Nintendo’s red overall-wearing, Koopa-crushin’ mascot is turning 30 this month!

With the release of Super Mario Maker, now is the best time to revisit some watershed moments in the life of our favorite Italo-Japanese plumber:

  1. Donkey Kong (1981) introduces “Jumpman”

Before Mario jumped onto the Nintendo NES home console in 1985, he made his first appearance in the arcade classic Donkey Kong, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto.

1981 was technically the first appearance of Mario, known at this time as “Jumpman”. The character would hammer his way up metal structures in an effort to reach an angry ape and rescue his girl, Pauline.

  1. Super Mario Bros. (1985) becomes the launch title for NES

Home console video-gaming was born in the U.S. with release of the Nintendo Entertainment System.* In Super Mario Bros. (1985), Princess Peach has been kidnapped, and it’s up to Mario and his brother Luigi to rescue her from the dastardly dino Bowser.

On this trek through the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario would acquire special power-ups to aid him in his journey: magic shrooms, fire-flowers and extra life one-ups.

Gamers could now go on a quest with Mario without leaving their couch.

  1. The release of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)

Any fan of Mario will tell you that Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988) was a game changer in more ways than one.

The title introduced the map screen and more importantly the ability for the main character to fly up into the clouds! The bright yellow box art was a ray of sunshine for fans and the game set the bar even higher for future Mario titles.

I could talk for days about the music alone in Mario 3, but we have a limited time on this earth, so I’ll move on.

  1. Super Mario Land (1989) on Game Boy

Only a year later, Mario went mobile.

Now, four AA batteries could immerse you in a Mario adventure virtually anywhere!

Looking back, it’s kind of lame that Nintendo’s Game Boy played cartridges on a dull black and white screen, but at the time the details were insignificant compared to the gameplay.

Despite the simple structure and design, the success of Super Mario Land (1989) would allow Nintendo become a major player in the hand-held video game market of the 1990’s.

  1. SNES hits store shelves with Super Mario World (1991)

The title of Super Nintendo’s first game was appropriate considering the size and scope of Mario’s new environments. 16-bit components had double the power of the previous 8-bit “regular” Nintendo.

Better graphics, more secret levels, creepy ghost houses and the introduction of Yoshi doubled the enjoyment for die hard Nintendo fans. To this day, it’s still a toss-up regarding which video game I enjoy more: this or Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988).

  1. Super Mario Kart (1992)

I would be remiss in my duties as a critic/pop culturalist if I left out Super Mario Kart. 1992 was the year of the racing game that would allow many of Nintendo’s characters to cross over, race and even have a head to head battle mode.

Yoshi finally got his revenge on Mario for all those times Mario dumped his buddy down a death trap to save his own hide. James Rolfe (aka: “The Angry Video Game Nerd”) once said: “…You weren’t supposed to race fair. The whole idea was to sabotage the race for the other players.”

The Red Koopa Shell would usually make the difference between a podium spot and a long ride home.

  1. Yoshi’s Island (1995)

The Yoshi character become popular enough in its own right to justify the release of its own game in 1995.

In the follow-up to Super Mario World (1991) called Yoshi’s Island, Yoshi is tasked with transporting Baby Mario through new zones filled with baddies. Yoshi could shoot eggs at his opponents and transform into multicolored vehicles in order to reach checkpoints.

Regardless of your feelings toward Baby Mario’s ear-piercing cry, the game currently holds a 9.4/10 on IGN.com

  1. Super Mario 64 (1996)

Nintendo went 3-D with release of its N64 console in 1996, and Mario spearheaded the revolution. Super Mario 64 (1996) was a giant leap forward in console gaming.

Super Mario 64 (1996) was most impressive video game my 10-year-old self had ever seen! I couldn’t tell you what a polygon was at the time, but I could tell you that this game pulled me in like a vortex!

Moreover, the entire journey takes place in a castle, which lead to alternate realms. Complex goals and tricky boss battles challenged my prepubescent mind. I was learning critical thinking from a video game. Who would have guessed?!

  1. Mario Kart 64 (1997)

The late 90’s was the time for an old classic to get revamped.

Personally, my fondest memories of the Mario Kart series are from playing Mario Kart 64 (1997). With 3 dimensional environments, you could now hide on multiple tiers of a building and wait for your foes to come to you. Racing friends and/or the CPU led to hours and hours of replay value.

With the passage of time, the Mario Kart series has become a phenomenon unto itself – new versions of the classic game are always being re-tooled for Nintendo consoles.

  1. Super Smash Bros. (1999)

If Mario Kart’s battle mode wasn’t enough for you, in Super Smash Bros. (1999), your favorite Nintendo characters were out of their vehicles and ready to rumble!

Say you wanted to have the ultimate brother vs. brother showdown – Mario and Luigi can go at it Mortal Kombat (1992) style and beat the coins out of one another! More importantly, many more Nintendo icons have joined the fight: Link, Samus, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Star Fox, Pikachu and others.

Like Mario Kart, this game also set the stage for many spin-off titles.

Honorable mentions:

Mario Bros. (1983)

Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)

Dr. Mario (1990)

Mario Paint (1992)

Mario Party (1998)

Paper Mario (2001)

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009)

* Sure Pong, Intellivision and Atari were technically the first home consoles but they were as close to the NES as a Ford Model –T was to a Corvette Stingray!

By: Curtis M. Parvin 9/11/15

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