On September 13, 1985 in Japan, Nintendo released one of its most iconic games ever, Super Mario Bros. Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, it was a smash at home and became the Nintendo Entertainment System’s killer app a year later. The world was never the same.
As Famitsu points out, the game became synonymous with side-scrolling action and would influence countless game that followed.
Before Mario, there were iconic gaming characters, most famously Pac-Man. But it’s the red-hat-wearing, mustachioed character’s continued string of excellent games and endearing qualities that make him stand out like no other.
The concept for Super Mario Bros. was so simple. You could pick it up and immediately figure out what to do.
“In the original Mario Bros.,” Miyamoto told NPR in 2015, “Mario and Luigi were rather small in size, and they would play and battle against each other in that game. And in the Super Mario Bros. game, those same small characters are in the game, but when they get a mushroom they get big. So we decided to call the big version of them ‘Super Mario’ and ‘Super Luigi’ because they got super-sized.”
The size increase was thanks to mushrooms, of course. “And if you think of stories like Alice in Wonderland and other types of fairy tales, mushrooms always seem to have a mysterious power,” added Miyamoto, “and so we thought the mushroom would be a good symbol for why they get it and get big.”
As a kid, I got the NES for Christmas. Bundled with it was Super Mario Bros. It wasn’t the first console I had access to: My parents owned a Pong machine, and a neighbor had a Magnavox Odyssey. Previously, I had played arcade games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man as well as home console games like Pitfall and Frogger at my cousin’s.
I couldn’t believe Nintendo included the game with the console. They just...gave it away. Incredible, I thought.
The graphics and the characters looked wonderful, the music was fantastic and catchy, and the game itself was intuitive and challenging. It was so damn fun—and still is. Explaining what a world without Super Mario was like is difficult. Playing it for the first time in the mid-1980s was a revelation. Super Mario Bros. felt like such a departure, and even my grade school brain knew it. Gaming had just entered a new era.