Video Game Rewind: Super Mario Bros. Came Out 30 Years Ago

Our new series looks at classic video games released each month. This time, we look at Super Mario Bros, which came out in October 1985.

Gaming is relatively young when compared to its more illustrious and established older cousins—you know, movies and music, comic books and renaissance painting (all of which were invented around 1961 by Stan Lee). But considering gaming’s been around for such a short time, it’s endured a tumultuous history. 

So the point of this monthly feature is to go back and look at the evolution of the medium over time, to celebrate an age when the differences between consoles were real—when defending your system’s honor was a back-to-the-wall dogfight because your friend’s console was internet-capable and yours wasn’t—or going back even further, because theirs had 16 whole colors to choose from compared to your machine’s puny eight.

Ryan already covers some of gaming’s forgotten gems in his semi-regular Games That Nobody Talks About Anymore series. The purpose of Video Game Rewind is slightly different: we’re here to take a look at titles that released each calendar month throughout gaming’s history, whether they changed the face of the industry or became little more than footnotes in the medium’s evolution. Along the way, we’ll look at one or two in a little more detail.

So let’s get to it. As it’s a monthly effort, we thought we’d look at games released in October going back in five-year increments.

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2010: Game Dev Story (iOS)

Also released in 2010:

• Wii Party (Wii)• Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (multi)• Medal of Honour (multi)• DJ Hero 2 (360)• Fallout: New Vegas (multi)• Fable 3 (360)

It seems kind of fitting, given the relatively recent change in the way that so many of us now play games, that we’re starting off with a mobile title. Game Dev Story isn’t just any old mobile game, either. It launched to rave reviews, introduced a wave of systems and aesthetics that have been mercilessly aped by lesser games since (the surest form of flattery), and was one of the first games to really demonstrate how a device like the iPhone could be used to create a deep and satisfying gaming experience.

The premise is excellent: take your fledgling software company, staffed solely by a couple of bedroom programmers, to the very top of the gaming industry. Bank hundreds of millions of dollars, then use it to train or hire staff, sink it back into R&D, or simply go to sleep on the world’s biggest pile of money, just like Scrooge McDuck.

You can release budget titles put together on a shoestring before slowly working your way up to triple-A titles that top the global sales charts and vie for the prestigious annual Game of the Year awards. You can even get in on the hardware racket by ploughing cash into the development of new systems, such as the Sonny PlayStatus or the Intendro Whoops.

I have always secretly admired games that ignored the fact that they don’t have official licenses and instead create terribly-named approximations instead: Sensible World of Soccer and International Superstar Soccer both did this sublimely (I can still name the ISS 98 faux-England squad in my head now… Ehalia, Gagham, Inche). Wrestle War on the Sega Mega Drive did the same thing for wrestlers, and then there was 1989’s The Revenge of Shinobi, which took things to the next level by having the titular heroic ninja face off against none other than a thinly-veiled version of the DC-owned Dark Knight himself.

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Game Dev Story carries on this proud tradition by using bastardized game and console titles that are sure to bring a smile to your face. And it doesn’t stop there. Even some of your potential employees resemble real life programming gurus! That’s right, ace coders like Stephen Jobson and Gilly Bates are available for you to employ in some sort of tech supergroup—a sort of Avengers Assemble for coding nerds everywhere.

The nice touches don’t stop there, either. Retro-style pixelated graphics have been done before (hence the name retro) but this was one of the first iOS games to do so. The style has been aped mercilessly since. The aesthetics of the inferior Star Command spring to mind for one, but in the case of Game Dev Story, the visuals perfectly match the game’s style and tone. It’s still available on the App Store today.

Moving on, some other big releases…


• Indigo Prophecy (PC)• Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (Xbox)• Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS)• Age of Empires 3 (PC)• Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)• The Warriors (Multi)• The Sims 2 (Multi)• GTA: Liberty City Stories (PSP)• Star Wars Battlefront 2 (PC)


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• Alien Resurrection (PS1)• Zeus: Master of Olympus (PC)• Tekken Tag Tournament (PS2)• Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)


• Batman Forever Japanese Release (Genesis)• Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)• Tetris Attack Japanese Release (SNES)

1985: Super Mario Bros (NES)

Since we looked at a more leftfield choice for our opening game of this series, it seems only right to counterbalance that choice with something from the mainstream. And let’s face it, when it comes to recognizability, there’s no video game figurehead more famous than that of the little Italian plumber. Super Mario Bros. launched with the Nintendo Entertainment System (or Famicom, as it was known in Japan) in October 1985 in the US—or at least that’s how Nintendo of America seems to remember it. Although this is one of the biggest-selling entertainment titles of all time (eclipsed only decades later by Wii Sports) and the fact that it only released within the last 30 years, firm details on whether the game even launched that year in the US of A are actually pretty sketchy.

There is no doubt however as to the impact of the game’s success. Stateside retailers were still treating video game systems like plague victims following the events of the North American Video Games Crash. History, of course, has taught us all that this unfortunate event that culminated in well over half a million Atari game cartridges being buried in the New Mexico desert was all the fault of E.T. and his lousy video game tie-in. When you think about it, E.T. has a lot to answer for really—he killed Atari, showed up uninvited in The Phantom Menace, and continues to fill my cynical old heart with childlike wonder every time I see his stupid little face. Thanks for nothing you little monster.

Although the great console crash was never an issue in Japan or indeed here in the UK, where home computers were much more prevalent, Super Mario Bros. is generally considered to be instrumental in changing American attitudes towards gaming and helping to create the thriving market I referenced at the beginning of this article.

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Super Mario Bros. introduced many of the tropes that both the franchise (and the wider genre) use to this day. The game went on to spawn sequels and successors, as well as a range of spinoffs in alternative media, such as a kids TV show and 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie, starring the late, great Bob Hoskins. Given the all-conquering nature of the Mario franchise and the permeation of the game itself into poplar consciousness, it seems somewhat redundant to rehash the game’s structure or features when it’s been done so often before, hence my decision to focus instead on the game’s legacy.

I will, however, leave you with this little thought that has often plagued my dreams. When we first meet Mario during the events of Donkey Kong, where he aims to save the princess from the clutches of the pesky gorilla, events are pretty real. Not quite “real” in the sense of a gritty Christopher Nolan reboot, but the point still stands: the environment (a construction site) looks real, the laws of physics apply (barrels roll, Mario can’t throw fireballs) and while certainly larger than your average gorilla, Donkey Kong is by no means a flying or spike-endowed fantastical turtle.

Is it possible then, that the events of Donkey Kong were so perturbing for poor Mario, that saving the princess was so emotionally destructive, that everything that came after simply reflects his worsening mental state? It would make sense that he would be suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder following the events of Donkey Kong, and a Mushroom Kingdom consisting of endless scenarios in which he is trapped, forced eternally to rescue the princess, and recreate the encounter which caused him to lose his mind, would make sense in this context. As his delirium worsens, the world around him begins to grow more and more fantastical—hence the advent of increasingly crazier power-ups, enemies, and environments in later games.

Wow. I just created a dark and gritty secret origin for Mario. I’m going to hell for sure. Whatever you do, don’t tell Hollywood.

Thanks for tuning in folks. See you back here in a month for November’s Video Game Rewind.

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