The Rise and Fall of the Golden Seal

(Published on May 9th 2016, we take a look at how Nintendo’s Seal of Quality has changed over the years.)

Dubbed as one of the most important innovations in video gaming history, the Nintendo Seal of Quality helped reassure people that the days of buying low standard junk games were over. The seal was one of Nintendo’s many quality control measures, and although still used today, it was never more meaningful than it was in the mid to late 1980s.

If you have taken the time to read some of other Retro Write-ups, you may have heard me mention how Nintendo was scared to enter the U.S. market because of the Video Game Crash of 1983. Though I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, it needs to be noted that this is where the seed for the Seal of Quality came from. In short, poor quality games were partly responsible for the Crash, and Nintendo wanted something to show people that that wasn’t the case anymore.

Nintendo created the Seal of Quality to show customers that any game that had the seal stamped on it, had met their standards, and in return was a quality game. This meant that Nintendo had to test and play every game that was made for the NES. If the game was found to meet Nintendo’s standards, it earned the seal, and was allowed to be released on their system.

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Inside the front cover of an NES game manual

This testing was also used to help control content, and in some cases censor games. Anything Nintendo wanted changed had to be done before the seal could be earned. Here is an example of some of those changes…

Maniac Mansion was a game originally released on the Commodore 64 and PC. Here are a couple of the changes Nintendo required before it was allowed to be ported over to the NES, and given the seal of quality:

1) Dialog had to be changed from “You will have your brains sucked out.” to “You will have your brains removed.”

2) A swimsuit calendar was removed, as well as a sculpture, because they were deemed to be too provocative.

Oddly enough though, you can steal a hamster, microwave it, then return its exploded remains back to its owner. Not sure how Nintendo missed that one.

By stamping their games with the Seal of Quality, Nintendo gave customers a recognizable symbol of reassurance. It helped the company succeed, and let them dominate the home video game market in the late '80s and early '90s. In fact, it helped so much, other companies would soon follow suit and create their own seal.

Sadly, Nintendo still uses the Seal of Quality today. The reason I used the word “sadly” is because the seal doesn’t hold the same value as it did in the 80’s. Actually, it pretty much holds no value. These days the seal is used to identify official Nintendo products, covering everything from video games to my sweet Zelda shirt I bought last week. (Yes it actually had a Nintendo seal on it in the form of a sticker.)

Perhaps Nintendo thought the Seal of Quality had served its purpose, and that’s why they changed it to be just another logo for their brand. However, for those of us that had the privilege of joining Nintendo on its rise to the top, it will always mean something more.