Thursday, September 30, 2010

happy birthday mario.

i just found out that my good friend Mario is turning 25. similar to the teen-bopper speed-metal quartet Weezer, Mario's been around at most of they key stages of my life. allow me to reminisce:

  • growing up an adolescent playing the original "Super Mario Bros" on my friend Raj's NES after school. 
  • in junior high - playing SNES Mario Kart at Marshall Beasely's on the weekend, or b&w Mario on Tommy Chai's gameboy during science fairs. 
  • true, there was the brief affair with Sonic the Hedgehog at neighbor Milton's house (and on my Game Gear). but that was a short-lived fling-of-fancy, so we won't spend too much time on that. 
  • in highschool it was Mario-64 on the snuck-in TV of my boarding school dorm. 
  • thru highschool and college, on my freqeunt weekend/holiday visits home, there were many 4-player Mario Kart 64 races late into the night at my friend Bhuwan's house (after many a lengthy lecture by his father, or as we prepared to defend from an inevitable TP-attack) - with his younger brother Barun + the afore-mentioned Raj 
  • Mario Kart DS was a big hit during my travels - playing little kids in restaurant waits, or with Ben + his brother on the tube in London.
  • "the New Super Mario Bros" (DS) was a mainstay on many work flights around the world - whether it be thru an earthquake in Hawaii, or passing the time on a weekend trip thru Southeast Asia (where i finally bought myself an actual green mushroom)
  • during my many "grown up" years in Cincinnati" i clung to my youth by playing far too much Mario Kart Wii with close friends.
  • "Super Mario Galaxy" helped me deal with my girlfriend moving far away to NY.
  • and now that i'm actually in NY living with my fiance (the afore-mentioned girlfriend) - the newest 4-player, side-scrolling "Super Mario Bros" (Wii) has been a maddeningly frustrating big hit with our friends here. 

as Mario's grown up, so have i. most of my generation would probably argue, Mario's a bigger deal than Mickey Mouse or Spider-Man (well, let's not get TOO carried away). i can't wait to see what's next, to get to eventually play some Mario with my future kids, nephews, nieces, and grandkids. so anyways, i leave you with a pretty interesting piece i recently saw in an industry publication:

...a truly evergreen gaming franchise is celebrating a remarkable milestone for the industry. The endemic Super Mario Brothers turned 25 years old this month, celebrating a quarter of a century of bringing fame to Italian plumbers, mushrooms, and 1ups. The mere soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. echoes with nostalgia, not to mention the fact Mario and his supporting cast have endured as iconic characters beloved by all for much longer than most modern- day gaming heroes. Mario made his debut in Donkey Kong, but established his legend in Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), selling over 40 million copies worldwide, putting Nintendo, and Mario himself, at the forefront of gaming’s new identity.
As Nintendo grew with changing technology, from the NES to the Wii and into handheld devices like Game Boy and Nintendo DS, the Mario brand evolved as well, oftentimes launching a title alongside a new system to bring a familiar face into gamers’ homes with their latest console. Over time, Mario games have sold over 222 million copies across all platforms worldwide, ac- cording to Nintendo. Robert Lowe, Nintendo Marketing Manager UK Ireland, noted that Mario “is an enduring gaming icon that has a truly universal ap- peal. His games blend immense creativity, superb gameplay, and unbridled fun in a unique and spellbinding way.”
Though he’s gone through many iterations as technology has evolved, Mario continues to possess the staying power across generations, technology, and narration, allowing him to remain a videogame staple for over five genera- tions. While most cartoons, videogames, and movie characters strain to remain relevant, Mario does it with ease, bringing new and experienced gamers together. Nintendo has featured the character beyond his own titles as well, using Mario to introduce new play mechanics to gamers, like puzzle games via Dr. Mario, RPG games like Mario and Luigi on the DS, or ushering in the 3D-platform adventure with Super Mario 64, which many argue is the greatest videog- ame ever created. Even analog gamepads, now a staple across all forms of gaming, can give credit to Mario, as the control style was invented for players to better control the plumber in the 3D envi- ronment on Nintendo 64. This coupling of familiar, beloved characters with new technology has let Nintendo innovate beyond the joypad and console, breathing new life into the company and the industry as a whole.
Even after 25 years and over hundreds of millions of games sold, Nintendo confirmed that we can “rest assured [knowing] that it will be Mario who takes us on brand new adventures in the future.” To this day, a Mario game still sits in the top 10 for monthly NPD sales and news of his latest adventures - be it in the tried-and-true environment of the Mushroom Kingdom or in outer space on planets shaped like his head - create gamer buzz like no other. So here’s to you, Mario. A very happy birthday, with many more years to come.

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