Nintendo’s NES Era Golden Book Creators Tell The Story Behind The Stories [Legend of Zelda & Super Mario Bros.]

Nintendo Golden Books Mario and Zelda

Thanks to the technological limitations of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), story telling within NES games themselves was often limited. To that end, during the mid-80s and early 90s, Nintendo produced a whole host of products to get the characters and their stories out in front of the public. They even went as far as producing an animated series, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!.

When talking about the reason for creating the show, a Nintendo spokesman said that its purpose was to “boost awareness of the characters”. The Golden Books did the same thing for public awareness, as explained by illustrator Art Ellis. He and writer Jack C. Harris also revealed what the books did for Nintendo’s brand as well as the process that went into making them.

The Legend of Zelda Moblin_s Magic Spear Signed Cover Page
The Legend of Zelda Molblin’s Magic Spear signed by Jack C. Harris and Art Ellis

Q & A With Nintendo Golden Book Illustrator Art Ellis

Retro Informer: Did Nintendo provide you with any guidance in regards to how they wanted the illustrations to be done?

Art Ellis: It was important to maintain the characters’ profiles, especially how they react to each other and respond to challenges. The designs were left to me.

Retro Informer: How much gameplay, if any at all, was usually required before you could do the illustrations for these books? 

Art Ellis: I did play the games to find out about all the characters, perils, game elements, also that was important. The books need to be as fun as the games.

Retro Informer: How did this project compare to other works that you have been involved in in the past?

Art Ellis: Most of the characters I have illustrated were very well known before the books— i.e. classic Disney, Bugs Bunny, Peanuts, etc. Mario & Link weren’t known that well beyond gamers, and these books helped make them more popular to a wider audience.

Retro Informer: Were there any big surprises for you while illustrating this series?

Art Ellis: I had never played video games before, and discovered how much fun they are. This prepared me for my son, who is a mega gamer, and studying game design now at Gnomon School.

Retro Informer: What was your favorite book in the series?

Art Ellis: Both Mario books!

Retro Informer: What part did you play in creating the illustrations?

Art Ellis: I did all the design and line illustration. My wife, Kim, did the ink, paint, and put the “soul” into it.

A Letter From The Nintendo Golden Books Author Jack C. Harris

I had all four of the Nintendo Golden Books as a kid and decided to send them to both Art Ellis and Jack C. Harris to sign. In addition to signing my books, Jack wrote a nice letter explaining what went into creating the books on his end as the writer.

Letter by Jack C. Harris

All Four of Nintendo’s NES Era Golden Books

The original four books to come out of the Nintendo/Golden Books collaboration consisted of three Super Mario Bros. titles and one featuring a story based on the original Legend of Zelda.

Nintendo Joins Forces With Golden Books Once Again

More than two decades after the original Nintendo/Golden Books collaborations were released, the two companies are teaming up again to release a new book. The Super Mario Little Golden Book takes young readers on a new adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom. I just bought this book for my four year old son and it feels like my experience with Nintendo’s Golden Books has really come full circle.

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Published by Tim Santens

I am a gamer and autograph collector. I love writing about both and sharing the stories I find.

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