On my other page (currently defunct with no ETA on a return), I structure my posts like stories with a prologue, a story, and an end. As I drove to work this morning, I got the inspiration to do a similar thing with this post. Originally, I only wrote Mario Kart on my schedule, but then expanded it to include other multiplayer Mario Games like Mario Party. Let’s begin.
Once upon a time, a young man of 12 or 13 sat in an uncomfortable bench in front of a video game. The marquee read “Vs. Super Mario Bros” and featured a man clad from head to toe in red. Our intrepid young hero placed a quarter into the coin slot and the game began. As I remember, I only lasted to the first Goomba before dying. Okay, another quarter and then another and I’m going to be honest. I doubt that I even cleared the first level of that game after five dollars.
We went without the new hotness video game system for quite a while. My parents never saw a reason to upgrade from our old Atari systems. Eventually, they relented and bought us a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Finally, I owned a copy of the game. No more quarters. I used this newfound power to finally beat that first level and, in due time, the entire game.
If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until we owned a Super Nintendo (that I purchased for myself and my brothers) that I beat the game. If my parents noticed little difference between Atari and Nintendo, then putting a Super in front of that Nintendo did little to persuade them to upgrade. That notwithstanding, my brothers and I playing together finally defeated the evil of Bowser.
A Reason to be Thankful
Unfortunately, as you all know, our victory was short lived and Bowser returned again and again. I often say that all Nintendo has to do is release a new Mario, Zelda, and Metroid game on their console for me to buy it. I thought having kids might give me a built in play group for the various games that I play. While that proved mostly untrue for things like Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, they all quickly became Nintenerds.
I took what life dealt me and cultivated their love of video games. We almost burned down our hose playing Mario Kart. And, so, began our enjoyment of multiplayer Mario games. Okay, time to come clean. I admit to taking some creative license with this article. I don’t remember my parents’ exact attitudes towards video games. I remember my father played Atari with us and even watched when we played Nintendo. Also, Christine and I hosted a few Mario Party get togethers with friends and roommates over the years.
With all of that being said, we found great joy in the most recent Mario Kart on Switch last year during Christmas. We may or may not have made some inappropriate comments during those play sessions. But, it was all in good fun and we’ve been meaning to do it again. Perhaps over Christmas break during this year. An annual tradition?
Who knows? It might happen earlier. Liam bought Mario Party a couple of weeks ago and he and Quinn played a round. He asked me to bring home some joycons from our school’s Nintendo club so we could play as a family. I told him I would over Veteran’s day this weekend and then again over Thanksgiving break. Here’s to hoping that it leads to some Mario Kart, too.
I don’t remember how I learned about the Mario Run mobile game. It might have been that I saw a beta invite (or whatever the mobile equivalent of a beta invite is) in the Google Play store. I do remember that I downloaded it as soon as I saw it was available since I signed up for that invite to get access to the game as soon as possible.
I mean, I am the guy who has said that all Nintendo has to do is release a Mario, Zelda, and Metroid game on a system to get me to buy it enough times that it is pretty much self parody at this point to repeat it. I played it the whole way through within a day or two. Then, I changed phones twice. As you all know, my luck with electronics breaking is legendarily bad. Some of it is my doing. Some of it is just bad luck like a computer falling down the stairs or a phone getting run over in a parking lot. In either case, when I downloaded the game again recently, I thought I had lost all progress and my purchase, too. So, I didn’t play it for a few weeks.
I was willing to pay for the game again, especially since they were running a sale and only charging half price for the game. Then, I learned that there was a way to restore my purchase. It didn’t restore my progress, but that was fine. As I said earlier, the game can be finished in a short period of time. When I wasn’t distracted by the new mode, I tried to clear the game again to access Star World. More on that in the next section.
Even though I was excited about the game, I wondered and worried how Mario would translate to mobile. Look, I get that the heart of Mario is just run and jump. Those actions are pretty easy to replicate in the mobile format. Heck, if they can make a decent fighting game on mobile with a variety of moves in Injustice 2 (which is still broken for me and I’m sad about that), then they can make Mario run and jump.
Granted, the more recent Mario games have more to offer like 3D motion and teamwork, but the basics of the games are running and jumping on Goombas. So, while maybe I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised to see that the game works well. The controls are intuitive and it is Mario game play. That alone should be enough to get people into the game. But, wait, there’s more.
Another appeal of the game is that they have included multiple game modes. When I first started playing the game, there were only two. There was a “Tour” mode that played like a normal Mario game and you played through stages and worlds to advance to castles and eventually fight against Bowser to finish the game. Aside from that, there was also a “Rally” mode that was a “multiplayer” mode. In reality, you competed against a ghost of another player to collect more coins. The player that won got a collection of different colored Toads that they could use to buy buildings to improve their kingdom.
