Nintendo Co. (meaning "Leave luck to Heaven") is a multinational corporation located in Kyoto, Japan. Founded on September 23, 1889, it produced Playing Cards up until the 1970's and tried its hand at many other small niche businesses, such as a cab company and a hotel. Due to the failures of these businesses, Nintendo decided to make a last-ditch attempt by becoming a Video Game developer.
The Electronic era
In 1974, Nintendo secured the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey video game console in Japan. In 1977, Nintendo began to produce its own hardware which was the Color TV Game home video game console. In 1975, their first game designer, Genyo Takeda, produced their first Arcade game, EVR Race. Along with this and several more titles, Nintendo enjoyed some small success, however, their true success was with the release of Donkey Kong in 1981. Its popularity changed Nintendo's fortunes dramatically, and also marks Mario's first ever appearance, however he would not be named until the release of Super Mario Bros. on the NES in 1985, so he was called Jump Man.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
During the early 1990's, Nintendo released their biggest hit with the 16-bit technology that stunned the world in amazement. Millions of copies were sold within days, and the shipment priority for this console was high. In some cases, Super Mario World (SMW) was packaged with the console; this was the best selling game on the SNES ,selling over 20 million copies, and not because it was packaged with the console.
The second biggest game of this console, selling 8 million copies, was "Donkey Kong Country" . Whilst other game companies moved on to 32 bit, Nintendo stayed with 16-bit, and with this game, they made this game that seemed far greater than any other 32-bit games at the time. With its stunning graphics quality and high quality sound, the public decided to stick with the SNES rather than move on to 32-bit.
This was Nintendo's next home console that was the first to have 3D graphics and a multi-player feature. Unlike other consoles, this had a 3D engine instead of 2D graphics made to look 3D. This console was very advanced for its time, as it used a real 64-bit driver. The N64 was released with 2 games, Super Mario 64, and Pilotwings 64, Super Mario 64 being its biggest hit selling of 8 million copies worldwide. However, its low 4MB of storage harmed its popularity.
This was a VERY beta project. This was another device that you plugged at the bottom of your N64. It used disk's and these disks would alter the game to have so much more in them. The Nintendo 64DD was released in Japan, but only around 100 were sold due to Nintendo pulling them off the market. There were also a couple of disks sold, but only around 5 of each disks were actually bought due to Nintendo pulling them off the market. These disks are worth thousands nowadays.
Handheld Gameboy Era
Gameboy / Gameboy Colour
This first started out with the Gameboy in 1989, which was the first 8-bit handheld console. It came packaged with the game Tetris, a very well known popular game. Surprisingly, this wasn't the best selling game on this console. The best selling games were, in fact, Pokèmon Blue and Red, selling over 31 million copies. This console had 2 external ports at the side, one for a headphone jack, and one for a re-charger. There was an external battery pack built in to this console that allowed people to use it instead of AA batteries.
Gameboy Advance / Gameboy Advance SP
This was the successor to the Gameboy. This console was launched in 2001, selling over 81 million copies and its biggest selling game was another Pokèmon game, colours Ruby and Sapphire. This console also had a backwards compatibility to play Gameboy Games. It was one of the first consoles to introduce the "link cable" allowing players to hook up games designed in certain games. This console was also capable of "hot swapping" by pressing start and select on the start-up screen; the Nintendo logo would vanish and would allow the player to safely eject and insert another cartridge. The SP version was the same console, just with a flip-up screen.
Nintendo DS / Nintendo DS lite / Nintendo DSi / Nintendo DSiXL/ Nintendo 3DS
This was the successor to the GB Advance, this had the same design as the SP, but with Dual Screen. This console was released in 2004, it was the first handheld console to have a touch screen (being on the bottom).
There is also a 3DS announced by Nintendo, which has a 3D screen, and you don't need special glasses! It will come out around November.