(Editor’s Note: Join us in our second installment of Mario Monday!)
Last week on Mario Monday, we explored his evolution from supporting Jumpman to main character of his own line of successful games. This week, we continue with an analysis of some of the games from other genres that star everyone’s favorite plumber.
maybe we will talk about how innovative, inventive, or inspirational the games were. Perhaps we will discuss how the games either created or changed their respective genres. We can explore some of the other games that owe their existence or success to Mario offshoots. Because, honestly, this real reason we’re doing all of this is to play more games.
My first experience with Mario outside of his strange platforming universe was Dr. Mario. I bought (or got it for Christmas) a Game Boy to play the more traditional Super Mario Land. not a bad version of the game, but the limitations of the system are painfully evident. The Game Boy came bundled with Tetris. Thankfully, that is one tradition that has come back into favor. Who the hell wants to buy a game system just to stare at it? Give me some games, you cheap asses. But, as usual, I digress.
Innovative, inspirational, inventive? At the time, and only having really played Tetris in comparison, I don’t know that I’d call Dr. Mario any of these things. It follows in the footsteps of Tetris by dropping puzzle pieces from the top of the screen and it still revolves around groups of four to take things off the board.
Genre changing or creating? Seeing as how I compared the game to an earlier game in the genre (Tetris, still the most well known and arguably the best puzzle game ever), Dr. Mario did not create a genre. I don’t even think it can be argued that it changed the genre all that much. They changed the game a bit by making the pieces pills and involved clearing certain elements from the board, but as we saw earlier, even that owes it’s existence mainly to Tetris.
The Verdict: A fun, if not necessarily new game in the genre that offered me and my friend Kevin endless entertainment when in high school. If you are looking for more genre defining games, check out any number of the mobile match three games available.
I don’t remember if Christine got me a Nintendo 64 for my birthday or if it was just the last time I remember her being interested in video games. Lately, she seems to have infected with the “MOM” virus when it comes to video games and thinks that they just serve the purpose to rot people’s brains. Either way, I picked up Mario Party because it was one of the multiplayer games that interested me and we played it a few times but ultimately decided that it would be more fun with even more people. Being only mildly interested in interacting with society, we didn’t have those people in our lives, so Mario Party hasn’t been a big part of our lives. Maybe now that we have kids, we can help to cure her of “MOM”.
Innovative, Inspirational, Inventive? As much as Mario followed in the footsteps of Tetris to become a doctor, the same cannot be said in any way for Mario Party. The concept of trying to market board games to a younger audience is not new. However, Mario Party put a new spin on this old genre by almost folding the elements that make Mario unique into a board game to create a weird amalgam that works in spite of the fact that it probably shouldn’t.
Genre changing or creating? I wouldn’t say that it changed the board game as video game genre, since most of them still basically just take the board game and try to recreate it as a video game. Sure, they add new animations and sounds, but that was most likely inevitable. I will say that this game and the more narrowly focused Wario Ware are almost a genre to themselves.
The Verdict: If you have a bunch of people over and want something other than Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, toss in Mario Party whatever number they’re up to and, not to put too fine a point on it, have a party.
I don’t think that I ever played that version of Super Mario RPG. I remember it being released and thinking that it was a cool idea at the time. For some reason, though, that never actually translated to playing the game. I think at the time, I was more interested in the Sega Genesis because it offered Mortal Kombat with blood. Ah, to be young and dumb again.
Innovative, Inspirational, Inventive? Having not played the original, I can’t speak as to how different that one was from traditional games in the genre. I have played the GBA version of the game, which I guess isn’t quite the same game, but uses elements from the RPG game and Paper Mario (thanks again, Wikipedia!). In that regard, the game succeeded much like Mario Party. It blended elements from traditional Mario into a different genre of game.
Genre changing or creating? Given such a diverse collection of games in the genre, it is difficult to change the genre as a whole. With that being said, Super Mario RPG and its official and unofficial sequels are different from most of the games that came before. They still have the traditional level system and powers as those games, but the addition of Mario mechanics, at least in the version that I played, add to the game and make it more fun to play in some ways that traditional RPGs.
The Verdict: the Super Mario RPG version of the games offer a new enough experience that they definitely have a place alongside some of the greats like Final Fantasy. I’m not saying the games are as the Final Fantasy games. If you want an introduction to RPGs and love Mario, definitely play these games.
I think that I’ve mentioned before that the Game Boy Advance is still my favorite mobile platform, even with all of the amazing games available on tablet and phone. What can I say? I think I’ve also said that I’m a “things were better in the old days, get off my lawn” old guy when it comes almost anything, but especially gaming.
Innovative, Inspirational, Inventive? Definitely innovative and inventive, possibly inspirational? The main game has similar game play to the original Donkey Kong, but they tweaked it and added a puzzle element to the game. By itself, that would be enough. They also added new enemies and traps to the game to make it feel like an entirely new game. I don’t know if I can say inspirational because I don’t know of another game like it.
Genre creating or changing? I’m not even sure what genre to classify this game. I suppose it is a puzzle game and that’s what I called it up there, but it also has elements of platformers, too. So, I guess it created the platforming/puzzle cross genre, but it might be the only game in that genre. We oldbies remember Lemmings. Also, is Braid similar? I’ve never played that one. Oh, Toki Tori, too, but I might be the only one that played that game. So, maybe it did create a genre after all.
The verdict: Of the offshoot games (other than the best for last next game to be discussed), this one is the most fun and entertaining as a single player experience. Sure, Mario Party offers a better multiplayer mode, but if you’re only in the mood for a party of one, then this is your game.
True story confession time: I might be a filthy casual when it comes to gaming, but I do have my moments of hardcore (or at least semi-hardcore) every now and then. I rented Mario Kart Wii. It might have been from Gamefly, but I think it was actually a legitimate game rental store because we got at least one of the steering wheels. I was playing the game against Liam and I put some oil on the stove to heat up. You may know where this story is going. Well, the oil reached the flash point, caught on fire, and started melting the microwave. We freaked out, called the fire department, and lived with my in laws for 2 weeks while they cleaned our house of the mess.
Innovative, Inspirational, Inventive? Well, it’s not really any of these things necessarily. At the same time, it is all of these things. Does any of that make sense? Of course not, but neither does almost burning down the house while playing the game. The game is a back view racing game similar to Pole Position, but it does add the elements of multiplayer, power ups, and the ability to mess with your friends. All of those things add enough to the game to make it a unique game.
Genre creating or changing? Mario Kart did not create the racing game obviously. It did change the genre in a significant way. It gave rise to the “Kart” subgenre of racing game. Terrible game after terrible game came after Mario Kart with a variety of characters and settings that never lived up to the promise of this one.
The verdict: Mario Kart stands alone (more or less, there are some clones that are actually decent) as the defining and best Kart style game series. After all, no other game ever caused me to burn down the house. Though, I did ignore a “emergencies” to finish defeating a WoW boss once or twice.