The Super Mario series is one of Nintendo's most popular and successful video game series which debuted with the arcade video game Donkey Kong in 1981. The popular game later spawned two sequels and Mario Bros., though the series became a household name with the release of Super Mario Bros. on the NES, the game that can arguably be considered the game that saved the entire gaming industry.
The second game in the Super Mario Bros. series was originally only released in Japan, though the rest of the world would be able to try it out with the release of Super Mario All-Stars. Instead, the rest of the world was treated with a remake of a Japanese only title called Doki Doki Panic, which was renamed Super Mario Bros. 2. It was basically the same game with new sprites that featured Mario themes.
Super Mario 64 was released in 1996 on the Nintendo 64, and is considered just as revolutionary as the first Super Mario Bros. title. It introduced Mario and gamers to a new, 3D world. It became a huge hit and spawned two more 3D games - Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy on the GameCube and Wii respectively.
- 1 In-depth history
- 1.1 Radar Scope
- 1.2 Donkey Kong
- 1.3 Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd.
- 1.4 The plumber and his brother
- 1.5 The video game crash of the 80's
- 1.6 Super Mario Bros. (The return of the industry)
- 1.7 Super Mario Bros. 2
- 1.8 King Koopa attacks once more!
- 1.9 Super Mario Land
- 1.10 The Dr. is In
- 1.11 Introduction of Yoshi
- 1.12 Start your engines
- 1.13 RPG's
- 1.14 Delving into a new dimension
- 1.15 Mario Party
- 1.16 Golf and Tennis
- 1.17 Heading to Isle Delfino
- 1.18 The Return of Kong
- 1.19 2D perfection
- 1.20 A battle between two old enemies
- 1.21 A game of cosmic proportions
- 1.22 Exploring the 3rd Dimension
- 1.23 Globe-trotting Adventures
- 2 Series and Sub-series
Video games were booming in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the introduction of The Pac-Man Series brought characters into the mix Such as Pac Man and several others. Before Pac-Man was released, players were essentially limited to only controlling space ships or paddles. The creator of Pac-Man wanted to introduce new players to video games, and came up with the concept of controlling a character around a maze, who gobbled up little dots. According to him, he looked down at a 1/4th eaten pizza, and saw the face of his masterpiece. The truthfulness in this claim is unknown, though nevertheless, Pac-Man was a major influence on game designers everywhere, including Shigeru Miyamoto.
Meanwhile, Nintendo had successfully entered the gaming market by introducing the Magnavox to the Japanese market, creating the Game & Watch, and developing a popular console called the Color TV-Game. They decided to broaden out to America, and developed a game titled Radar Scope. However, it took too long to arrive there, and once it did people were apathetic. Nintendo now had thousands of Radar Scope units that they needed to us, and decided to use the arcade units and replace them with a new game. They had no game designer, and turned to Shigeru Miyamoto, a young man who didn't have much experience in creating games.
Shigeru Miyamoto constructed a game in which a man runs across platforms, jumping over barrels thrown by an enraged ape known as Donkey Kong. The character, then known as Jumpman, would attempt to get to the top and annihilate the monkey's antagonistic plans. When the game was ready to be released in America, NoA (Nintendo of America) regarded the game as a failure and desired that Miyamoto create a shooting or maze video game, as at the time they were popular. The NoA president reassured his company's employees that they had a hit on their hands, and released just one arcade unit in a bar. A week later the arcade unit was filled with quarters, and NoA ordered about 2,000 more units from Japan. However, the good times didn't last forever.
Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd.
About a year after the release of Donkey Kong, Universal Studios, one of the most successful Hollywood movie companies, threatened Nintendo by stating that Donkey Kong was a blatant violation of copyright against their supposed ownership of King Kong. However, the fact is that Universal didn't in fact own the rights to King Kong, but that its characters and plot were rather in public domain. Eventually, Nintendo ended up the victor of the case, an outstanding accomplishment against a big player in the movie industry. It can even be said that this actually benefited Nintendo, seeing that Universal ended up having to pay them $1.8 million for multiple reasons.
The plumber and his brother
Nintendo needed a name for the character, and thus named him after NoA's landlord, Mario Segale. At the time, Mario's occupation in the video games was just a carpenter, though a colleague of Shigeru Miyamoto told him that he looked more like a plumber, and thus based their next game, Mario Bros., around a plumbing theme. They also gave him a twin brother, who understandably looked almost identical, but with a slight change of clothing. They named him Luigi, and thus the Mario brothers were created.
