Brad asked a question a while back about “picross” games:
Hey man. I have an interesting question for you. Is picross a huge thing in Japan? Just in looking around for different games for my Super Famicom, I’ve seen that there are 9 picross games for it! The Nintendo Power (unrelated to the magazine we’re familiar with) Picross series released only on the SF Memory kiosks, which you could pretty much download any game at all onto a special cart similar to how the Famicom Disk System was. There were 8 of those, there was Mario’s Super Picross, and there were 2 Mario’s Picross games for gameboy, only one of them localized for the US, which was a flop according to the Nintendo Power magazine we have. Anyway, fun fact, Mother 2 was released on SF memory. Anyway, have a good one.
If you’re unfamiliar with picross games, here’s what they look like:
Basically, you chip away at a grid trying to find a hidden image underneath. I always noticed there were lots of them in Japan, but never paid them too much attention as I never really got into them myself. Looking briefly online, it appears that not only is this a popular game in Japan, it was invented in Japan!
According to this, it sounds like two separate Japanese people invented the game in 1987/1988, and it took off from there. I don’t know the full details, but now it finally makes sense to me why there are so many picross games in Japan – it’s the game’s birthplace. Apparently picross puzzle games are also called “nonograms” (named after Non Ishida, one of the creators), “drawing blocks”, and “illustration blocks” in Japan, while they have other names like “griddlers” in English.
I’m guessing that the deluge of picross games in Japan is due to the fact that it’s a very simple thing to design and program. A small team (even a one-man team) could probably whip up a picross game in a super-short amount of time. Still, it’s strange to hear that the Mario picross games didn’t do well in the U.S.; many of my friends are big fans of the genre and specifically that Game Boy game. I wonder if it just took time for picross’ popularity to take off since it was such a weird, new thing at the time. I should’ve been paying more attention back in the day!