Breakfast peaked in 1988. You’d need a strong argument to believe otherwise.
Nintendo Cereal System was its name, and according to everyone who was appropriately-aged in ’88, it was the stuff of the gods. I can think of dozens of cereals I’ve liked more, but never did I NEED one more than this.
Nintendo is obviously still huge today, but back then, it seemed to be the only common ground that linked all kids. The exceptions were too few to count. Everyone had a Nintendo and everyone spoke the language.
A lot of things get “hot” for a while, but Nintendo became so much a part of a kid’s very culture that it was less an “interest” and more a way of life.
So, it only made sense that it’d become a cereal. Of course we were going to eat this. Of course we wanted Nintendo to start our days, even when there wasn’t time to kick Bald Bull’s ass before the bus came.
Even the most basic and boring cereal was going to be a hit with Nintendo’s backing, but Nintendo Cereal System was far from basic and anything but boring.
Specifically, each box was two cereals in one. I don’t mean that in the usual way. It’s not like those cereal peddlers who combine almonds with blueberries and call it a “double.” This was literally two cereals, with different themes, looks and flavors.
Now here’s the kicker: Each of those cereals came in individual bags. I don’t want to make mountains of molehills, but two bags of Nintendo cereal in one box was the precise inspiration for King Harvest’s Dancing in the Moonlight. They had a time machine.
As a cute extra, the box-tops even had individual flaps. This helped us around pouring Zelda in our Mario.
And I guess, while we’re on the subject, I should pay further tribute to the box art. IT LOOKS LIKE REAL NINTENDO STUFF. Like a game box, or one of those official fold-out posters. The cereal was made by Ralston, but there’s no way they didn’t work with real Nintendo people on that box design. It was just too perfectly on-brand.
The bag on the left-side contained Super Mario Bros. Action Series cereal, fruity-flavored and shaped like awesome things. There’s Mario, a Koopa Troopa, a Goomba, a Super Mushroom, and something that looks more like my website logo than it does Bowser.
It more or less tasted like Trix. Tart, tangy, and way heavier on the lemon aftertaste than it looked like it would be.
On the right was berry-flavored Zelda Adventure Series cereal, starring Link and all of the things that made his life easier. No one in their right mind was going to complain about Zelda anything in 1988, but in retrospect, it’s disappointing that they didn’t include an “enemy” shape. What was Link supposed to do in his bowl? Cereal boomerangs aren’t much fun if you have no one to kill them with. By comparison, in his bowl, Mario was the fucking Terminator.
Having a choice was the gimmick, but you know how kids are. We mixed that shit, every time. Bowls of Links and Marios and Bowsers and shiny keys, working together for what would continue to be the world’s best crossover until E.T. showed up in one of the Phantom Menace’s senate pods more than ten years later.
Just based on what I’ve already written about, kids were sold twenty times over. But there was still more! Nintendo Cereal System sometimes came with Nintendo-themed premiums, and even when it didn’t, the boxes were still covered in awesome game tips and contest forms. In this case, one box was all we needed to win a Power Pad, buy a Super Mario poster and find the magic flute in The Adventure of Link.
That was a LOT of ammunition for one cereal box.
Nintendo Cereal System was only available for a few years, but it made impressions that will last lifetimes. I was plenty into Nintendo at that age, but I didn’t live and breathe it like so many other kids did. For me, it was as much about how unique and complex the presentation was. The whole thing felt more like an edible toy. Many cereals are made for kids, but this took it to a whole new level. Let’s say Level 2-3 – the one with the flying fish.
The cake topper was the commercial. Holy shit, the commercial. Kids sucked into their video games, dancing around Tektites with gutted television sets on their heads. I’d eat owl pellets if they were pitched to me that way.
This was as fun as breakfast’s ever been.