Mario: A Retrospective Part 1

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So many memories, so little time.

After an exhaustive debate with myself as to what to write today’s article on, I kept thinking back to my usual comfortable space reserved for my gaming go-to when it comes to fun: Mario. I wouldn’t be the same kid had the plumber in the red hat never entered my life with his own special brand of crazy. So here’s my retrospective, minus any offshoots. This is just the main Mario series, so no karts, sports, or parties. And I’ll have to break this into two parts, with me focusing exclusively on the 2D platformers today. So let’s-a go!

Donkey Kong:

A classic in every sense of the word.

It all began with the 1982 arcade game named after his original archenemy, Donkey Kong, where Mario’s only name was Jumpman. His outfit looked the same though, and his notable jumping abilities were ever prevalent. I played this one a few times as a kid but only for the spectacle of it. I wasn’t anywhere near good, not until I grew up anyway. Still, of the three main characters of the game, Mario went on to be the most famous. Donkey Kong moved on to another series, Donkey Kong Country, though not as the main character. Donkey Kong from the arcade is actually Cranky Kong. The last character, Pauline, faded into obscurity once Peach showed up. You can get a hold of the NES version for around $10 on Amazon.

Super Mario Bros:

Have you saved the Princess in the first one? If you haven't, it doesn't count in all later titles.

I realize that I’m skipping two noteworthy entries in Mario’s legacy in Donkey Kong Jr and Mario Bros, but I don’t have much to say about those. I was all about Super Mario Bros on the NES. Everything changed with the simple concept of “WTF” that pervaded all of Super Mario Bros. The premise became ridiculous with Mario, a plumber, attempting to save a princess of a mushroom people from a fire-breathing dinosaur and his army of turtles and acorn people. It took me until high school to actually save the princess, but I was still fairly good as a 3-year-old anyway. I could make impossible jumps and run through levels incredibly fast, and even stranger, I preferred to play as Luigi whenever possible. Currently, my fastest playthrough stands around 8:30. Nothing too impressive, but not too shabby, either. If you want to try beating that score, either download SMB from the Virtual Console or grab a copy from Amazon for cheap, though if you want it new it’ll run you around $300.

Super Mario Bros 2:

You've all heard enough about Doki Doki Panic, so I'll just skip that explanation.

There are two versions of this game. There is the original Japanese version, which we wouldn’t get until Super Mario All-Stars as The Lost Levels, and the US version, which most off us just believe is the black sheep in the Mario franchise for being so strange in comparison to the first. I played the US version, naturally, and was terrible. I don’t think I ever got past the second world no matter how hard I tried, but I still loved the game for some reason. An interesting note to consider here, this is the first game where Mario’s current look is created, by which I mean red shirt, blue overalls. In the first game he’s wearing a blue shirt and red overalls, but here is where his look permanently changes. I’ve beaten it now thanks to Super Mario All-Stars, as well as The Lost Levels, but as a kid, no way, not happening. Once again, the Virtual Console is a simple choice, but an actual copy on Amazon isn’t too steep either, though the new copies will climb to $400.

Super Mario Bros 3:

I don't care, you're not convincing me anything other than this is the greatest game on the NES ever.

You’re already read my article on SMB3 and why I love it so dearly. It made me a friend, gave me needed skills as a gamer, and provided me with endless enjoyment. It’s simply my favorite of the 2D Mario platformers. Check the VC or Amazon for a used copy under $10.

Super Mario Land:

It's like if Mario had a bad hangover and woke up in a completely different world with no clue how he got there.

I made a point to get Super Mario Land for my Game Boy as soon as possible since I needed a Mario game on my handheld. And it was incredibly difficult to say the least. It was also really strange, even for a Mario game, since you had a Super Ball instead of fireballs, the Big Bad was an alien rather than Bowser, the Koopas had exploding shells, and the princess was Daisy, not Toadstool. Still, I persevered and loved every second of the grueling challenge. And then I played it through again on the tougher difficulty and had no problem. Strange how that happens. This is another easy find on Amazon for under $10.

Super Mario Land 2:

I will admit, the final battle was rather epic, though the final level was just a nightmare.

