The Nintendo Entertainment System was a third generation video game console. It was first released as the Family Computer in Japan, 1983. It was later released in North America, Europe and Australia as the Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1985, 1986 and 1987 respectively.
The console is widely regarded as the console that saved gaming from the video game crash of 1983. It was the first console to support now-standard third-party games, not made by the console manufacturer, giving the NES a massive advantage.
The Famicom launched with 3 arcade ports, Donkey Kong, Popeye and Donkey Kong Jr.. When the console was first released, it was distributed with a faulty motherboard. After a 1984 recall, the console's popularity skyrocketed.
There were two basic bundles on launch. First was the basic Control Deck. This model came with the basic cables, the NES, and two controllers. The Deluxe Set included a ROB, Gyromite and its corresponding equipment, Duck Hunt and a zapper on top of the console itself.
A few years after launch, the Action Set was introduced to replace the Deluxe Set. It contained a Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt compilation cartridge, as well as a zapper, two controllers, and the console itself.
There were two additional sets released in 1992, the Basic Set and the Challenge Set. The Basic Set was marketed for $90, with no games (identical to the Control Deck). The Challenge Set included the console, two controllers and Super Mario Bros. 3.
The final rendition was the NES-101, which was essentially a toploader that had a design similar to that of the SNES. It remained in production until the NES's discontinuation in 1995. This version was bundled with a controller that was quite similar to the SNES's controller.
There were many unlicensed games released for the NES. Some of the most infamous include Action 52. These games were not officially licensed by Nintendo, and were notorious for being bad. Nintendo fixed this with the release of the SNES, which included a lockout chip, disabling the use of unlicensed games.
NES games have been emulated on many other systems, including pirated plug 'n' play games and computers. To use an emulator, the user must have a ROM rip of the game (typically downloaded from pirate sites, and specialized ROM sites), to load into the emulator.
Emulators generally run faster than the original system and they typically have additional features, including TAS and cheat tools. Users can hack their ROMs to incorporate their own modifications into the game.