Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nominee: Super Mario Bros.

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Super Mario Bros.
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 10/18/1985
System Released On: Nintendo Entertainment System
Genre: Platform

Who Nominated The Game: I did. Though that shouldn’t surprise regular readers.

Why Was It Nominated: Does “it saved the entire God-damned games industry” mean anything to you?

When Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985, America’s video game industry was in shambles. The reasons for the Crash of ’83 have been well documented – from saturation of poor games into the market to tens of different consoles to the advent of affordable personal computers – but by 1985, many powerful companies had either gone out of business or left the games industry to make other products. Though the arcade industry was still doing somewhat well at the time, the home market was all but dead. Therefore, Nintendo was taking quite a risk when they brought over the Family Computer, redesigned it for the American market, and packed Super Mario Bros. in with the Deluxe Set.

The gamble paid off. Nintendo levereged its market position to become the virtually undisputed king of the American video game market for four years, until the release of the Genesis. Super Mario Bros. was the main catalyst of Nintendo’s success. Getting a game with the system was a boost, but SMB was a special game on its own rights. Starring a plumber who was a minor character that was in the first two Donkey Kong games and his own modestly successful arcade game later on, Shigeru Miyamoto’s brainchild was unlike anything home console players had ever seen before. It’s really hard to appreciate what SMB brought to the table in 1985, but it’s important to remember that before the NES, even the most impressive games for the Intellivision, Coleco-System and Atari 2600 were very simple graphically and gameplay wise. Super Mario Bros. perfected (at the time) the fledgling platform genre with smooth scrolling, 32 different levels which included swimming parts (something else virtually unseen at that time) and, most importantly (in my opinion), pinpoint controls and smooth scrolling, making the game something where people knew that if they died, it was THEIR fault, not the fault of the game. Furthermore, having a definitive ending was something novel at a time when most games existed solely for the purpose of scoring points before ultimately and inevitably getting a game over screen. With a reason to keep playing, most people did, making the game hugely popular even years after the fact.

Most remarkable in retrospect is what Super Mario Bros. spawned in addition to a successful video game: it turned Mario – and by extension, Nintendo and Nintendo’s other franchises such as Zelda and later Metroid – into pop culture figures. If it existed in the 80s, chances are good that Mario or some other Nintendo character was plastered on it and sold in stores. It was on stickers, books, cereals, even its own cartoon show. Mario ended up like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michael Jackson, leg warmers and Teddy Ruxpin: an integral part of the 80s that people look back upon when remembering those days. This, of course, is notwithstanding the impact that the game itself had on other games. If people thing space marine shooters are dime a dozen nowadays, back when I was a child, you couldn’t swing a rope without hitting a platform game where you jumped on top of enemies to defeat them. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, Miyamoto should have gotten a restraining order for all of the companies that blatantly aped his game.

What Super Mario Bros. did that was the most important in retrospect was that it made the Nintendo Entertainment System – and by extension, home video games in general – a palpable product at a time when it had been relegated in the eyes of retailers and consumers alike as a “fad”, much the same as Cabbage Patch Kids, Members Only jackets and “Where’s The Beef?”. When the market crashed in America, video games in the home died with it; people moved on, partly due to ambivalence, and partly due to the fact that they were burned in the prior generation by too many shoddy games. If SMB – the pack-in game, don’t forget – was not a good game, it would have shuttered Nintendo’s plans for the NES, and might have done the games industry a fatal blow in North America. If you think about it, without Super Mario Bros. showing people that video games could not only work, but could be big business, we wouldn’t have Halo, Final Fantasy or any other big-name game franchise that we take for granted today, at least in the way that we know them.

Great game, franchise starter, console mover, and the added bonus of being a large part of the rehabilitation of an entire industry in two countries. If that’s not something worthy of a Hall of Fame, I don’t know what is.

