Long story short, I won a trip to New York for New York Fashion Week through a contest I entered, but knew that the most important part of this trip wasn’t going to be the exclusive fashion shows or the sightseeing in one of the biggest cities in the world– no, my thoughts almost immediately turned to the fact that I would finally be within arm’s length (or rather, a short Uber ride away) from stepping foot into that previously-inaccessible land only the most fortunate find their way into: the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center.
It was warm, it was muggy, and it was raining off and on, but I made the journey from 5th Avenue to the doors of that wonderful place, and didn’t even realize when I was standing across the street from it until my brain processed that I was staring at TV screens in the windows playing Super Mario Maker, and then noticed the very large “SUPER MARIO MAKER” displays a couple feet down, with the mustached man himself beckoning me in from the dreary, gray streets, red overalls and all. He wasn’t actually beckoning me, because it was just a fancy cardboard display with Mario, but it felt that way.
The feeling of walking inside and hearing music from Nintendo games piped into the store was a sign that the afternoon was going to be a very good one; wall-to-wall Nintendo merchandise was all around, stuff that I’ve never seen in any other store, with a mock campfire in the middle of the floor with 3DS systems that had copies of Animal Crossing: New Leaf for customers to try. A life-sized statue of Donkey Kong and his pile of bananas was tucked away in a corner of the staircase leading up to the second floor. I went to Disneyland for the first time in seven years a couple of months ago, and while I won’t say I was quite as excited as I was then, I won’t pretend that my excitement levels weren’t rivaling that experience as I took in everything around me. I spotted some cool Japanese imports near the counter, like some high-quality Zelda and Mario playing cards (I grabbed a Zelda deck for myself), as well as Hanafuda cards that paid homage to Nintendo’s past. The ground floor had a lot of Animal Crossing merchandise, including plushies of various town folk and a shirt that said “Forever A Loan” with Tom Nook right in the middle.
I rushed up to the second floor and found many Wii U systems set up with copies of Super Mario Maker, every one of them occupied with kids and adults alike trying out the crazy stages, and decals along the wall with art from the game. The upper floor is special because that’s where the history of Nintendo handhelds is on display, with everything from Game & Watch to Game Boy Advance SP to the New 3DS XL in a long glass case for your perusal and appreciation. Most of the models were special editions, like the Nintendo World exclusive Fire Red and Leaf Green Charizard and Venusaur Game Boy Advance SP systems; a gold Zelda GBA SP from the Minish Cap bundle, signed by Shigeru Miyamoto; rare color variants of the DSi like the orange and green that were only sold in bundles during a previous holiday season (yours truly remembers this from her years as a GameStop associate drooling over them in the stock room); and more recent rare models like the Pikachu, Animal Crossing, Yoshi, and Kingdom Hearts 3DS XL consoles, along with the Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL. There’s also a severely damaged, melted Game Boy that survived a barracks bombing during the Gulf War and still plays cartridges.
Interestingly, my collection of special edition Nintendo handhelds is bigger than I realized, because I have a number of what I was looking at on display, but I didn’t have all of them, and I wished I could have Nintendo World’s whole collection. I have one thing they don’t though: the Mario Bros. 25th anniversary DSi XL!
Behind the handhelds display are a number of tall display cases whose contents are regularly switched out, but during my visit they were dedicated to the art of Splatoon, with a lot of concept drawings, character sketches, and prototypes of the Splatoon Amiibo, among other things. Speaking of Amiibo, Nintendo World sure does know how to rub salt in wounds, because if the handheld collection didn’t inspire feelings of longing and jealousy, the store’s complete Amiibo collection was sure to. Below a slowly revolving, huge replica of the Mario Smash Bros. Amiibo were all of the Amiibo currently available in the United States (so Yarn Yoshi, Chibi-Robo, and the Animal Crossing Amiibo weren’t present, sadly). That drew a number of people who stood by, pointing out to companions which ones they had and which ones they were missing.
Mario Bros. and Animal Crossing weren’t the only Nintendo franchises with a plethora of exclusive merchandise, as Zelda, Kirby, and Metroid had shelves of shirts and clothing, plushies, World of Nintendo toys, and more to choose from, and the Pokémon Center was rife with adorable plushies, including the new costume versions of Pikachu and a lot of Eevee evolutions. I was also impressed by the number of special Wii Remotes and fight pads for sale, including the newly-released Toad and Bowser remotes, the Smash Bros. GameCube controller, and even the Hori Pikachu and Zelda fight pads and the Hori Zelda racing wheel (there were other characters’ racing wheels to choose from, too). All three have been added to my collection.
Aside from being one of the best shopping trips a Nintendo fan could hope to go on, the Nintendo World Store is special because of the way it brings Nintendo fans together, and not just literally. I was hearing Nintendo music from a number of different games across consoles, generations, and franchises, including some stuff from Super Mario RPG that made my ears perk up because Nintendo doesn’t generally make much mention of its spectacular SNES collaboration with Square. According to the cashier, the associates have a hand in creating the store’s playlist, so we were more than likely hearing song choices made by a fellow Mario RPG fan. It was really cool knowing that fellow Nintendo enthusiasts, and not just someone at corporate, could inject some of their love for the games into the culture of the store and make it feel very un-corporate. Kids whose first Nintendo consoles were the 3DS and the Wii or Wii U were mingling with adults who’ve been playing since the NES and Game Boy were the latest and greatest things around. The store had a really wonderful, welcoming vibe, making it tough to finally pull myself away and go back out in the gloom.
If you don’t live in New York or relatively close by, it’s a bit hard to say to make a trip out there to experience this for yourself, but if you get the opportunity, do not pass it up. The Nintendo World Store is a fantastic place to visit, whether you’re looking for cool, store-exclusive merchandise, some Nintendo history, or just want to take part in the good vibes coming out of here. I’m so grateful that I got to make my long-awaited trip here, and hope you fellow Nintendo fans can do the same one day.