On November 13th, Super Mario 3D Land will be released. As you can probably imagine from a guy who voluntarily accepted the name “The Nintendo Nerd”, I’m pretty excited. The Italian stereotype with springboard legs is as iconic to my generation as Mickey Mouse, and a staple of endless hours of gaming from my childhood all the way to my regressed childhood of today.
Like many of you out there, the first game I ever owned stared good ol’ Mario. The first system I was ever able to talk my parents into buying was a Gameboy, as their anti-videogame stance was curbed by the fact that the new handheld system could silence me during long car trips. So, I poured untold hours into the first Super Mario Land, learning the videogame ropes and naively assuming that Mario regularly rode in planes and submarines to rescue Princess Daisy from an alien while fighting turtles who turn into bombs in ancient temples. Ok, so the weird Gameboy series wasn’t exactly canonical Mario (though it did introduce Wario in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins), but it did introduce me to the simple pick-up-and-play joys of side-scrolling platforming and instill a love of videogames that is becoming increasingly obvious I’ll never grow out of.
Television videogame systems entered my life via Mario about a year later after watching the Fred Savage “classic,” The Wizard. The climax of the film was essentially an advertisement for Super Mario Bros. 3 and, as a young child unencumbered by cynicism or cultural awareness, I was hooked in and soon owned the game. Many consider the title the pinnacle of the NES era, and it’s not difficult to see why. The game is simple enough for beginners, yet features enough challenges to keep skilled players coming back. That, in a nutshell, is the appeal of all major Mario Bros. games. Any Mario Bros. game is a perfect gateway drug, introducing players to fundamental gaming concepts and then gradually ratcheting up the difficulty to essentially train new gamers how to play. The character designs are simple, yet appealing. Mario is the mascot of a videogame giant for a reason; everyone can appreciate his titles through smooth gameplay or nostalgia, and Mario has introduced every technical advance and a new piece of hardware Nintendo has produced for decades, keeping the Mario brand alive and vital.
Like most children of the 90s, I killed my school productivity with sleepless nights tied to my Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. Both systems came to
While I may have missed out on the Mario Bros during the Gamecube years as my cynical teen mind preferred to the PS2 and all of the hooker-killing its software lineup allowed, I have to admit that the Super Mario Galaxy games remain two of my favourite titles of the current generation. This era has introduced the argument of “video games as art”, and while story-centric titles tend to be at the center of that debate, I’d say the Mario Galaxy series should be part of the conversation as well. The beautifully-rendered visuals, as well as the gravity-defying freedom and creative gameplay, are intoxicating. The titles play like a dream and offer a beautiful aesthetic experience that is a triumph of design with universal appeal. To create something that innovative, while still remaining simple enough for children is an amazing achievement of game design. Yet, the titles are practically taken for granted because it’s just assumed all Mario games will be that good. Quite a legacy, wouldn’t you say?
So, what’s the point of this nostalgic trip down Mario lane? I suppose it’s simply as an acknowledgement of what Nintendo has achieved with their flagship character over the last 26 years. Sure Mario has been whored out to countless forgettable gimmick titles, but every system also has a Mario game so beautifully designed and executed that it’s in the running for the best title of its era. There’s no reason for the character to still be popular given that he has no real backstory or growth, but narrative is only a part of gaming. Gameplay is ultimately how any title should be judged, and the many Mario games that I just waxed nostalgic about could all be held up as ideal examples. Nintendo may crap out plenty of disappointing titles, but flagship Mario games always rank amongst the best experiences on the market. I suppose all that talk puts a lot of pressure on Super Mario 3D Land, but I’m certain that Nintendo won’t let us down. They haven’t put out much original content on the 3DS yet, but the two Nintendo 64 remakes they did release certainly showed that the system has major potential. I’ve got a feeling that this game will finally take advantage of 3D in a way that highlights how it can be a vital part of the gaming experience. Mario has been responsible for winning over countless gamers to new Nintendo systems, an the little guy with a taste for mushrooms should do it again in glasses-free 3D very soon.
Time to get excited, people.