All in Favour:

Aaron Sirois: NO BRAINER

This is Super Mario Bros. This is the game that turned so many of us on to video games. I remember when my family got an NES one Christmas. My father decided to buy one for himself and call it a present for my mom. Hilarious. Anyways, this game and Wrestlemania where the reasons I got into video games. It was fun, had great graphics, sounded great, and had awesome controls. It sold the NES just as much if not more than the NES sold it.

Where would the world be today without Mario? And where would Mario be without this game? I’ll tell you where. He’d be making the odd cameo appearance in quickly forgotten sports titles. That’s where.

Guy Desmerais: The game’s influence has been discussed time and time again by every magazine and website that ever covered video games. That’s fine, but I feel like the game’s pure fun and perfect level design is what should get it in the Hall of Fame.

This game is perfect in level design because every stage has its own unique flow. Sure, you can take baby steps through each stage, but once you learn them, I feel that this is where the true fun begin. The game becomes an exercise in reflexes and memory, where each enemy is perfectly placed and each possible jump is well though out. An example would be stage 8-1, where there’s this huge jump which leads to a single tile on which Mario can stand, and then to another jump before reaching the other side of the pit. If you stop on that single tile in the middle of the pit, you lose the momentum and then you awkwardly shuffle on it, trying to regain enough speed to get to the other side. However, and experienced player knows what’s coming and simply follows the flow, and makes it to the other side in one swift motion.

Trying to figure out the perfect way to run through the levels is what makes this game addictive, and after a while, it simply becomes second nature. It’s moments like the one I described above that makes the game insanely replayable despite being short.

Addictive, replayable, innovative and fun. This is why I believe Super Mario Bros. should make it to the Hall of Fame.

Mohamed Al-Saadoon: Some might say that Super Mario Bros. would be unknown if it weren’t a free pack in game (and by some I mean Alex Lucard). Perhaps he is right.

But then again, I really don’t care if this game is popular or not. Some might say nostalgia is blinding us to the deficiencies of the game but if I can still pop this game on virtual console or a gameboy advance and still be entertained for hours on end despite Super Mario Bros. being 25 years old then you have a true masterpiece that is not affected by how much it sold or whether or not it revived the videogame industry or whatever other metric you try to measure it by.

It’s fun encapsulated in cartridge form.

Sean Madson: This was the first video game I had ever played on a console. It was included, along with Duck Hunt, with the NES I received as a gift when I was just four years old. It was more than just a video game at that time. It was THE video game. The one title that the whole family played together. The only reason I learned how to complete it was from watching my dad navigate the final castle and I was able to memorize the pattern which you had to progress in order to reach the end.

I’m 25 now, and the game is still fun and I still remember where everything is. If that isn’t a lasting impact, then I don’t know what is. Would I be into video games as much as I am without having played this game? Who knows, but without its influence on the industry, video games would likely not be where they are today.

Ashe Collins: One of the classic Mario games. Sure I’d recognized the plumber from Donkey Kong, but this one was far different from the static platformer of Donkey Kong and introduced us to the side-scrolling paltform world that Mario would occupy until the Nintendo 64. While the game came bundled with the original NES, there was a lot going for it that kept me putting this sucker in there again and again even when I had newer and more exciting title like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game.

Even now while I’m thinking about it I’ve got the itch to try to make it through the dark worlds and find that princess in the next castle. It spawned many a competition in my household between siblings and started video game rivalries between several friends of mine that exist to this day. While not every Mario title will get my vote, this one has secured it from the sheer amount of hours I logged in this game and will probably continue to do in the future as well.

A.J. Hess: I’m not sure what else can – or even needs – be said about this game. Mario remains the most iconic character in videogames. This game defined platforming. If you made a family tree of spinoffs with Super Mario Bros. at as the roots, the tree would have more branches and sub-branches than any other game could possibly produce. Super Mario Bros. remains the king and inspiration for all of modern videogames.

Branden Chowen: With a name as synonymous to gaming as Gretzky is to hockey, there is no denying that Super Mario Bros. deserves a spot in our coveted Hall of Fame.

