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The Man Who Gave Us Donkey Kong and the Mario Bros.

Strange as it may seem, there was a time, back in the years just after World War II, when present-day video game giant Nintendo was a small family-owned company whose main product was a card game called hanafuda, a favorite pastime of Japanese gangsters.

Nintendo logoHiroshi Yamauchi, who died in Japan on Sept. 19 at age 85, changed all that. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Nintendo scion redirected the company into the then-nascent world of electronic entertainment. He developed the Nintendo Entertainment System, one of the first devices that made playing video games at home as much fun as anyone could have in an arcade, and teamed with renowned  designer Shigeru Miyamoto to create and market games peopled with an array of bizarre characters, ranging from two mustache-wearing Italian plumbers who do battle with strange creatures they meet in the sewers, to a surly, chest-thumping giant ape who throws barrels.

The sound effects drove adults crazy, but youthful gamers loved Yamauchi’s offbeat digital progeny so much that, by the early 1990s, Nintendo and its consoles dominated the vide0 game business.

Here are some intriguing facts about Yamauchi:


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