A little later in my years I picked up SML2 and whipped it into shape without much trouble. I found it a lot easier than SML but still something was off for me. It wasn’t Wario as a villain (his first appearance of course), or giving Mario bunny ears as a power-up. No, it was the way the size of Mario made the game more difficult than it needed to be. Mario’s game sprite became larger and therefore more difficult to control since the screen felt a lot smaller. Suddenly I couldn’t see what was right below me if I fell, and that added a whole new challenge to the game I didn’t particularly enjoy. Plus, there were ants with cannons on their heads, so how fair was that? To see what I’m talking about, pick up a used copy, though I don’t know why you’d want a new one for $200.

Super Mario World:

Admit it, this describes you, doesn't it?

A worthy contender for the Best Mario crown, SMW was a game I wanted immediately after buying my SNES from my cousin. But if you remember that story correctly, he had sold all his good games, SMW included. I ended up buying a copy from a friend in my 3rd grade class, though the game’s internal battery was already running out, so even to this very day there’s a high chance my game will get erased if I play a game of SMW, pull the cartridge out, then put it in to play again. Still, when I play it I have no problem getting the elusive 96 * after trouncing the Special World like it was nothing. That is a serious challenge every gamer should have to complete before getting their gamer card, and both me and my wife own that achievement, so the challenge has been set. You’ll need to download it from the VC or purchase a used copy from Amazon for under $10. And yes, Amazon is just that good that I’m recommending it so much.

New Super Mario Bros:

Just look at the destructive power of the Giant Mushroom.

It took over 10 years before Mario fans got the true next 2D Mario platformer, this time on the DS. I was so thankful that there were no touch screen gimmicks implemented, just classic Mario platforming. Boy what a game this was. I was thoroughly satisfied with every playthrough, feeling as though this was the culmination of all Nintendo’s knowledge from creating Mario games for so long. I enjoyed the fun of the Mini Mushroom, the crazy power of the Giant Mushroom, and the worthlessness of the Blue Shell. Seriously, the Blue Shell caused me to die more times than it proved useful. I wonder if we’ll ever get a power-up as great as the Tanooki Suit again? Oh well, at least it’s only around $30 these days.

That concludes my time with Mario 2D platformers. Where’s New Super Mario Bros Wii? I’ve covered that quite enough, as you know. And what about Yoshi’s Island? Well, despite my wife’s complaints, I don’t consider that a Mario game due to it featuring Yoshi more than Mario and also because I’m a snob. Come back next week and I’ll cover the 3D platformers in all their glory as I psych myself up for Super Mario Galaxy 2. In the meantime, what are some of your Mario memories? I’d like to hear them, so leave a comment and let’s get this Mario Party started.

Want more Mario? Check these articles out:

Mario: A Retrospective Part 2

Top 20 Greatest Mario Enemies Ever

Let’s Think Deep: The Virtual Utopia

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

4 Comments

  1. Super Mario Land was insanely difficult to me as a kid, but eventually I powered through it, seeing as how it was one of the few games I had for my Game Boy. It’s amazing how much you can put up with a difficult game when you have no other options but to get good at it.

    I loved the dual bridges of World 4 from SMW, but getting those secrets were such a pain, especially Soda Lake. It pretty much forced you to sacrifice Yoshi to make it under the goal posts at the end. I felt so awesome when I finally succeeded though.

  2. PuppetDoctor on

    I remember when I was a kid one evening I walked to Toys R Us with my mother and she let me buy a game. I wanted to get Donkey Kong Land 2 or Super Mario Land but choose Super Mario Land. I was so excited when I was walking home so I could play it on my Game Boy. When I finally did play it though I was filled with disappointment.

    It was not the Mario that I knew from SMB1 and SMW. I found the game to be hard and was shocked that when you jumped on a Koopa the shell would explode. I ended up hating the game and to this day never beat it.

    Super Mario World though is still my favorite Mario game. I remember that I found every secret in the game except for Cheese Bridge. As much as I searched I couldn’t find it and had to ask my cousin where it was. Finally then I completed the game. Darn I got so many memories of Super Mario World I could write an essay on them.

  3. I wish I did know who created that pic, but no one seems to have the answer. I hate putting good creative pictures in my articles without giving proper credit in some way (such as the headlining pic from Glen Brogan), but I couldn’t for the life of me find where this originated from. There’s at least half a dozen places claiming it to be theirs, so your guess is as good as mine.

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