Kirby!

30 years later, Nintendo’s favorite shapeshifter is still going strong

There’s more to this pink puffball than meets the eye.

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There are countless ways to introduce your game’s hero, and Kirby’s Adventure on the NES, released in 1993, chose one of the strangest.

Nintendo

Nintendo

Before you even know who or what Kirby is, you can learn to draw him. It’s an odd choice, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who spent hours drawing Kirby with hundreds of imagined powers as a result.

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Of course, if you played Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy the year before, you already knew Kirby, but it was his NES debut that really put him on the map.

Kirby’s Dream Land was released in Japan on April 27, 1992, before making its way to North America in August of that year.

Nintendo

Nintendo

From the beginning, the Kirby formula was more or less intact. As a smiling, inflatable puffball, you made your way through side-scrolling stages, avoiding or inhaling enemies along the way.

Building on Dream Land’s solid foundation, Kirby’s Adventure is a near-remake, featuring many of the same enemies and bosses, but with a few key changes.

Nintendo

Nintendo

The biggest addition to Kirby’s Adventure, one that would come to define the series, is Kirby’s ability to absorb enemies’ powers after eating them, rather than just turning them into projectiles.

The mysteries of Kirby’s miraculous digestive system are probably best left unexplored.

screenshot of Kirby

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The other huge addition to Kirby’s Adventure: color! With its cheery art, upbeat music, and jaunty victory dances, the Kirby series seems like it was made to be bright and colorful.

In the decades since Kirby’s Adventure, more than 30 Kirby games have been released.

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Though Kirby is known as a platforming series, half of the games featuring the delightful pink puffball are spinoffs of some kind.

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Rivaling even Mario’s extracurricular activities, Kirby has starred in his own television show, pinball, fighting, racing, and puzzle games.

Nintendo

Nintendo

Though he looks like a gust of wind would be enough to defeat him, Kirby has even proven himself as a top contender in Super Smash Bros.

Bob Riha Jr/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Not to indulge in conspiracy theories, but that may have something to do with Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai wanting to show some love for Kirby — a character he created for HAL Laboratory.

Sakurai may not just be playing favorites. Despite hardly speaking with a personality that can be summed up in the single word “cheerful,” Kirby remains one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters.

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A 2010 poll in Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu ranked Kirby the 12th most popular video game character ever.

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Kirby Café

There’s even a chain of Kirby Cafés in Japan, offering a selection of wildly creative dishes based on Nintendo’s cutest mascot and his signature enemies.

Kirby Café

He may look like little more than a smiling pink sphere, but Kirby is an ever-changing staple of Nintendo titles, able to carry his own games and brighten others with guest appearances.

As Nintendo’s favorite shapeshifter, Kirby may not get as much love as Link or Mario, but he’ll likely be cheerfully adapting to new powers for years to come.

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