There’s an argument to be made that without Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo wouldn’t have had any success in video games. And without Nintendo, we really can’t imagine what the world of video games would be like today. The company made playing cards and toys when Miyamoto was hired in 1977, and in 1979 he created the art for Nintendo’s first coin-op game, Sheriff.
In 1980, after Nintendo’s attempt to break into the US market failed and left the company in serious financial danger, Miyamoto was tasked with taking the hundreds of unsold Radar Scope units and turn them into a new arcade game. That was when Miyamoto dreamt up the idea of a settled on a love triangle between a gorilla, a girl, and a carpenter. Well, at first he wanted to do Popeye, but that didn’t go down, so Donkey Kong was born, and the rise of Nintendo began.
In a short time, Miyamoto created or played a major role in the creation of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, Star Fox and more. And while Miyamoto didn’t create Pokemon, but he played a big role in bringing it to the world of video games, and it was his idea to release the first Pokemon game on multiple cartridges with different Pokémon in each so that players would be more likely to trade with each other. I mean, come on, that is genius. Pure genius.
Then there’s Shigeru Miyamoto. To us, he is held to the highest of highs. Best known for creating Donkey Kong, Mario, Link, and Zelda, it is safe to say that Nintendo, and games as we know them, would not exist without Miyamoto. The impact this single man has had on the world is impossible to really figure out. Miyamoto is, to be blunt, a pop culture god.
And that is why the government of Japan has awarded Miyamoto “Person of Cultural Merit”, the highest honor a person in a creative field can receive in Japan.
Miyamoto is the first person in the video game industry to be honored with the award, which I mean… obviously, right? Like, who in the universe would deserve it before him? The guy gave us flipping Mario! He couldn’t get the rights to make a Popeye game, so he created Donkey Kong, and Donkey Kong was so amazing that King Features let him make that Popeye game a year later. And that Popeye game is awesome despite being very similar to Donkey Kong!
There are likely very few people in the world who’s lives haven’t been touched by Miyamoto in some way. Time Magazine one called Miyamoto the “Speilberg of video games”, but we think a case can be made that Miyamoto has had more of an impact on the world than Spielberg. That isn’t meant as a dig on the great director and producer who gave us Jaws, but Mario is one of the most recognizable characters in the world on par with Mickey Mouse, Superman, and Spider-man. That seems like a pretty big impact to us.
Miyamoto will receive the Person of Cultural Merit on November 3 alongside Nobel laureate Akira Yoshino, director Nobuhiko Obayashi, manga artist Moto Hagio and kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo.