To mark 30 years since Mario’s arrival in homes, a look at one of the Italian plumber’s rare misfires: 1993’s Super Mario Bros. The Movie! A side-line to Jokerside’s summer of dystopia, it even features a villainous spin for Dennis Hopper. Time for a reappraisal?
IT’S 30 YEARS SINCE MARIO WENT SOLO, WELL ALMOST SOLO. ENLISTING HIS MALACHITE SIBLING, THE SUPER MARIO BROS OFFICIALLY HIT THE NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM ON 13 SEPTEMBER 1985. The plumbing brothers had appeared on arcade machines two years before of course, not quite getting the look down pat while they battled strange invaders in the sewer system under New York. And two years prior to that Mario, the everyman masquerading for a bit as Jumpman, had conquered the misguided Donkey Kong as he rescued Lady Pauline in the arcades. But it took four years from that first pioneering stab at putting narrative in a videogame for the Mario we all know to arrive in homes across the globe. On consoles. In living rooms.
And it was then that everything slotted into place like Tetris (invented a year before, but yet to turn the videogames industry on its head). With Super Mario Bros. Mario was suddenly in the brightly coloured Mushroom Kingdom. Princess Toadstool has been kidnapped by the forces of the dastardly Bowser and only the pipe-travelling plumber Mario could save her. Coins abounded, as did invincibility stars. Enemies were stomped and blocks head-butted, granting 1-ups and special abilities including that brilliant and powerful lil’ fire flower. Everything was pretty much set in this much ported game. And you could even introduce Luigi by picking up another controller.
From there the games piled up. Sequels, and the arrival of Super Mario World on the SNES and Super Mario Land on Gameboy. The Italian icon diversified as he took on sports like tennis, golf and baseball. Guest appearances in the broadening Nintendo home franchises saw him juggling, typing, karting, studying for a doctorate, dealing with over excited dinosaurs and even merging with the blocks in Tetris Attack. It was all going swimmingly for Mario and his brother, and then Hollywood came calling for the Brooklyn plumbers and everything changed…
Nintendo lost its President a month ago, leaving a fine legacy from one of the game giant’s shortest leaderships. There were distinct highs and lows during his 13 years, and perhaps his most significant legacy will prove to be a fresh and secure direction towards mobile gaming. While the identity of his permanent successor remains a mystery, Jokerside sets about a tribute play of two handheld games that have a lot to say about Nintendo and the legacy of Iwata-san:
THE GAMING WORLD WENT INTO APPROPRIATE MELT-DOWN IN MID-JULY WITH NEWS THAT NINTENDO’S CEO IWATA-SAN HAD PASSED AWAY AT 55. Taken too soon, too young by cancer, he left Nintendo at a crossroads as his 13 year Presidency of the company came to an abrupt end. Only the fourth President in the company’s 126 year history, his relatively short presidency saw the typical triumphs and stumbles we’ve come to expect from the Japanese giant as it continued to stridently stick to its own path. For all the highs of the Wii and the DS, their successors have stalled… But in leaving a new and set strategy for development into the mobile market there is a chance for Nintendo to grab a crown that was always waiting for them. A natural and overdue fit for the company, we should all hope they’ll magic up one of their occasional revolutions on mobiles over the next two years. It’s a long time coming and a move engrained in their DNA, but leaves the future of their hardware undefined to the outside world…
A new century
An unwavering pursuit of gameplay
Under Iwata Nintendo pushed into new ground with the new century. It started by resisting the continued rise of Sony while sticking rigidly to its non-connected and affectionately unique formats. The GameCube, remains a distinctive and brilliant idea – but while Nintendo had learned from the limited software range that left the Nintendo 64 bereft, the GC couldn’t quite move on from expensive cartridges without dipping into the unusual mini optical discs for a generation. It was a well-received console, a fun and contained example of what a gaming device should and could be. But while the GC managed a six year career, its clear and unwavering pursuit of gameplay over graphics, experience over a multi-player network, pushed Nintendo well behind the social machinations of its Japanese and American rivals.
The Third Way
Via dead-ends and love hotels
Iwata was hand chosen by President Hiroshi Yamauchi to become his successor at the start of the 21st century. Following five decades that had seen Yamauchi take Nintendo from playing card manufacturer to world leading videogames company, via all sorts of dead-ends and love hotels, was some ask. A games developer by aptitude, Iwata had joined by proxy from a part-time programming position at HAL Laboratory to heading the giant’s corporate planning division. On the way he helped develop titles including Kirby’s Dream Land, Pokémon Gold and Silver and Super Smash Bros. before spending a couple of years before his presidency successfully cutting Nintendo’s game cost and development time.