It's been a couple weeks since I've actually posted one of my weekly top 5 blogs. I do sincerely apologize. It was the first time since I started doing them that I didn't post one, which began last summer. I had a pretty good streak going on, but now I must start over.
And the easiest way for me to get back into the swing of things is to go to my bread and butter:Mario. It may be generic to say that Mario is still my favorite videogame character to this day, and I get more excited about a new Mario game than I do most other things, but I can't help it, I love that portly plumber. You can chalk it up to nostalgia and there would be very little I could say to refute that. Mario has been with me for about 26 of my 29 years on this earth. I grew up with Mario, and now I'm growing old with Mario, though he has definitely aged better than I have.
I'm putting this as an honorable mention out of necessity and a desire to not be sent a mailbomb. I had converted to the Playstation in the mid-90s, so my exposure to the Nintendo 64 was very limited, and the small amount of time I did own the system were spent almost exclusively playing WCW/nWo Revenge. Even if I don't have those nostalgia tingles for this game, no one can deny why it's legendary in the grand scheme of gaming.
Nothing bothers me more than when someone acts like the Super Mario Bros. 2 we got in the States isn't the real SMB2. Yes, I know it was just a re-skin of a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic, but there's a reason for that. The reason is because the "real" Super Mario Bros. 2 sucks. It sucks hard. If this were a worst Mario games list, it would undoubtedly be at the top (or bottom?). I'd rather play Hotel Mario.
But the U.S. game is outstanding. Was it weird? Yes. But gaming was still in its infancy, and a lot of sequels in the era were much different than their predecessors because there was no established blueprint for what a game had to be. Castlevania II was much different than Castlevania, Zelda II was different than The Legend of Zelda in every conceivable fashion, and yes, Mario 2 is different than the original, and it's amazing. You pull a vegetable out of the ground which turns out to be a rocket ship, which then flies you to the next level. That's what videogames are supposed to be.
Stop being a retro gaming hipster and admit that Mario 2 is great.
The world rejoiced in 2006 when we finally got a new, true, 2D platformer from the Mario series in the form of New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS. It was the first one we had gotten since Yoshi's Island, and some people argue that Yoshi's Island doesn't count as a true Mario game, meaning you have to go back to Super Mario World. New Super Mario Bros. was a decent little Mario game, but it seems to have suffered a little bit from revisionism over the years, but one thing that it did was lay the ground work for it's outstanding console counterpart: New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
The real innovation with New SMB Wii was the inclusion of cooperative multiplayer. But this wasn't just a game that you played with your one friend who hadn't moved on to cursing at 12 year olds on Xbox Live. This was a game you played with that friend, his girlfriend, and her cute cousin who you have no shot with. That's right, 4-player simultaneous co-op in a Mario game. This was the future!
With one player, the game is great. With four players, it's absolute chaos in the best possible way. It's one of the few games to get a perfect 40/40 score from Famitsu, and I'm sure that was in no small part attributed to the amount of fun the game is with multiple players.
It also has arguably the best final Bowser battle in Mario's long history.
I tend to get impatient, which is why it was such a bad idea for me to buy a Nintendo 3DS on launch day. I bought it with Bust-a-Move Universe because I love the series, but after I went through all the levels in a day or two, I went months without turning the thing on, at which point, it went right back to the GameStop that I bought it from.
Nearly a year went by and there still wasn't a whole lot on the system that convinced me to buy another 3DS. That is, until Super Mario 3D Land. I was still skeptical, knowing that I would one day own the system again, and likely at a much lower price or with a much bigger screen, but Mario's call was too great. At the time I was working a third shift job, so when my Thanksgiving morning shift ended around 4am, I headed straight for the local Meijer and got in line for four hours for the red 3DS bundled with Super Mario 3D Land to go on sale. I was not disappointed.
It's one of the must-own titles on the 3DS, and one that I felt compelled to beat 100%, which doesn't happen often. Even though I just sang the praises of cooperative multiplayer, I chose 3D Land of 3D World because of its multiplayer omission. There was a greater challenge in 3D Land, and that final level was the first and only time I've ever put my 3DS into sleep mode out of frustration.
This was also one of the first games to show you the value of the 3D technology in the system. While you can certainly find all the green stars and hidden items without it, the 3D does help you in some instances. It's a timeless game, so if you've never taken the time to play it, there's no time like the present.
