Nintendo console designer Masayuki Uemura dies at 78

Uemura created the original Nintendo NES and SNES consoles that transformed gaming culture.

ANA Global Channel

Masayuki Uemura, a key figure in the creation of Nintendo’s most beloved retro consoles, passed away on Monday at age 78. Uemura was a gaming engineer and lead designer of the Famicom console — which was released in the US as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) — during his employment with Nintendo from 1972 until 2004.

In 1981, Nintendo’s then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi called Uemura late at night and asked him to design a console that could take game titles as cartridges, according to a 2020 interview with Kotaku. Uemura took Yamauchi up on the challenge and the resulting product was the iconic NES.

Boss mode — While researching console design, Uemura told Kotaku that he examined rival gaming machines by taking each one apart and analyzing its components. “I looked at the chipsets, saw what CPUs they used, checked out the patents, all of it.”

Uemura then realized he would have to design something completely new for home use. “I knew that none of what I was looking at would be any help in designing a new home system. They simply didn’t have expressive enough graphics… and they were simply old-fashioned.”

Franchise — Uemura’s innovative NES design set a new bar for future gaming technology. Years later, the Nintendo designer and his team also developed the SNES console, released in 1990. While at the company, Uemura also worked on developing classic games like Ice Climbers, Soccer and Golf.

In 2004, Uemura retired to become a the director of game studies at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. With such an illustrious career, Uemura will forever be known as a cornerstone figure in the gaming community as well as an inspiration for future generations of developers.