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Google Maps Goes Retro for April Fools’ Day

Everyone knows Google Maps can be very useful for looking up directions on your computer, on your tablet and on your smartphone.  But, realizing “we’ve long neglected one of the most popular computer systems ever sold,” Google finally has a mapping app for your original 8-bit Nintendo from the 1980s.

Why would Google do such a thing?  Take a moment to find the nearest calendar and realize what today’s date is.  Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Yeeeeep… it’s April Fools’ Day, and once again, Google earns an A+ for gag execution.

When you visit the Google Maps website, you’ll see a special “Quest” icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.  If it’s not there, try this special link instead, and you’ll see how Google Maps could have looked if such a thing existed back in the day when we were playing the original versions of Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.

Google Maps, 8-bit edition
Google Maps, 8-bit edition


The map looks very similar to those from classic role-playing games like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy.  Today’s major highways are rendered as dirt paths weaving through grasslands, forests and mountains.

Pegman replaced in 8-bit Google Maps
Pegman replaced in 8-bit Google Maps

But wait, there’s more!  Check out the little blue soldier dude standing in for the usual Google Maps Street View guy (whose name, by the way, is Pegman — remember that if you’re ever on Jeopardy!).

Drag him onto one of the roads, and you’ll get a Street View image that’s been altered to look just as primitive as the graphics from our favorite mid 80s video games.  Here’s how the Utica Memorial Auditorium looks:

Utica Memorial Auditorium on Google Maps, 8-bit edition
Google Maps, 8-bit edition

Of course, the altered maps don’t stand alone.  In Google April Fools tradition, the company produced an official 2-minute video on YouTube announcing the debut of Google Maps for NES.

Google explains Google Maps for NES (from YouTube)
Google / YouTube

The video explains how Google developed a special game cartridge with a built-in modem.  You simply pop it into the NES (after blowing the dust off), turn on the NES, plug in a telephone line, and you’re good to go!

Of course, you can’t blame Google for “neglecting” the NES for two and a half decades… the company wasn’t even founded until 1998, and Google Maps didn’t come along until 2005.  By then, Nintendo fans were already looking forward to the Wii, which would debut the following year — with built-in Wi-Fi.

– by Peter Naughton, WLZW

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