It could easily be said that I have a strong affinity for everything Mario. Ever since Santa delivered a glorious new NES complete with Super Mario Bros. on Christmas morning 1985 I’ve been in 1ove with the squat plumber from Brooklyn. With age I’ve grown to appreciate the stories that visionaries like Tim Schaffer have been able to impart on me as a gamer. What that means is I’ve slowly come to the realization that the story of Mario is quite ludicrous. No, in actuality when it comes to Mario games the story just sucks.
We’re on the cusp of great storytelling in games with titles like Mass Effect pushing the boundaries of what gamers can expect. The gaming community is certainly taking to the notion that games can be more than distracting media. Mario, on the other hand, continues on a path that all but excludes a narrative.
I’m only talking about the core Mario games, and not the hundreds of other places Nintendo’s mascot has shown up. At no point has the team behind Mario taken their plumber to unexplored character depth. You press start and the Princess is taken, and it’s up to you to find and rescue the poor lady. Peach’s only reason for existence is as an impetus to start Mario’s next great adventure. And yet nothing ever truly happens.
Each game in the series has been a reimagining of that first, great, title for the NES. Mario must wander through a Lewis Carroll land of size-changing mushrooms and flying turtles to once again defeat a giant lizard creature. That’s it. That is the story that has kept kids of all ages at home mindlessly staring at a television for hours each night.
It’s a feat that only a few, if any, games could accomplish today, and be as successful as Super Mario Galaxy has been. We’re not pretentious deep thinkers in the gaming community, but we often like our games with some substance. It’s a point of honor for Miyamoto that he is able to grant us our deepest desires without the aide of a reason. Hand Galaxy to a person who has never played a video game and you’d be hard pressed to get them to finish catching a hare. The reason is simple; there is nothing to grab them. They’ll be as fascinated as my mom that Christmas evening twenty-two years ago when she gave a fake smile as I ran in to tell her about the incredible underworld levels of Super Mario Bros.
Mario games continue on because of the legacy created in the 80s. Of course, you already know why Mario is still considered a pinnacle of gaming excellence. It’s the gameplay that draws us back to the same world and story time after time. None of us cares whether or not Mario saves the Princess; that just happens to be the way Nintendo decided to end the game. If the point was to deliver a letter to a friend on the other side of the Mushroom Kingdom, we would still line up and slobber all over the latest Mario title.
When it comes to gaming, nothing quite compares with Nintendo’s plumber. A simple jump has been refined to a golden gleam that leaves all other games looking vastly underdeveloped. Nintendo has lauded the gameplay as the true driving force in the industry, and everyone laughed. Silly Nintendo and their “kiddie” games. But there’s no denying the sheer power of perfectly tuned gaming once you spend any time with Mario.
The story in Mario games is vapid and uninteresting, and maybe some of us don’t care. No series has ever brought more joy with the release of its next title than Mario. There is no disputing Nintendo’s reign over videogames based on a single series, because Super Mario Bros. quite simply is gaming.