The game that saved the (videogame) world
Super Mario Bros may be the game that saved the games industry, the industry as it applied to the common man at least. Bad games and even worse business decisions had sunk the console industry and arcade in the United States in the early 1980s. Gaming on computers was poised to do well enough, but in danger of being a niche market only. In 1985 Nintendo released their home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and this launch title, one of the greatest of all time in the platforming genre. The ubiquitous popularity of the game and its massive financial success helped bring gaming back to kids and people who just weren’t that into computers at the time.
Previous consoles featured (relative to the NES) primitive graphics with little detail and sound quality ranging from various chirps or ear shattering screeching. Super Mario Bros came out the gate swinging with the aesthetic quality of an arcade release. The sprites were more detailed, you could have more enemies on the screen, the colors were vibrant, there was a multitude of sound effects, and the background music carried a much better tune.
In the game you take the role of Mario, a Brooklyn plumber transported to the Mushroom Kingdom to save the Princess from Bowser, a giant turtle monster who controls an army of monsters who are collectively his subjects in his own Koopa Kingdom. Mario traverses eight stages of various platforming challenge and does battle with Bowser at the end of them, each time hoping this will be the place where the Princess is kept.
Action, power-ups, enemy types, and the sheer variety of it all are where you can see the true masterful design of this game. You don’t just jump through the sky to dodge foes or land on their heads to kill them. Some levels have you swimming around the bad guys, some have you navigate a maze, and sometimes you have to watch out for Lakitu and the infamous spinies he tosses at you…one of the few enemies you can’t beat by jumping on their head. Mario can also pick up some power-ups to give him more of a fighting chance. There’s the mushroom which makes you gigantic and able to break blocks and take two hits before death, the star which grants temporary invincibility, a 1UP mushroom that gives you another life and another chance, and the fire flower which grants you the ability to toss fireballs.
Super Mario Bros remains one of the most popular videogames ever made due to its tight design and presentation mixed with some nostalgia and its historical significance. It truly should be played to see the beginnings of modern platforming. Even fans of later Mario games that feature 3D gameplay should go back to this to see the roots of it all and just enjoy a well-made piece of interactive entertainment.