Mahjong is an adaptation of the massively successful, near impenetrable and mystifying Chinese tile-based board game. The disk system version is a re-release of the first in a long line of 8-bit Mahjong games home to a Japanese Nintendo console.


Japanese Title: 麻雀
English Release: none

Release Date: February 21, 1986 (Launch)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Genre: Puzzle
Product Code: FMC-MJA
Disk Format: Single-sided
Notable Credits:  none

Originally released on cartridge just over a month after the Family Computer console itself in 1983, Mahjong is an early video game conversion of the eponymous board game. Mahjong is seemly as popular in Japan as it is mystifying to anyone, well, outside of Japan.

Mahjong as a board game dates back to 18th century China, with its closest familiar approximation being the more familiar card game Rummy. Mahjong seems to have a vast set of complex rules that vary greatly by region, and involves equal parts skill and chance. The game itself is played with a set of 144 tiles (similar in size to Dominos) marked with Chinese symbols and characters.

Full disclosure: Before playing the Disk System version of Mahjong, I had no idea what the game actually was, and after researching and attempting to play it I feel I may be more confused as I ever was. In fact, the game that I thought was Mahjong is actually a game played using Mahjong tiles called Shanghai.

The amount of Japanese text and complete lack of in-game tutorials or instruction makes this game completely impenetrable to an unfamiliar Western audience. Unless that audience somehow understands Mahjong.

Mahjong was evidently popular enough to merit an unaltered launch re-release on the Disk System some 3 years after the original cartridge debut. A re-release mind you, that is completely unchanged and unaltered. The sheer bulk of competing Famicom Mahjong titles, both cartridge and disk, are a testament to the popularity of this very Asia-specific game.