We can all argue about what game deserves the title of “best ever,” but it’s hard to debate Super Mario Bros.’s status as the most important.
Before its release on September 13, 1985 (30 years ago today), most games weren’t about progression. They were about getting a high score. Pay a quarter and see how long you last. Even earlier Mario games, like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. (both originally arcade games), were like this.
However, Super Mario Bros. was no arcade game. It was created by legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto for the Nintendo Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S.). Even at this time, many Famicom games were just ports of arcade hits. Super Mario Bros., however, was a side-scrolling platformer. Sure, you still earned points, but they hardly mattered. The real goal was to beat all of the levels and rescue the princess.
Super Mario Bros. changed the gaming world. First off, it popularized the platformer genre in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Seriously, think of just about any important game from those times, like Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Metroid, Castlevania, and Ninja Gaiden. They all followed a blueprint created by Mario.
It also started the modern Mario series, arguably the most recognizable in the world. Again, Mario appeared in games before this, but Super Mario Bros. established the formula for successive 2D and 3D platformers for decades. Not only was Mario Nintendo’s mascot, but everyone knew that they had to try any game starring the plumber (even if this caused us to buy Mario is Missing). This included spin-offs like Mario Kart, the sports games, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros., and more.
Most impressively, Super Mario Bros. is still fun to play today. Even its outdated graphics are charming; its music is as catchy as ever, and the level design is challenging but fair. It invented the modern platformer, but it still remains one of the best of its kind.
It’s really baffling just how much we owe this one game. Super Mario Bros. helped sell the Nintendo Entertainment System when it came to the U.S. thanks to bundles that included the it. Without it, the NES might not have become a hit in our territory, which means that the modern gaming scene wouldn’t exist. If you like your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you owe the game some gratitude.
Today, you can play digital versions of Super Mario Bros. on your Wii U and 3DS. At this point, it’s impossible to imagine that Nintendo would ever not make it available to download on any future system. If I say “Nintendo game,” this is likely the first one you think of. It’s endured so much that Super Mario Maker, which came out on September 11 for the Wii U, is creating a lot of excitement just because it allows players to create their own Mario levels.
So, thank you, Super Mario Bros., for making gaming what it is today.
Register for GamesBeat's upcoming event: Driving Game Growth & Into the Metaverse