This is the Nebula of NES games--a graphic that features over 700 titles in a swirl of genres

It's actually a rounded timeline. On the inside, the earliest NES games...

...toward the outermost rings, you see the later NES games.

The colors represent genres.

All of the highlighted illustrations are original drawings by Pop Chart Lab--they're just the team's favorite, and what they've deemed the most influential games.

What you'll notice is that there are a lot less of these illustrations toward the outer rings.

Why? Well most of the NES's most famous games came out earlier in the console's lifecycle.

By the time we reach those outer rings, the NES was competing against next gen systems like the SNES and Sega Genesis.

Even still, it's a fun stroll down memory lane.

And graphically speaking, it's a clever take on the traditional timeline.

Now we just need to fire up the old emulator...

...or find a dusty CRT monitor to plug the Nintendo into!

Infographic: The Dizzying Galaxy Of NES Games

Over 700 games were released on the NES. Here are all of them in one galactic timeline.

Skate or Die. Wizards and Warriors. R.C. Pro Am. Base Wars. Adventure Island. None is quite as well known as Super Mario Bros, but these are the quirky Nintendo games that laid the foundation for an entire generation of adult adolescents. And they’re all documented in Pop Chart Lab’s latest print, The Nebula of NES Games.

The graphic features over 700 titles in a swirl of genres. (The collection comprises only games developed in the U.S., so it trims about 300 titles from Japan’s Famicom list). But this nebula isn’t just neat to look at; it solved an important problem for Pop Chart Lab.

“We originally designed this as a standard timeline with the years on the y-axis. However, it took up a ton of space and there was a lot of dead air throughout the chart,” explains Patrick Mulligan, Pop Chart founder and editorial director. “We then started investigating ways to pack the information more densely and eventually hit on the spiral. Once we stepped back and looked it, we realized it looked like a galactic spiral, and that informed our design treatment.”

The spiral advances chronologically from the center, with each arm depicting a different genre. Again, there’s clever visualization work at play, as genres had different levels of popularity, so the concentric-style design allowed a visual balance of disparate categories.

“The biggest category by raw count is 'platformers' and 'side-scrollers,'” Mulligan says. “It also became the default way to adapt another property into an NES game. Need a Robocop game? Make a side-scroller. Flintstones game? Side-scroller. Nightmare on Elm Street game? Side-scroller.”

No doubt, the experimentation early in the console’s life cycle gave way to more predictable, reproducible games—albeit less memorable ones. In fact, I’d argue that the lack of conventions behind genre-bending games like Excitebike, The Legend of Zelda, Ikari Warriors, and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out is what makes them so good (even if many such titles had roots in arcade games). In fact, these arcade origins, driven by the quest for novel physical controls and experiences, probably inspired a lot of early diversity in home consoles. Hopefully, with the next wave of home consoles on the way soon, developers will be reinvigorated to experiment with conventions again.

The Nebula of NES Games is available now for $32.

Buy it here.

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2 Comments

  • $74220002

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  • Matthew Manuel

    Well there's at least one error on this: Wario's Woods was released in 94, not 93... in fact, it was the last game ever released for the NES, officially.