Pixels and Bits

Pixels and Bits
When the Sequel Is Worse Than the Original

Liz Finnegan | 14 Jul 2015 12:30
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Exhibit C: Super Mario Brothers

super mario bros 2

Following the 1981 arcade release of Donkey Kong, the world found itself instantly enamored with the game's unlikely hero, who was at the time referred to as "jumpman." Before long, developers capitalized on the massive success and delivered to us the Mario Brothers. And we were all better for it. The 1985 Super Mario Brothers was the first Mario title ported to home systems, and instantly seduced players and the industry alike. Assuming the role of the primary series protagonist Mario, the player navigates through the idyllic Mushroom Kingdom, which has been overrun by the dastardly King Bowser Koopa and his minions of turtles and mushrooms, on a quest to save the kidnapped Princess Toadstool and eliminate Bowser from his peaceful land. Players ran, jumped, pretended, threw controllers then promptly picked them up again and continued. The world was whole.

Production on the second Mario title of the series picked up quickly, with Super Mario Bros 2 releasing in Japan in 1986. However, this game was determined to be too difficult for American gamers, and its release in North America was stalled. When Super Mario Bros 2 finally did grace the shelves of American stores, it was much different than what was initially designed. In the place of the original game was a redesigned Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. The days of head-stomping and kicking shells were gone, replaced with Birdos and vegetable tossing. On its own, Super Mario Bros 2 was a fun and challenging game. As successor to one of the most significant titles of all time, it was a spectacular disappointment. Luckily, North American gamers were able to test their skills in 1993 with the release of Super Mario All-Stars, where the original SMB2 was included under the title of Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.

In 1988 (1990 for North American players), Nintendo waved their magic wand and produced the pinnacle of gaming perfection: Super Mario Bros 3. SMB 3 not only set the bar, it became the bar by establishing what video games of the late 80's and early 90's could - and should - produce. Super Mario Bros 3 was a challenging game, but it was fair in its challenge - I'm looking at you, Ghosts 'n Goblins. From the lush Grass Land to the arid Desert Land, the levels in the game were some of the most magical of all time. Super Mario Brothers 3 introduced players to the joy of riding in a shoe, kings turned into dogs, and the beloved Raccoon Tail. While Mario flew, so did the game - right off the shelves and onto the list of top grossing games of all time. Super Mario Bros 3 has been with me for 25 years, and even after all this time, I struggle to locate any true flaws with the game outside of the inability to save progress.

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