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Only '80s Kids Remember: Breaking Into Houses to Get an NES Fix

The Reagan administration's "Just Say No" campaign left out one particularly powerful drug.

Article by Nadia Oxford, .

October 18 marked the 33rd anniversary of the NES' release in North America. A lot of consoles have come and gone since then, but no other system can boast it revitalized the United States' flatlined home console industry after the crash of '83 and '84.

While there have been other game systems that generated NES levels of hype—the PlayStation 2 and Wii come to mind—the fervor surrounding Nintendo's breakout console was unique. Super Mario Bros alone was a tremendous step forward compared to anything available on the Atari 2600, the ColecoVision, or the Intellevision. The NES snagged the hearts, minds, and souls of '80s kids with the steel grip of a Chain Chomp, much to the chagrin of parents.

Then again, it's hard to fault parents for being a little alarmed. Some kids went to crazy lengths to get their NES fix. We're not just talking about sneaking downstairs at 3 a.m. to play Mega Man 5 with the volume way down low to catch the sound of your parents moving around (a specialty of mine; I played hunched next to the TV's mono speaker, so I could catch strains of Charge Man's stage music). No, we're talking about straight-up breaking into a friend's house to play their NES.

The r/gaming subreddit posted an image of a painted NES in honor of the system's 33rd anniversary, prompting redditors to share their NES stories. "OneGuyWithSixGuns" wrote, "When I was 8, I broke into a friend's house, through the dog trap, to play Jaws. I hid under his bed when they came home, but they found me."

"I can't believe I forgot until now, but me too. For Nintendo and Commodore 64," another redditor, "HubbaBubbaTelescope," replies. "They caught me. It's hilarious looking back."

Wow! Imagine going THIS far for Nintendo! Some kids had problems! [Perspires lightly]

I was likewise drunk on Nintendo hype in the '80s, but the system remained out of my reach for a long time. I can therefore understand the compulsion to sneak in through a doggie door to play someone else's NES (maybe not Jaws, though), but if I'd ever tried it, my parents would've skinned me alive. I kind of came close, though: I was passing through the backyard of an unacquainted neighbor when I heard the iconic sounds of Super Mario Bros spilling out of that neighbor's open basement door. It took all my resolve not to charge into that basement while yelling "ME NEXT, ME NEXT" like a deranged home invader.

Sometimes being an adult sucks, but whenever I lay down my own money to pick up a spanking-new game console on launch day, I think back to that time I was so desperate to play NES, I almost barged into a stranger's house. Then I realize being an adult isn't so bad after all.

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