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A Plumber Saves an Industry - Mario Mania #1

Matt takes an extensive look at Mario’s first console outing, Super Mario Bros.

I have a pet peeve that goes along the lines of this sentence: “It’s good, for its time.”

Nowadays, just about any game website (including ours) will trot this line out for a retro review. Simply put, it means the game is simple or its flaws have aged badly compared to modern expectations. Now, I can respect the opinions of others when it comes to reviews like this. In our current age of video game technology, an NES game like Balloon Fight would not be able to stand against something like Call of Duty if both were released in retail on a current generation system. There's a huge difference in size and scope between the two; the times have definitely changed since the mid-80s. There is, however, one game from that era that is unquestioningly still addicting and worth a lot of value.

It's called Super Mario Bros., and it's good -- for any time.

Yet a younger generation of gamers would probably be wondering why people make such a big deal for a game that is nearly twenty-six years old. The answer is quite simple if you understand some basic history of video games in the early eighties. Imagine right now the year is 1983, and you are not living in Japan. The North American video game industry is all but dead, and it's entirely its own fault in the first place. The glut of bad games caused Atari and its 2600 to go to rack and ruin, and arcades were basically making developers cash. In Japan, however, Nintendo released its 8-bit Famicom to the masses, and is enjoying brisk success. Japanese third party developers get around to making their own games for the little system, and Famicom carts are flying off of store shelves. So how was North America supposed to get Nintendo’s 8-bit monster?

Simple. Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka were designing a simple platforming game starring then-named Jumpman from Donkey Kong. Nintendo's R&D 5 Group (which later became EAD), unknown to them, would unleash something onto the entire world that would change the way people would look at video games forever.

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Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

10/07/2011 at 03:55 AM

I just popped in the first Super Mario Bros into my NES and became addicted. I forgot how great this game is. This is the kind of title you buy, no matter what system its on. Including the All-Stars port. I actually got farther than I've ever gone this time, World 5-4.

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