The Zapper light gun is an icon of classic gaming for the Nintendo Entertainment System, appearing across multiple forms of media, including as the trusty sidearm for the eponymous protagonist of the 1989 DiC Entertainment animated series Captain N: The Game Master. More recently, it’s been brought back into the spotlight as a fourth wall-breaking special move for Duck Hunt in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, as well as a equippable weapon (under the name “N-Zap ’89”) in Splatoon.

For many, the above instances are why its orange hue is so distinctly and fondly remembered, but it’s not the “original” form of the Zapper by any stretch.

The “’89” in N-Zap ’89 references the running change Nintendo made to the accessory as fears of gun violence continued to climb throughout the United States, escalated by police shootings of children armed with toy versions of firearms. Prior to this, the initial 1985 version of the Zapper sported a cool grey and white color combination (as seen at right), and despite the more futuristic shape and contours of the shell, this was cause enough for Nintendo to want to exercise caution as moves were made by retailers to ban the sale of realistic toy firearms.

It was already a lucky thing for Nintendo of America that they opted to go futuristic with the design, as the original Beam Gun released in 1984 for the Famicom in Japan was far more realistic:

Resembling a real-world revolver, the Beam Gun went all-in, even including its own gun and holster for true leather-slapping action in Wild Gunman. For all we know, had this been the version Nintendo of Amercia instead opted to run with, the peripheral might have wound up being discontinued altogether — and where would Captain N have been then?

David Oxford David Oxford (113 Posts)

Lover of fine foods and felines, as well as comics, toys, and... oh yeah, video games. David Oxford has written about the latter for years, including for Nintendo Power, Nintendo Force, Mega Visions, and he even wrote the book on Mega Man!