In case you didn’t know, I write retro gaming reference books. For my recently published book, The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 1 (A–L), I wanted someone famous to write the foreword. I considered reaching out to actor Sean Astin, who has appeared in gaming documentaries, and The Angry Video Game Nerd, the most influential of all retro gaming YouTubers.
But then Adam F. Goldberg, the creator and producer of The Goldbergs television series, fell into my lap. (Thankfully, he did so metaphorically). My buddy Sean Tiedeman, who directed The King of Arcades (2014), suggested Mr. Goldberg and got me in touch with him. Much to my surprise, Adam was delighted to participate in the project and has been very supportive.
The Goldbergs, which captures the zeitgeist of the 1980s in fun, over-the-top fashion, is an homage to Goldberg’s decidedly nerdy childhood. The show has featured the Nintendo NES prominently, as well as classic ’80s-style arcades. There was even an episode with a Tron theme. Best of all, Goldberg, who co-wrote the screenplay for Fanboys (2009) and has produced several video game documentaries, is an avowed NES fan.
With his super geeky street cred, Goldberg, a gifted writer, had all the potential qualities as a forewordist for a retro gaming book. And, unsurprisingly, he turned in an absolutely killer account of his days growing up with the NES and the impact it had on is obviously fun childhood.
Without further ado, I’m proud to share with Pop Culture Retrorama readers Mr. Goldberg’s fantastic foreword. The dude really loved him some NES.
FOREWORD TO THE NES OMNIBUS VOL. 1
By Adam F. Goldberg
“Dude, look at those graphics! It’s like having an arcade in your house!!!”
Those were the EXACT words I screamed when I laid my eyes on the Nintendo Entertainment System for the very first time. The moment has been vividly burned into my brain. It was January, 1986. I was sleeping over at my friend John Gaines’ house. I assumed we’d spend the night making prank calls, eating Fritos, and playing his ColecoVision, as we did at most of our sixth-grader sleepovers. But my pal had a new game system, one that he boldly declared was infinitely better than ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Atari put together. It was called NINTENDO.
At that point, the system only had a handful of titles to its name—but that didn’t matter—because one of those games was Super Mario Bros. I vividly remember sitting on John’s bed, watching in sheer awe as that little plumber shot fireballs and dodged jellyfish and used drainpipes as warp zones. It really did put Atari to shame. The Mario brothers made Pitfall Harry look like a total ass clown. In that moment, I knew the future had arrived. And it was called Nintendo.
When my mom picked me up the next morning, I was fully converted to a Nintendo kid and never wanted anything more in my life. Just one problem. My frugal father had JUST upgraded me to an Atari 7800 for Hanukkah, which at that moment I thought was the future of gaming. Murray Goldberg could not understand how the new and improved Atari was deemed obsolete a mere two weeks after he purchased it. I desperately tried to explain that the Nintendo had superior graphics and cooler games. Hell, it came with a friggin’ gun that let you hunt ducks and a robot named R.O.B. that…did something. No one really knew, but still! Owning a Nintendo system was like having an arcade in your den! Think of all the quarters our family would save! It pays for itself! What’s not to understand!?
Naturally, my old man refused to make the leap to Nintendo because our family had already invested a pretty penny into the Atari. I had a ton of games, an official Tron joystick, and a sweet hard-shell carrying case to lug around the Atari console. Buying an NES game system was a battle that raged on in the Goldberg house for the next four agonizing years. Luckily, my best friend Chad Kremp lived across the street, and he owned a Commodore 64, which his parents had bought in 1982. The Nintendo upgrade was a much easier sell to his parents. The moment Chad got a Nintendo for his birthday, it meant that I owned a Nintendo by proxy. It didn’t matter that I mostly sat and watched him play. I was thrilled to be Nintendo adjacent, and it was glorious!
I’m proud to say that many of my fondest childhood memories center around playing video games in my best friend’s room. I’m convinced that Chad and I are so deeply bonded largely in part to beating games like Contra, Mega Man II, Kid Icarus, and Metal Gear. Even though, again, I watched most of the time. We had inside jokes for each game. To this day, we still randomly call each other and say, “I’m still in Okinawa,” a reference to how we could never beat the typhoon level of the Karate Kid game. We even came up with our own nonsensical lyrics to the chiptune game soundtracks, my favorite being “RAMMA LAMMA JAMMA!” from the castle level of Super Mario Bros.
Chad and I even spent an entire summer creating our own Legend of Zelda map, planting bombs on every screen to uncover every single secret cave. The idea was to sell photos of our map at school, netting us a pretty petty. Unfortunately, Nintendo Power released an awesome three-page foldout cheat map, instantly destroying our brilliant business scheme. Most people would say that we completely wasted three months of our lives charting a Zelda map, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The greatest part of creating The Goldbergs TV show is that I’ve met many people on Facebook and Twitter that cite the NES as a formative part of their childhoods as well. I always thought I was alone, but it turns out that being an NES kid is a universal experience. One we all still cherish to this day
Being a NES Kid means you know the Contra Code by heart and you had a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine.
It means you smacked the power pad with your hands because it made the games easier, and you madly blew into the guts of your cartridge when your Nintendo would glitch out.
It means you desperately wanted a Power Glove after seeing The Wizard…even though you never actually ended up buying one.
It means you felt a rush of adrenaline every time your player got into a hockey fist fight in Blades of Steel.
It means you never felt as cool as when you taught a friend the Infinite 1-Ups trick in Super Mario Bros.
It means you bought an NES Advantage because it would help you cheat in Track & Field.
It means you played countless rounds of Ghosts ’n Goblins but never could get past stage one, because “F” that game.
It means you know that repeatedly punching in A-B-B-A gives you endless lives in Ikari Warriors…unless you accidentally reappear behind a wall, which meant game over.
It means you still debate to this day if Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is better than Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Not that I actually played either. I just had to sit and watch Chad play. But part two sure looked better!
It means that your friend had an uncle who had a brother who had a second cousin who could actually beat Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!! Of course, you knew this was impossible because you typed in the 007-373-5963 code a million times and still never came close to beating the lightning-fast dude.
In late 1989, we Goldbergs finally became a Nintendo family. My mom was tired of hearing me say, “I’m going over to Chad’s to play Nintendo” every weekend. All Beverly Goldberg ever wanted was to have her kids under her roof, and it drove her bonkers that Nintendo stood in the way. Naturally, my Dad was beyond aggravated that my Atari 7800 had spent the last several years collecting dust in my closet. Thanks to pressure from my smother, Murray Goldberg finally broke down and bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System for my birthday in eighth grade. At long last, I would be playing with power!
For a few months, at least.
In 1991, the Super Nintendo was released, and dammit, I never wanted anything more. Needless to say, my Dad was not receptive to the idea of upgrading our now-obsolete NES to the newer, cooler, 16-bit Super NES. I tried to explain that the SNES actually did have the graphics of arcade games, if not better. Yes, I may have said that when the NES was released—but this time it was true!
Goes without saying, but I never got my Nintendo upgrade and still have my classic NES from 8th grade. To this day, I am still an NES kid and still love those old-school games…even though Chad was the one who actually played them as I sat and watched. Not sure if I mentioned that.