is offered as one of the Masterpieces, and is limited to two minutes of gameplay time. It returns as part of the Masterpieces library of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, where the playtime for the demo has been doubled to four minutes.
The NES Classic Edition includes The Legend of Zelda as one of the 30 games available.
The Nintendo Entertainment System - Nintendo Switch Online software, available to Nintendo Switch Online Subscribers, included The Legend of Zelda as one of its 20 launch titles. Later on during the platform's life, a "special save data" for the game was introduced, titled "The Legend of Zelda™ Living the life of luxury!", that starts the game with more items and rupees in the players' possession.
The Legend of Zelda is the first installment in the Zelda franchise, and its success allowed the development of many sequels in the spawn of over three decades. In one or another way, nearly every title in the series is influenced by this game in such ways as:
- The distinction between an overworld and a dungeon, as well as the need of traveling across the former to enter the latter, and to clear the latter to take a further step to the game's completion.
- The use of items to progress on the adventure, be it to beat enemies more easily or to open new ways and solve puzzles.
- The introduction of Link, Princess Zelda and Ganon.
- The introduction of the first two fragments of the Triforce.
- The introduction of a number of recurring locations (e.g. Lost Woods and Death Mountain) and items.
- The presence of a Second Quest (although very few subsequent games reused this concept).
- A theme song and musical refrains that would reapper in many forms throughout the series.
The Moblin's quote "It's a secret to everybody" has become a popular meme among gamers over the years. It is first referenced in A Link to the Past when Link brings a chest to a man who stands next to a sign outside of the desert. He offers to open the chest under the condition that Link will "keep it secret from everyone else". It is also referenced in Ocarina of Time. If Link bribes the guard at the gate of Hyrule Castle, speaking after he opens the gate will result in him saying "KEEP IT A SECRET TO EVERYBODY." And in Majora's Mask, after talking to Kafei in his home behind the Curiosity Shop, he says "Keep what we just talked about a secret from everybody". It is even referenced in Twilight Princess when in Center Castle Town, Link can enter a door and walk up to a balcony, where a Goron sees the golden force around Hyrule Castle. He admits that he has kept it "a secret to everybody."
- The Hyrule Fantasy was used as a subtitle for the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda; however, this was dropped in subsequent games as adding a third subtitle (such as A Link to the Past) would have made the title too long. This choice was also made to avoid comparisons with Final Fantasy.
- During development of the game, a rearrangement of Maurice Ravel's Boléro by Koji Kondo was used as the title theme. However, shortly before finishing the game, the developers learned that the song was still under copyright. Since they could not delay the release of the Disk System and the game itself, Kondo wrote the actual title theme in a single night.
- Most The Legend of Zelda cartridges are gold, but the Classic Series version of the game came in standard grey cartridges.
- The 1969 hit song "April" from the rock band Deep Purple is seen as an inspiration for Koji Kondo to create the title and dungeon themes of this game. It also has a slight basis for the Hyrule Castle theme in later games.
|Names in Other Regions|
|Japanese||ゼルダの伝説 (Zeruda no Densetsu)||Same as English.|
|This table was generated using translation pages.|
To request an addition, please a staff member with a reference.
|The Legend of Zelda - Original game map|
- Encyclopedia (Dark Horse Books) pg. 218
- Encyclopedia (Dark Horse Books) pg. 7
- "Nintendo World Report" — Ben Kosmina, Upcoming Australian Nintendo Games, , published October 14, 2004, retrieved November 25, 2014.
- "©1986-2004 NINTENDO" — N/A (The Legend of Zelda)
- Wii, Nintendo Korea, retrieved November 25, 2014.
- 한국닌텐도 홈페이지, Nintendo Korea, published February 2, 2016, retrieved February 3, 2016.
- NINTENDO DOWNLOAD HIGHLIGHTS NEW DIGITAL CONTENT FOR NINTENDO SYSTEMS - AUG. 29, 2013, Nintendo Pressroom.
- Wii U｜ゼルダの伝説｜Nintendo, Nintendo.
- Daniel Vuckovic, Nintendo Download Updates: Rayman Legends, finally, Vooks, published August 27, 2013, retrieved November 25, 2014.
- The Legend of Zelda | NES | Games | Nintendo, Nintendo UK.
- Owen S. Good, Nintendo Switch Online has these 20 classic NES games, Polygon, published September 13, 2018, retrieved August 8, 2020.
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- ChewbieFR, Nintendo Switch Online : la liste des jeux NES inclus, jeuxvideo.com, published September 18, 2018, retrieved August 8, 2020.
- Ryan Craddock, Surprise! A Special Version Of The Legend Of Zelda Has Appeared In The Switch's NES Library, Nintendo Life, published October 10, 2018, retrieved August 8, 2020.
- Kiyoshi Tane, 初代ゼルダ「お金持ち版」がスイッチオンラインでサプライズ配信。任天堂公式のイージー版、お金とアイテム山盛りで開始, Engadget, published October 11, 2018, retrieved August 8, 2020.
- Luke Henderson, NES Online gets a fourth bonus game, Vooks, published October 10, 2018, retrieved August 8, 2020.
- Wesley Yin-Poole, Nintendo surprises Switch Online subscribers with stealth release of a "souped-up" The Legend of Zelda, Eurogamer, published October 10, 2018, retrieved August 8, 2020.