In the game, Mario and/or Luigi would go through pipes destroying the pesky foes that have been clogging them up. Miyamoto originally wanted the characters to simply jump on them to kill them, though hardware limitations wouldn't allow this, so rather they just made the duo jump under the characters, then get rid of them.
The video game crash of the 80's
Meanwhile, the video game home console market was seemingly coming to a halt. The big player in the industry - Atari, wasn't capable of developing quality titles any more, and proof of this can be seen in the less-than-stellar game known as E.T. and the home console installment of Pac-Man. Gamers were becoming increasingly bored with the games, and people eventually accepted that video games were a dying fad.
However, in Japan, Nintendo was successfully manufacturing the Famicom home console, and despite the fact that Americans were nonchalant about video games, they attempted to convince companies across the states that this would be a success. At first they questioned this, though Nintendo ended up swaying them to sell the game after they revealed a device called R.O.B., which told the companies that this was more of a toy than anything. However, they also packed in a game known as Super Mario Bros. They changed the name to NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and released it in America.
Super Mario Bros. (The return of the industry)
The console was a huge success thanks to the game that was packed in - Super Mario Bros. It included expansive side-scrolling worlds, something that none have seen before. Players could once again choose to play as either Mario or Luigi, though it's conclusive and unarguable that Mario was the primary protagonist in the game and everyone to follow. The game introduced a cast of new and lovable characters who would move on to become a paramount addition to the series - Princess Peach, the damsel in distress; Bowser, the antagonistic Koopa King; and Toad, a species/character who are supposed to protect Peach, though never are capable of doing so. Also, many villains were revealed here who all went on to play a large role in the series.
The game caused Mario to become a household name worldwide. Over 40 million people owned the original copy, and various others have purchased or played the various remakes that were released on multiple platforms. The industry came back with a boom thanks to the lovable plumber and his equally lovable brother, not to mention the man who started it all - Shigeru Miyamoto.
The game also included a memorable tune composed by legendary Nintendo composer Koji Kondo.
Super Mario Bros. 2
After the success of Super Mario Bros., it was obvious that Nintendo would create a sequel. They ended up with a game known in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2. It was never released in America on the NES, as they considered it too challenging. However, Americans and Europeans would get to play the game when it was re-released as a pack in with Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on the SNES and Game Boy Color respectively. It was also released on the Wii's Virtual Console. Nevertheless, it included essentially the same gameplay mechanics as the original. To please the fans elsewhere, they remade the Japanese only game known as Doki Doki Panic and called it Super Mario Bros. 2 in America (calling the original Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels when it was re-released). It was basically the same game, but with switched sprites. Players would be able to control four characters - Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad, each with their own abilities. It was a dramatic approach to the series, which strayed far away from the original, though it proved to be successful.
King Koopa attacks once more!
The final Mario Bros. video game released on the NES was the game known as Super Mario Bros. 3. The game is often times considered the best Mario game ever released, and understandably so. In the game, Bowser once again attacked the Mushroom Kingdom, though this time brought his seven children to rule over seven of the countries in the game. Mario and Luigi ended up saving the day when they arrived to Bowser's palace where they once again thwarted his plans.
The game was the most successful stand-alone title ever released, selling over 18 million copies. The game was introduced to America in the movie known as The Wizard, a movie which was not critically successful, as most stated it was a commercial for Nintendo and, comically (see - Universal vs. Nintendo above), Universal Studios.
Super Mario Land
Nintendo needed a large game for their launch of the Game Boy. They had Super Mario Land and Tetris. While the latter may be more popular in the long run, Super Mario Land was a great addition to the Super Mario series, and spawned a sequel as well titled Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, which introduced the ever popular character, Wario.
The Dr. is In
One of the first notable Mario spin-off was Dr. Mario for the NES. In it, Mario was required to drop pills on viruses below. The viruses would be killed if you dropped pills of corresponding colors on top of them. It was rather successful and was re-released multiple times on various consoles under different names. The legacy lived on in Super Smash Bros. Melee as well when Dr. Mario was an unlockable/playable character. Sequels and remakes of Dr. Mario include -
- Vs. Dr. Mario - A sequel for the NES that featured a multiplayer mode.
- Dr. Mario 64 - A game released for the Nintendo 64 that featured Wario and even Metal Mario.
- Dr. Mario & Bacterial Eradication - A remake for the WiiWare that has an online multiplayer mode.
