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Filed under: History/Lore, Industry People, Masahiro Sakurai, Satoru Iwata

Timeline of Masahiro Sakurai’s Life

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Today, we are presenting a timeline of Masahiro Sakurai’s life (so far). This page was last updated October 23rd, 2015. Please let us know if you have additional information that should be added into this timeline (with sources). I’ve included all the sources so you can learn more about Sakurai and his life, and so the facts that I’ve included can be checked.

August 3rd, 1970 – Sakurai Masahiro is born in Musashimurayama, Tokyo.

1975 – Michiko Takahashi is born.

Around 1975 – Sakurai starts playing video games. His first game is a Pong-like game.

February 21st, 1980 – HAL Laboratory is founded.

Middle School – Sakurai decides to join a specialist school.

Later middle school – Sakurai drops out of the specialist school to join a regular high school.

1989Sakurai begins working at Hal Laboratories after graduating from high school.

1990- He designs Kirby when he was only 19 years old. Kirby was designed to be a simple character. In the original concept, Sakurai wanted to make a ‘one button’ game.


April 27th, 1992 – Kirby’s Dreamland is released for the Gameboy in Japan.

March 23rd, 1993 – Kirby’s Adventure is released for the Famicon in Japan.

March 21st, 1996 – Kirby Super Star is released for the Super Famicon in Japan.

October 1996 – The original plan for what eventually became Smash 64 is finished. The original plan was called “Four-player Simultaneous Face-off No-Damage Battle Royale Fight.” By November, Sakurai and Iwata had a working skeleton for the game. [Nintendo Dream 64 interview, pre-release]

May 1997 – Sakurai presents two prototypes to Nintendo: an action-adventure game, and a fighting game, internally called  Ryuoh: The Fighting Game 2015-10-23 20-04-25

September 1997: Full-scale development on the project begins at HAL Laboratories. [Nintendo Dream 64 interview, pre-release]

December 1997: Iwata and Sakurai created another prototype, based on Ryuoh, with four Nintendo characters: Mario, Samus, Fox, and Donkey Kong, and presented it to Nintendo. Full-scale development on this new project begins quickly.
1998 – Michiko Takahashi joins HAL Laboratory.

January 21st, 1999 – Nintendo All Stars! Super Smash Brothers for the Nintendo 64 is released in Japan.


April 26th, 1999- Super Smash Brothers is released in America. 2015-10-23 20-07-30

May 13-15th – While at E3, Sakurai decides to start work on a Smash Brothers game for the Gamecube.

June 1st, 1999 – Sakurai releases “If there was a Smash 2 Poll” results. States that there is not an official project plan.

July 7th, 1999 – Melee’s plan is finished. Sakurai is initially working on the game by himself.

November 19th, 1999 – Super Smash Brothers is released in Europe. 2015-10-23 20-01-46

October 6th, 2001 – Kirby: Right Back At Ya! Starts airing in Japan.

May 2001 – Super Smash Bros. Melee is officially revealed at E3.

August 25th-27th, 2001 – “Premium Fight” is hosted at Space World (Melee’s first tournament).

November 21st, 2001 – Super Smash Brothers: Melee is released for the Gamecube in Japan. Sakurai has referred to the 13 month development period of Melee as “an extremely grueling development cycle,” and the worst of his career. 


October 25th, 2002 – Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland for the Gameboy Advance is released in Japan.

April 18th, 2003 – Sakurai begins writing his bi-weekly Famitsu Column.

July 11th, 2003 – Kirby Air Ride is released for the Gamecube in Japan.

August 2003, Sakurai Leaves Hal – After finishing Kirby’s Air Ride, Sakurai decides to leave Hal Laboratories. In the August 22nd, 2003 edition of Sakurai’s Famitsu column (Volume 18) he explains that he quit for two reasonsRoughly speaking, part of the reason is I felt that in the current organization that it would be difficult to continue making games. The other part of the reason that I left is because I felt there would be appeal in working with a variety of other content creators” 2015-10-23 20-10-12

September 27th, 2003 – Kirby: Right Back At Ya! ends in Japan.

March 2004 – Sakurai presents “Risk and Reward” at GDC.

April 15th, 2004 – Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is released for the Gameboy Advance in Japan (Sakurai receives a special mention). 2015-10-23 20-06-09

March 10th, 2005 – Meteos is released for the Nintendo DS in Japan.

