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Editorial: The History of Mario, Part 7

Posted on Sun, Jun 20, 2004

Mario Golf/Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
Released: 1999/2003
Systems: Nintendo 64/GameCube

Developed by Camelot, developer of the Hot Shots Golf series, Mario Golf played uncannily like a Hot Shots Golf game with Mario Characters in it. That is to say, it was an incredibly well developed golf game with spot-on physics and enough excitement and visual razzmatazz to enthrall golf fans and non-fans alike. But that didn’t change the fact that it was essentially a standard golf game that just happened to have Mario and the gang in it, and Nintendo wanted to change that with the sequel. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, although again developed by Camelot, definitely remedied the Nintendo 64 game’s lack of true Mario ties by adding ingenious courses filled with classic Mario conventions that actually affected your play. Think sand hazards are bad enough? Try sand hazards with chain chomps in them. Also fun were the courses with various warp pipes laid about—hit the ball in, and it’d come out the other end (which wasn’t always necessarily a better spot, possibly even putting the ball farther away from the hole).

Mario Tennis
Released: 2000
System: Nintendo 64, Virtual Boy

Continuing the utterly to-the-point naming of the Mario sports games, Mario Tennis was just what it sounded like: a tennis game featuring various Mario characters. Like the Nintendo 64’s Mario Golf, it was a great game of tennis but not necessarily a great Mario game. Still, fans of tennis had plenty to enjoy, with various court types (clay, grass, etc.) that had noticeable effects on the ball, and enough depth in shot types to make Mario Tennis play better than some “realistic” tennis games. The Virtual Boy version is rare in being one of the few Virtual Boy games actually worth playing, and used the system’s unique 3D features to good effect, making it seem as though the ball really was traveling the distance between you and your opponent. A Mario Tennis game is in the works for the GameCube, although a release date has yet to be announced.

Super Smash Bros./Super Smash Bros. Melee
Released: 1999/2001
Systems: Nintendo 64/GameCube

If Mario Golf and Mario Tennis made Mario seem like he only participated in what are generally elitist, snobby sports, the Smash Bros. games definitely break that misconception. These are straight-up brawlers, in which Mario (and many other Nintendo characters) duke it out in four-player fisticuff fiascos. These weren’t exactly fighting games, though; players could only be defeated if their character was hit hard enough to launch them off of the arena, although there was recognized damage, as the harder a beating a player received, the easier it was to knock them out. The sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee (released for the GameCube) essentially featured the same concept and gameplay, but added tremendously better graphics, many new characters, an engaging Adventure mode, and enough Nintendo history and references to classic Nintendo games to make it a fanboy’s wet dream.

Mario Bros.
Released: 1983
System: Arcade

The forerunner to the Super Mario Bros. series, Mario Bros. was a simple arcade game in which two players (one playing as Mario and one playing as Luigi) would compete against each other as well as battle enemies. The game featured a single screen of various tiers of platforms, with warp pipes at the top and bottom. Enemies would come out of the warp pipes, and to collect the coins needed to win, the player had to dispatch those enemies by first hitting the platforms they were on from beneath and then jumping directly on them (the large “Pow!” block could also be hit a number of times to dispatch your foes). Mario Bros. was included as a secret in Super Mario Bros. 3, and is also included in every Super Mario Advance game, not to mention Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.

Mario is Missing
Released: 1993
Systems: NES, SNES, PC

Mario is Missing is an “edutainment” title designed strictly for children (aren’t Mario games in general designed to be fun for children, too?). The main character of the game was Luigi, because (obviously) Mario was missing. As Luigi, your job was to figure out why Mario went missing, and subsequently locate and rescue him once you did. But instead of going balls out and kicking all kinds of koopa !@#, you accomplished your mission by exploring the town and conversing with the locals (this was supposed to be an educational game, after all). The graphics were acceptable and the gameplay was reminiscent of the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago games, but for anyone over the age of four, the game was highly forgettable.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Released: 1996
System: SNES

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was co-developed by Square and Nintendo (back before their long breakup and eventual make-up). Obviously both companies are adept in certain genres, and this definitely shows in SMRPG, where basic RPG conventions are infused with a good dose of platforming action, resulting in one of the most original (and greatest) RPGs ever made. In the game, Mario had to journey with a group of fellow travelers to smite the evil Smithy, who crashed into our heroes’ world and destroyed the Star Road in the process, thus eliminating the ability for wishes to come true. The highlight of the game was the incredibly addictive “timed attack” battle system, where pushing buttons at the appropriate time would result in higher damage dealt on offense and lower damage incurred on defense. Who knew such a simple idea could bring so much fun into the standard, often lethargic menu-driven RPG battle system?

Paper Mario
Released: 2001
System: Nintendo 64

Although Paper Mario is a sequel in spirit to the Square/Nintendo developed Super Mario RPG, it was actually made by the relatively unknown folks at Intelligent Systems. Luckily, those folks are extremely talented, and Intelligent Systems definitely delivered. Sporting some highly stylized visuals (which blended 2D, “paper thin” characters with 3D backgrounds), Paper Mario established itself, once again, as one of the best and most original RPGs ever made. The story focused on Mario’s quest to find the seven Star Spirits necessary to defeat Bowser, who stole the Star Rod from Star Haven and used it to make himself virtually invincible. Just like Super Mario RPG, the most noteworthy feature (beyond the fresh visuals) was the “Action Command” battle system, where certain button-presses and analog-stick-wiggles were needed to make your attacks more powerful.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Released: 2003
System: Game Boy Advance

Mario & Luigi is the third installment in the Mario RPG series, and also marks the third different developer (Alpha Dreams) to provide a game to that series. Ditching the paper-thin visual style of Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi’s main draw was the ability to separately control Mario and Luigi at the same time (well, sort of). Depending on who was in front, Mario and Luigi could use their individual abilities together resulting in some interesting (and often humorous) results; for instance, if Luigi hits Mario from behind with his hammer, Mario would get squished, allowing him to squeeze through small openings that normal-sized Mario couldn’t bypass. The action command battle system returned and saw even more alterations, this time with special Bros. Attacks (requiring multiple button presses at key moments) that had Mario and Luigi working together to deal out major damage. Check out Gamer Talk’s review of Mario & Luigi here.


Part 1 - Overview
Part 2 - Super Mario Bros 1 + 2
Part 3 - Super Mario Bros 3 + World
Part 4 - Super Mario World 2 + 64
Part 5 - Super Mario Sunshine
Part 6 - Spin-Offs
Part 7 - Spin-Offs, Continued
Part 8 - Shigeru Miyamoto Biography

Posted By: Kris Pigna - 2988 Reads

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