It’s August 1989 and the NES is on top of the world (or at least unstoppable in the U.S., anyway). This is the ideal console. You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like.

Things are about to change radically here in the NES Works chronology, though. I mean, the NES itself has another five years of life left in it—that’s not about to change. But the NES has entirely dominated the American console market since its tentative debut at the end of 1985. It hasn’t run the race without competition, but it’s lacked a serious challenger to this point. Beginning in August 1989, though, Nintendo has to deal with powerful new rivals on all fronts.

Sega Genesis and NEC TurboGrafx-16 launch this month in history, unflinchingly presenting game fanatics with genuinely more capable console hardware. And on the handheld front, Nintendo’s brand new Game Boy portable arrives neck-and-neck with Atari’s Lynx, a device that undeniably possesses more horsepower and a better screen than Game Boy (including color). Some of these competitors would fare better than others, but there’s simply no denying that the NES no longer represents the only game in town, both figuratively and literally.

In this episode, Jeremy Parish pauses a moment to look back at where the NES has been and how it got to the point that it enjoys now, and look at the looming shape of things to come.

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