April, 2005 – Sakurai signs on to work on a Mushiking game.


May 16th, 2005 – Sakurai learns the existence of a new Smash Project, at a pre-party for E3. (A rerelease of Melee with online functionality)

May 17th, 2005 – Sakurai meets up with Iwata to discuss the possibility of joining the new Smash project. Nintendo announces that Smash Brothers “will be one of the titles available for launch”.

July 7th, 2005 – Brawl Project Plan is finished. Ike is initially labelled as “someone from Fire Emblem”.


August 15th, 2005 – Sora Ltd. is established.


October 2005: Development on Brawl begins (Famitsu column vol. 433). 

September 2006 – Recruiting for Brawl is finished (Famitsu column vol. 168).

September 22nd, 2006 – The first Press Start is organized. Masahiro Sakurai is a commentator for the event, and was deeply involved with its’ founding and organization. 

February 23rd, 2006 – そだてて!ムシキング is released in Japan.

January 31st 2008 – Super Smash Brothers Brawl is released for the Nintendo Wii in Japan. Additional information can be found here.


February 20th, 2008 – Sakurai presents at GDC 2008.

June 2008, Masahiro Sakurai marries Michiko Takahashi.

February 19th, 2009 – Project Sora is started (Ad-hoc development studio for Kid Icarus: Uprising) in Tokyo Idabashi. Nintendo held a 72% stake in Project Sora.

April 6th, 2009 – Fukura is born (Sakurai’s Cat).

October 10th, 2010- Sakurai sets up his Twitter account.

June 7th, 2011 – Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS is announced at E3.

February 2012 – Development for Kid Icarus: Uprising ends.

March 22nd, 2012 – Kid Icarus: Uprising is released in Japan.

June 30th, 2012 – Project Sora is officially closed.

June 31st, 2012 – Project Sora’s website is taken offline.


January 2013 – Sakurai develops calcific tendinitis.

June 12th, 2013 – Picture of the Day starts for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/ 3DS.

September 13th, 2014 – Smash Brothers for 3DS is initially released in Japan.

November 21st, 2014 – Smash Brothers for Wii U is initially released in America.


April 1st, 2015 – DLC is officially announced for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS.

April 25th- 26th, 2015 – Sakurai attends Chokaigi as a special guest.

July 11th, 2015 – Satoru Iwata, Sakurai’s close friend and mentor passes away at the age of 55.

July 24th-25th, 2015 – Sakurai is a special guest at the Fire Emblem concert.

September 17th, 2015 – Sakurai’s achievements are recognized by the Japan Game Awards.

CPGl8yrVEAAm3aRJanuary 31st, 2016 – Sakurai appears on Tokaigi to announce that Bayonetta and Corrin are set to be released the following Thursday.

February 10th, 2016 – Sakurai confirms that the development for Smash for Wii U/3DS has finished (his words).

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  1. “Sakurai learns the existence of a new Smash Project, at a pre-party for E3. (A rerelease of Melee with online functionality)”

    Uh oh. There’s gonna be a fight down here in the comments, isn’t there?

    Delzethin on October 23 |
    • Nah, I think a lot of us know about that already. IIRC, it was pretty much “if Sakurai doesn’t get on board with a new Smash Bros. (AKA Brawl at the time), we’ll re-release Melee on Wii with online play as a plan B.”

      Winturwulf (@winturwulf) on October 23 |
  2. I’ve heard that Gamexplain said something last year in the video that Sakurai’s might gonna have a divorce. Is that true, or did Gamexplain just made that up as a joke?

    zoniken on October 23 |
    • That’s not true AFAIK.

      Source Gaming Team on October 23 |
      • Oh really, that’s good.
        Then all I’ll just say is…DAMN YOU ANDRE AND DERRICK!!! (lol)

        zoniken on October 23 |
    • I remember that. That was just a really callous joke they made when criticizing the design of the 3DS version’s character select screen.

      Igiulaw on October 23 |
    • They said that as a reference to how she did a lot of the graphic design/menu design work for Sakurai’s games, but Smash 3DS’s character select screen didn’t look as good as previous projects, so they mentioned that a dark rumor that could be the case for this was that they got divorced.

      Dot on April 16 |