There are, probably, very few people who have a living memory of Mario kneecapping Yoshi in this advertisement and who are not old enough to vote. It's the famous spot for Super Smash Bros., which 15 years ago today released as a Japan-only novelty and exploded into one of Nintendo's best-loved series.

Super Smash Bros. launched for Nintendo 64 on Jan. 21, 1999 (the same day the defense rested in President Clinton's impeachment trial in the Senate. Remember that?). Smash Bros. was the brainchild of Masahiro Sakurai, and Satoru Iwata, today president of Nintendo. Both men worked for HAL Laboratory in 1999; Super Smash Bros. scratched an itch for both: Sakurai wanted a fighting game different from the 2D standard which had oversaturated the genre, and Iwata wanted a game that could be played by up to four players locally. The inclusion of an ensemble cast from Nintendo's stable of characters was almost a lark, thrown in to differentiate characters during the prototype's development. When Nintendo approved the uses, the series acquired its most distinct appeal.


When Super Smash Bros. sold very well in Japan, Nintendo hustled out a cartridge for western markets and had it on shelves in North America in four months. For a series introduced 15 years ago, it has comparatively few sequels—one for GameCube in 2001 (Melee) and for Wii in 2008 (Brawl), with a highly anticipated fourth edition arriving this year for Wii U and 3DS. Sakurai continues to lead development of the series.

Of the characters confirmed for this year's release, Donkey Kong, Fox, Kirby, Link, Luigi, Mario, Pikachu and Samus have appeared in every Smash Bros. title to date.