- Remakes - Classic NES Series: Dr. Mario, Dr. Mario & Puzzle League and Nintendo Puzzle Collection.
Introduction of Yoshi
|Yoshi series history
Yoshi was introduced in Super Mario World, and later went on to star in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. The success of both games caused the lovable character to star in his own series of games which are found on multiple consoles and handhelds. In Tetris Attack, he would save Yoshi's Island once more from Baby Bowser. In Yoshi's Story, the King Koopa would turn Yoshi's Island into a story book, and the Yoshi Clan would have to reverse this curse. Yoshi then went on to star in three handheld titles for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS - Yoshi Topsy Turvy, Yoshi Touch & Go, and Yoshi's Island DS. In the latter, he would team up with baby versions of Mario, Peach, Wario, Donkey Kong and Bowser.
Nintendo's competitor's - Sega, had already released their Genesis console which featured improved graphics over the NES. Nintendo decided that they should end the NES's long run and release a new, improved console as Sega had. They ended up with the SNES, short for Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Just as they did with Super Mario Bros., Nintendo decided to include the launch title - Super Mario World - with the console as a pack in. The game is among many fan's favorites for multiple reasons, with the introduction of the lovable dinosaur Yoshi being one of the capital arguments.
Yoshi became quite a popular character, and according to Shigeru Miyamoto, he had wanted to include a dinosaur for Mario to ride in the early Super Mario video games, though hardware limitations didn't allow him to do so. Yoshi was, in Super Mario World, a partner or sidekick for Mario and Luigi, though his role would become larger as the series progressed through the ages.
In Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Yoshi was actually the principal character, and Mario, or rather Baby Mario ended up being the sidekick. The game didn't sell as well as hoped (4 million), though nevertheless is praised by critics as one of the best games ever released thanks to the incredible innovation included. It also caused a series spin-off, which included multiple games such as Yoshi's Story, Yoshi Touch & Go, Yoshi Topsy Turvy, Yoshi's Island DS, and Yoshi's New Island the fourth being the true successor to the original.
Start your engines
During the beginning of the SNES era, Mario wasn't exactly known for staring in spin-off titles as he is currently. After Super Mario World was released, Nintendo developed one of the most popular games of all time - Super Mario Kart, a racing game in which the players make use of weapons on the course. The weapons allowed players who never played the game get ahead of the more experienced players. It later spawned many sequels on every console following it and almost every handheld including - Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Mario Kart DS, and Mario Kart Wii. Mario Kart DS is noted as the first game to make use of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, with Mario Kart Wii following in its footsteps and adding online battle mode
Fans wouldn't know then that RPG's would become one of the most popular genres for the Mario series. It all started in 1996 when Square, creators of the Final Fantasy series, created Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES. It wasn't entirely innovative, though was the starting point for a list of games that have been widely considered some of the most innovative RPG's of all time.
After the release of Super Mario RPG, Square left Nintendo and urged Enix to also do so. They joined Sony and then created games for the Sony PlayStation. Nintendo didn't have Square (or Enix) anymore, though they did have one company that they fully owned - Intelligent Systems. The company was (and still is) known for creating amazing RPG video games, most notably the Fire Emblem series and the Nintendo Wars series. This is essentially their first Mario game, though they had worked on Tetris Attack years prior. The game they created, Paper Mario, immersed players into a wonderful paper styled world. The RPG elements included were considered innovative, and the story-driven game was unique for the series which usually tended to rely on gameplay rather than plot. It later spawned two sequels - Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario, the latter being a game that infused two genres and two dimensions - platforming and RPG and 2D/3D respectively.
Meanwhile, little known developer AlphaDream had also been working on a Mario RPG. They derived the engine from their Japanese only video game Tomato Adventure and infused it in the Game Boy Advance classic known as Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. In the game, players would be able to completely dodge the attacks of enemies with precise button pressing. It was so popular that it caused a sequel to be made - Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, which starred Mario, Luigi, and their baby selves.
Delving into a new dimension
While all of the games mentioned above are critically great, none of them included quite an innovation as the original Super Mario Bros. did. This would all change, however, with the release of Nintendo's next success - the Nintendo 64. The graphics produced by this new console were the most impressive of the time, and allowed developers to create larger worlds than they were able to in the past. While some games (notably Wolfenstein 3D and Star Fox) did in fact include 3D graphics, the games lacked a lot of detail and arguably didn't have the best of controls. Shigeru Miyamoto had been dreaming of a game in which Mario would go through a 3D world for five years before they released his first 3D game - Super Mario 64. Unlike most 3D games at the time, Super Mario 64 had breathtaking graphics and surprisingly fluid controls, something that wasn't present in most games before. This was probably thanks to the introduction of the thumb-stick, a new feature on the control which replaced the standard D-Pad. It allowed players to go through a 3D environment easily, something that was essential for the console's many games.
