It’s been a while since we had a pop culture phenomenon like Pokémon or Harry Potter. But since the dawn of the 21st century, a video game craze has been sweeping the world. With countless sequels and remakes in the works, it’s often hard to keep up with all the developments.
The most recent installment in the Super Mario series, Super Mario World, turned 20 a few months ago. And while the game is considered by many to be an all-time classic, it hasn’t been without its haters. Specifically, some have alleged that the game is misogynistic and violent, due to its portrayal of women and animals. They even went as far as to boycott the game altogether.
But while some may have had legitimate gripes, it’s impossible to deny that Super Mario World is a brilliant game. And if you’re a true believer in the Power of Nintendo, then it’s time to celebrate, as this magnificent game is now on Blu-ray.
As with most cultural phenomena, there are several ways to look at Super Mario World. And to honor the legacy of one of the most influential companies in gaming, here are some interesting nuggets about the game and its creator, Nintendo.
The Game Is Pretty Good
While the critics may have had a problem with the game’s story and characters, the general public didn’t. In fact, as of April 2021, the game is the 8th bestselling title on the Google Play Store. And considering how easy it is to pick up and play, that’s no small feat.
And how exactly does one play Super Mario World? Simply pick a character and watch as video game sprites fly across the screen at you. Mario, the classic green dinosaur from the original 3D Mario Bros game, may be the most popular character here, followed by Luigi, the purple dinosaur from the same game. But it’s hard to say exactly as thousands of people have played the game over the years, resulting in one of the most diverse collections of characters ever seen in a video game.
It Inspired Many
It wasn’t just the critical backlash that had Super Mario World fans worried. The game’s existence was seriously jeopardized when Nintendo decided to discontinue production of the NES in 2003. Only 300,000 units were sold, and fans were in danger of never experiencing the magical world of Mario again.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Several companies continued producing carts and accessories for the system well after Nintendo stopped manufacturing them. Which is why the game is still playable today, despite being nearly 20 years old. And although the graphics might not pop up quite as brightly as they did on your television in 1991, the gameplay doesn’t feel impaired in any way.
Just as importantly, the success of Super Mario World helped revitalize the dying video game industry in the early 2000s. Sales soared, and interest in the medium grew, leading to a golden age of video games.
It Was A Real Turning Point
It wasn’t just the threat of obsolescence that made the early 2000s so perilous for video game fans. The entire decade was a struggle, with many layoffs and cost-cutting measures. And although it’s not always easy to determine exactly what was responsible for a given industry trend, Super Mario World is often cited as the turning point for the video game industry in the early 21st century.
According to Wikipedia, within three months of the game’s release in 1991, sales reached 500,000 units. That’s an incredibly high number for a video game that hadn’t even been on the market for a full year. And it’s almost certain that without a major push from Nintendo, the video game industry would have found itself in a tailspin, never to recover.
It wasn’t just the commercial success of Super Mario World that pushed the video game industry into a new era. The fact that the game was so easy to pick up and play yet offered such a rich experience, coupled with the fact that it was the first 3D game to feature the iconic Mario characters, helped establish the platformer as the go-to genre for casual gamers. From that point on, the video game industry would find itself in the habit of continually churning out new hits, with no need to focus as much on growing an audience.
It Was A Game Changer
In terms of innovation, Super Mario World might not seem like much. After all, it’s essentially the same game as The Legend of Zelda, which was first released in 1986 and is considered by many to be the greatest game of all time. But beyond that, it’s quite difficult to pinpoint exactly what made Super Mario World unique, aside from its characters and setting.
According to Kotaku, a few key innovations made the game stand out from the original Zelda. First of all, the ability to jump directly into the action, bypassing the need for a cutscene. Second, the inclusion of other characters, such as Yoshi, which unlocked new areas of the game and resulted in a much larger playable map, as well as the Toads, whose antics provide some much-needed comedy relief.
It Wasn’t Everyone’s Favorite
Despite its commercial success and critical acclaim, Super Mario World certainly wasn’t everyone’s favorite game. In fact, when the 3D Super Mario Bros game was released for the SNES in Japan, it sold only 700 units in its first week. But as I discussed in detail in my review, this might not be totally fair to judge the game by. Especially since it was ported over to the NES later that year and became an immediate success, selling almost a million units in its first month, followed by 2.4 million in its first year. So it seems that while some people may have genuinely disliked the game, most gamers have come to accept it as a classic.
It Helped Keep Nintendo Afloat
Although the video game industry has seen many ups and downs over the years, it’s fair to say that things haven’t been easy. Many have blamed gaming for the poor state of today’s world, with some going so far as to say that playing video games is actually harming the brain. But as far as Nintendo is concerned, the success of Super Mario World has always been enough to keep the company afloat. Despite the criticism and backlash, the company has continued to make and sell games, releasing some of the most popular titles of all time, such as Pokémon Sun and Moon and Animal Crossing. And with the continued popularity of mobile gaming and social media, it’s hard to imagine that the company would ever be in a position where it would actually declare bankruptcy. Especially since any serious dip in their financial state would almost certainly lead to the decline of their iconic mascot, Mario.
It Was A One-Off
It’s safe to say that Super Mario World is one of the most important games of all time. Not just because it helped define a genre and sold a lot of copies. But because it was a one-off event, something that hasn’t been repeated, and may never be. As previously mentioned, almost every aspect of the game, from its graphics to its music, is unique to the experience. While it’s great to celebrate the game’s 20th anniversary, it’s important to keep in mind that this one-off game may be the most significant and influential work the company has ever done.
And in terms of video games as a whole, it’s safe to say that this one-off event has altered the course of entertainment history, creating something new and special, and leaving an indelible mark on the industry.