There’s a strange sense of excitement that comes with seeing an in-game reference to a real-life thing in a video game. You see it, and you go, “Haha! I know what that is.” Sometimes it’s a tool you have to use in the game, sometimes it’s purely decoration and sometimes you are literally standing on it. It can be seen as companies giving themselves a celebratory stroke, but I still love to see it.
Nintendo in particular loves to make reference to their own creations in their IPs and are often finding different ways to make these inclusions, be they direct interactive references to the consoles themselves or strongly implied likenesses. This got me thinking about my favourite console cameos.
The Animal Crossing series is choc-a-bloc with console cameos to litter around your town or island, with the game shelf available in Wild World featuring a sweet little Gamecube, plus the ability to own whichever console you’re playing on in-game.
A personal favourite of mine has to be the NES consoles you can get in the Gamecube game, though, just because you could actually play the NES titles available for discovery in the game. Definitely a very cool early example of cross-console emulation.
The rumours are true: Donkey Kong is a gamer.
In Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the Kong himself is seen taking a seat and playing a game on a Nintendo DS (Returns), a New Nintendo 3ds (Tropical Freeze) or a Nintendo Switch (Tropical Freeze Switch port) if you leave him idle.
In Returns, you can hear the original Donkey Kong theme if you listen closely, while in Tropical Freeze, you can hear him playing one of four games: Mario Kart 7, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Super Mario 3D Land and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.
However, in the Switch port of Tropical Freeze, he’s literally playing Tropical Freeze while existing in the world of Tropical Freeze. My head hurts suddenly.
Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda series is funnily all over the place with their console and accessory cameos.
The Power Glove in A Link To The Past is an item that makes Link (or in my playthrough of the games, Binky) stronger, and is based on the NES accessory of the same name.
The Stone of Agony in Ocarina of Time is a stone rendering of the Nintendo 64’s Rumble Pak and makes the controller vibrate when the player is close to a Secret Grotto.
In the Bomb Shop in Majora’s Mask 3d, there’s a machine at the back of the store that very closely resembles a Gamecube.
In Wind Waker, the absolute king himself, Tingle, gives you the Tingle Tracker, which is pretty much literally an in-game Game Boy Advance that gives you the ability to get a hint from Tingle on your Game Boy Advance if you connect it to your Gamecube.
In Phantom Hourglass… Dee Ess Island. It’s an island that’s a giant DS. Not sure what else to say about this one.
In Breath of the Wild, your Sheikah Slate is a thematically-correct rendition of your Wii U Gamepad/Switch. I say both because the Wii U Gamepad is essentially a conceptual predecessor of the Switch so it really could be interpreted as either.
I might be biased here because I am a huge Luigi’s Mansion fan, but these cameos being an intrinsic part of the game are real juicy.
In Luigi’s Mansion on Gamecube, the Game Boy Horror is based on the Game Boy Colour and is used for the map, Luigi’s stats, the Portrait Ghost’s description and as a radar for Boos.
In Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3ds, it is replaced with the Dual Scream, which is based on the Nintendo DS.
In Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the Nintendo Switch, it is replaced with the Virtual Boo, which is based on the Virtual Boy (and, like the Virtual Boy, only displays in red and black).
The Paper Mario series does an interesting mix of in-game usage, semi-usage and decoration.
In Paper Mario & The Thousand-Year Door for the Gamecube, your email device is designed to look like a Game Boy SP, while the communicator in the pro-wrestling locker rooms are designed to look like a Game Boy Advance.
In Super Paper Mario for the Wii, there’s a room in Fort Francis where you can see Francis’ collection of multiple Nintendo consoles. This is, of course, because he is a turbo-nerd.
I’d be here for a while if I covered every single console referenced in the Pokémon series, but they do it in every single mainline game. The player’s room will always have the home console of the era that the game was released in their bedroom. It’s a nice consistent theme in the series that they’ve done every single game, which falls in line with the overall consistency of the series in general.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
In Rare’s edgy Conker’s Bad Fur Day, one of Conker’s idle animations sees him playing Killer Instinct on a Game Boy. This references Nintendo games on a Nintendo platform, but also one of Rare’s own games to boot.
Kirby: Planet Robobot
In Kirby: Planet Robobot, Kirby or Metaknight can use a remote controller that looks a lot like a Game Boy to control a robotic Kirby in the background. The robotic Kirby, much like the real Kirby, is still shaped like a friend.
This one has to be one of my big favourites. In Splatoon, you can find a Sunken Scroll that has a picture of a fossilised human skeleton sitting next to a fossilised Wii U. This one felt a little like a prophecy of how history would look at the Wii U.
Did we miss one of your favourite console cameos? Let us know!