THQ closing. Wii U sales are down. Microsoft in financial trouble. With all this, it makes one wonder about the future of home gaming. Will history repeat itself? If you’re old enough to remember, it has been 30 years since the collapse of home console gaming. It was a dark time for gamers and the industry.
In 1983, console game sales hit an all-time low, threatening to put an end to the industry. The slump ended in 1985 with the release of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System, a sequel to the 1983 game Mario Bros. For those of us old enough to remember, in the previous game Mario was stuck in a sewer full of enemies. Super Mario Bros. took Mario and his brother Luigi out of the seemingly endless stages of Mario Bros. and placed them in the Mushroom Kingdom in order to rescue Princess Toadstool from the antagonist Bowser. The game was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, both of whom belonged to Nintendo’s former Creative Department at the time.
Originally, the game was based around a shooting mechanic with very different controls, but a desire to focus on jumping and the mapping of the mechanic to the A button resulted in its being dropped. Mario’s ability to change size was based on the level design being centered on a smaller version of Mario. It was later decided to give him this ability as a power-up via picking up a red mushroom. Collecting green mushrooms granted Mario extra lives. This concept of using mushrooms came from folklore in which people wander into the forest and eat magical mushrooms, thus the world was given the name “Mushroom Kingdom”. Development was aimed at keeping things simple, in order to have a new game available for the end-of-year shopping season. Originally an idea for a shoot-’em-up stage in which Mario would jump onto a cloud and fire at enemies was to be included; however, this was dropped to maintain the game’s focus on jumping action, but the sky-based bonus stages still remained.
When it was released in the holiday season of 1985 in North America, the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was available as a both a single system and a bundle package that came with Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka’s creation. It was an instant hit in Japan and North America despite lackluster sales outside these two countries. Soon Mario’s mustached face was more recognizable than Mickey Mouse by children at that time. Since then, Super Mario Bros. has sold 40.24 million copies. This number excludes Game Boy Advance and Virtual Consoles sales. The game further popularized the side scrolling genre of video games and led to many sequels in the series that built upon the same basic premise. Super Mario Bros. has spawned many successors: Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (named Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan), Super Mario Bros. 2 (released in Japan as Super Mario USA), Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World (which had the working title of Super Mario Bros. 4) for the Super NES, Super Mario 64 (for Nintendo 64), Super Mario Sunshine (for GameCube), New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS, and Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii. The brothers were recently rebooted with new powers along with age old favorites for New Super Mario Bros. and a sequel, both of which were released for the Nintendo 3DS as well as the latest release on the Wii U.In the late 1980’s and through the mid 1990’s, the brothers Mario have made a staple in pop culture. They had their own TV show, “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show”, which debuted in 1989. The brothers were portrayed by “Captain” Lou Albano and Danny Wells. A live-action movie was released in 1993 but bombed at the box-office despite the game’s huge popularity from the releases of Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1990 and Super Mario World in 1991. The faces of Mario and Luigi were seen everywhere from T-shirts to lunch boxes and even a breakfast cereal.
For over two decades, Super Mario Bros. was the best-selling video game of all time (before being outsold by Nintendo’s own Wii Sports in 2009). It was largely responsible for the initial success of the Nintendo Entertainment System. As one of Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka’s most influential early successes, it has inspired many clones, sequels, and spin-offs. The game’s theme music by Koji Kondo is recognized worldwide, even by those who have not played the game, and has been considered a representation for video game music in general. A lot of today’s platform games can thank Super Mario Bros. for their inspiration, even games that feature platform elements such as Tomb Raider, God of War, and, most notably, Prince of Persia. Super Mario Bros. is still popular even 25 years after its release. It ranked first in Electronic Gaming Monthly’s “greatest 200 games of their time” list and was named in IGN’s top 100 games of all-time list twice (in 2005 and 2007). Game Informer ranked it second on their greatest games list behind the Legend of Zelda in 2009, saying that it “Remains a monument to brilliant design and fun game play”.
So the next time you pick up a new game or play a current one, just remember, holding that controller in your hand was made possible by two Italian plumbers from Brooklyn.
Until then, see you on the next level,