(Editor’s Note: As part of our relaunch and month long celebration of all things Mario, on Mario Mondays we will be taking a trip through the history of everyone’s favorite plumber.)
Every week, we are going to explore a different era as defined by us, of the Mario Games. Maybe we will compare them to their contemporaries of the time. Perhaps we will try to dissect the magical formula that allows such a simple formula to endure for over thirty years. Mostly, we will just use it as an excuse to play all of these great games in a misguided attempt to recapture our youth. If recent cinematic history has taught us anything, it is that we fall hard for sentimentality and nostalgia here at 2 Guys Gaming.
This week, we start in the most logical place, the beginning. That may seem obvious, but when I write, I often don’t begin at the beginning. It’s more fun to drop your reader into the middle and make them travel back to the beginning. Nevertheless, when assembling a chronology, it is probably best to start at the beginning.
Mario started his journey as Jumpman in Donkey Kong, so that’s where we begin our journey, too. Before we do, though, I find it interesting that many of those early video games were –man games; Jumpman, Mega Man, Puckman. You probably remember that last one by a different name because they feared immature kids and teenagers might alter the title to something offensive. Having been an immature teenager, I understand the concern because it is something that I might have considered in my dumb youth. I’ve never defaced property, but I did chuckle when they had to change the name of the Public Dock in my old hometown because people kept stealing the “L”. I certainly would have referred to the game by the offensive name in conversation. I might have even though they changed it to avoid that calamity. How about that? A Mario history lesson and a Pac Man etymology in one article. We are learning you good.
How did it compare? Donkey Kong released during what many consider to be the first Golden Age of video games. The aforementioned Pac Man, Q Bert, Galaga, Dragon’s Lair, Tetris, Xevious, 1942, Zaxxon, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Burger Time, Joust, and many more I’m probably forgetting in spite of some very helpful Wikipedia pages. If faced with an arcade full of those classics, I doubt that Donkey Kong would be where I chose to spend my quarters. In fact, I know that it wouldn’t, because when faced with those games in collections, I choose other games over Donkey Kong. Verdict: It’s a fun game, but not even in my personal top 10 when complared with other games of the time.
Does it endure? In spite of my feelings about the game, it does still hold a place in the history of Mario and video games. During one of the peaks of popularity, Donkey Kong more than held its own as a favored game. Yes, that does endure to this day. How? Well, it has been shown time and again that if there are at least two people interested in an activity, they will turn that activity into a competition. While I have always thought that competitive gaming is a bit silly, DK owes much of its popularity and success to several people trying to beat each other’s high scores. Verdict: Because of Fistful of Quarters, the legacy of Donkey Kong is still very much alive.
Nostalgia factor: Since I wasn’t a huge fan of Donkey Kong as a kid, the game does not conjure warm and fuzzy memories for me. Still, I think that we’ve show that it has a place in the Mario Pantheon and probably offers some gamers a time machine to rekindle the gaming glory of their youth. Verdict: I suspect that a take it or leave it poll might be split right down the middle.
How does it compare? Released in the same stacked era as Donkey Kong, Mario Bros matches far more favorably against the competition. It doesn’t make sense as the overall game play is essentially the same. You run and jump, but instead of avoiding barrels, you flip and knock off enemies. Why the heck am I telling you this? We’ve all played these games. If you haven’t, find a friend and play some Mario Bros. I’ll wait. That–that illustrates the primary advantage that Mario Bros. has over Donkey Kong. The coop two player mode meant that you and a buddy can just hop onto the machine and wreck bugs together until you run out of quarters. And that’s really all you can ask for a game. Verdict: Two player mode makes this game much more fun, but still really boring as single player.
Does it endure? This game may not have been the topic of a movie documenting the quest for the high score, but id did spawn several cartoons and a terrible live action movie adaptation. When offered as a mini game, I will always gladly take the opportunity to relive my introduction to Mario Mario. Verdict: This game still lives on my computer and sees more frequent play than Donkey Kong.
Nostalgia Factor: This is the first game to identify the character as Mario, so that has to be worth some points. Unlike Donkey Kong, I have actual fond memories of Mario Bros. I played the game in the arcade and at home with friends. I’d venture a similar guess that many others share my opinion of this game as when they fell in love with the moustache. Verdict: If this one doesn’t take you back, you need to go back to video game history class. And, do the homework this time.
