Is it okay to criticize Super Mario Brothers?

Posted: September 23, 2013 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

So, Friday night on Twitter, #unpopularopinionnight was trending. Deciding I had trolled the Final Fantasy VII fans enough by calling it overrated, I tweeted this:

I didn’t think too much about it. Figured it would get a couple of comments, some agreeing, some saying the first was still better.

We’ll say he’s undecided.

Most gamers know the history of the US version of Super Mario Brothers 2. Very quickly, it was adapted from a game called Doki Doki Panic (itself based on a Mario prototype testing vertical scrolling and multiplayer). It came to the US because NOA didn’t like the fact that the Japanese Mario 2 was virtually identical to the original, only much, much more difficult. Mario 2 US was the solution.

All that aside, this tweet did make me think. I was essentially calling out a classic, groundbreaking game as being an inferior game. Could I criticize a game that still makes top games lists today without denigrating what it meant for the video game industry upon its release?

First of all, yes, I really do believe the US Super Mario Brothers 2 is better than the original Super Mario Brothers. I have no issues saying that. I just think it’s a better game. You know what other Mario games I think are better than the original Mario? Every other sequel to Super Mario Brothers, from Super Mario Brothers 3 to Super Mario Galaxy 2. Does that mean I think SMB is a bad game? Not at all. It’s a great game, but it’s also immediately handicapped by being the first of its kind. There is almost no way it could stand up if judged objectively along side it’s sequels, but only because it set the foundation for those sequels to be bigger and better.

Video game sequels are in a unique position to build upon their predecessors in ways that other mediums, such as movies, can’t. Developers can take what worked, drop what might have been problematic, add some new quirks, and go with it. Mega Man has had 10 outings using virtually the same outline for each game. Horror movie franchises are the only other entertainment medium that can pull that off.

This isn’t specific to Super Mario Brothers either. The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Starfox, Final Fantasy, and Sonic the Hedgehog (the 16 bit sequels, don’t laugh) all are widely renowned games that have sequels that surpass what they were able to do in their initial outings. It doesn’t diminish them in any way, it is just that they were tasked with being the testing ground for new ideas. After they were released and absorbed by the gaming public at large, those ideas could be refined based on feedback from the players, giving us A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Starfox 64, Final Fantasy VI, and Sonic 2 and 3 (seriously, ignore everything after the Dreamcast).

What sets Super Mario Brothers apart here is that it set the foundation for everything. It was the first game nearly everyone with an NES played. It didn’t just test a new type of gameplay, it was testing gameplay itself. It was testing whether or not consumers were ready for more video games after the video game crash in the early 80’s. Look on any list of the most influential video games and you’ll find Super Mario Brothers at or near the very top. Almost always at least in the top three. Does that mean we can’t go back and say that excepting what it did for Nintendo, the NES, and video games in general, it isn’t as good as the games that followed it? Of course not. It laid the foundation for Super Mario Brothers 2, 3, World, etc… Saying that it isn’t as good is just making an opinion of it’s gameplay. It doesn’t take anything away from the importance it played in shaping the gaming market we enjoy today.

And Final Fantasy VII is vastly overrated. 😀

  1. brandonmc87 says:

    I actually hold the unpopular opinion of Mario 1 > 3, and oddly enough it has nothing to do with SMB1 being influential. I simply loved SMB Deluxe when it came out on Game Boy Color back in 1999. By the time I played Mario 3 a few years later, I had already played most of the other 2D Marios, and SMB3 simply didn’t dazzle me.

    That being said, I’m totally fine with criticizing Mario 1 or any game for that matter. Often the most influential games end up as the most overrated once a little time passes (you can click for my feelings on Half-Life:

    Great post, even though I disagree with ya.

    • javgbadmin says:

      That’s surprising. I think (key word here) that Mario 3 perfected and expanded everything Mario 1 did. I loved Mario 1 and still play it now and again, but 3 just feels like a much more complete game to me.

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