Hero: Hiroshi Yamauchi

The Hero Who Ran Nintendo.

Compared to some of the Heroes we’ve featured—magicians, race car drivers and face-painting professional wrestlers, profiling a business man could seem a little less than titillating. But Hero: Hiroshi Yamauchi proved that you can be a business man who has fun, and who creates fun for people all over the world. Like as the president of Nintendo for 53 years…who happens to have been worth $2.1 billion dollars according to Forbes in April of 2013, just months before his passing in September.

Yamauchi took the helm at Nintendo in the late 40’s after his grandfather, the incumbent president, had a stroke. Still a university student at the time, Yamauchi accepted his grandfather’s offer on one condition: no other family members could work at the company while he was at the helm. His grandfather agreed, and his older cousin was suddenly out of a job (sorry, cuz). Still young and inexperienced, many of Nintendo’s employees didn’t think much of Yamauchi when he joined the company. He responded by firing them. Over the next few decades, he moved the headquarters to Kyoto and led the company in a “notoriously imperialistic style,” relying solely on his instincts.

During his tenure, Nintendo had lots of electronic toy hits, including the Love Tester, the Ultra Hand (you know, the infamous claw arcade game), and in 1981…Donkey Kong. Kind of a big deal. You know the rest, since you likely spent most of your childhood (and some of adulthood) with your eyes and hands glued to NES, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and GameCube. In the 90‘s, Yamauchi also bought the Seattle Mariners, which eventually opened the gates for Japanese players to enter the world of American baseball. Innovating video games, owning a pro baseball team, AND being one of the richest men in the world? Definitely hero material.