What made the original Mario games fun.

9DB7

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This seems like an easy idea but in concept, it shouldn't have worked. You're playing as a crazy middle-aged man who can jump really high and can shoot fire from his hands when he touches a flower. The princess of this strange land has been kidnapped by this turtle... Thing and this plumber has to save her? The gameplay can barely justify this because it is so... Simple and janky that it is frustrating to complete. Yet this spawned one of the most recognizable series yet.
 

Meta Knight

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It's easy to dismiss the original game as "jank" when looking back from a modern perspective, but at the time it was incredibly polished compared to a lot of the competition. Story details weren't necessarily as important either, but any such information would usually be found in the instruction manual. This means that any factor of quality is strictly in the game itself, regardless of setting.

Additionally, many games at the time were arcade-style score games. The concept of a game with multiple levels that you could "beat" was few and far between. Not to mention, the Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt combo cartridge came with a lot of NES purchases. After people were sick of poor quality, mass produced games that led to the video game crash of 1983, a simple tight-controlled adventure like the original Super Mario Bros. is just what the video game industry needed.
 
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Princess Viola

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Honestly I don't even think it's right to dismiss the OG Super Mario Bros as being 'jank'. Sure it's simple compared to what a lot of modern 2D platformers do (or hell even what 2D platforms on the 16-bit consoles would do), but it's not 'jank'. The controls in SMB are tight and the game is crazy easy to control, which made it a perfect game for both people who were already experienced with videogames and people who were still new to the concept - I mean there's a reason why many critics will praise that aspect of the games.
 

Glowsquid

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The original SMB's appeal becomes very easy to understand when you realize the below is the competition if you wanted a game where you jump/climb over things and fight enemies



 

Redshift

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Ray Trace
that's also including nintendo's own output of games such as ice climber and mario bros.
 

Borp

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It's honestly kind of insane how intuitive and smooth Mario 1 feels today compared literally everything else surrounding it. Hell, it's smoother than some platformers made as late as 1990!
 

winstein

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I know the thrust of the topic is for Super Mario Bros., but it's important to note that Mario's earlier adventures are also solid.

I think it's due to how deep the gameplay is, even when there are not many outputs. The original Donkey Kong has just a control stick and a jump, but the stage layout presents a unique obstacle course that makes use of the controls. Mario can use his jump to go over obstacles like barrels and gaps, and he can also climb ladders and navigate elevators. And then Mario Bros. made Mario jump higher, and provided him with another layer of offense by bumping foes from the bottom. Even the position that you bump the enemy affects their trajectory! Not to mention: the different types of enemies and hazards, and they need to be tackled differently, which creates a game where many can happen at once, but still being approachable. I don't think Super Mario Bros. could've been the way it is if it weren't for the foundation set by the predecessors. The gameplay foundations is one thing, but if it weren't for Mario games being fun and selling well, there would never have been a Super Mario Bros., because the reason it's a Mario game to begin with is that Mario Bros. for the NES sold well, prompting Tezuka to make the next game about Mario. Imagine if it were Super Ice Climbers instead... it would probably not be as great as Mario is now.

Another aspect that Mario does well is how character-oriented the games are. Of course, Mario is designed to be recognisable on the screen, but you also have the various objects that have their own unique designs and cues. For example, the angry disposition of Donkey Kong, the fireballs with eyes in Donkey Kong, the angry crabs when they're hit in Mario Bros., and so on. Even Super Mario Bros. injects personality into its enemies, like how the Red Koopa Troopa's won't walk past a ledge, Bloopers gradually float towards the player, and Piranha Plants that emerge from the pipe but won't if the player is too near. It certainly add to the games compared to if some generic obstacle were used. The character, combined with unique behaviour of the enemies, gives the game some life in the variety it provides.

For Super Mario Bros. in particular, I think it just have a lot to it that makes it feel like something is hidden in the corner waiting to be discovered. Like for example, if you chain enemies with a jump or a shell, you can rack up points and even get 1-Ups from them. Another thing is hidden blocks, especially if there are 1-Up mushrooms in them. Special mention goes to the coins. Coins are a recognisable thing to collect because we know that money is good to have, and they facilitate the exploration by rewarding them. Those blocks with multiple coins is one thing, but secret rooms tend to have many coins as a reward for finding them. Heck, hidden stalks tend to lead to the skies with many coins!

I guess the old Mario games are taken for granted these days, but it's important to know that if it weren't for the old games holding up, Mario might not be where he is today: a 41+ year old video gaming icon that is active throughout the years.

Thank you for reading.
 
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splashmouse
What makes current Mario games fun?
Do they stand out anymore?
As far as character and world design, I'm not so sure. Those and the artstyle are drowned out.
It seems like, what holds Mario in high regard, is that it's reliably polished coding for smooth gameplay.
Many of its competitors can't live up to that.
 

ShroomZed

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I think the OP really disregards how much popular media from that time especially has really strange premises.

Dragon Ball is a very loose adaptation of Journey to the West about a monkey boy who likes to get stronger through fighting tournaments who ends up fighting a demon who killed his best friend and inexplicably finds out he’s a member of a genocidal alien race. TMNT is about four turtles who become humanoid and murder a martial artist who dresses in metal on behalf of a humanoid rat whose owner was killed. Sonic the Hedgehog is about a hedgehog who spends his time running really fast and stopping a spherically shaped man who wants to rule the world though his robotic creations. Why is Mario in particular being singled out here?

Also, it’s ridiculous to call the controls of the first SMB “simple and jank”. They were revolutionary for the time in terms of momentum and weight, feeling much more intuitive than contemporary platformers. The concept was simple to understand and worked. Anyone who doesn’t understand why Mario worked so well is simply ignorant about the state of the video game market in 1985.

Mario looks the way he does due to graphical limitations, and the Koopa troop was chosen as basic enemies due to the physics of kicking around shells. Kuppa looks the way he does because he was based off Journey to the West’s Ox King. It all makes reasonable sense when you look at the origins of the Mario series.
 

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You're playing as a crazy middle-aged man who can jump really high and can shoot fire from his hands when he touches a flower. The princess of this strange land has been kidnapped by this turtle... Thing and this plumber has to save her?
This. This is exactly the point. It's supposed to be wacky, yet simple and clean, fun. The simple presentation of the original NES Super Mario Bros. is also made for anyone to just pick up and play. In fairness, the NES in general was designed this way (quite literally reviving the North American gaming industry), however, using Super Mario Bros. as the pack-in title was a smart move, allowing people to know what to expect out of the NES and what could be achieved. Other pack-in titles, such as Duck Hunt and World Class Track Meet also did this, but not to the extent of what Mario did. Mario was easy to just pick up and play. It was easy enough for someone who had never played a video game before to understand, while also having solid mechanics and fun gameplay.
 
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