Nintendo is giving its fans a similar feeling this week with "Super Smash Bros. Brawl", a fighting game for its Wii console that pits dozens of its cherished characters against each other in frenetic free-for-alls.
Fans have waited more than six years for "Brawl", the third in the "Smash Bros." series that began in 1999 and has been the only place where Mario can hurt Pikachu.
"This game is the only time Nintendo worlds are allowed to collide," said Nate Bihldorff, a localization producer for the U.S. version of the game.
"They actually came up with a really elegant solution to how those universes intersect. Imagine a kid playing with all his toys, and visualize the different action figures crashing together," Bihldorff said.
The game has vaulted to the top of the charts, garnering a score of 96 on Metacritic, which collates reviews from dozens of Web sites and publications.
At its core, "Brawl" is a fast-paced action game that rewards quick reflexes but does not demand memorizing complicated attack sequences as found in more sophisticated fighters like "Virtua Fighter".
"They brought together all these classic iconic characters that so many gamers hold so dear. They mix that with a really fun, easy-playing game that's easy for anyone to get into," said Greg Ford, managing editor of gaming magazine EGM.
"It's one of those games where you'll play a lot at first, and when you have friends over and put it in, you'll probably get sucked in for hours. It's a really good value.
"Brawl" is also Nintendo's opening salvo in a three-game barrage the Japanese company is counting on to sustain sales momentum of the wildly popular Wii.
"We'll have a good supply of Wii systems to support the 'Smash' launch. We're expecting system sales to continue to be brisk, especially with 'Smash' in the market," Nintendo of America spokesman Marc Franklin said in an e-mail.
Next month sees the debut of racing title "Mario Kart Wii" and May will mark the release of "Wii Fit", a physical exercise program that uses a pressure-sensing board as a controller.
Those games are partly aimed at drawing in new customers who normally wouldn't bother playing games, but "Brawl" is squarely targeted at those who plainly know the difference between Pokemon and Pikmin.
"'Smash' will thrill core gamers," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Reuters in December, adding that the last game in the series, 2001's "Super Smash Bros. Melee" for the GameCube, sold 5.5 million copies.
"That core group plus more will be focused on 'Brawl'. It's an encyclopedia of gaming with all the characters and elements we've included," Fils-Aime said.
Indeed, "Brawl" acts as an interactive museum of Nintendo's rich, pixelated history. Everything from background images to power-ups and trophies are insider references to past games.
A single-player "adventure" mode lets players explore this nostalgic overview of Nintendo heritage.
"It's a really nice way of easing players into the legacy of Nintendo," Bihldorff said. "It's celebrating this rich history we have with all these different properties. I can't even tell you how much it takes it to the extreme."
"Super Smash Bros. Brawl" costs $50 and is rated T, for players aged 13 and up.