Most people should have seen this coming. I don’t know if I can think of a more consistent franchise than the Mario series. The pride and care that Nintendo uses when working on Mario is unmatched in the industry. Actually, it is one of the last things that Nintendo is even doing right anymore. They use to be the console for children. The console for adventurous developers. Now, they are the console maker for no one, with no real identity. That’s a long way from their greatest achievement, Super Mario Bros. 3.
If you have never played Super Mario Bros. 3, I feel so bad for you. What did you even do as a kid? This game is seminal. This game is absolutely flawless. It remains one of the purest video game experiences ever…even against today’s glossy, big-budget titles. Nintendo took an already amazing formula, and somehow, against all odds, made it better. We tend to think that we are getting next-level content from developers nowadays, but if you take a look back at what lived in that little gray cartridge, you will come to the realization that we are now conditioned to expect so little from video games. Call of Duty has sold more than 120 million copies, but can you honestly say that they’ve shaken up their format since 2003? No, not really, but why should they? People keep coming back for more.
The Super Mario series sold 262 million copies, and they upped the ante between Super Mario Bros. 2 and their crown jewel. I can sit here and write about all the great elements of the third installment: the level variety, the addition of the Raccoon power-up, the new bosses. But instead, I’ve spent the last two paragraphs talking about how Nintendo took my expectations to a new level. They had me…then they surprised me. That’s an amazing lesson for all developers, from indie to AAA.