Somewhat Punishing (Super Mario Bros.)

To be clear, this game is actually a good choice for new players. It had to be; when it was first manufactured, the vast majority of its customer base either never played a game before or haven’t touched a console in years. Plus, the main market was for impatient, inexperience children, so they pretty much designed everything meticulously  and carefully for both new and old hands alike.

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That being said, there are a few flaws that should be taken into account, the most notable of which isn’t even so much a design flaw as it was a standard feature of all games at the time. The only mistake Nintendo made was following it without thinking. Happens a lot with big companies. Anyway, there is the inherent design flaw of not being able to run without shooting a fireball once you  have the fire-flower. Definitely not a game breaking bug or anything, but an interesting little quirk that might get in the way of your high score every now and again. Another minor but notable flaw is how easy it can be to die when your under the blocks. Again, lightyears away from game breaking, but something to consider while playing. These types of things fall more under gameplay strategy, and honestly do nothing to deter the enjoyment of the game. At all.

The last flaw is a flaw that unfortunately has been a part of the industry up until fairly recently, especially on mascot-oriented platformer games that Super Mario Bros practically defined(more on that later). If you played any other type of narrative driven action game, you would without fail be able to try again and again from the point you saved at. This has become the standard for most games, and makes the most sense given the importance of short iteration cycles to the gamer experience. Something which Nintendo knew, unfortunately, but failed to see within it’s core mechanic. To be clear, this is mostly for new hands of the game, and will probably enlighten them as to why veterans like me sometimes complain about how easy and non-challenging current games.

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You see, back in those days, kiddies, you only had a certain amount of lives. This was an old habit made by arcade machines, who needed to limit the number of times a player could play to ensure they kept putting quarters in or gave a turn to someone else who had quarters. It was a flawed but function system, and one Nintendo had adapted to with titles like Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros.

Yeah, quick side note; Super Mario Bros. was a sequel to an arcade game! No joke. But that’s another post.

Back to the subject at hand, Super Mario Bros did what every arcade game has always done since Pac-man. It gave you three lives, a few sparse and challenging ways to get extra lives, and forced you to start from square one when you lost. No save point. No continues. Just GAME OVER and you start at level 1-1. It’s how old gamers got their chest hairs.

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To be fair, though, Shiggy seemed to be well aware of this problem when designing his game. He came up with two novel solutions that not only made it easier to come back where you left off, but made the game as a whole more interesting and dynamic. Basically, he added shortcuts and warp zones. If you go down the right pipe, up the right beanstalk, or managed to walk up over the level in any of the “underground” levels, you will be able to progress in the game much faster. It won’t make the latter levels less difficult, and you will still have to start from square one once you lose life #1, but you will be able to zip through the game faster once you find these easter eggs. Just keep looking and don’t give up. Oh; and watch out for the water levels. Unless you have fireballs to shoot, your a sitting duck while swimming.

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