Dust off your NES, because the Nintendo World Championships (NWC) are back on October 7. You may have never heard of the NWC, probably because this is only the third time it’s ever been held. The competition began in 1990—likely inspired by the Nintendo-centric 1989 film The Wizard, which was pop culture’s first exposure to the concept of playing video games competitively (and Tobey Maguire, as it happens). It was actually more of a tour than a single event; Nintendo traveled to 29 cities and challenged players to rack up the highest score in a medley that included the original Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and the forgotten Rad Racer. It was a fun moment in gaming history, and potentially the first real esports tournament, but there did not seem to be a need for multiple iterations.
Fast-forward roughly 25 years. Esports are on the rise, Nintendo is as popular as ever, and the original NES cartridges used by and given away during the tournament are now selling for gobsmacking amounts of money. With a host of new games for WiiU and a catalog of all-time greats at their back, Nintendo decided that a 25th-anniversary revival was in store. On June 14, 2015, the second-ever Nintendo World Championships took place, and it was a great show.
Instead of one single event, the tournament took place over several qualifying games, including but not limited to Mario Kart 8, Splatoon, Super Smash Bros for WiiU, Super Metroid, and the original Legend of Zelda. It’s fitting that the two finalists to emerge are most notable for playing Nintendo games in their off-time—there was John Numbers, the best Wii Fit Trainer player in all of Smash Bros., and Narcissa Wright (formerly Cosmo), one of the greatest speedrunners in history. After racing through some of the most brutal Super Mario Maker levels ever devised in the finale, Numbers came out on top, and the book was closed on a truly exciting event.
With the Switch on the market and a growing catalog of competitive Nintendo games, the 2017 NWC has the potential to become something more than just a fun diversion. Splatoon, Arms, Smash Bros., Pokken Tournament, and (eventually) Rocket League are all strong choices for the tournament, and based on Nintendo’s renewed interest in esports, expect to see some of them this year. Speedrunning has also found a place at the Championships, with Super Metroid in 2015 and the brand-new Metroid: Samus Returns featured this year. Competitive gaming is on the rise, and based on the success of the event next month, the Nintendo World Championships could be a massive annual event.
As long as it looks like this (and also features a young Jenny Lewis):