Super Mario Bros. – 30 Years of Innovation
Nintendo has a storied history with gamers all over the world. The first time I played the original 1985 Super Mario Bros. (SMB) was the day that I would become a devout Nintendo loyalist. Muscle memory would guide me through this pixelated Miyamoto classic. Scrolling 2D platforming with tight gameplay and never-before-experienced freedom in gaming would dominate playground discussions. SMB had cartoon over worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom, water stages, underground areas, and dungeons…this game had plenty variety for its time. Throw in the secret blocks and the warps…and the replay value was through the roof…and still remains so with the speed runners.
The Super Mario Bros. 2 that the world would see was unrecognizable to fans who played the original. The truth is, Nintendo felt that the real Super Mario Bros. 2, now known as Super Mario Bros. Lost Levels, was too difficult. They took the difficulty of the original and ramped it up a notch or 10. It was great for hardcore gamers, but bad for the young fledglings of this very new Nintendo craze.
Then, The Wizard hit the big screen…and the film would feature the debut the next Mario game that is now heralded as the greatest video game of all time – Super Mario Bros. 3. The raccoon flying was genius…and the game was chock full of features that showed that the Big N had delivered a game to its fans that they could play well beyond its February 1990 release. In retrospect, it’s true. It’s Kurt Angle true. This game was the class of all 8-bit games…including the games made for the Sega Master System and the Turbo Grafx 16.
Super Mario World took the franchise to 16-bit heights. The sprites became a little sharper and the color palette looked more Disney-esque in August 1991. Yet Mario would find competition in the 2D landscape with Sonic the Hedgehog from Sega. Blast Processing would be all the rage and was much cooler to watch on screen as Sonic ran through gravity-defying loops. Nintendo steadily continued to stick to level design and tight gameplay with Mario. When both Sega and Nintendo took their characters into the third dimension, this is the arena where Mario would outlast his now-spiky blue buddy.
Mario would once again revolutionize gaming in September 1996 with Super Mario 64. Three-dimensional platforming was non-existent until Miyamoto and Nintendo converted their mascot from sprites to polygons. Gamers watching me play the game in this generation would compare it to watching Toy Story on the big screen. 64-bit, much like the 16-bit, Mario would only see one title in their respective generations. The same held true for Super Mario Sunshine in the Gamecube era. Nintendo struggled to find new innovation to keep making new Mario games. Fans waited somewhat patiently throughout this drought. While others feared that new platform intellectual properties would sweep in and steal the crown.
The Big N would eventually find its Mario magic again and made a comeback in the DS and Wii generations as Nintendo introduced the New Super Mario Bros. franchise in May 2006. This new gaming series would continue the 2D platforming tradition started by the 1985 original. The Wii version of the New SMB franchise would make a serious innovative leap as a 4-player co-op Mario game would hit living rooms all across the world. This was some serious fun!
Nintendo fans looking for graphical displays of awesomeness out of the underpowered Wii consoles would look no further than Super Mario Galaxy (SMG) in November 2007 and its sequel in May 2010 for bragging rights. Mario was back providing fun, fun, and more fun…at a time when Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty were dominant in the market. SMG’s gravity effects and planetary system was the new innovation that Nintendo called up…and it worked to perfection. Mario proved that he could hold his own against the big production games as SMG was awarded Game of the Year in many major gaming circuits. It is even crazier to think that SMG2 is better in every way.
The current 3DS and Wii U generations would continue the innovation as we are seeing the continuing push of the New SMB franchise on both systems, as well as critically acclaimed Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World. The former marking the return of the Tanooki Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 with the 3D features of Nintendo’s current dual screen handheld…and the latter providing a 4-player 3D game and Mario in 1080p resolution.
Super Mario Maker has just been released on the world on the Wii U. The game creators since the 1985 SMB original, Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, now hand over their 30-year old treasure to you. It’s your turn to innovate…and create levels in any form you please. Imagine for a second a level that has max distance from left to right…and only contains 10 blocks to cover the distance. That’s where my mind is at right now. Where is yours? I digress.
Happy birthday Mario! May you continue to captivate new generations of fans (like my two kids)…and more importantly…continue to innovate!
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