Goomba Stomp’s Hall of Fame is reserved for only those Nintendo titles that can be called absolute classics. Chosen by the crew of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast, these bite-sized capsule reviews reflect what we’ve discussed on the podcast over the past six months. Look for more entries every 25 episodes we record.
It’s hard to imagine a video game industry today without Super Mario Bros.. Here’s the title that single-handedly revitalized the gaming industry and solidified Nintendo as the King of the video game market. While the vast majority of early video games were largely designed by the programmers coding them, Super Mario Bros. was instead made by Shigeru Miyamoto, an artist first and foremost, who graduated with a degree in industrial design. As with Donkey Kong, character, and story mattered most. Players would play as Mario, accompanying him on his journey through the Mushroom Kingdom and his quest to rescue Princess Peach from the vicious Bowser, King of the Koopas. Miyamoto made Mario his go-to character, a plump, awkward Italian-American who could easily fit into any 8-bit graphics. Overalls made his arms more visible and his thick mustache appeared clearer than a thinly sketched mouth. He was given a hat so Miyamoto could sidestep designing hair and a big nose to accentuate Mario’s look.
One of the most amazing aspects of Super Mario Bros. is the game’s extraordinary level design in which Mario or Luigi must walk, run, or jump through various roadblocks throughout the levels comprised of bricks, underground pipes, menacing oceans and foreboding castles. Miyamoto’s motto was that a game should be easy to learn but difficult to master – one of the defining aspects of Super Mario that made it popular amongst dedicated gamers and casual players alike. Each castle grows increasingly difficult, and there are hidden warp zones that transport Mario or Luigi to higher levels – but if a player takes the incorrect routes, he will be transported back to the beginning of the level. Meanwhile, the clock ticking down at the corner of the screen becomes your biggest enemy. Chases and races are key ingredients for spicing up games and a race against time is perhaps the most exciting, suspenseful kind. Nothing creates on screen tension like an impending deadline or clock that counts down to the final seconds. In Super Mario Bros. time will eventually run out, resulting in an inevitable death.
Super Mario Bros. is celebrated for its intricate levels, colorful characters and intuitive controls, but Koji Kondo’s sinister soundtrack rarely invites a discussion. Sure, just about anyone who’s played the game can whistle or hum the catchy theme song, but I’m referring to the complex score that elevates the game to a whole new level. Unlike any game before it, Super Mario Bros. wasn’t scored by a computer programmer – instead, Nintendo hired a talented composer. Kondo wrote the six-song musical score using only small pianos and yet still managed to create rich musical tapestries despite the limited resources. Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. score not only redefined video game music, but it still resonates thirty years later. It’s easy to take Kondo’s work for granted but had Nintendo not hired a professional composer, the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack might have comprised of nothing more than odd sound-bites and background noise.
Super Mario Bros. quickly became synonymous with the Nintendo Entertainment System and helped the NES become the top-selling console of its time. The video game crash of 1983 was officially over, and the famous brick-busting duo became household names. Super Mario Bros. is one of the most iconic video games ever conceived due to the sprawling level design, clever enemy placement, hidden secrets, optional sub-routes, superb physics, legendary soundtrack and gorgeous sprite-work.
- Ricky D