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EGM Feature:
The 5 Most Influential Japanese Games
Day Three: Super Mario Bros.

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Posted on November 2, 2011 AT 12:00pm

1985: Rise of the Plumber

All this week, EGMNOW.com takes a look at our picks for the five most influential Japanese videogames ever released. These titles not only shaped us as players—and had dramatic, long-lasting impacts on the entire industry—but also transcended videogaming to become cultural icons.

The Game: After having helped design three arcade titles for Nintendo, staff graphic artist Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to take his character—originally named Jumpman for his debut in Miyamoto’s first title, Donkey Kong—and put him into a game where power-ups could turn you big or small, and secret rooms could be discovered via exploration. When tapped by Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi for a game for the company’s new home console, Miyamoto teamed up with designer Takashi Tezuka to take that character—now named Mario—and build around him the platforming adventure that would become Super Mario Bros., the company’s landmark hit.

The Effect It Had: There’s no hesitation in saying that without Super Mario Bros., Nintendo may never have become a gaming powerhouse. The home of Mario’s original adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom—the Nintendo Entertainment System—came as North America was still recovering from the Great Videogame Crash of 1983, and Super Mario Bros. was the game that convinced tens of millions of consumers to give home consoles another chance.

Mario was the game you had to own, even if you weren’t exactly sure why. For me, personally, I’d received the NES pack that came bundled with Duck Hunt and Gyromite. When Super Mario Bros. came out nearly a month later, I called every store in my area, desperate to find somebody who had it in stock so that I could bug my parents to buy me a copy. I knew very little about the actual game, but I did know one thing—everybody else I talked to was desperate to get their hands on the game, so I was, too.

It turned out that plenty of people felt the same way. Super Mario Bros. would end up selling more than 40 million copies worldwide over its lifetime—and that’s not even including later rereleases on platforms such as the Game Boy Advance and Wii Virtual Console. Until it was outsold by another of Nintendo’s titles—Wii Sports—just a few short years ago, Super Mario Bros. still stood proud as the top-selling videogame of all time.

Its Lasting Influence: Fully noting the influence Super Mario Bros. has had on videogaming, Nintendo, and pop culture itself would be nearly impossible. Twenty-five-plus years later, Mario is still one of the most beloved games of all time, and its hero has not only become the most well-known face of gaming, but at times, he’s also been more recognizable in public surveys than even Mickey Mouse.

Super Mario Bros. gave birth to the platforming genre as we know it, setting a major trend that publishers and developers of all stripes would follow not only through the 8-bit generation, but also into the next. Mario popularized the idea of the mascot character, leading to a wide array of imitators and inspirations—include rival Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, a character who himself helped shape and define his parent company in immense ways.

Even more than the direct influence Super Mario Bros. had on gaming, far more important was how Mario helped introduce a vast variety of players to videogames—male and female, hardcore and casual, young and old. Super Mario Bros. was a game families could play together, siblings could compete at, and people who’d never touched a videogame before in their lives could understand and enjoy. Mario didn’t just help solidify Nintendo as a company that always strived to create experiences for anyone and everyone—he helped the world better understand a hobby that was still struggling for acceptance.

What do you think of Super Mario Bros. being one of our top choices? How do you feel it’s influenced the world of videogames—and do you have any special memories or experiences with the game? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

EGMNOW’s Five Most Influential Japanese Games

Day 1: Space Invaders

Day 2: Pac-Man

Day 3: Super Mario Bros.

Day 4: Game #4 (Coming Thursday)

Day 5: Game #5 (Coming Friday)

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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