Like most gamers my age, I grew up playing with the plump plumber and his rascally friends. Some of my first gaming memories are of how amazed I was at my cousin’s Super Mario Bros. skills. I couldn’t fathom, then, how my cousin was able to maneuver between three mushroom men, or four green-shelled turtle dudes, and still make that impossibly long jump; Super Mario Bros. started out as this incomprehensible enigma, but soon became one of my all-time favorites that I still love to whip through in under a hour to this day.

What makes Super Mario Bros. Hall of Fame worthy, however, is not my nostalgia, but rather the game’s legacy, and what it managed to give the video game industry after its arrival. Super Mario World may be the greatest platformer I have had the pleasure of playing, but tied for #2 will always be Super Mario Bros. (with Super Mario Bros. 3, for those wondering). Mario may have been around before this game’s launch, but he became a household name, and an international phenomenon thanks to Super Mario Bros.. If that doesn’t get you a spot in the Hall of Fame, what does?

Christopher Bowen: Instead of repeating myself after all that I typed above… I’ll repeat myself, literally: here is what I wrote for our feature in 2008, where I named Super Mario Bros. my favourite game of all time:

It’s almost impossible to look at the original Super Mario Bros. without thinking of everything that it caused. One usually looks at the fact that it saved the entire industry from the Crash of ’83, or the massive step up that a game like SMB was from games on the Atari, Intellivision and ColecoVision, or the plethora of copycat games that it inspired, or the fact that you can get Mario has whored himself to virtually every genre on the face of the Earth to build Nintendo’s empire, etcetera etcetera. Not many people still look back at the game itself, from a pure playing standpoint. Allow me to delve into my all-time favourite game from the only perspective that truly matters: the one involving the player holding a controller.

I first played SMB in 1986. I was six years old, and we got the game when we got our NES. It was above and beyond anything I’d seen prior to that point, as most of what I’d seen was either in pizza parlours and small arcades, or on an Atari VCS. Bright, shiny colours, detailed sprites, and great control sucked me in, and my improving skills as a gamer meant that I would stick this one out for the long haul. I sincerely think that not having the internet, or GameFAQs, or a hojillion monthly magazines at the time was a true boon to my enjoyment of the game, because I can say with honesty that I found most of the secrets in the game by myself. All the invisible 1UP mushrooms, the secret pipes, the warp zones, all of them were found by me in moments of curiosity. Nowadays, a game like this, released a month earlier in Japan, would have been hopelessly disected and obliterated by the OCD crowd. By the time it hit American shores, we would be able to beat it just by piecing together bits of the 348423 FAQs already out from people with names like “GoombaFucker23941”. I remember getting to the end of world 3, and actually being distressed at being told the needy bitch I was supposed to be saving was in yet another stupid castle. That would never happen today, as I would know exactly what was coming at the end of World 3 after watching it on Youtube.

In short, it took me a long time to have the skills to finally, fully beat Super Mario Bros., and I did it again and again as a child. However, what’s surprised me is that I still pick it up quite often to go through it again and again, well into adulthood and approaching thirty. It’s not even a case of general nostalgia, which has a bad habit of going away the moment you realise that your nostalgic memories from simpler times should stay in times as simple as the object of the memory itself; it’s a case of me generally enjoying the game – a perfectly balanced game with a perfect learning curve – even to this day, twenty-two and a half years after it’s initial release.

Super Mario 3 was an overall “better” game. Super Mario World brought the SNES to prominence. Mario 64 was – and in many aspects, still is – the definitive 3D platformer. And Mario Galaxy is the epitome of the evolution of Mario as a franchise, and platforming as a genre. It doesn’t matter. You always remember your first, and after being teased by lesser titles for most of my youth to that point, Super Mario Bros. popped my gamer cherry and turned me into the hardcore gamer that I am today. And unlike most people that use that metaphor, I don’t mind going back for a good ol’ romp now and again, to this day.

All Opposed:

Alex Lucard: Okay. Lots of reasons why I am saying no.

