Why I love Super Mario.

Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first game I ever owned. I was four, and failing to know what else to buy a hyperactive four year old, my parents bought me a NES for my birthday which had the game bundled with it. This seemingly random event spawned a life-long love affair with the cheeky Italian plumber, and the eclectic world of the Mushroom Kingdom in which he resides. Since then, times have changed, and computer games have progressed in leaps and bounds, but Mario seems to be a mainstay that never tires, or becomes boring.

I can happily say that I’ve never played a bad Mario game to date (that being said, I never did play the ’92/’93 ‘edutainment’ title, Mario is Missing). Mario games are generally awesome, and reek of the high quality Nintendo magic that we’ve come to expect from the developer. Indeed, where others have tried, and failed in the past, Super Mario has stayed strong, innovated, to keep with the times, and has throughout the years won over our hearts, and developed into a much cherished part of the gaming canon.

Courtesy of Gamestop.

Super Mario, circa 1985.

I’ve very recently turned 22, and briefly before this event , when asked by a friend what my favourite games were, I started reeling off the names of titles I enjoy. When I hit ‘Super Mario’, I was met with surprise. Why? I assume it has something to do with the fact that I’m no longer a child (which I most often do regret), have long hair, and maybe, to some, look like I should be riding the icy Nordic seas aboard the longship of true metal. I don’t think I give off the impression of someone who’d get a kick out of again, what to some, might seem like a childish series of games. I love it, though, and love them. I’m sure that many others, of similar ages and dispositions, agree with me.

Why do I love Super Mario, then? Simple. Because Super Mario games are great, and consistently deliver an enjoyable and expected experience. I feel this is a very important part of the Mario proposition. Where other major titles and series’ have been destroyed by over-complication, and what I think is a bastardisation of the original formula that made these games such a success (I am, of course, referring to Sonic the Hedgehog here), Mario has stayed true to his roots. While Sonic games have ‘evolved’ (for lack of a better word) to the point where the origins of the series can hardly be glimpsed, Mario is still doing the same old song and dance. Sega’s most recent addition to the Sonic catalogue, Sonic Unleashed, has the speedy rascal transforming into a were-hog, at times. There have also been numerous other additions to the series’ character roster, and I honestly couldn’t tell you what is, and has recently been taking place on planet Sonic. On the other hand, I can tell you exactly what Mario is up to at this point in time. Saving the Princess.

Courtesy of 1UP.

Were-Sonic? No thank you.

I think Mario’s success lies in the fact that all Super Mario games are vastly similar, yet all very different at the same time. They all follow the same format. Bowser, king of the Koopas, steals Princess Peach. Mario then needs to recover her from his clutches by jumping on things, to a great degree. Since Super Mario 64, the element of ‘power stars’ has been introduced, where to progress, Mario has to collect said stars by completing ‘missions’, as it were, but his focus is still the same. Mario games never overburden you with a complex plot, which makes the games ideal for jumping in and out of the action, even months apart. As a result, our expectations are controlled, which is really quite vital in producing and maintaining a winning series of games. We know exactly what to expect (perhaps, however, not how to expect it), and for this reason, I’d wager the majority of people are supremely satisfied with each iteration of the Super Mario saga. Each Super Mario title involves, amongst other things, a great deal of jumping. You pick up different caps, which each endow you with a different ability. You stomp on a generally well-established cast of enemies. You also know exactly where you are, all the time. I mean this in more senses than one. All of the enemies, and indeed, most of the characters in the games are instantly recognisable. This also applies to the power-ups (you know what a 1UP mushroom looks like and does, or even what a 1UP mushroom is), and to a large extent, the music. True, the signature title theme has been pushed off the title screen, into other areas of the most recent games, but generally it’s a delight to hear new, revamped versions of the tunes that accompanied our goomba stomping right from the start.

Courtesy of 1UP.

Luigi returns, along with Yoshi, in Super Mario Galaxy 2. How awesome does this look?

That’s not to say that the series has gone stale, which is nonsense. Every successive Super Mario game seems to develop the wonderful Mario formula in some way, most recently sending him into space. The thing I’m actually most excited about in the impending Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the return of Yoshi, who we haven’t properly seen in years, not counting the strange, juice-vomiting yoshis of Super Mario Sunshine. Even with rampant innovation, the core elements that made the series a success still remain, however, and this is something that Nintendo realised very early on. It’s also something that all developers could learn from. If you’ve got something good going for you, stick with it, please.

That’s why I love Super Mario.

If you haven’t seen Nintendo’s awesome YouTube channel already, which is updated regularly with mini-trailers for Super Mario Galaxy 2, in anticipation of its release, then take a look!


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