- Encyclopedia (Dark Horse Books) pg. 10
- The Legend of Zelda manual, pp. 3–4
- Translation of The Legend of Zelda manual
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass — Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Games) pg. 4
- "First, we started making The Legend of Zelda, and then we started Super Mario Bros. The Legend of Zelda was for the Family Computer Disk System, so we decided to finish up Super Mario Bros. first." —Shigeru Miyamoto (The Legend of Zelda Developer Interview)
- "When I was younger, I grew up in the countryside of Japan. And what that meant was I spent a lot of my time playing in the rice paddies and exploring the hillsides and having fun outdoors. When I got into the upper elementary school ages — that was when I really got into hiking and mountain climbing. There's a place near Kobe where there's a mountain, and you climb the mountain, and there's a big lake near the top of it. We had gone on this hiking trip and climbed up the mountain, and I was so amazed — it was the first time I had ever experienced hiking up this mountain and seeing this big lake at the top. And I drew on that inspiration when we were working on the Legend of Zelda game and we were creating this grand outdoor adventure where you go through these narrowed confined spaces and come upon this great lake. And so it was around that time that I really began to start drawing on my experiences as a child and bringing that into game development." —Shigeru Miyamoto (Q&A;: Shigeru Miyamoto On The Origins Of Nintendo's Famous Characters)
- "The two program designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka were responsible for the game, who set themselves the goal of developing a fairytale adventure game with action elements. [...] Takashi Tezuka, a great lover of fantasy novels such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, wrote the script for the first two games in the Zelda series." (Club Nintendo (German) (Nintendo of Europe) (1996 volume 2) pg. 72)
- "The Indiana Jones movies were out around that time. [...] I wanted to bring that sense of adventure to a video game. [...] So with a world of swords and sorcery as my theme, I decided to make an adventure game based on treasure-hunting, and that was the beginning of The Legend of Zelda." —Shigeru Miyamoto (The Legend of Zelda Developer Interview)
- Hyrule Historia (Dark Horse Books) pg. 2
- "A special and very rare version of the game was also released as a promotion for Charumera-brand ramen: [...] Now comes the big question – what about this version of the game is different from the standard version? The answer: nobody seems to know." — Miscellaneous, Legends of Localization, retrieved July 18, 2019.
- "SEVERAL YEARS AFTER GANNON WAS DESTROYED,LINK LEARNS FROM IMPA ABOUT THE ANOTHER SLEEPING PRINCESS ZELDA." — N/A (The Adventure of Link, Japanese Version)
- "RETURN OF GANNON THE END" — Game Over (The Adventure of Link, Japanese Version)
- "GANNON'S TOWER" — Credits (A Link to the Past, Japanese Version)
- The Legend of Zelda: First Quest, Legends of Localization, retrieved November 15, 2013.
- "In early U.S. releases of a few Mario games, he was sometimes credited as "Miyahon", a mistranscription of the kanji in his name (本 — which can be read as either hon or moto). The misread surname was Miyamoto's development nickname in the 1980s (having a nickname was a common practice among Japanese game developers at the time)." — Shigeru Miyamoto biography, Mario Mayhem, retrieved November 15, 2013.
- Proto:The Legend of Zelda, The Cutting Room Floor, retrieved November 15, 2013.
- Nintendo Power (Nintendo of America) (July/August 1988) pg. Insider's Calendar
- RPGamer - Japandemonium: Xenogears vs. Tetris
- Classic NES Series: The Legend of Zelda Review at IGN
- The Legend of Zelda (NES) Game Review
- Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition review
- The Legend of Zelda User Reviews for NES - GameSpot
- IGN: The Legend of Zelda
- "The game was re-released for the GameCube in 2003, the Game Boy Advance in 2004, the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013. The emulations are all altered with a new translation, in an attempt to reduce the amount of Engrish. This altered version of the game, oddly enough, didn't make the cut when the game was released on the Nintendo 3DS, which instead uses a modified US PRG1." — N.A, The Legend of Zelda/Console Differences - The Cutting Room Floor, The Cutting Room Floor, published N.A, retrieved July 28, 2018.
- Official Nintendo Website - Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program
- "Perhaps more interesting than the addition of three additional NES games is an unexpected release of “special save data” for The Legend of Zelda, a game that was part of the Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online launch lineup. That save data will let players “start their adventure with a ton of rupees and items, including the White Sword, Magical Shield, Blue Ring and Power Bracelet.” Basically, that save file will make The Legend of Zelda a much easier game to start playing for newcomers. In a press release, Nintendo promised to release more special save data for other NES titles, “offering fun new entry points into fan-favorite games.”" — Michael McWhertor, Nintendo adds more NES games to Switch Online lineup, Polygon.
- "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which was for the Super NES, already had a subtitle, so maybe we thought that tacking on "The Hyrule Fantasy" would make the title too long. [...] It's a bit like Final Fantasy! That may indeed have been another reason. We might've looked like copycats!" —Shigeru Miyamoto (The Legend of Zelda Developer Interview)
- "For quite a while, it just played Ravel's Bolero. It really matched the opening crawl! [...] But immediately before finishing The Legend of Zelda, we learned it was still under copyright. [...] So I pulled an all-nighter to compose the opening song." —Koji Kondo (The Legend of Zelda Developer Interview)
- "In Japan, music usually enters the public domain 50 years after the death of the composer. [...] And Ravel, who wrote the music we were using for the opening crawl, lived a long time ago, so we thought we were safe. But we looked it up just to be safe and found out it had been something like 49 years and 11 months since Ravel's passing and the copyright would run out in a month. [...] And we couldn't delay the release of the Family Computer Disk System." —Shigeru Miyamoto (The Legend of Zelda Developer Interview)
- "NES Gray Cartridge
This was basically the same version as the gold cartridge (at least to my knowledge) and was re-released as part of the "Classic Series" around 1994 or so." — Miscellaneous, Legends of Localization, retrieved July 18, 2019.
- The Legend of Zelda manual, pg. 3A Link to the Past manual, pg. 52 Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer - Manuals, Nintendo. Nintendo Switch Online - Famicom & Super Famicom Collection, Nintendo.