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    The Best and Worst of Mario
    Monday, 11 August 2008
    Hot on the heels of our latest Fanning the Flames feature we take a look at the best and worst of the Mario titles, the games Nintendo should be taking forward with them and the games best left in the past and consigned to the scrapheap.

    3D Platformers

    Best - Mario 64 (N64)
    What can be said about SM64 that hasn’t been said before? Mario’s first 3D outing is given the honour of defining the 3D platformers. Every one of them owes a debt in one way or another to Mario whether it’s the perfect analogue stick controls, the faultless camera controls or the idea of platforming collection based missions outside of the usual A to B premise. (Donkey Kong 64 however famously took collection far too far). The title was jam packed full of little nuances, stand out levels and inspiring moments of brilliance which many games since have failed to come close to matching. There have been games since that have come close to its brilliance and those that have even built upon and surpassed various elements of the game but it will always be remembered as the definitive 3D platformer. Yes the recent Super Mario Galaxy was sublime but Mario 64 has to be remember for everything it did for 3D platforming and for shaping the direction the genre has taken ever since.

    Worst - Mario Clash (VB)
    Mario Clash was a Virtual Boy game that was headache inducing (usual for the console) though also because of the migraine-inducing gameplay. It was basically a 3D update of the original Mario Bros game and involved clearing a stage of it’s enemies. This entails a boring and dreary mechanic of getting koopa shells and throwing them either into or away from the screens and trying to hit other enemies and knock them into the pit. Where it all comes tumbling down is that Mario cannot aim for love nor money, resulting in what looks like a prefect throw go hurtling past an enemy. The game had 40 levels although oddly no save system meaning you could pick to start on whatever level you choose to. The graphics, despite their red nature, aren’t actually that bad - with Mario’s model being relatively well detailed and some of the levels platforms showing good attention to detail. However none of this helps to make up for a 2D game that never should have strayed into the 3D world of the Virtual Boy.

    2D Platformers

    Best - Super Mario Brothers 3 (NES)
    There are so many games that perhaps could lay claim to this title; the original Super Mario Bros. for the way it defined the 2D platformer, or perhaps Super Mario World for being the ultimate refinement of 2D Mario, or how about Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, with it’s gorgeous canyon drawn backgrounds? Despite all these titles’ claims to the title. There can be only one best 2D platformer; Super Mario Brothers 3. After the slight sidestep that was the Doku Doku Panic remake Super Mario Brothers 2, the world was introduced to this beauty. Nintendo decided to go back to purity of the original and build upon those mechanics. Adding an overworld map added depth, as players planned their route hoping not to bump into Hammer Bros or even worse Koopa’s airship. In the levels themselves the innovations continued, with the new power ups in the form of suits. The frog and tanooki were awesome - but the most incredible and gaming changing was the racoon suit. It opened a whole new level of movement around the levels and coupled with the new scrolling system (which allowed the player to go backwards, up, and diagonally beyond the usual flat plain) gave an entirely new sense of freedom, which was needed to discover some of the well hidden secrets the game had to offer. SMB3 was perhaps the biggest cultural phenomenon in gaming at the time, resulting in more merchandise being released than you could shake a Goomba at; lunch boxes, clothing and of course the Super Mario Bros 3 cartoon. Although it had dreadful voice acting, it helped to retell the Mario story via other media and was perhaps the only TV show that kept kids away from their NES.