Speaking of the kingdom, when I came back to the game, they had introduced a new game mode. They call it Remix 10 and it is billed as some of the shortest Mario levels in history. That’s no lie. What they do is they take the various levels from the game and shrink them into bite size (and even less than bite size in some cases) portions and put 10 of them together.It’s a fun game mode and the one that I find myself playing over and over again. The goal is to collect 3 rainbow coins from each level. Then, at the end of the level is usually some decoration for the kingdom.
So, what is this kingdom? The kingdom is a collection of buildings. Some are decorative. Some offer small bonuses. Other than vanity, I’m not entirely sure what the point of the kingdom is in the game. It’s not my idea of good game design. Nor am I actively opposed to it and, if you are the type to enjoy that sort of thing, then that’s another potentially good aspect of the game.
It’s not exactly Mario. Sure, there is running and jumping and it feels as much like Mario as they can make a simple mobile game where the character automatically runs and you make him jump by tapping the screen feel like Mario. It’s not just because the character looks like Mario and the enemies look like Mario enemies, either. You just get the feeling when you’re playing that you are almost playing a Mario game. It’s just not all the way Mario. You can’t go back on levels unless level design allows it via wall jumps or arrow jumps. Heck you can’t even stop to explore if there are hidden areas in the level. I don’t think there are any hidden levels as the game forces a very linear progression through the game.
Also, it is short. I’ve already said that the main “campaign”, if you can call it that would take most gamers less than two hours. Less than one hour or even a half an hour if you are dedicated and better that the average noob. Sure, there are goodies to be collected and increasingly difficult coins to be found for each level. To be honest, that hasn’t been enough to keep me playing the main mode. Mostly, now, I play the Tour and Remix 10 modes. Remix 10, especially, is fun and it takes almost no time commitment to play. But, if you are the type who just wants to beat a game, you won’t find the infinite hamster wheel of Candy Crush. 30 to 120 minutes and you’re done.
The kingdom introduces some annoying mobile tropes like unlockable collectibles. In true Nintendo fashion they haven’t added real money microtransactions to the game, but that almost makes it even more annoying. The fact that I buy things with coins makes me think of the joke game “DLC Quest” where you are constantly using your coins to make the game complete. It’s all cosmetic and there’s no real money, but it’s still annoying to be reminded how icky mobile gaming can sometimes feel.
If I know Nintendo, I know that they won’t change on the real money issue. However, as I was doing research for the article (Googling for images), I came across some news that the game has not been as profitable as they hoped. I mean, maybe that’s just the way that you can make money from these mobile games. They charged 10 bucks for the full version of the game. Once you bought it, you own it. I like that type of game, but so many others in the market are all too happy to take your money in exchange for (ultimately worthless) virtual goods. Is it only a matter of time before Nintendo caves? I doubt it, but if they do, it will not be pretty.
While the main game is short, it is fun. There is enough variety in the 3 game modes (maybe more added eventually?) to keep you coming back for more. There is the kingdom building aspect of the game for the collectors out there. Thankfully, for now, Nintendo has not instituted any real money shop (other than the one to buy the full version of the game) and hopefully they never will. I won’t stop playing the game if they do, but I might slow down just out of habit. If you haven’t already, please download and play the game. Maybe we can convince Nintendo to release Zelda or Metroid!
Noob and Sons return triumphantly and spring back into the podcast with two of our favorite games.
The Digital Playground – We cover the whole range of Mario games and the various spinoffs. Jump into the action with us!
On the Tabletop – We join forces with Earth’s mightiest mini heroes with some ideas for those of you who want to get into miniature games. The conversation focused on Heroclix, but we talked briefly about other games, too.
Join us next time when we talk about Splatoon and Aiden’s new favorite card game, Yu Gi Oh.
Noob and Sons
[Noob and Sons] Episode 3 - Spring Back Into Gaming
(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 gamerepresents 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!”
(Editor’s Note: The boys and I are trying to get on a regular recording schedule for the podcast. Chris also came up with the idea of going to a quarterly schedule for the main show, so I’m inspired and ready to tackle this thing full force again. )
Relaunching our brand over the holidays proved to be a bit of a mistake, but we are nothing if not ambitious here. One of the topics for January’s episode, which will now become an early February episode, is Mario. Last time, the boys and I talked about Luigi, so this time we’ll discuss his slightly more famous brother. A month or two ago, I wrote an article about my history with Pokemon to coincide with that episode that hasn’t been released, but may later in the month. It was a fun article to write, so I had the idea to do the same with Mario to coincide with this one that will be recorded this weekend to be released next week.
