RetroVision – Super Mario Bros., Saving the Best for Last…. & First

Super Mario Maker is out later this week exclusively for the Wii U, and this year is the 30th Anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros..  So here at Rings & Coins we’ll be having a range of Mario themed content coming your way over the course of the next few weeks.  Don’t worry they’ll be other stuff too, but expect a fair amount coverage related to arguably gaming’s most iconic character, and the man who created him, Shigeru Miyamoto.

So most will know Super Mario Bros., one the world’s most iconic games, as the game that launched the NES.  However, Nintendo actually intended the game to be the console’s swansong.  Now stay with me on this one, I honestly haven’t lost my mind.  You see it obviously wasn’t the Nintendo Entertainment System that Nintendo had intended Super Mario Bros to send off, but rather the Famicom.

Famicom & Mario 3
The Famicom with Super Mario Bros. 3

Whilst the NES launched in the west in 1985, the original Japanese version, the Famicom, launched much earlier in 1983.  On top of this, despite the long console lifecycles we have today, Nintendo intended to send the console into semi-retirement in 1986, through the launch of the Famicom Disk System.  As such Nintendo felt that they had pushed the system as much as they could and wanted a big showcase game to send the console off.  This would be the 1985 release of Super Mario Bros..

However, due to the strength of Atari, Nintendo did not release the Famicom in America in 1983.  Waiting until two years after the crash of the North American market, and Atari’s subsequent fall from grace.  This would in turn time in nicely with the release of Shigeru Miyamoto’s masterpiece, thus becoming the launch game for the console’s global release.

Mario Bros 1-1
Iconic Opening to Super Mario Bros.

You may think, well what about all of the games that came after, such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Castlevania.  Well all of these games were Famicom Disk System games in Japan.  For those not in the know, the Famicom Disk System is an add on for the Famicom that utilised re-writable floppy disks in order to play games, and also featured a save system.  Something that had to be mimicked through passwords or battery-backed memory, when games such as these were released on the NES in cartridge form.  It also featured many games never released outside of Japan, such as the excellent Mysterious Murasame Castle.

In fact the sequel to the Super Mario Bros. was not only exclusive to the Famicom Disk System, but was its best selling game.  Oh and of course by sequel I’m referring to is what most of us in the west know as Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels, and not what most think of when referring to Super Mario Bros. 2.  But that’s a story for another day.

Disk System & Lost Levels
Famicom Disk System & Super Mario Bros 2

Super Mario Bros. even went on to be re-released on the Famicom Disk System a year later in 1986.  This version even included an alternate version of the game’s legendary Minus World glitch.  This alteration sees gamers play three stages, all three of which can be beaten.  Once beaten the player will return to the main menu as though they have finished the game, unlike the standard version which cannot be completed.

Nintendo may have intended Super Mario Bros. to send the Famicom out with a bang.  But in actual fact the popularity of the Famicom with the Japanese audience would prove it would survive to fight for a long time to come, even outlasting its intended successor.  Nevertheless, Mario would still act as one of the console’s last big blockbusters.  But this game would actually be Super Mario Bros. 3.  As despite the second game in the series moving to the disk system, Nintendo took the decision to return to the power of cartridges for the third entry.  Owing to both its lasting popularity, and the success the console was seeing in America and Europe.  A decision that continued into the console’s successor, the Super Famicom / Super Nintendo.

30th Anniversary
30th Anniversary Art Created in Super Mario Maker

Ultimately Super Mario’s legacy would clearly last far longer than not only the console it was intended to both open and close, but arguably all consoles.  It was planned as a send off, but actually began the gaming experience for many.  The success of Super Mario Bros. would propel not only the NES/Famicom into the homes of millions, but would help in making gaming what it is today.  30 years later and we’re all still playing Super Mario Bros.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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