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Masayuki Uemura, creator of the Family Computer, passes away at 78

By Kara Santos Published Dec 10, 2021 11:16 am

Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect behind the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), has passed away at the age of 78.

NES, the iconic 8-bit third-generation home video console produced by Nintendo, was first released in 1983 as the Family Computer, commonly known as Famicom in Japan and other Asian countries like the Philippines.

With games like Super Mario Bros., Contra, Excitebike, and more causing millions of kids to fall in love with gaming, the Famicom/NES is considered the most important console in the history of home gaming.

The original white and red Famicom, which was later repackaged as the gray NES in the west, was the brainchild of Uemura, who joined Nintendo as an engineer from Sharp in 1972 at a time when it was tentatively exploring the possibilities of electronic entertainment.

Born on June 20, 1943 in Tokyo, Uemura graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering, Chiba Institute of Technology in 1967 and joined Nintendo on January 1971 where he continued to work until 2004.

While at the company, he became the development manager in charge of the NES, Family Computer Disk System, and Super Nintendo. 

Nintendo Life reports Uemura began work on the Famicom in 1981, following a demand from Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi that he create a device capable of playing arcade games on a TV, but with games that came on interchangeable cartridges.

Combined sales of the Famicom and the NES, total 61.91 million units—20 million of those were in Japan alone.

Uemura went on to help produce the Famicom’s equally-beloved successor, the SNES/Super Famicom, the 16-bit home video game console, which served as the platform for more classic games such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, and Chrono Trigger, among others.

He was also involved with the development of the Japan-only Famicom Disk System and Super Famicom Satellaview, as well as the iconic NES Zapper.

During his time with the company, Uemura served as producer on several game titles, including Ice Climber, Clu Clu Land, and a trilogy of sports titles: Soccer, Baseball and Golf.

Uemura retired from Nintendo in 2004 and became a professor at the College of Image Arts and Sciences at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, who first broke the sad news of his passing on Dec. 6.

In an interview with Nintendo Life in 2020 during a rare visit to the UK, Uemura shared that working on the Famicom was one of the highlights of his career:

The best time that I remember was when we completed developing [the] Famicom. Back then, we didn’t know if it was going to be popular or not, but the fact that we are able to complete the product was very satisfactory. That was the first mission; to make sure to complete developing the device and I did it, so I was happy.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Uemura. Thank you for the memories.