Genre-defining Super Mario Bros. turns 25

Super Mario Bros.Is there a specific date we consider to be Mario's birthday? He was first introduced to gamers as Jumpman in the Donkey Kong arcade game, and then later he was given a brother named Luigi in the 1983 Mario Bros. arcade game, complete with turtles and fireballs. The character was coming into focus, but he didn't make his most lasting mark until the release of Super Mario Bros. in Japan.

That happened in 1985, 25 years ago today. Mario is one of the rare gaming icons that hasn't seen a long-term drop in the quality of games featuring his likeness, and those games continue to be the most popular releases on their respective platforms. A bad Mario game is almost always better than the best game by many other developers.

Super Mario Bros.

Mario was created from his limitations. He has a hat because it was nearly impossible to show hair in the early eighties. He was given a mustache, and then made Italian on a whim. He wears brightly colored clothing so he is easy to pick out from the background. These idiosyncrasies defined the character and made him who he is; we can't picture him any other way. He has been drawn and redrawn, reimagined and updated, but the core look has barely changed. Mario is instantly recognizable, no matter what game he appears in.

He has since become a master of all trades: a golfer, a soccer player, a baseball star, an adventurer, a teacher, a doctor, a pinball master... there is very little he can't do. It's rare that a Nintendo system launches without at least one Mario title ready for launch, and Mario helped to usher in the era of mainstream 3D games in Mario 64, a masterpiece of platforming. If you've never played a video game, you still know who he is. If you have gaming consoles in your home, odds are at least one of them is made by Nintendo and features a Mario game.

This all had to begin somewhere.

Super Mario Bros.

It's hard to believe that Super Mario Bros. is 25 years old, or that platforming games existed before Mario came along to set the tone for everything that follows. Extra lives, power-ups, hidden areas, swimming levels, blocks that created the level but could also be destroyed... you can find many of these things in games released before Super Mario Bros. in much the same way that guitars and drums were played long before the Beatles came along.

Super Mario Bros. brought all these different ideas together in a way that sang, and those ideas spread to a huge number of gamers due to the game's inclusion with the NES hardware sold in stores. You bought the NES, you played Super Mario Bros. And if you played Super Mario Bros., you most likely fell in love with it.

Shigeru Miyamoto knew how to put a game together, and even as he was creating the genre's conventions he was playing with them by giving players areas where they could break free from the game's confines, moving above the play area to escape the standard levels. You could skip sections if you knew how to find the warp pipes. If you jumped on multiple enemies before touching the ground again you gained more points, and ultimately extra lives. Games were expensive, even then, and players beat Super Mario Bros. the standard way and then began to ferret out all the secrets and truly master the game.

These little touches may not seem like much now, but Mario was oddly replayable for the time, and featured some tricky jumps and memorable level designs. Even when the game was first released it was clear the music was something special—quick, hum at least two songs from the game. They'll be stuck in your head for days.

Super Mario Bros. was gaming's equivalent of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," a piece of art that seemed to come from nowhere and completely reconfigured our expectations for whatever would come next. We're still dealing with the repercussions of Super Mario Bros. a quarter of a century later. I can still feel the cold, hard floor of the basement where I first sat and played the game, and I knew then that I needed the NES hardware to fully explore the game. It was the first time I became lost in another world, and I'm not alone in that regard. This is a game that helped to define a gaming generation.

Super Mario Bros. is 25 years old, and the 2D sequels in New Super Mario Bros. on both the Wii and DS continue to sell in large numbers at retail, further proving how strong the gameplay concepts are, both then and now. We raise our glasses to you, Mario. Here's to another 25 years.

Source: ars technica

Tags: computer games

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