There are certain things that are easy to take for granted in video games these days, and the overall capacity for multiplayer experiences is one of them. With today’s tech, we can see anything from 8-player matches in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to the staggering 100-player matches found in popular online titles such as Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
But back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, 2-player was the norm — assuming that the game in question even supported it. Some would have players take turns, such as Super Mario Bros., and others would allow for simultaneous play, both cooperatively (like Contra) and competitively (Dr. Mario).
However, that all changed in 1989… well, sort of.
It was that year Nintendo of America introduced the NES Satellite, a peripheral which would allow for up to four players to join in a game simultaneously (though at least one still featured alternating play). Powered by six C-cell batteries, the NES Satellite also provided other features, most notable of which were the options to switch on a “Turbo” function for either or both A and B buttons, as well as providing a wireless control setup for the console (presumably giving the device its name). Through use of an infrared sensor, the range at which one could sit from the NES was extended from a mere three feet to a whopping 15-20 (reports vary) feet — provided there was no interference, that is, such as someone walking between the transmitter and receiver.As something of a bonus, you didn’t have to play multiplayer games with the device, meaning you could still enjoy the wireless range on your own with some good old-fashioned single-player experiences (sorry, Bosman).
Most peripherals don’t tend to see a whole lot in the way of dedicated software, but the NES Satellite saw support from a respectable 24 games in the NES library. The majority of these were sports titles, which led Nintendo to release an NES “Sports Set” bundle which came with the console, NES Satellite, four controllers, six C-cell batteries, and a two-in-one Game Pak cartridge featuring a pair of Technōs-developed titles that were rebranded and published by Nintendo of America under new names: Nintendo World Cup (formerly Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club: Soccer in Japan) and Super Spike V’Ball (formerly U.S. Championship V’Ball).