Many of Nintendo’s pre-video gaming era creations are well-documented and get referenced in their games, like the Love Tester, Ultra Hand, and Ultra Machine. But with the LEGO Super Mario series toy set that is set to release in August, it’s easy to forget that one of the company’s creations include the N&B Blocks, which were competition for the toy giant’s iconic bricks. [Thanks, Nintendo Before Mario!]
The legendary Gunpei Yokoi had a hand in the creation of the N&B Blocks. They came out in sets to create buildings and objects like space rockets, like LEGO. By themselves, they don’t look that different from LEGO blocks, and they can even lock together with LEGO bricks.
That said, Nintendo was the first company to feature round bricks for these toy sets, and the company actively used this as a selling point in advertising. The sets were made in the late 1960s and ran throughout the decade until the early 1970s. While it’s not 100% certain why the company stopped making them, it’s likely due to the fact that LEGO actually sued Nintendo (though Nintendo won the case due to N&B Block’s unique characteristics). The only reference to N&B Blocks that made it into Nintendo video games was an obscure reference in Super Mario Land 2, where Mario has to run through a room made out of N&B Blocks in Mario Zone.
The past aside, now we get to see LEGO and Mario working together in an official capacity in order to innovate with the LEGO bricks with the Super Mario set. It harkens back to a time where Nintendo tried to capitalize on the LEGO craze by putting its own spin on the classic bricks.