Mario has always been the icon, the mascot, the logo of the Nintendo brand. The industrious plumber has done everything from taking up the mantle of a construction worker to going on a quest with a strange marshmallow guy to being an astronaut. When people think of Nintendo, they probably think of Mario. Link is probably a close second.
While this is true in 2018, there was a time when another face — a real, live human being — was the most recognizable thing about Nintendo. Howard Phillips, NES game master extraordinaire, president of the Nintendo Fun Club, appeared all over Nintendo’s premier marketing tool of the NES era: Nintendo Power magazine.
He was part of the “Howard & Nester” comic strip and regularly greeted readers with a column at the beginning of the magazine. His bow tie made him instantly recognizable and I always knew something wise, funny and wonderful would be imparted from the great and powerful Howard.
Then something happened. Around volume 22 (I think it was the big Battletoads issue), Howard announced he would be departing Nintendo and joining Lucasfilm’s games division. It was a truly sad day for this young NES fan.
He went onto have a successful career in the games industry and has just been featured in the Great Big Story mini-documentary series, which you can watch above.
His job was to play all the games. What a story.