Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nintendo board games - part 1 (任天堂のボードゲーム, 1966)

When Nintendo started expanding their product catalogue from cards to other games in the first half of the 1960s, they initially focussed primarily on traditional parlor games (like go, shogi, chess and checkers) and other board games.

Although Nintendo soon also started releasing all sorts of toys (including the Coaster Games, the Ultra Hand and the Ultra Machine), board games remained an important part of Nintendo's product offering until around the mid 1970s.

Nintendo UltraQ game (ca 1966)

In this period of about ten years, spanning from 1965 to 1975, Nintendo produced at least fifty different board games. Many of these featured licensed characters, in particular from the Disney Studios and the Japanese figures popular at the time.

Today we will start an exploration of all Nintendo's board games with five games based on Japanese manga/anime/tv series that were popular around 1966.

The five games are:
  • Osomatsu-kun Game (おそ松くんゲーム)
  • UltraQ Game (ウルトラQゲーム)
  • Obake no Qtarou Game (オバケのQ太郎ゲーム)
  • Naruheso-kun Game (なるへそくんゲーム)
  • Sutoppu! niichan Game (ストップ!にいちゃんゲーム)
These games all came in the same type of box, with unique (be it somewhat fragile) hexagon-shaped sides.

The branding uses the MB-inspired grey stripe and NG Nintendo Game logos, common in the period from around 1964-1968.

The games cost ¥350 each.

Naruheso-kun Game (なるへそくんゲーム)

The first game we will take a look at, is based around the character "Naruheso-kun" (なるへそくん), created by Aoui Yamane (山根 青鬼). Naruheso-kun is a cartoon figure who's main claim to fame is a violently popping navel.

The Japanese word for umbilicus is actually 'heso' (へそ), so his name translates literally to something like 'navel-boy'.

Nintendo Naruheso-kun game (ca 1966)

Like most board games from this series, the set consists of a folded card-board playing field and some bags with play pieces.

Naruheso-kun Game playing field

The playing field is decorated colorfully with characters from this manga series.

Naruheso-kun's nemesis are devil-like creatures, who don't stand a chance against his navel.

Rather than using dice, the actions in the Naruheso-kun Game are determined by spinning an arrow inside the box.

Obake no Qtarou Game (オバケのQ太郎ゲーム)

Next is a game featuring "Obake no Qtarou" (オバケのQ太郎), a popluar series based on an 'obake' called Qtarou, who lives with a regular Japanese family. Obake (お化け) are creatures from Japanese folklore. They are (supernatural) beings capable of transformation. Famous obake are the tanuki (タヌキ).

Obake no Qtarou was started as a manga series in 1964 by duo Fujio Fujiko (藤子不二雄), who also created the manga blockbuster robot cat Doraemon (ドラえもん).

Like many successful manga, Obake no Qtarou was later turned into an anime series.

Nintendo Obake no Qtarou Game playing field (ca 1966)

The game contains a foldout cardboard playing field, with a standard board game course layout.

A spinning disc with a small Qtarou is included as well, which determines your direction at junctions.

Sutoppu! niichan Game (ストップ!にいちゃんゲーム)

The third board game is based on the manga "Sutoppu! nicchan", which means "Brother, stop!".

This baseball themed cartoon series was created by Hisashi Sekiya (関谷ひさし).

Nintendo Sutoppu! niichan game (ca 1966)

These cartoons appeared in the popular monthly manga publication "Shōnen" ("少年", meaning "Boy") published by Kobunsha and famous for featuring the first episode of the Osamu Tezuka (手塚治虫) manga Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム).

The board game playing field features a baseball field, and measures 39 by 36 centimetres.

Sutoppu! niichan Game playing field

As with most of these board games, luck is a more important success factor than skill, with arrow spinners inside the box determining your progress in this sport simulation game.

Osomatsu-kun Game (おそ松くんゲーム)

Osomatsu-kun is a famous manga series created in 1962 by Fujio Akatsuka (赤塚 不二夫). It is drawn in a very comical cartoon style. In 1966, this manga was turned into an anime for television.

The stories in Osomatsu-kun center around ten-year old sextuplets, called Osomatsu (おそ松), Karamatsu (カラ松), Choromatsu (チョロ松), Ichimatsu (一松), Jūshimatsu (十四松) and Todomatsu (トド松). Osomatsu is the oldest of the six, and stands out because of his mischievous nature. The manga is named after him.

There is a host of other characters in the series, some of who have actually become more popular than the sextuplets. The most notable of them is Iyami (イヤミ), whose dominant feature are his three front teeth. When he gets excited, he strikes a pose and shouts "Sheeeh!" (「シェー」).

Nintendo acquired a license to Omatsu-kun. They used it for a game, which is simply called Osomatsu-kun Game.

Nintendo Osomatsu-kun Game (ca 1966)

The game consists of two boards. A small one inside the box, and a larger fold-out one. Players can choose between two game variants, each using one of the boards. For both variants, from 2 to 4 people can play.

In the game variant that uses the large board, the objective for all players is to build a 'Iyami' from six parts. For each turn, the spinner inside the box is used to determine the number of steps to advance on the board, and the numbers printed on the board determine which body part of Iyami a player can pick.

The first to assemble a complete Iyami wins.

[For some more pictures of this game, check out this post.]

UltraQ Game (ウルトラQゲーム)

The final Nintendo board game of this post is based on the TV series "UltraQ" (ウルトラQ).

UltraQ was broadcasted in Japan in 1966. It is a science-fiction / horror show, with each episode telling a single thrilling story circling around a variety of threads and disasters.

It was never good news in this series, where people had to battle many different monsters, like a turtle-like moster resembling Gamera (ガメラ) seen on the front of the box, and Garamon (ガラモン), seen in the picture below.

As an aside, the Garamon suit used in the filming of UltraQ was reused for the character Pigmon (ピグモン) in the TV series Ultraman. With an explosion of monster TV series in Japan in the late 1960s, I guess it must have been hard (and expensive) to come up with new monster designs all the time.

This board game required a mix of skill and luck.

Nintendo UltraQ game (ca 1966)

It is actually a mini curling-type game, where you have to shoot the little yellow slider (which rolls on a small ball bearing) to the right zones on the board.

You had to propel the slider with a pinch of your finger, aiming for the monster Pegira (ペギラ), from the firing range (the circle labelled 発射場).

For all these board games, instructions are printed on the inside of the box lid.

The images on the playing field of UltraQ Game depict great scenes from various episodes of the TV series.

The middle of the playing field contains a spinner, used determine the number of points scored. This is done by placing the slider on the spinner, giving it a good twirl, and seeing in which area of the board it comes to a stop.

UltraQ Game playing field

Another Nintendo game based on UltraQ is the Ultra Coaster Game, from around the same time.

More on Nintendo's board games can be found here.


  1. 素晴らしい。私は40年以上まえにこのウルトラQゲームを持っていました。

  2. The manga magazine "Boy" might be better known by its original Japanese name "Shōnen Kobunsha".

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I have updated it accordingly.

  3. Can you please help me identify this board game?

    1. Please send a picture, for how to contact see 'contact me' on top of page.