After Nintendo released Super Mario 64, Hudson came to Nintendo with a proposal of a game that stars Mario and crew. In the game, characters would go around a board game and afterward go through a mini-game in attempt to win coins. With those coins they would be able to purchase stars. Whoever ended up with the most stars at the end of the game would win. The game is commonly considered the originator of the party genre, ad would spawn many more games in the series. In all, there were three on the Nintendo 64, four on the Nintendo GameCube, two on the Wii, one on the Nintendo DS, one on the Game Boy Advance, three on the Nintendo 3DS, one on the Wii U, one on the Nintendo Switch, and another on the Game Boy Advance's e-Reader accessory. There were also two others that were released only in arcades in Japan.
Golf and Tennis
During the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color's life span, gaming company Camelot Studios developed Mario Golf and Mario Tennis for both of the consoles. The games resurrected many characters from the series' past such as Birdo from Super Mario Bros. 2 (Doki Doki Panic) and Princess Daisy from Super Mario Land. Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64 also introduced a new character called Waluigi, who would be Wario's partner. The two games were very popular and would spawn sequels on the GameCube (Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Mario Power Tennis) and the Game Boy Advance (Mario Golf: Advance Tour and Mario Tennis: Power Tour).
Heading to Isle Delfino
Nintendo didn't manage to bring a Mario game to the GameCube's launch, but rather slightly pleased gamers with a lukewarm title on launch known as Luigi's Mansion, which as the name implies, stars Mario's slightly younger brother Luigi. However, about a year later, Nintendo released Super Mario Sunshine, a game in which Mario is ordered to clean Isle Delfino after a doppelganger (who ends up really being Bowser Jr.) spreads toxic goop across their once peaceful island. He is able to do so with the help of a device called F.L.U.D.D. Despite a lot of hype, the game wasn't as well-received as Nintendo or gamers had hoped. Critics argued that others were doing the 3D platformer better by now, and that the camera was preposterous. It had seemed that Mario didn't have the charm that he once did. Hope wasn't lost, though; however, it would take many years until gamers would realize that Mario is the king of the 3D platformer when the Wii was released.
The Return of Kong
Nintendo once again made a title where Mario and Donkey Kong battled it out, though turned the concept into a puzzle game. In Mario vs. Donkey Kong for the Game Boy Advance, Donkey Kong stole all of the mini Mario toys. Mario went up to get them back, though had to go through a set of puzzle-based stages to get them. The game was a success and caused the company to create a sequel for the Nintendo DS which brought Pauline from the original Donkey Kong back.
While it had seemed as if 'Mario had fully entered the 3D realm", Nintendo revealed during the announcement of the Nintendo DS that they were going to bring two separate Mario titles to the new handheld - Super Mario 64 DS (originally known as Super Mario 64 x 4) and a new, 2D installment and sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. series called New Super Mario Bros.. Fans immediately fell in love with the title after they saw Mario grab a Large Mushroom, which cause him to turn into a colossal behemoth. Players wouldn't get their hands on the title until May 2006, however, but when they did, they loved it. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that it has sold more than 11 million copies, so far surpassing the sales of Super Mario 64. Also found on the Nintendo DS are three other 2D platformers staring other Mario characters including Yoshi, Wario, and Princess Peach. The most surprising was certainly the latter, as the last time players were able to play as the heroine was in Super Mario Bros. 2 (American version).
A battle between two old enemies
For years, Mario and Sega's very own property Sonic the Hedgehog had been battling for the top spot. Ultimately, Mario became the victor and Sega ended up quitting the console business, though it wasn't until Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games would the two be able to compete with each other in a game. For years, the two companies had been bashing each other in their games and ad campaigns, with Sega saying in their commercials "Genesis does what Nintendon't" and Nintendo pretty much telling their fans that Sonic is a nobody in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. However, it wasn't until this game would the two actually be able to go against each other.
After the announcement of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Nintendo held a press conference in which they announced that Sonic would also be a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where the two characters (among tons of others) would actually be able to fight each other. The game was released in early 2008 and became a huge success. It should also be noted that Snake, one of Konami's most prominent characters, was also featured in the game as well as a guest character along with Sonic.
