It’s March 10, and that means it’s Mario Day, a day to celebrate one of the greatest and most enduring video game series we have. Why March 10? The abbreviation is Mar. 10, or, shortened, Mar10, which looks just like Mario. Maybe that’s a bit of a silly excuse for the day, but Mario truly deserves it. Without him, we may not have video games as we know them today.
In the early 1980s, the video game industry was in bad shape. Home consoles and games just weren’t selling. But soon Nintendo would come along to reverse that trend, and their best weapon to do so was an Italian plumber named Mario.
Originally, Mario wasn’t named Mario, and he didn’t even star in his own game. He was instead the protagonist in the classic game Donkey Kong. Initially unnamed, and later called simply Jumpman, eventually the Nintendo’s hero came to be called Mario. Soon after Donkey Kong was defeated Mario was joined by his green-clad brother Luigi in the multiplayer game Mario Bros where they competed on a single screen to defeat crabs, turtles, and other baddies.
His big break, however, came when he powered up and became Super Mario in one of the most important (and best) video games ever made, Super Mario Bros. That game, along with the Nintendo Entertainment System, brought the video game industry in the United states back to life. We’ve never looked back, and neither has Mario.
From there, Mario went on to star in many games on the NES and Nintendo’s handheld the Game Boy, and appeared as a guest character in many more. Some of the highlights are Super Mario Bros. 2 (a personal favorite of mine), Dr. Mario, Donkey Kong Jr., and NES Open Tournament Golf. He also gained a new rival on the Game Boy in the form of Wario, who soon started starring in his own games. If you play one Gameboy game, I suggest Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land.
And the great news is that many of those games are available on the Nintendo New 3DS and Nintendo 2DS systems through the Nintendo E-Shop. Just pick up an E-Shop card (available in denominations of $70, $50, $45, $35, $20, $10, or $5) and download the games to play on the go.
Throughout the next few years Mario continued to show up in a variety of games such as Super Mario World on Nintendo’s new console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment system. Mario also jumped into some new genres, including the launch of some of his most successful spin-offs, Super Mario Kart and Super Mario RPG. These games aren’t currently available on any console being sold today, but if you have Nintendo’s previous console the Wii U they are available on that console’s E-Shop, using the same currency linked above.
Also available on the Wii U is one of Mario’s best and most important games: Super Mario 64. This is the game that brought Mario into 3D, and for many of us that grew up in that era was proof that 3D gaming and analog control was the future. Two versions of the game are available on the Wii U: Super Mario 64, a port of the original, and Super Mario 64 DS, a port of the Nintendo DS remake. The remake comes with some graphical updates, additional playable characters, and a great collection of minigames that use the touch screen. It does come with the downside of worse controls, however, due to the Nintendo DS’s lack of an analog stick. If you only play one, I’d suggest going with the original.
The Nintendo 64 was also the start of another massively popular Mario spinoff: Mario Party, a collection of minigames. That series is still running strong today. Mario also returned to sports on the N64, and branched out to more than golf, eventually starring in tennis, soccer, basketball, and even Olympic games. The other notable release on that console that featured Mario was Super Smash Bros, a fighting game starring a cast of Nintendo All-Stars. Mario and his crew have been central to each game in the Smash Bros. series.
The next few Nintendo consoles featured a further evolution of Mario games. On the GameCube he starred in what many consider the low point in the Mario series, Super Mario Sunshine. In this game Mario visited a sunny island and piloted a water-powered jetpack. Mario’s side adventures also continued on the GameCube, with entries in all of his major spin-off series.
The Wii was one of the most successful game consoles ever, and it was the home to two of the best Mario games ever made. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are must-play games. If this article inspires to to pick up an older console to play a Mario game, it should be a Wii and these games. They are magical journeys through space and are some of the most pure fun you can have playing a video game.
The Wii U, aside from the earlier games that I mentioned previously, was also home to Super Mario 3D World. This game was a return to shorter, linear levels like the earlier Mario games, rather than the open levels of the other 3D Mario games. And speaking of classic Mario, you can also find Super Mario Maker on the Wii U. That game lets you build and play your own 2D Mario levels.
Mario also stars in a bunch of games on the Nintendo Switch, which was just released about a year ago. The headliner is without a doubt Super Mario Odyssey, a huge game where Mario travels the world and take control of his enemies to solve puzzles and beat Bowser. The Switch is also home to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, maybe the best Mario Kart game ever made. And we also have a new Mario series, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, a strategy game in the tradition of X-Com.
So, this March 10 there is no shortage of Mario games for you to play. Please go back to one of your favorite classics, watch his movie, or pick up one of his new adventures. If you haven’t played one in a while you may remember why you fell in love with gaming in the first place. And if you haven’t ever played a Mario game you’re in for a treat.