I'm aware I'm a day late on this, but I figure I might as well make a post on this. Better late then never, right?
The Super Mario franchise celebrated it's 25th anniversary yesterday, in regards to the release of Super Mario Bros. in Japan. It reached our shores just a month later, and as I've already described, it was a game that changed the face of video gaming forever. Of course, the character Mario's true birthday lies in the Donkey Kong arcade game (we're one year shy of the 30th anniversary), but we're strictly talking about the series here.
Ever since then, Super Mario has become Nintendo's flagship series. It has not only become the most respected platforming franchise in gaming with the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy, but one that spread far and wide into many spin-off titles. One cannot forget Mario's forays into racing (Mario Kart), sports (Mario Tennis), minigame marathons (Mario Party), and yes, even puzzlers (Dr. Mario). Nintendo revealed just the other day that every single one of these titles has accumulated just over 240 million units worldwide, which just goes to show the strength of the Mario name.
And one that shaped the course of my life.
The Super Mario games, I believe, have lasted for so long because the developers focus on only one ingredient: Fun. Despite me having a greater love for the Earthbound/Super Smash Bros. franchises, I can say that without a doubt that Mario games are by far the funnest games in the entire industry. It is so obvious just by playing them that their primary focus for Super Mario Galaxy 2 and last year's New Super Mario Bros. Wii was to give the players as much joy as possible, and this is helped so much by the series' "anything can happen" mandate that defines the games.
Each of Nintendo's other series, such as Legend of Zelda and Metroid, are restricted by their rules and boundaries for the sole sake of keeping their integrity to the fans. And look what happens when you try to break them. Zelda: Twilight Princess received a mixed reception thanks to its lacking atmosphere and bland color scheme, and the recent Metroid: Other M has been bemoaned by many fans as taking the series into an unnecessary cinematic direction and possibly even ruining the character of Samus Aran. There is nothing wrong with trying to shake things up, but you must do so in a way that's not only fun, but retains the very soul of the series.
Super Mario has had nearly almost no problems in regard to this, and maybe this might be because Nintendo doesn't want to risk screwing up their most beloved franchise, but I'd like to think that it's because the series doesn't NEED to change. As long as their imagination tank is full, creator Shigeru Miyamoto has no need to take the series anywhere, especially in 2D form. Again, New Super Mario Bros. Wii's status of being the fastest selling console game ever proves that the public is not tired of playing of Mario.
The only time they tried something different was with 2002's Super Mario Sunshine, in which Mario hopped through a tropical paradise and was armed with a water spraying backpack to clean up the island's sludge. It was yet another game that received a mixed reception, and while I personally believe it is the weakest of the 3D Mario titles, it is by no means a bad game. Many praised the tough-as-nails platforming sections that didn't include the water pack, but I was very much amused sliding through the slime and eventually washing it all away. In the end, it stands with Mother 3 as the most successful of Nintendo's deviations from the accepted formula.
And that's not even bringing up the characters. Maybe they're not as deep as the folks in Final Fantasy or in Nintendo's own Fire Emblem, but those guys all depend on expanding on their motives and backstory. I believe that a great character is not one just defined by their role, but is one that can appeal to the masses with their charisma and charm, as proven with Disney's Mickey Mouse. Instead, Nintendo wisely focused on the character traits they we know them for, such as the aloofness of Luigi, the hysterical greed of Wario, and the adorable ray of sunshine that is Yoshi.
I find Mario himself to be an interesting case. The guy constantly has to rescue the woman he loves and engages in perilous adventures that could end up being with him being burned alive, eaten, crushed, or end up a victim to one of the many bottomless pits. And you know what? He enjoys every second of it. He doesn't resent the situations he finds himself in, he instead chooses to find joy in his adventures. Just listen to him when he soars in 64 or the Galaxy games, he's clearly having the time of his life.
In short, he is what I aspire to be in life. A life that can have challenges, difficulties, and perhaps even overcoming tragedies; but one in which I'm able to grin through it all, laugh through the small stuff and see the best in everything.
Yesterday, I was celebrating by playing a marathon of Mario music on Youtube and playing several of my favorite titles. I mentioned this before, but in Galaxy 2, my favorite stage goes by the name of Cloudy Court Galaxy. It's a beautiful stage, decorated with bush sculptures and accompanied by clouds you're constantly traversing upon. A particular moment has you bouncing on floating drum sets, which you can continue doing as long as you want without consequence.
I love this part so much. Every time I hop onto those drums, I start laughing. It's a very genuine sort of laugh that I don't use very often, and it's one where I'm experiencing true bliss. This time though was different. Before I knew it, tears were spilling out of my eyes. Normal people do not cry tears of joy while playing a Mario game. Maybe it was the occasion of the 25th anniversary. Maybe it was the way Mario was laughing over and over. I don't know. But I loved it.
I honestly don't really know what kind of person I would've become without the presence of Mario and friends in my life, but everyone who's ventured into my life knows how near and dear his titles are to my heart. Maybe Nintendo has too much of a grip in my life, my whole being, but you know what? It's a life I wouldn't dare give up for anything. I am confident that the person I am today wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for a certain plumber with blue overalls and who has earned the title of the happiest man alive.
Thank you. For being there.
*Pictures are from the Mario Wiki and several other sources.*