For those of you who were born after 1990, I don't expect you to understand Mario-mania, and to a greater extent, Nintendo-mania. Nintendo was everywhere you looked. You probably already know that Super Mario Bros. 3 was first revealed to American audiences in the movie The Wizard. I'm not kidding when I say that The Wizard is legitly one of my all-time favorite movies. I even gave it its own dedicated weekly top 5 list. But that's how huge Nintendo and Mario were. They created an entire theatrically-released film that was written and built around the reveal of Super Mario Bros. 3. That wouldn't happen today. Actually, that couldn't happen today. In the age of the Internet, whatever game tried to take this same course of action would be leaked months in advance.
If Super Mario Bros. 2 was a departure (like I mentioned earlier), then SMB3 was the prodigal son returning. This felt like a next-gen game. Of course, we didn't have the term "next-gen" back then, but you get what I'm saying. Mario controlled better and had more abilities, there was a map screen (which meant that you could skip certain levels in favor of others), more power-ups, more diverse worlds, everything that had already made Mario so great was made even better here.
The only detriment to the game was it's lack of a save feature. In some ways it can be forgiven;Mario game had always been a one-sitting experience up to that point, and it wasn't until Super Mario World that Nintendo realized that the game had grown far too large for saves not to be included. But, as we know, there were ways to get right to the end of the game from the first world, so you didn't have to sit unhealthily close to your television screen for multiple hours to reach Bowser's castle.
Required playing for anyone who fancies themselves a retro gamer.
The Nintendo Wii, at least for me, became the first Nintendo console that I purchased solely for Nintendo's first-party titles. Don't get me wrong, I certainly played lots of other games on my Wii, but it was the Marios, Wii Sports, Zeldas, and Punch-Outs of the world that made me desire the system. Due to the high demand, I didn't get mine until a year after release, but it's not that big of a deal because that's when Super Mario Galaxy launched. The Wii was the first time (and likely the last time) that I stood outside of a store all night to try and get an item. I stood outside of a Toys R Us with two friends for over 8 hours in a crippling Ohio winter. By the time the doors opened, my feet hurt so bad from the cold that I was convinced I had done irreversible damage to them.
Nevertheless, when I finally got my hands on Super Mario Galaxy, it was worth every second of pain I had endured. I went through the game with both Mario and Luigi, collecting all 240 stars in about a week. Then, shortly thereafter, my system kicked the bucket. This was very weird considering Nintendo's track record of system quality. Since the system was obviously still under warranty, they repaired it and sent it back, but I lost all of my data in the process. But I didn't look at that as a negative, it was just a reason to go back and collect all 240 of those stars again, which I did.
Super Mario 64 was a landmark evolution for the series, and even though I really enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine, it was Galaxy that was truly the next step in that evolution. A lot of people prefer the sequel, but I've always been partial to this one, which is likely because of how much I suffered in order to play it.
And I think that we would all be in agreement that Nintendo needs to either make Super Mario Galaxy 3, or an HD collection of the first two. I would buy either one of those (or both) without hesitation.
If you want an in-depth explanation why this is not only my favorite Mario game, but my favorite game of all-time, then you can just go here. But if you're too exhausted from all this reading and don't want to read more, I'll make this an abridged version. Basically, everything that was great about Super Mario Bros. 3 was cranked up to 11 in Super Mario World. I love that Dinosaur Island is one continuous world and no longer a grouping of levels into stages, allowing you to go back and play previous levels for anything you may have missed. Speaking of things you may have missed, I love all the secrets packed into this game. I love that the only level you'll encounter the Torpedo Ted enemy in is one that requires you to sacrifice your bipedal dinosaur friend. A noble sacrifice, indeed.
The Valley of Bowser was a fitting atmosphere as a buildup for the finale, with Bowser himself flying around his castle with thunder and lightning crashing, silhouetting him every so slightly. The final battle was something that I had never experienced before, and for the six-year-old kid that I was at the time, it was a very nerveracking battle, especially when Bowser's clown 'copter begins stomping its way towards you with blood on its mind.
I own the game in five different ways (six if you count emulators), and I still play it on a regular basis. Again, you can read my full thoughts on the game in that link above, but for now, I'm going to go see if there's any other ways for me to spend more money on Super Mario World.