In 1983, video games were on the verge of extinction. The once booming market, which held $3.2 billion dollars in revenue at its peak, was over saturated by home consoles, bad software, and competition from the burgeoning home computer market. Video games were looked at by main stream popular culture as children’s toys rather than the works of art they are today. It wasn’t until late 1985 that the industry would see a rebirth, a salvation of sorts. All it took was the determination of a 96-year-old toy company, an 8-bit, Italian plumber, and a whole bunch of magic mushrooms.
In September 1985, Nintendo launched Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s simple run and jump design was a mastery of gameplay for its day and continues tohold up 30 years later. Add to the gameplay a catchy 8-bit soundtrack and a colorful, blocky aesthetic – you get one of the greatest video games of all time.
The Super Mario Bros. franchise has kept that honor going through its many iterations. Multiple games in the same franchise hold a spot in the pantheon of gaming greatness such as Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES), Super Mario World (SNES), Super Mario 64 (N64), and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii). However, the “Mario” brand extends far beyond just the core Super Mario series. Yet more of the most memorable games of all time have featured Mario in them like Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Mario Party, Super Mario RPG, and a plethora of sports games. Mario has played soccer, golf, baseball, hockey, basketball, and tennis. He’s competed in the Olympics and still had time to get his PhD.
Without Mario, video games as we know them today may not exist. No other fictional character has done more for their medium than Mario has done for video games. My first gaming memories were with my brother sitting in from of our old CRT TV, SNES controller in hand stomping on goombas and saving Peach in Super Mario World. Mario sent me on a nerdy journey through life (and hopefully through my career) that will never end. I hope to God that Nintendo can turn their company around and regain the dominance they once had in the video game industry. Kids today are growing up with nostalgic memories of mindless shooting games in 1080p resolution on their HDTVs. They’ll never appreciate the simplicity, yet brilliance of an 8-bit plumber jumping from platform to platform, risking life and limb in search of his beloved princess. Mario is gaming; there is no gaming without Mario.