September 15 2021

36 Years Later – Does Super Mario Bros Still Hold Up?

In the wide world of video games, there are a lot of names that come to mind when discussing history’s most important titles. Tetris, Pong, Doom, Pokemon, and even modern games like PUBG are often held in this regard, as games that set the stage for years or decades to come. In the world of 2D platformers, however, no game even approaches the importance of 1985’s Super Mario Bros. Recently celebrating its 36th birthday on September 13, we want to take a look back at what made this game such a smash hit, and see if it’s still worth playing today.

A Time of Recovery

The 80s were a challenging era for video games. The decade before, the potential of video game systems had made them breakout cultural hits, with millions of users clamoring for what was unprecedented tech. Of course, as limited as these systems were, it was difficult to leverage them to make games that really stood out. This led to the market being flooded with low-quality titles, such as 1982’s infamous Atari 2600 game E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Often regarded as the worst game in history as noted by the BBC, this game marked the culmination of the terrible market, just before the 1983 video game market crash.

E.T.” (CC BY 2.0) by Digital Game Museum

Recovering from this dark time meant developers not just pushing hardware, but also working with the software to do things that had never been seen before. This was the goal of then console newcomer Nintendo, which set its sights high on developing something new. Helmed by famed developers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, the company decided on a smooth-scrolling platformer as their then magnum opus.

An Eternal Classic

Undergoing numerous idea changes and redesigns, including giving Mario a gun at one point according to Digital Spy, Super Mario Bros would go on to revolutionize the gaming market. Super Mario Bros had a challenge, it had wonder, it had some of the most precise controls that gamers had ever experienced, and it took the world by storm. Eventually selling 58 million copies and becoming the 6th best-selling game of all time, Mario played a huge part in re-establishing the potential of what video games could do. So, why is it still loved?

As much as major AAA developers like to push the idea that the flashiest games are the best, gamers have consistently disagreed with this fact. For a more established illustration of this idea, consider the related landscape of casino games with Buzz Bingo. The individual rooms and games on this service like Rainbow Riches and Chocolicious are all variations on the same generations-old ideas, but they’re still incredibly popular. As with Super Mario, the gameplay is the core concern here, even if the graphics don’t bring modern computers to their knees.

Mario still feels fantastic to play, and it’s still a challenge. It’s still a classic title that perfectly meets its goal, and because of this, it’s essentially immune to the chunkiness that drags down so many other titles of the era. Still loved by classic gamers, and still massive in the speedrunning scene, Super Mario Bros isn’t just influential, it’s timeless. If you’ve never played it before, we can’t recommend enough jumping in and seeing what the hype’s about, even if you need warp zones to get to the end.


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