Cartridge and mappers' history

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1983 July 15th
The Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) is released in Japan. The 3 launch games are : "Donkey Kong", "Donkey Kong Jr." and "Popeye". During the first year, only Nintendo released games for the system. All of them had 16 KiB PRG and 8 KiB CHR.
1984 June 21th
Family BASIC is released. It is the first special cart Nintendo made for the system: instead of being a game it allows the user to program the system using the BASIC programming language. It's also the first cart that uses 32 KiB of PRG. Additionally it provides 2 KiB of battery-backed PRG RAM. It is the first cart (for a long while) to use either PRG RAM or battery backup.
1984 July 28th/31st
Hudson's "Nuts & Milk" and "Lode Runner" appear to be the first third party games released on the Famicom. The cartridges were manufactured by Nintendo though.
1984 November 2nd/8th
Namco's "Pac Man" and "Xevious" appear to be the first releases for the Famicom that were entirely manufactured by a third party. "Xevious" appears to be the first 32 KiB PRG game for the system (as Family BASIC isn't a game). Because of the lack of any lockout chip, Namco and many other companies (Bandai, Irem, Jaleco, Konami, Sunsoft, Taito) will follow this trend and make their own cartridges instead of having Nintendo make them for them.
1985 June 21st
Konami's "Hyper Olympic Gentaiban!" is the first game to use hardware other than ROMs (not counting Family BASIC). The cartridge was made by Konami and uses some circuitry to allow 16 KB of CHR ROM, switching between two 8 KiB banks. Mappers were born.
1985 September 13th
Nintendo's "Super Mario Bros." is released in Japan. It is one of the first (if not the first) Famicom games that is not merely a port of another arcade or computer game. This will be a major factor in the console's success.
1985 September 27th
Jaleco released "City Connection", which uses the same circuit as Konami's above-mentioned CHR banking.
1985 October 18th
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is released in the United States. The launch games are : "10-Yard Fight", "Baseball", "Clu Clu Land", "Donkey Kong Jr. Math", "Duck Hunt", "Excitebike", "Golf", "Gyromite", "Hogan's Alley", "Ice Climber", "Kung Fu", "Mach Rider", "Pinball", "Stack-Up", "Super Mario Bros.", "Tennis", "Wild Gunman", and "Wrecking Crew". Some of these contained 60-pin Famicom cartridge PCBs connected to an internal Famicom-to-NES adapter, while others used 72-pin cartridge PCBs designed specifically for the NES. This list already includes some third party games but this time the lockout chip inside the NES prevented them from building their own cartridges.
1986 February 21st
Nintendo released the Famicom Disk System (FDS) accessory, which vastly improved the capabilities of the console (as almost no games were yet using mappers). One disk can hold 128 KB of data (64KB per side), and was cheaper to produce. Additionally it provided extra sound and the disks could hold save data.
1986 April
Bandai, Konami and Nintendo appear to start producing CNROM games almost simultaneously. It's an improvement over Konami's circuit that uses only one chip instead of two, at the cost of having bus conflicts.
1986 April 17th
Sunsoft's "Atlantis no Nazo" appears to be the first cartridge that uses a dedicated mapper chip (as opposed to 74 series logic chips). Other companies follow this trend promptly.
1986 June 6th
Nintendo's "Gumshoe" (released in USA) is the first GNROM game. It's the first game to bank PRG ROM, have 128 KiB of PRG ROM, and to support banking both PRG and CHR.
1986 June 13th
Capcom's "Maikamura" (a.k.a. "Ghosts 'n' Goblins") appears to be the first UNROM game. It is the first cartridge game to use CHR RAM.
1986 June 20th
Namco's "Super Chinese" appears to be the first game that uses a complex ASIC mapper. Namco's 108 is the MMC3's predecessor.
1986 July 30th
Konami's VRC1 (the second ASIC mapper) is first used in "Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchuu". After the FDS, the VRC1 is the first mapper that supports changing the nametable layout ("mirroring") at runtime.
1986 September 1st
The NES is released in PAL-B regions.
1986 December 15th
Irem's "Mashou" (japanese version of "Deadly Towers") is the first game published to use a BNROM board.
1987 April 14th
Seta's "Morita Shougi" appears to be the first game to use the Nintendo MMC1 mapper. It's also the first game cartridge with 8 KiB of PRG RAM and battery backup.
1987 May 15th
The NES is released in PAL-A regions.
1987 June 30th
Taito's X1-005 is first used in "Mirai Shinwa Jarvas". The X1-005 is the first mapper to provide a small amount of extra RAM on-die, which was almost always used for saving.
1987 July 7th
Konami's VRC2 is first used in "Getsufuu Maden". The VRC2 is the first mapper to support eight independent CHR banks.
1987 September 25th
Konami's VRC3 is first and only used in "Salamander". After the FDS, the VRC3 is the first mapper that can generate IRQs.
1987 September
Nintendo's MMC2 is used in "Mike Tyson's Punch-out!!". It's the first mapper to support hardware trickery to bypass the 256-tiles BG limitation.
1987 December
Rare's "Wizards & Warriors" is the first game published to use an ANROM board.
1987 December 4th
Namco's "Star Wars" is the first game published to use their 129 mapper IC, which supported ROM nametables and expansion audio. (However, this game used neither)
1988 March 18th
Irem released "Napoleon Senki", the first game to have 4-screen mirroring, and to contain both CHR RAM and CHR ROM.
1988 August 12th
Namco's "Final Lap" is the first cartridge game (i.e. not FDS) to use expansion audio, via its Namco 163 mapper.
1988 September 27th
Seta's "8-Eyes" appears to be the first game to use the Nintendo MMC3 mapper.
1990 February 3rd
Koei's "Nobunaga no Yabou: Sengoku Gunyuuden" (Japanese version of "Nobunaga's Ambition II") was the first game to use the Nintendo MMC5 mapper. However the writing "(c) 1989 Nintendo" and the date code on MMC5 chips suggest the chip already being available in late 1989.
1990 April
Rare's "Pin•Bot" is the first game that can bankswitch CHR-RAM and CHR-ROM independently.
1990 August 11th
Bandai's "SD Gundam Gaiden: Knight Gundam Monogatari" is the first game to save games in EEPROM.
1991 August 30th
HAL Labratory released "Metal Slader Glory", the largest licensed game with 512KB of PRG ROM and CHR ROM.
1994 June 24th
Hudson Soft's "Takahasi Meijin no Boukenjima (Adventure Islands) IV" is the last licensed game released for the Famicom.
1994 December
Nintendo's "Wario's Woods" is the last licensed game for the NES in USA.
2003 September 25th
Nintendo discontinued all manufacturing and support for the Famicom


Note: this list is not a citeable source for release dates; all dates either come from NEScartDB or Wikipedia.