Okay, since I beat the original Super Mario Bros. game on my Zodiac's emulator a week ago, I've been a bit obsessed with Nintendo's mascot. First, I've gone through all the Wikipedia articles about Mario and Nintendo and much of history of gaming consoles themselves to help fill in my memory gaps from 20 years ago. Like, when did the Nintendo Entertainment System and Mario get launched again? Answer: 1985. That makes me about 13 yo, which makes sense as that's around when I remember my friends playing that system. The original Super Mario Bros. was packaged with the game, along with Duck Hunt. Remember?
Okay, good. That gives me a starting point, but how did Mario go from that original game to being such an icon in the industry? Ahhh, that's where the rest of the product's history gets interesting. It's a bit confusing because Nintendo released quite a few versions of all the Super Mario games both here, in Japan and on different platforms (NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, GameBoy Color/Advance/DS). You can read it all on Wikipedia, but let me give you an overview of what I've figured out.
The original Super Mario Bros. on the NES was followed by a couple sequels. Super Mario 2 was released in 1988 and was actually a port of another game Nintendo had in the Japanese market called Doki Doki Panic. Super Mario 3 was released in 1990, and is considered the best selling stand-alone video game of all time with 18 million copies sold (the original Super Mario sold 40 million, but with the console). After that the Super Nintendo came out (SNES) and Nintendo released Super Mario World in 1991. This is a much more advanced game and introduces Yoshi the dinosaur, who stars in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, which was released in 1995. Also, Nintendo released Super Mario All-Stars in 1993, where they re-made the first three games and additional "Lost Levels" (released in Japan as Super Mario 2) to all have the same look and feel with improved graphics for the SNES.
I wish my SNES emulator worked well on the Zodiac because I'd be able to play the first 5 games (All Stars + Super Mario World 1 and 2) with just those ROMs, but alas, it's a bit slow. So I've been playing the NES versions instead. Now, what's interesting is I found a ROM of a "back-port" of Super Mario World to NES which isn't mentioned anywhere in Wikipedia. I know nothing more about it than it exists and is made for the 8-bit console.
Now, here's where my confusion started: You see, I had actually bought and played most of these Mario games before, I just didn't realize it. Nintendo has ported most of the Super Mario Bros. series to the GameBoy Advance, but in a really odd order. For example Super Mario Advance (the first in the series of 4), is a port of the Super Mario All-Stars Version of Super Mario Bros. 2. The next game, SMB Advance 2 is actually a port of Super Mario Brothers World. The third Advance title is actually Yoshi's Island, and the fourth goes back to SMB 3! Confused yet? So was I.
These are in my opinion the "classic" Super Mario Bros.: Side scrolling, with Mario as the main protagonist. But wait, there's more Super Mario!
First is Super Mario 64 which I found an Mac emulator and ROM for the other night. (By the way, in case you think I'm trolling around the illicit dark P2P areas of the internet looking for these game ROMs to play, think again. A 10 minute effort using any of the search engines will pull up thousands of old game titles, in the clear). The emulator is called SixtyForce and though it has trouble with some other titles, is able to play 8MB ROM of Super Mario 64 with no problems. It's actually really cool - I can't wait until I can figure out how to get my gamepad to work with it to play! Or maybe I should go get a Nintendo DS after all, since they just ported it to that system (Super Mario 64 DS). ;-)
Then there's the latest, which is Super Mario Sunshine, for the GameCube. I was about an inch away from buying the system and this game last night at Fry's: Total cost $120. I figured I'd wait until I've gone through all the rest of the titles first, and by that time the GameCube will be on sale or I can get one on eBay or something for even less. Actually, I looked around on eBay for an SNES the other night and found you can still get them in pretty mint condition, including a bunch of games like Super Mario All Stars (which has the first four games on it). But I decided I could live without it, though the idea sort of appeals to me in a retro-gaming sort of way. Oh, and there are some other offshoots, by the way, like Paper Mario, and Super Mario RPG. Maybe I'll get to these once I've gone through the rest.
It's amazing how good these 20, 15, and 10 year old games are. Especially on my Zodiac, where they're portable and convenient (last night I played SMB 3 on the couch while my wife watch a chick flick - both of us were happy.) Even the 8-bit color ones are amazing. It's incredible to see how much they were pushing the platform as it got older - from the first game to SMB3 is incredible. You'd think they were written for different consoles, but they both played on the original NES.
Super Mario Rules!