A game of cosmic proportions
During the Tokyo Game Show of 2005, Nintendo revealed the much anticipated controller of their Wii console, then known as the Nintendo Revolution. It featured two separate units with the primary one being in the shape of a rectangle, and the other being attached via or cord. The secondary remote featured a joystick and would be used for more hardcore games such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, not to mention the game that has widely been considered not only the greatest platformer of all time but also one of the greatest games of all time. That game is Super Mario Galaxy, and it was developed by a small Nintendo team in Tokyo who had only made one other game prior to this one - Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat for the GameCube.
The game was shown at the following year's E3, where it showed Mario shooting through space and traveling around spherical planetoids. It introduced a gameplay mechanic which was one of the many reasons why it was so popular at the time - gravity. While gravity (and being able to go around planets) had been explored in previous games such as Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Sonic Adventure 2, it had never been fully implemented in game, nor was it as fluid as it is here. Galaxy is considered so innovative on the account that it perfectly executes the mechanic in ways that were seemingly impossible. Currently, the game has its well-deserved spot as the second-best game of all time according to Gamerankings, with number one being held by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64.
At E3 2009, Nintendo revealed two sequels to existing successful Mario games. The first was New Super Mario Bros. Wii which was the first platformer Mario game to have multiplayer and was the first game to bring back the Koopalings. The other game was a sequel to their previous critical hit, Super Mario Galaxy 2. The game came from the developer's plans for additional levels for Galaxy. Instead of relying on hub worlds, Nintendo opted to return to the World Map layout though Mario would be able explore the Starship Mario between levels. This game also brought back Yoshi. The game was more linear than the last game though, with many levels only having 1 main Star.
Exploring the 3rd Dimension
With their new handheld, Nintendo wanted a new Mario game that could take advantage of the device's 3D capabilities. Thus, the developers at Nintendo EAD Tokyo decided to create a 3D successor to the original classic Super Mario Bros. series with Super Mario 3D Land with the levels being mainly linear with the only goal being the flagpole at the end (though they also used the Star Coins from the New Super Mario Bros. games to act as additional challenge). The game also brought back the Super Leaf and Tanooki Suit which lets Mario fly for a short period of time.
2012 brought a double whammy of New Super Mario Bros. games with New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U. The former was a project made up of new younger developers which applied a new take on the series focusing on getting as many coins as possible. New Super Mario Bros. U was led by a veteran team and was more Super Mario World-inspired featuring the Super Acorn and a properly connected World Map. The game also featured Mii support.
Based on these two successes, Nintendo EAD Tokyo combined the style of 3D Land with the multiplayer of the New Super Mario Bros. series to create Super Mario 3D World. However, each character played a bit differently and it added the Super Bell and Double Cherry power-ups. The game also had a minigame for Captain Toad. The concept was turned into a full game called Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
However, the biggest shakeup for this era was Super Mario Maker, a level editor for the Mario series. The game features 4 styles with most elements being shared across them including whole new themes for the original games. The game featured a sharing system that highlighted liked levels, and liked creators in addition to a code system. The game also featured an array of costumes based on amiibos and other Nintendo characters.
There was also the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Event, an event that took place in 2020. It not only gave us Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which was a three-in-one port of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy. There was also the Super Mario Bros. 35 game, a remixed, online version of the original Super Mario Bros. There was also in-game events in multiple games, including but not limited to Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. All special anniversary-related events were exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, with the exception of an in-game event in Mario Kart Tour. The event ended in March 2021.
The paramount titles are platforming video games, though as fans of the series know the Mario video games span various different genres including but not limited to RPG's, racing games, party games, sports titles, and multiple others. This section will essentially cover the platforming video games, though some of the elements featured in those games are also present in the other titles as well.
Jumping has been a major addition to ever game in the series since the beginning. Donkey Kong is noted as the first game to include jumping, and thus it's evident why they would make it such a major inclusion. The jumping abilities found in the games differ depending on if its a sidescroller or a 3D video game, though the basics are all the same - jump to progress through the game by heading up platforms.
Power ups are also a popular theme in the series. Super Mario Bros. is the first to include them, though Donkey Kong did in fact contain hammers, though those can arguably be considered just a weapon rather than a power up. Super Mario Bros. included the Super Mushroom, the Fire Flower and the Starmen, which made Mario or Luigi large, gave them the ability to throw fireballs, or turn them invincible respectively. Each new game in the series includes more and unarguably improved power-ups that contribute to the experience.