Ice Climber is a series of 2D platforming games by Nintendo. It so far consists of two main games, the original 1985 Ice Climber and its various ports, and the 2010 reboot Ice Climber Ascent for the Game Boy Nitro.
The original Ice Climber was developed by Nintendo R&D1, and directed by Kenji Miki. It was also the first Nintendo game programmed by Kazuaki Morita, who used the game as practice for creating the more famous Super Mario Bros. The game was released on the Famicom on January 20, 1985, and in America on the NES on October 18.
Although soon overshadowed, Ice Climber was a moderate hit, selling about a million and a half copies lifetime. The game was soon ported to a number of platforms, including arcades, the Famicom Disk System, and the NEC PC-8801. The last version in particular was published by Hudson Soft, a company that would be vital in rebooting the franchise a quarter century later.
Ice Climber was largely forgotten throughout the latter 80's and the 90's, but was brought back into the gaming world's consciousness by the 2001 hit game Super Smash Bros. Melee. Melee, a massive Nintendo crossover, brought back the original Ice Climbers, Popo and Nana, as playable characters in a celebration of Nintendo history.
The Ice Climbers were not the most popular characters in Smash Bros, but they became well known, partially for their generally high placement in Melee's "tier" lists. This made them a popular choice in competitive multiplayer matches. Therefore, Nintendo executives decided that a future Ice Climber game might be made someday.
The Ice Climber franchise was also brought back to public attention with the 2004 re-release of the original Ice Climber for the Game Boy Advance. Although not particularly popular in the West, this port sold over 200,000 copies in Japan alone. This further cemented the impression that there was a modest future for the franchise.
The Ice Climber franchise ultimately made it's comeback on the Game Boy Nitro thanks to Hudson Soft. In 2008, Hudson was one of Nintendo's recent acquisitions. In Nintendo, it was realized that Hudson had a knack for reviving old franchises, as shown through their success with 2007's PilotWings Island and their own franchises like Bomberman. It also became apparent that the likelihood of a Metroid title appearing on the Game Boy Nitro was dwindling, as series creator Yoshio Sakamoto was focusing his efforts on a Revolution installment in the series.
The solution to the problem seemed to be giving Hudson the task of reviving the Ice Climber franchise as a "Metroid" style game. Hudson accepted the project among several possible choices, and the game was in development for two and a half years.
The final result, Ice Climber Ascent was released on December 5, 2010, to positive reviews. Ice Climber Ascent was a child-friendly version of the Metroid-style game, featuring a 2.5D winter-wonderland to explore. The game emphasized exploration using a series of power-ups and abilities gained over the course of a playthrough. Players could customize their character and play cooperatively in the same world via local wireless play.
Ice Climber Ascent would go on to sell about as well as traditional Metroid games, selling about 1.5 million copies by the end of 2012. The game received multiple awards from various gaming websites, including "Best Game Boy Nitro game of 2010" from one Nintendo-based review site.
A direct sequel to Ice Climber Ascent was announced to be in development for the Game Boy 3DS at E3 2013. The game will use the system's lower screen as a map, and will feature a larger world with new abilities to collect.
Ice Climber is a modest yet successful series for Nintendo. The two games in the series have sold four million retail copies between their various releases. Although the original game was released before reviews for games were widespread, Ice Climber Ascent received scores of around 8 or 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the better received handheld games of 2010.