My history with Mario is much longer and much more consistent than Pokemon. I’d say that it is the game franchise that I have played the longest without any extended breaks. I often make the half-joke that all Nintendo has to do is release a Mario, Zelda, and Metroid game and I will buy the console. The truth is that Mario always hooks me back in and then I play the other games once they’ve reached my price point. You may be asking two questions right now. Even if you aren’t, there are two main points that I want to make with this article. What is this lengthy history with a video game that is longer than any personal relationship other than family? What keeps a person so dedicated to one franchise for so long?
First, the actual history. I’ve been playing Mario themed games since Donkey Kong. Back then, though, he was known as Jumpman and I didn’t know–nor really care–about his rich history as a plumber. I never asked, “Why does this guy jump?” Does he have a, as of now unfound and unnamed, brother from whom he is trying to steal the attention of gamers similar to how I and my own brothers vie for the attention of our parents? Clearly, no. Jumpman’s troubles start, as they often do, with a woman. I didn’t actually play that much Donkey Kong. I preferred Donkey Kong, Jr. and the greater variety in gameplay from level to level.
So, while you could consider Donkey Kong as the start of my Mario history, I don’t. I actually started playing Mario when I would sit at the Super Mario Brothers vs. machine when neither Mortal Kombat nor Street Fighter were available. Between the arcade version of the game not being very forgiving and having to plug a quarter in every time I wanted to lay, I don’t think that I ever beat even level 1-2. Don’t laugh. Unless your name was Steve Wiebe or Billy Mitchell, you know you were in the same boat.
Eventually, our parents bought us an NES. The place where my mother worked sold their rental games at a cheap price, so we also got a ton of games with it. One of the games was the NES version of Super Mario Bros. Either much less difficult or I was able to practice more without the restriction of 25 cents per play or both, I got much father in the home version of the game than the arcade. I still did not beat the game until I learned of the warp zones much later, but I made it to world 4, no small accomplishment for me at the time. Later, came the Game Boy version (the first Mario game that I beat), and after a brief flirtation with the Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog, I bought an SNES. That system has two of my favorite Mario games ever, the remake of Super Mario Bros 3. and Super Mario World. I bought both of them again on the Wii Virtual Console. There aren’t many games that I will buy more than once for the exact same game. Heck, I don’t even buy game series in which the sequels don’t stray too far from the formula. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty.
The game that solidified my fandom and proved to me that the series can do no wrong was Super Mario 64. Like many others, I bought a Nintendo 64 for that game and happened to get a few other games that I played a few times and ultimately pushed to the side for the gloss and glamour of my newly purchased Playstation (that’s one for you youngins). That gloss wore off very quickly once that Playstation dripped in price a week or two after I bought it.
Sony kept me hooked through a variety of great games, but I did still load up the N64 every day until I beat SM64 to 100% complete. It’s the first game that I ever did so, though I had to cheat a few times for some of the trickier stars. In between the N64 and Wii days, I played a ton of GBA. Thankfully, that system had a ton of Mario titles. From SNES remakes to new titles in the platforming series, to entirely different genres, the GBA is one of my favorite consoles ever and it is due in no small part to Mario.
I also owned a Gamecube, exclusively for the three games mentioned earlier in the article. Nintendo trie something different with Super Mario Sunshine. As with most fan bases, people reacted negatively to the change. Remember New Coke? Generally, I don’t mind change and, more often than not, embrace that companies are willing to try new and different things.
Clearly, I’m in the minority and when Mario debuted on the Wii, he did so with some new gameplay mechanics, but mostly just as SM64 with a shiny new coat of paint. Look, I’m not complaining. It continues to be a fun game enjoyed by my kids today. Liam had to buy a new copy because our old copy got scuffed. However, the game didn’t exactly push Mario forward.
The most recent Mario game that we’ve played shows that Nintendo is joining many other pop culture franchises and trying to capture the magic of the past with 2D platform games meant to remind us of where it all started. Not content with merely releasing those first games again (though they’ve done that plenty, too, through the virtual console), they have added new levels, enemies, power ups and, perhaps best of all, support for up to 4 players. Now, similar to Star Wars, I can share all of the Mario fun with my kids by playing these games. Sure, the more cynical part of my brain understands that it is about hooking that next generation to ensure sales into the future, but I ignore that part as I’m eating Aiden’s Toad character with my Yoshi and throwing him gleefully off of a cliff.
Mario has spanned the transition from 2 dimensional side scrolling zero (not really, but it works for literary purposes) to 3 dimensional galaxy exploring hero. He has survived a countless imitators, complete shifts in video game philosophy, and a terrible movie. He’s crossed generations from my father to me to my children and hopefully their children. Not bad for an Italian guy with a shady past that may or may not have been altered to protect his identity.
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