The 10 Most Influential Retro Games: Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Posted on Thursday, December 6 @ 09:00:00 Eastern by KevinS"The 10 Most Influential Retro Games" is a feature series that will run daily for the next two weeks, between 12/3/12 to 12/14/12 on weekdays, with each day highlighting one of our ten picks in an unranked order. Follow our tagged page for Most Influential Retro Games to view the entire list. ~Ed. Nick
Ah, Super Mario Brothers. The game that started it all for so many of us, myself included. It's almost impossible to go over the history of the industry without discussing Nintendo's favorite plumber, his green-loving baby brother, and the princess that launched a thousand wars… like Helen of Troy, but more pink. And kidnapped by a giant spiked turtle. And drugs.
No list of the Top Anything in the gaming industry is complete without referencing Super Mario Bros., let alone a list of the most influential games of all time. The "Super" debut of Mario and his brother Luigi had the two plumbers running across colorful landscapes, jumping on various turtles and the mushroom-like Goombas, on a quest to save Princess Toadstool from the hands of the dreaded King Koopa. Typically, this is one of those games that can make a newcomer wonder, "Just what were they smoking when they came up with this?" And that's honestly what I love about it.
SMB is a typical answer to "What was your first game?" It launched with the NES in the US (it wasn't a launch game in Japan, but Japan launched the FamiCom in 1983) and quickly established "The Nintendo" to must-have status. It was an early example of a game that told a story without words, almost like a good silent film: Every character felt like they were there to help move the narrative forward, and every boss upped the tension until, finally, there were no more Toads to tell Mario and Luigi that "Our Princess is in another castle!"
The game was the brainchild of now-legendary figure Shigeru Miyamoto, the main behind a number of major Nintendo franchises: Donkey Kong, Star Fox, The Legend of Zelda, and numerous other, smaller titles that have made Nintendo a household name unlike any other. But it was his debut on the NES that brought gaming back from the brink. See, Atari had a number of major and minor flops on the ever-popular Atari 2600 that flooded the industry to the point of collapsell; terrible "classics" like the console's version of Pac-Man and E.T. The Extraterrestrial discouraged gamers to the point of not buying any more crap. The lack of oversight for the 2600 ended up being its undoing.
Nintendo learned from that lesson. Their console launched with games that all carried a special icon: the "Nintendo Seal of Quality." Every game was supposedly checked not only for bugs and glitches, but for "quality." Each company granted a license and the information needed to code for the system were allowed only a certain number of games for release in a year (five, to be exact), and only a few companies were allowed a secondary license to release more (Konami carried the "Ultra" label for some games, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
Nintendo kept such a tight leash on what came out for their product that they were known to go after a multitude of companies that developed outside of their jurisdiction, a notable name being—get this—Atari, which had developed a superior version of Tetris for the system that allowed multiple players, all to prove they were in charge.
Showing off SMB for the first time, and re-sparking an interactive revolution, is the real influence behind one of the most played games of all-time. It might have sparked one of the most beloved characters in any medium, and been a damn fine product in its own right with colorful scrolling backgrounds, inventive characters, and story-driven play, but it was being the poster child for a gaming revival that makes Super Mario Bros. a game for the ages. Don't do drugs, kiddies!