On September 13, 1985, the videogame world changed forever. An impressive 25 years ago, the legendary Super Mario Bros. was released within the realms of Japan, provoking the beginning of an icon. Mario – The face of videogames to this day, and the man who kept the medium running stable throughout history. It would seem almost nonsensical to outline the importance of the red, chubby, Italian plumber, Mario’s always been the feet that propels videogames forwards and there’s no doubt that gaming today would be entirely different without his existence.
Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. was simply just a landmark game; it’s the iteration that threw Mario into stardom and set the standards for every game following on from it, hence why its anniversary needs to be acknowledged. A revolutionary jump for videogames overall and a still very much playable game today, an incredible achievement on the developers’ behalf. Mario games have always had this robust sense of intuitvity however, which undeniably spurred from Super Mario Bros. Its exceptional design and heavily inspired gameplay mechanics have made up the fabric of Mario games for quite some time now, in addition to the colourful, memorable graphics and masterful soundtrack, a formula of true excellence.
In reality though, if you’ve been a true gamer for a decent amount of time, you should already know the franchise’s legacy, and even love the little guy. From his renowned platformers to the highly entertaining Mario Kart series, or the delightful RPGs to even sport and party titles, I find it very hard to believe there’s not at least one Mario game you adore and cherish to pieces, the appeal is nearly universal. Almost every genre is exquisitely catered for, which is a prospect very few can only hope to achieve.
Perhaps even more amazing, is Mario’s heritage of reception. While other beloved characters undergo changes for the worse, disappear into history books or just simply struggle to evolve, Mario has always stayed exactly the same. He’s hardly changed in appearance, fighting similar enemies and still rescuing the same, careless princess, yet somehow, it’s always worked in Nintendo’s favour. Mario games continuously shoot and consistently hit a bull’s-eye, rarely missing or failing to get anywhere near the target. There’s a balance between traditional, familiar territory to exploring something entirely new and exciting, and just about every time, Mario lands perfectly in between the two. The fact that this has been the case for 25 years now is nothing short of astonishing and I wouldn’t change it in the slightest.
A critically acclaimed series, a commercial success and a fan-favourite, the deserved rewards of Nintendo’s hard labour. Everything I’ve said so far and what I’m about to write is genuinely what I believe, I haven’t exaggerated whatsoever or gave it any needless praise, I absolutely treasure Mario games. As long as Nintendo has Mario, I have a Nintendo console, he’s the recognisable, charismatic avatar that I’m familiar with and after such time he’s become an indication of quality. I have no reason to lie or follow blindly, there’s no obligation or compulsion, it’s just a simple case of: I play Mario games, I enjoy Mario games, I love Mario games.
And as of such, I’d like to conclude by listing my three highlights of the series, an extremely difficult choice considering the franchise’s palette, but rest assured, if these games aren’t Mario’s finest, then that just emphasizes how fantastic the series really is. All of the games I’m about to mention earned a special place in my heart over the years and are among my favourite games of all-time. Let’s a go, Mario, starting with a classic.
3. Super Mario World
A game that simply just never ages, every time I return to it for some nostalgic glee, I end up being engrossed within a pristine world of magnificently addictive gameplay – awing at the vibrant, beautiful style, its stupendously marvellous soundtrack and the renowned 2D platforming that is still unrivalled to this day. The definition of a timeless classic, Super Mario World is a treasured relic; and with an array of secrets and exits to boot, all retained inside the sheer amount of joy the game itself provides, I can’t see it collecting dust anytime soon.
2. Super Mario Galaxy
An incredibly inspired creation that shown there’s more than an essence of life in not just the ol’ plumber, but also the platforming genre generally – a breath of fresh air; it illustrated the next step forward while turning the whole staircase upside down on its head. I cherished every second of Super Mario Galaxy, it gathered a constellation of ideas and delicately placed each one within a vast universe of genius game design. You can only imagine the vision the developers had in the creation of this game, it’s a wonderful achievement and an unforgettable first encounter – one which could just take your breath away; absolutely phenomenal.
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2
It’s difficult to muster the appropriate adjectives to justify Super Mario Galaxy 2, even the most generous selections seem derogatory, it’s just that good. There’s no attempt to be something its not or try to reinvent the formula, because it just simply doesn’t need to. Every galaxy presents you with a new, innovative game mechanic, which is something alone that hardly any other game can boast about. It accumulates more imagination than a hyperactive 5-year-old, more unparalleled game design to lose and indulge yourself in and it’s more of a title that’s already nearly flawless; it collects the franchise’s legacy, locks it up and colours its exterior with a whimsical display of artistic craftsmanship. I’m yet to note a perfect title down, however I can assure you, if I had to choose it would say “Super Mario Galaxy 2” in big bold letters.
And there you have it, after 25 years my favourite Mario game is Super Mario Galaxy 2, the latest iteration. It’s also without a doubt my Game of the Year, a suitable trophy for 25 years of brilliance. I digress, but I still don’t feel I’ve said enough. Alas, I’m going to dig out Super Mario Bros. regardless and not only play it with pride, but the realisation that it unlocked gaming magnificence for a quarter of a century. Happy birthday Mario, I can only hope your future is as bright as your past.