Super Mario Bros.: Retrospective

Everything there is to say about Super Mario Bros. has already been said. So why even bother discussing it? Because it’s important to revisit the roots of modern gaming.

When Nintendo unleashed this classic upon the world in 1985, it changed the video gaming landscape forever. While the game’s 8-bit graphics and short length won’t impress those of us who grew up with modern triple-A titles, there is no denying its impact on the entire industry.

For those who aren’t familiar with Super Mario Bros.‘s legacy, here are some quick facts:

  • It is frequently listed as one of the greatest games of all time;
  • With more than 50 million copies sold, it is one of the best-selling games of all time;
  • It popularized the side-scrolling and platforming genres;
  • It was a key factor in the revival of the video game industry after the 1983 crash.

Beyond those facts, Super Mario Bros. established Nintendo as a dominant force in the industry. It also marked the beginning of one of gaming’s most iconic and enduring franchises. Case in point: ask anybody who Mario is.

Super Mario Simplicity

One major key to the game’s success is its simplicity. From the story to the gameplay, there is no need to overthink anything. You are Mario and your job is to save the princess. You do so by moving through each level from left to right and avoiding hazards.

However, the game’s basics hide some of its deeper mechanics and strategies. Are you the type to sprint from the beginning to the end of each level? Will you try to collect as many coins as possible to increase your extra lives? Are you more interested in eliminating as many enemies as possible?

It is a universally recognized fact that the game’s first level is a masterclass of video game design. Back then, video games didn’t provide handholding tutorials. A game’s designers had to create a sandbox to acquaint new players with a title’s gameplay. In the absence of a well designed introductory area, players had to learn a game’s mechanics and limitations the hard way.

Super Mario Bros.‘s first level is an expertly crafted introduction to the rest of the game. Everything in that level exists deliberately to guide a player through the basics of the game. You understand immediately that progression means moving to the right. It’s instantly clear that enemies are deadly unless you jump on their heads. As you progress through the level, you gain access to every power-up available and get to test them. And if you’re the type of player who likes to explore, you might even discover that certain pipes lead to secret areas.

Finally, when you slide down that first flagpole, you have all the tools you need to succeed.

A Grand Adventure With Tight Controls

Super Mario Bros. contains eight worlds. Each world contains four stages and every fourth stage is castle. As you progress through the game, you will explore caverns, swim through oceans, and storm castles.

The experience would not be as enjoyable without the game’s extremely tight controls. To achieve the responsiveness and sense of speed desired, designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka used the same engine as another NES game, Excitebike. The engine allowed each level to scroll quickly and provided smooth acceleration to Mario. In other words, it felt like our favourite plumber had weight.

In the end, the choice of engine was excellent. Mario’s responsiveness works to make the game’s platforming feel incredibly satisfying.

The Soundtrack To Mario’s Life

Super Mario Bros. features six themes on its soundtrack. However, of all the themes composer Koji Kondo created for the game, the Overworld Theme is by far the most well-known.

Go ahead, think of music in a Mario game. I’m willing to bet that you’re humming the Overworld Theme.

To put things into perspective, regardless of the sheer amount of iconic game soundtracks that have come out in the past 36 years, almost everybody can hum the Overworld Theme if asked.

However, Kondo stated that it was the hardest piece to write. He sought to create a musical number which would accentuate the action and movements of the player. He wanted a theme that would harmonize well with the action happening on the screen.

Of course, he succeeded. Perhaps a little too well, actually. In a 2007 interview, Kondo stated that he was unsure whether or not he could make a catchier tune.

Super Mario Bros.: A Lasting Legacy

Super Mario Bros. can be considered as the herald of the modern video gaming era. It has enjoyed fantastic praise and enduring popularity since it released in 1985. Whether it be to attempt world record speedruns, just for fun and nostalgia, or to introduce a new generation of gamers to an undeniable classic, people from around the world still play the game.

Super Mario Bros. did something that is rarely seen in the industry. The game didn’t just launch an entire series, it launched an entire company into the stratosphere of popular culture.

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