[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The NES Action Set Family

November 23rd, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo Entertainment System NES Action Set Box Family - 1988The Euro-American family in its native habitat.

Just in time for Thanksgiving — and the ritual practice of family togetherness — comes this wonderful vintage photo from the back of the NES Action Set box. In it, we see a four-person white American nuclear family utterly consumed by a game of Super Mario Bros.

This scene looks nice at first glance, but imagine having to play through a whole game with mom and dad hanging off of your shoulders.

“Hey son.”

(Father gets in close, whispering into son’s ear.)

“Want to play some Super Mario Brothers?”

“I’m already playing, Dad.”

(Father squeezes son’s shoulder tighter.)

“My uncle’s name is Mario.”

Nintendo Entertainment System NES Action Set Box Family - 1988

Luckily, the scenario I’ve concocted above appears nowhere on the box. Still, a few amusing things about this photo jump out at me:

  • Mario is gleefully flying to his death.
  • The family apparently owns two copies of Super Mario Bros. because one is on the table, and they’re playing one in the NES.
  • The two kids are both playing a one player game at the same time. Or maybe the older brother (player 1) on the right is screwing up the little brother’s game by hitting pause at random intervals.
  • The mother and the son on the right aren’t looking at the TV set. Actually, I don’t think any of them are.

I’ve included an extra-large scan this time (when you click on the image), so you might be able to turn it into a desktop background.

For more vintage family madness, check out my latest slideshow on Technologizer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ From Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set Box (reverse), 1988 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played a video game with your entire immediate family rapturously engaged in the action on screen?

21 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The NES Action Set Family”

  1. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Yay! You found it! I’ve been looking for that picture because I remember how absurd it was. I bought the Action Set in 1989 and I remember intently studying the box. Even at my young age, I noticed all those oddities you did (gee, the kid sure is happy about losing), plus at least 2 more: Notice that the NES isn’t even powered on (no red light), and how could it be? There are no cables coming out the back. Actually, all of our observations could be used to infer that what is on the table is actually the family’s spare deck & cartridge; the real control deck is under the table.

  2. XCALIBR8 Says:

    My family was all about Contra and Duck Hunt. We’d all gather around the tv and my dad and I would play Contra and our family would watch it as if it was a movie. Skeet shooting even got Grandpa out of his chair on a few occasions.

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    Yeah, you’re right, Mike. The power switch isn’t pushed in either. Can anybody else spot weird things about this picture?

    I bet the screen was off as well when they shot this — it’s likely they superimposed the game screen later.

    Oh wait, I have another theory: the son on the right is actually playing a different NES off camera.

  4. Zing Says:

    Whichever kid is playing the game, he is terrible at it. He is halfway through the level with only 100 points and zero coins.

  5. jlanagan Says:

    It actually makes a horrible desktop background. But I’m displaying it proudly anyway. My NES box as I recall had screenies of 30 or so games displayed on the back.

  6. Jurgi Says:

    »»Have you ever played a video game with your entire immediate family rapturously engaged in the action on screen?

    Yes. It was my first day with my 8-bit Atari. I was playing Eggard when dad with his wife came back from the family visiting. At first they watch the action, when I went to bathroom, they captured the joystick and were playing until late night. Seriously, I was exhausted and aleepy and they were still playing.

  7. Alexandre Vallières-Lagacé Says:

    Actually, they probably own one of the magical NES that works on brain power since it is not even powered on…

    Player 1 must be the older brother as the younger brother is hiting right on the d-pad…

  8. The Doctor Says:

    Have you ever played a video game with your entire immediate family rapturously engaged in the action on screen?

    Yep. The first two gamepaks for the NES I received as a kid were the Super Mario/Duck Hunt that came with the Nintendo and Tetris. My folks and I used to play Tetris for hours (and the two controller hack that the Game Genie let you use on Tetris made it more interesting).

  9. orsty3001 Says:

    I remember when I was a kid and after cutting the grass a dozen times to earn enough money to buy one of these. I really studied the box while on the john one evening. That’s where and still today I do all my best thinking and studying. Most of the electronics I own have been taken apart on the can.

    Anyway, I’m glad that Mike pointed out the fact that the power button wasn’t pressed on because that used to bug me to death when I was a kid.

  10. António Afonso Says:

    Do you think it’s possible to make those Technologizer scans available in large size too? 🙂

  11. CJ Says:

    How exactly do you get that far with just 100 points?

  12. Flit Says:

    I’ve got this box tacked to my wall. I like the flavor text on the side for the accessories:

    “…you can slow it down with the exclusive slow motion control that allows you to plan your next move”
    “It features a 360° revolving Cycloid button”
    “The NES Max is also equipped with turbo power”

  13. Rockin' Kat Says:

    I always figured the kid to the right of the television was admiring the faux woodgrain finish on the television.

    If you follow the url linked from my username you’ll see a similar image I uploaded to old-computers.com’s stupid scans a while back. It’s different and yet it’s the same… Except it’s stupider than this one because they didn’t know how to use game controllers apparently… or they had some special version of SMB that didn’t use the A or B buttons. 🙂

  14. Game Collector Says:

    Mistakes like the ones found here are pretty common. There was at one point in time an advertisement for a silver slim PS2 at playstation.com but the kid was holding an xbox controller.

  15. Rosemarie Mamaghani Says:

    We have this exact set – 1988 – made in Japan. Used, but in excellent condition. All pieces in original box, as well as 3 or 4 extra games. Would you know the value of it as we’d like to sell it. Please e-mail response to rosemama@san.rr.com. Thanks.

  16. Brian Says:

    Also…the Nintendo doesn’t appear to be on.

  17. Cody Says:

    What gets me is that when I was a kid in the 90s my parents didn’t give a crap about getting involved in anything I did; let alone video games. Have you ever tried getting your mum to pick up a NES controller? It’s too complicated.

    But the Wii changed all of that, didn’t it …

  18. Matt Says:

    Great looking picture! Is this is from a pamphlet or system box. I haven’t
    seen a any source look this sharp. It’s nearly photo quality.

    Nintendo must have really liked this fake family. 😛

    From the ROB box:

    NES Deluxe Set

  19. Matt Says:

    Also, as far as strange findings in this pic.

    Both kids seem to think they are controlling Mario.
    One of them is clearly not!

    It reminds me of when people would hand a controller to a toddler just to
    let them believe they were controlling something. 😛

    Also, that Duck Hunt/SMB cart seems to be an early design. I can’t tell what it says in between the two logos. It almost looks like “NOT FOR RESALE”
    Different from this though:

    I also find it funny that Nintendo would use an NEC monitor for the picture. NEC was a pretty big competitor around this time in Japan with the PC Engine. It would make more sense to have gone with a Sony TV.

    One last thing.. NO FAMILY IS THAT HAPPY PLAYING GAMES TOGETHER! 😛 My family in 1986… Mom: “Stop playing that damn Nintendo and do your homework NOW!”

  20. Eric Forslin Says:


    The Nes isn’t plugged in and the switch is off. The zapper is on the table and not plugged in. That punk kid is pushin’ buttons and starin’ at the side of the monitor and it’s not his turn. And that 100 points and zero coins must be a glitch from interference due to the cart being connected via wireless link.

    Also, that family looks fake just like all those other fake families and they have no taste in style or realistic clothing.

  21. LocalH Says:

    That SMB/DH cart says “ACTION PAK” and has the red/yellow “Nintendo ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM” logo between the two game logos.

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