    Worst - Hotel Mario (CDi)
    Actually more like a Puzzle game, but it’s original conception as a sequel to the sublime Super Mario World and its own position as perhaps the worst Mario game of all time means it simply has to be included in this list. Nintendo famously allowed two of its key franchises - Mario and Zelda - to appear on Phillips’ CDi machine. This ended up leading to some of the most derided games in both franchises' history. One of the first titles planned was Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds, intended as a game set in the real world which would use and improve upon the superb mechanics of Super Mario World. However this proved to not be possible with the CDi hardware so the games assets and resources were transferred over to Hotel Mario... and what a mistake that proved to be. The title did actually have a similar structure to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, though instead of visiting the Koopa Kids’ castles, the mission was to bring down their hotel empire. The story was presented by poorly animated cartoons with awful voice acting. Once these were over, the game was simple puzzle solving, with a littering of Mario universe characters coming out of their hotel rooms to cause trouble and prevent Mario from reaching the elevator to the rooftop boss battles. These battles were not even close to the worst boss battles from previous Mario games. These were uniquely bad. Never before has "steaming turd" so aptly described a video game.


    Best - Mario Tennis (N64)
    Now this was a tough call. Camelot bring a lot of class and pedigree to their Mario Golf series, meaning their two entries in that series were both in contention. However the slow paced nature of these meant that multiplayer could sometimes become tiresome with four players. Whereas the fast paced tennis gameplay made four player sessions an incredible, long lasting and highly enjoyable experience. The sheer pace and exhilaration of a match clenching rally is something only a select few tennis game have ever managed. Nintendo attempted to build on this game with the GameCube sequel Mario Power Tennis, however the overpowering nature of the power ups meant the game never hit the same level of portraying one of the worlds greatest sports.

    Worst - Mario’s Tennis (VB)
    The second Virtual Boy title to feature as a “Worst” nominee and (the also second of only two Mario games that hit the system). For everything that Mario Tennis did right, Mario’s Tennis did wrong. It had too few gameplay modes and what you did play wasn’t up to much; Awful animation, awful AI... just plain, well, awful. There was a two player mode via linking up two Virtual Boys, but the link cable never saw a release making the option some what redundant. As usual with Virtual Boy games it was also headache inducing. The game was also too slow and had none of the excitement needed in a tennis match making this game one of the worst sports simulations ever.


    Best - Mario Kart DS
    Karting could technically fall into the sports section, but such has been the influence of the series that we consider it more than deserving of its own category. Mario Kart DS is arguably the best in the series. It dumped all of the GameCube versions' unnecessary features and added some of its own. Mario Kart DS added a wealth of new tracks as well as including some classics. One feature taken from Double Dash!! however was the option to use different karts, each with its own unique shape and stats, with drivers free to pick any vehicle they have unlocked. The greatest addition to this title however has to be addictive wifi multiplayer, which surely has to be one of the most played games on the DS’ online service. Great graphics and tight, responsive controls help to polish off a fantastic title and a must-have for every DS owner.

    Worst - Mario Kart: Double Dash (GC)
    While by no means terrible, the two passengers idea didn’t really work out. Chuck in a load of unbalanced character specific items and the game felt a lot more random and a lot less skill based. Undeniably one of the better looking Mario Kart, with great character animations in the karts and varied and colourful, and a smattering of well designed levels means, this game isn't without its redeeming features.

    Handheld Games

    Best - Super Mario Land (GB)
    Before this title was released much was made of whether the murky green screen of the Game Boy could really do Mario justice. Gunpei Yokei's title proved all its doubters wrong arguably providing one of the best Mario platformers out there. Cracking level design with some original new enemies and situations helped this game along as did the iconic opening music (which was unfortunately remixed into a song that hit the UK music charts). The title also added shooting levels which have not really caught on with the rest of the series (though Super Paper Mario had one level that included space based shooting) despite actually being highly playable and a welcome addition to break up the main platforming levels. Hopefully the rumours of a Virtual Console service for the DS will ring true and see a reintroduction of this title to a new generation.

    Worst - Wario Master of Disguise (DS)
    Not technically a Mario handheld title, but it's still in the universe and unfortunately is remembered more for what it got wrong than what it got right. Wario’s first DS outing abandoned the gameplay mechanics that had served him so well in the previous Wario Land titles. Instead drawing on the premise of Wario taking various disguises but this fulls down owing to the awful symbol recognition used to switch between the various guises. Unfortunately a little too often it will for recognize your drawing wrongly, resulting in annoyances such as facing a boss dressed in the ineffective artist costume. Couple this with some generic and just plain boring platforming and you are left with a title that leaves a lot to be desired.