1) It’s not the first game with Mario in it. Donkey Kong is. I think Donkey Kong is a much better game than SMB 1. So I can’t vote in SMB for “historical reasons” like “The first game with Mario in it” as it’s not.

2) It’s not the first game with Luigi. Mario Bros. is. While SMB is a better game I can’t vote in SMB for historical reasons like “the first game with Luigi” in it as it’s not.

3) I realize the game was played by nearly everyone as a kid, but that’s because it was a pack-in title. It became popular because it was FREE and every kid with a NES had it and could play it, even if they couldn’t afford a second game. You know what? If I look back to my childhood, kids damn sure preferred Duck Hunt to the first SMB (at least ones I knew) and even today I hear more people saying “I wish i could shoot that &*^%^&%&^ dog” than I hear say “Man, remember Super Mario Bros., dude?” I honestly believe that ANY game that had been bundled with the original NES and that proved to be a decent enough game to spawn a sequel or two would have achieved the same legacy. It was simply a matter of SMB being there at the right time and the right place coupled with Shigeru Miyamoto almost psychotic obsession with the character and insistence Mario be in every game he made. Even Miyamoto has admitted that the character is largely forgettable and has only survived due to his zealousness and Nintendo’s marketing budget

4) People make the mistake of listing this as one of the best selling games of all time, but getting the game for free shouldn’t could as selling a copy of a game. By that same respect all the free copies of Dragon Quest that came with a Nintendo Power subscription because Nintendo was desperate to move that game lest they have another ET on their hands (even though DQ was actually, you know, GOOD) would count too. It’s the same reason I twitch a little when people say “Wii Sports is the best selling game of all time” even though no one has ever actually PURCHASED THE GAME. Honestly would people have shelled out for SMB on its own if it wasn’t free? I truly in my heart believe otherwise. So did Nintendo at the time. Hence why it was a pack in.

5) Most important of all, I never liked the game, even as a kid. it was BORING. It was 32 levels of the same thing. Run run run. Jump jump jump. Maybe get a fireball. Oh look, my princess is in another castle. Fuck you anthropomorphic mushroom. If I look back at all my NES games, Super Mario Bros. was rarely touched. When people came over, no one wanted to play it. When I was over at other people’s homes…no one wanted to play it. It was just there, taking up space. I’ve never enjoyed the game, from my childhood to my adulthood and for all five of these reasons, however in the minority they are, I can’t willfully vote for SMB into the Hall of Fame.

Plus it’s always good to have a contrary opinion to read, right? ;-)

Mark B.: So, I grew up with Alex Kidd In Miracle World, and as such, didn’t really spend much time with Super Mario Bros. until a few years after the fact, and because of this, I’m not really all that into the game. I get the historical significance of the game, but I get the historical significance of Tetris and I wouldn’t vote for it for the Hall of Fame either based on that merit alone. Says I, I’ll vote for a game if it makes me want to go back and play it again and again, and while Tetris might rank in that regard (though lord knows I’LL never nominate it), Super Mario Bros. does not.

I mean, that’s really the gist here. The game was historically significant, sure, and it was pretty fun when it came out, absolutely. History will recognize it as one of the greatest games ever created and tons of lists have already been made that place this game near the top for a number of different reasons. At the end of the day, though, I… really have no need to ever play it again, and for that reason, I’m against inducting the game. Sorry.

Result: 8 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 80% Approval = ACCEPTED

Conclusion: It’s pretty hard to believe that a game so revered, so famous and so significant can barely get into the Hall of Fame, but those are our standards. Still, with ten people pitching in their opinions, the game still managed to get two votes above the minimum for inclusion. If anything, we, insignificant as we are in the grand scheme of video game history, just confirmed what was already known: Super Mario Bros. is one of the greatest video games of all time, both from a gameplay perspective and from a historical perspective.

Next Week: Whereas Super Mario Bros. brought the platformer to universal prominence in America, our next game did the same to the role playing game, and forever changed the fortunes of a company that would have gone under had it not been a success.

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