For many Nintendo fans, it is something of a rite of passage to visit the company’s only retail store in New York City. And when I mean “only”, I really mean it. The New York City store is the only retail storefront open to the public for Nintendo fans in the entire world. Every year, thousands of fans make the trek to the Big Apple to visit it. Why?
Because It’s Special
Nintendo New York (formerly known as the Nintendo World Store) is located in Rockefeller Plaza in the heart of the city. Before it transformed into a general Nintendo store, it was a Pokémon Center. For years, fans have made the drive or flight to visit the store. Sure, many come to New York for many other reasons, but stopping here is always a highlight. Some people, like myself, made the trip from Indiana specifically to go to the store, with other activities planned around it.
The store’s footprint is small… but it’s two stories, so the square footage is pretty sizable in the end. But the moment you walk in, you are in instant awe. Besides the eye-popping merchandise that smacks you in the face, the atmosphere and decorations just make you feel good.
Being the only Nintendo store in existence makes it special. It would still be special if others were to open up – which is what some fans are hoping for with the aforementioned renaming from Nintendo “World” Store to Nintendo “New York”. As it stands now, with only one store, it literally is akin to going to an amusement park, and you will look back on your visit there as fondly as if you had been to one.
Because It’s Fun
The Nintendo New York store is like nothing else. It is the hub of Nintendo goodness – one that you don’t even get when visiting the employees-only headquarters in Redmond, Washington, which I did when living in Seattle. If you are a longtime fan like myself, you will spend about a full minute just standing in the doorway with your mouth agape like I did. It is an amazing sight. The store just has a happy vibe to it – a Nintendo vibe, if you will. You are surrounded by beloved Nintendo characters, demo units, games, clothing and more. Much of the merchandise sold here is exclusive to the store. My traveling companion went wild in here when we went – she spent $471 before tax on plushies, T-Shirts, bags and more.
The store regularly holds fun launch events for major games. I was there in May of 2015, the day before the launch of the Wii U game Splatoon, and there was already a long line that stretched down the block in what would be almost 24 hours before the store opened on release day. They make game launches a huge deal with lots of fun, special guests, real life games and contests: they even held a mock fashion show for Style Savvy: Fashion Forward for instance. The pictures that accompany this post are from that time, and the interior has changed since the 2016 remodel.
On the second level you will find a small “museum” section. I believe they change them out every so often, but when I was there they had a section dedicated to the history of The Legend of Zelda with every imaginable game, manual, special edition console and accessories in a three section display case. In front of it was a “History of Nintendo Handhelds” exhibit with every portable console on display – even the obscure ones like the Game Boy Light (previously for sale only in Japan) and the Game Boy Micro. There were also a small aisle with individual cases for each of Nintendo’s home consoles from the NES to the Wii U.
The store is just flat out fun. It is fun to be in. I was in there for three full hours from 9am to just after noon, and it felt like I wasn’t there long enough. It’s a store that invites you to play and have fun, and celebrate Nintendo’s rich history without ever feeling too self-congratulatory. There is no Tom Nook stalking you around to pressure you to spend your bells on anything – you are free to be there as long as you want.
Because You Belong
Going to the store is not unlike going to a convention – everyone in there is a huge Nintendo fanatic, and it feels good to be around them. Your mileage may vary, but sometimes for me, it is tough to admit I am a Nintendo fan among my other gaming friends who specialize in Halo and Call of Duty. Nintendo is looked at as a console for kiddies, despite it being the original home to some of the best M-rated games ever like Eternal Darkness, the Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 4. Admittedly, Nintendo has lagged behind in sheer hardware power for three console generations now, beginning with the Wii, then Wii U and now the Switch. But the draw of the Switch is its hybrid format of being a portable and a home console. I won’t talk about how awesome that is because if you like Nintendo, you are probably already aware.
But when you walk into Nintendo New York, you feel like you belong. No one will laugh at you for preferring Animal Crossing to Battlefield, or you spent over 100 hours playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe instead of organizing your Destiny clan. And just like going to a Comic-Con, you don’t have to be ashamed of your preferences. The store encourages you to have fun and enjoy yourself, and there is no better place to do it than surrounded by Mushroom Kingdom pipe decorations and giant Bowser statues.
Because It’s the Happiest Place on Earth
Forget Disneyland. The Nintendo New York store is the happiest place on Earth. For all of the reasons I mentioned above – but the bottom line is that it is just fun. It’s like an amusement park without the lines (unless, of course, you are there for a game launch event). The employees are friendly. The shoppers are friendly. The music is friendly. The plushies are all smiling at you, and not in a creepy, Five Nights at Freddy’s way. It is an excuse for kids to be kids, and for adults to be kids again too, because it’s impossible not to become awash in memories of your own childhood when in the store and seeing everything they have to offer.
Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life! While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder. Flapjack is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing. When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @flapjackashley.