    Best - Mario Paint (SNES)
    Mario Paint is at its heart just a simple version of Paint. However add in a delightful mixture of Mario inspired features and a bundled in mouse helped round off a nice package. It had all the basic paint feature but also the ability to create various stamps (Nintendo Power in America helped users to do this) as well as the option to create animations, however a lack of being to distribute these movies (other than record them to VHS) meant a lot of fantastic creations have likely never been see. Following on from the animations option Mario Paint also contains perhaps one of the best and easy to use music editors ever; go on Youtube and watch “Mario Paint Halo” if you’re in any doubt as to what can be achieved on it. The mouse helped make it a joy to control and edit everything and also meant the inclusion of the mini game Gnat Attack to show off the precision that mouse control could offer.

    Worst - Mario Teaches Typing (DOS/Windows)
    As an alternative to this title perhaps consider buying a stopwatch and opening Word, timing yourself and using word count to help calculate your WPM (Words per Minute). Imagine a kid’s excitement on Christmas Day and unwrapping a Mario game only to say “What... I have to type words on a keyboard to make him break blocks and kill Goombas? There’s no joypad?” The characters jumped and squashed enemies just like you expect, but all the fun was taken out of the game by the fact that you had to type out words like APPLE and ELEPHANT to get Mario, Peach or Toad to go through the levels. Nintendo didn’t actually create this, instead licensing out the Mario rights, which just makes the game reek like the cynical cash-in it is.

    There are of course plenty of other honourable mentions that didn’t fit into these categories; Luigi’s Mansion for its unique and fun Ghostbusters style (and also for the fact it righted the wrongs of Luigi’s first solo effort, the awful education history title Mario’s Missing). It's a crime, but we didn't manage to squeeze in any of the RPGs, though Super Mario RPG on the SNES was a major contender for the Misc category (though it’s lack of release across the world ruled it out). The Paper Mario titles definitely deserve a mention for its fantastic fan humour that litters each of the games. Finally, Wrecking Crew for NES needs to get a bit of screen space for it’s destructive mayhem - plus the semi-introduction of Wario in the form of Construction Foreman Spike and for its great level designer which was relatively unheard of at the time.

    Labels: , , ,

    posted by flameboy @ 12:00  
    • At 12 August 2008 at 00:05, Blogger Unknown said…

      Oh come on! Double dash was great! I don't get it why a lot of people hate it.

    • At 12 August 2008 at 01:21, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      This article almost seems like an excuse to bash the VB, which I think gets more hate than it deserves (and yes, I have one). Also, counting Mario Clash as a 3D game isn't fair, as it's actually a 2D game, the 3D aspect is just an illusion.

    • At 12 August 2008 at 04:32, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Games on VB shouldn't even count. There are much worse Mario sports games than the VB Mario Tennis.

      And the worst Mario Kart was Super Circuit on the GBA.

    • At 12 August 2008 at 10:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Sigh... Double Dash hate again. I should have known. I love that game, my girlfriend loved the 2 player co-op. One of my all-time favourites, in fact.

    • At 12 August 2008 at 10:20, Blogger Happenstance said…

      Ive never been a big fan of the Mario Kart games but Double Dash was one I really enjoyed

    • At 12 August 2008 at 18:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I spent tons of time with Double dash I just don't think its that great in the context of all the other Mario Kart games!

      Also I am sorry but the VB deserves all the bad press it gets...

    • At 25 August 2008 at 18:02, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Mario Clash is not3D. It creates the illusion that it is 3D, but it is actually 2D.
      I agree with kiwisoup about Super Circuit being the worst Mario Kart game.

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