How does it compare? Super Mario Bros is quite possibly the best game of its time. I can say this with confidence because it still finds a place in top 25 and top 10 lists to this day. Some of that is obviously nostalgia (but this isn’t the nostalgia section, so more on that later) but mostly it is just because it is a great damn game. It was revolutionary. It helped to advance the idea of games with finite length that could be finished. It was innovative. Even as a completely linear adventure, it encourage exploration by scattering secrets throughout. It was challenging. Everyone wasted a quarter their first time playing by running directly into that first Goomba. Above all, it was fun. Verdict: This is one of the best games of all time, not just the era it was released.
Does it endure? In a word, yes. Any time I download the questionably legal (Most likely very illegal, but I calm my conscience by adding the questionably. Hey, it’s all about casting that shadow of doubt.) MAME, I always test it with Super Mario Bros. first. I always die at that first Goomba, too. I used the game to test streaming possibilities and it is one of Liam’s favorite games. Verdict: Can I envision a day when it falls out of favor for more modern games? Sure, but Super Mario Bros. is here to stay and will continue to delight gamers for generations.
Nostalgia Factor: This is the game that started it all for so many of us. By us, of course, I mean me and I’m projecting from that very small sample size. Hey, I’m might be a mathematician, but I’ve always struggled with Stats. My parents bough us an NES for Christmas one year and I was so happy that I could finally die to that stupid Goomba in the privacy of my own home. Really, though, this game and others bring me back to the arcades with friends. Throwing away our birthday money one quarter at a time in between rounds of mini golf or waiting for our movie to start. Verdict: My generation misses the arcade era so much that we’ve invented barcades to take us back. Games like Super Mario Bros. are the reason why.
How does it compare? What happens when you take one of the best games of all time and improve it in all possible aspects? I know that I am prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, but think about it. It has better graphics, bigger levels, more innovative power ups, and trickier secrets. Verdict: It is the reason that I owned an SNES adn the best game of its time.
Does it endure? The legacy of Super Mario Bros. 3 lives on every time I purchase a new Nintendo system to play the latest and greatest (Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. In my estimation, the greatest game in the series has yet to be eclipsed and, for once, I will adhere to no spoilers.) in the series. And, yes, I have bought them all. Heck, I didn’t have to go through that whole previous paragraph to answer the question. Verdict: Not only have I bought all of the new Mario games, I’ve bought Super Mario All Stars 3 times on three different systems simply to be able to play this game.
Nostalgia Factor: Just as the original Super Mario Bros. brings me back to the arcades of my youth, this game reminds me of great times with my brothers playing on the SNES that I bought with money from my job at Toys R Us. Now I get to share those types of memories with my kids. Verdict: Nintendo continues to improve and impress.
How does it compare? I don’t want to say that the games took a step back when this game released. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate. It wasn’t exponentially better as SMB and SMB3 were over their predecessors. It wasn’t worse, either. It just didn’t add enough over SMB3 to make it a universally better game. Verdict: This game represents more of a lateral move but is still one of the best games on the system.
Does it endure? Not as much as either of the two previously discussed games. I will play Super Mario World every so often, but I haven’t bought it multiple times as I have SMB3 and it isn’t a got to game as the original SMB. Additionally, Liam played it for a few weeks on the Wii, but it hasn’t grabbed his attention like some other Mario games. Verdict: It might be unfair to compare to the other two games, but this one definitely doesn’t stack up, even years later.
Nostalgia Factor: I don’t have any special connection to this game. No time spent in arcades. No memorable games with my brothers. Not even the new style of nostalgia of playing the game with my boys. It just doesn’t have the aalure of the earlier games because it didn’t make that quantum leap and was just good enough, in terms of Mario games, to ultimately be forgettable. Verdict: Sorry Super Mario World, you just don’t fire up the Way Back Machine in any meaningful way.
Well, there it is. Our triumphant return with the first installment of Mario Monday. Be sure to come back next week when I discuss five of the off shoot Mario games; Dr., Party, Kart, RPT, and vs. DK. I’ve spent the better part of the past few weeks putting together a schedule and a plan to stay on that schedule. We’re back, and I hope it is for goot this time. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy all the new content. To steal a quote from Hearthstone, “It’s good ta see ya again!”