Sidescrolling into the #12 Position…
Super Mario Brothers is beyond iconic. Walk down the street and ask people how the Super Mario Brothers theme song goes, and you’ll get the correct answer from just about anyone. People know Mario, even if they’ve never played a Nintendo game in their life. It’s a name that’s probably known better globally than most sports stars. This is where it started, (at least in the way we know Mario today. His first appearance was actually in the original Donley Kong as “Jump Man”). But what kind of game was Super Mario Brothers? It, (and the Nintendo Entertainment System), single-handedly saved the console gaming industry*; that’s a matter of historical record. But let’s look at the game itself and reflect fairly on how good of a game it really was.
The Princess is in Another Castle
Super Mario Brothers is a simple game by today’s standards, but for its time it was a huge leap forward not only graphically, (it’s almost hard to say that looking back), but also in it’s diverse level design. It was miles ahead of arcade-style games such as Asteroid, Space Invaders or Pac-Man. While the levels in most games became progressively harder, they were essentially more difficult versions of the same level. Mario took you into deep caves, underwater, and into the sky. Every level was different, and that was a big step in the right direction. But when looking at what the game is, it’s is essentially a classic story of rescuing the princess from a dragon. Well, rescuing a princess from a dragon while slowly descending into complete lunacy.
Really look hard at the story of Mario; it plays out like ramblings of a mad man. Who needs to save the kingdom’s princess? The plumber, who will go into pipes often occupied with carnivorous plants, eat mushrooms to grow bigger, and kill small Koopas by jumping on their heads. Uh, okay. That doesn’t sound crazy or anything. But what’s crazier is that it worked. Not only did It work, it was unique enough to breathe life back into home gaming. The game could be played fairly fast, but sprinting through the levels skipped over many hidden paths that had been tucked away into the game. Quick shortcuts to other levels were hidden away. So it was worth exploring each level, making players experience nearly the entire world that had been created for the game. This got people to spend hours playing Mario Brothers, finding out everything the game had to offer.
Looking back at Super Mario Brothers reveals some of the game’s flaws, which sadly are part of the core of the game. Since then, we’ve moved away from the limited lives and resetting the games progress completely at a game over, and for good reason. It’s frustrating, and without any sort of save ability, the game restarted every time it was turned on, meaning you saw the first level way more often than the rest of the game, which is part of the reason people know that level’s song so well. It’s been branded onto our brains.
Gaming’s Second Chance
After the recent failings of Atari, *cough*ET*cough*, Nintendo had a chance to become dominant in an industry that had really just begun, but nearly died before it ever took off. While another company may have done it if Nintendo had not, Nintendo not only revitalized the ‘home video game,’ but they did it exceptionally well. The NES had two titles included at release: The first, Duck Hunt, was a classic arcade game, but the second was Super Mario Brothers, and it was unique. History shows that Super Mario Brothers was the more popular, and it is symbolic of how Nintendo would operate creatively as a company in the future.
While I don’t think this makes the game itself better, it’s still important to remember that without Super Mario Brothers, the video game industry would have remained stagnant, and Nintendo wouldn’t be the company it is today. The game has had such an influence throughout the years that even today there are innumerable homages to Super Mario Brothers, the most recent of which is a full-fledged recreation of the first level hidden in Dying Light (look it up, it’s awesome).
Mario games are still being made today, thankfully. Looking back at Super Mario Brothers shows a game that aged quite well, and when it comes down to it, if someone hands you a controller, you’re likely to play and enjoy it. After all these years, it’s simply a great game. I give it 5 out of 5, and hope to see my old friend Mario for years to come.
*Editor’s Note: Before the release of the original NES, Atari was the dominant company in the console space to an almost monopolistic degree. When they lost millions on the catastrophically bad video game version of ET in the early 80s, it nearly destroyed Atari and, by extension, home gaming. Nintendo’s NES and Super Mario Bros. quite literally saved the industry when they were released a couple of years later.