To close the month of February, a handful of writers from United We Game are going to be sharing a series of community posts focusing on the fun and fantastic levels from the Super Mario games. Every day this week, a new post from a different author will show up here on GIMMGP. Additionally, all of these posts will hit across other blogs like Recollections of Play, Niall’s Ramblings, Cheeese Toastie and Video Games, Gamer Crash, and The Duck of Indeed. Today’s post comes from Niall. So jump on in and enjoy the Mario Mania all week long!
He’s probably the most iconic video game character of all time, having now appeared in over 200 games and sold over 240 million copies in his time: Mario is a plumber that hasn’t done too bad for himself! This week the United We Game bloggers are going to each be discussing the levels behind the legend, what makes them so good, standout levels and how an Italian plumber ran, jumped, and dropped in their favourite games.
My experiences with Mario started at a young age. I was bought a Nintendo 64 for Christmas and fell in love with Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart, in my mind still two of the finest games he has appeared in to date. To be honest, I’ve not played many more since those days. When I started playing PlayStation and Xbox, I never really looked back. This doesn’t mean I’ve not played any of the more recent titles, I think Super Mario Galaxy was a great game and on the DS, Super Mario World is always a great play.
I figured that the best way for me to do this would be to whittle down all the maps and levels on Mario games and come up with my favourite three.
The first area on my list is going to be Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64. I’m sure many of you are reading that and saying “THAT DOESN’T COUNT IT’S NOT A LEVEL!” And although that is kind of true I still had to put it in here. It was the first Mario game that I’d played and the whole area just seemed so huge to me, the castle had so many possibilities. I remember when I first found out you could get on the roof, but wasn’t sure how. I proceeded to spend days trying to figure it out, and although the fact it took me so long is just a little bit embarrassing, I still felt triumphant! For some reason the “Never ending stairs” are something that I always remember about the castle, I’m not entirely sure why, they were just stairs. But it was that kind of thing that made the castle great; all the details, the little quirky bits. Things like the pictures on the walls of Peach, it all added to the castles feel and authenticity. Whenever I go back and play it now, it all seems so simple, but as a child I could get lost so easily. I’d spend hours just getting lost and messing around. I think that’s part of what makes every Mario game so good though, they’re generally all pretty simple, and they have a lot of replayability, particularly from a nostalgia point of view. In this particular game’s case, it achieves something that very few games do: if I was to go home and play Super Mario 64 right now I’d load it up and when the castle appears, it wouldn’t seem old. I’d feel like a kid again, I could easily spend hours on that game. To me, it’s timeless, a classic.
My second choice is the opening level of Super Mario Galaxy. This may not be the longest, the most difficult, or the most replayable level in Mario history, but this was the first new Mario game I’d played in years, and I just loved the concept. Super Mario Galaxy stands alone, there are no other titles like it, not that I’ve played anyway. I thought the way it was animated was fantastic, they kept all the charm of classic Mario and sharpened him up. It looked great, and the way you flew from one planet to another was fantastic. It still had all the classic Mario quirks, the Venus Fly Trap that must have been in as many Mario titles as Mario himself, and the ever rewarding simple boss. Now I say this because when I think of Mario bosses early in the game, they tend to be balanced fantastically. You feel good for defeating them, they’re not too difficult, they ease you into the game. This is a big part of what makes Mario games so easy to just pick up and play. I think back to the Whomp King of Whomp’s Castle, and King Bob-omb from the Super Mario 64 level Bob-omb Battlefield. They both achieved the same type of thing. I also loved the vividness of the level, it was so colourful. It’s also pretty fast paced, you were being thrown from one place to another, yet it always felt very smooth. All these features combined to give me a warm welcome back to the Mario series, and despite missing a fair chunk of titles, it felt like I’d never been away. It still had that fantastic Mario charm.
The last level that I want to talk about is actually a Mario Kart level. Again, I look back on my early days of gaming and Mario Kart 64 was one of the games that introduced me to Mario, and what great game it was. I remember not long after having the Nintendo 64, me and my Dad had a big Mario Kart tournament, we did a couple of races each night and over the course of a couple of weeks a champion would be decided. He even made a wooden shield for the winner! I won, of course, and looking back now even though he more than likely let me win, it takes nothing away from the fun of that tournament and this game. The level, or track as I should really say, that I am going to single out is Banshee Boardwalk, and there is one reason for this: the chaos it ensured. With its lack of barriers preventing you from the sea and its narrow sections, Banshee Boardwalk would always end up being a bad race for somebody. It’s a pretty simple track to be honest, but this is what made it so much fun! Going from my memory, there were two major hot spots for this chaos, one being near the start. Once you’d got your first random weapon, you were in a very open part of the track, no protection from the sea, and somebody would always have a red shell with your name on it, usually putting you straight into the drink. The other was when you entered the small building, you could slightly cut the corner, but risked falling into the sea once more. If you did make the jump, you then had an immediate turn to the right, this little corner could often get very busy, and when the track is busy on Mario Kart, something’s gotta give! The other thing I loved on this track was the music. It was very odd, but very fitting of the track, and as with most, if not all Mario Kart tracks, it got quicker as each lap went by, almost matching the chaos that was going on during the race. I think Banshee Boardwalk is a great summary of everything great in Mario Kart and I think that’s why I like it so much; lot’s of crashing, lots of close racing, lots of fun!
So, there you have it, my top three levels from Mario games. I think the things that the levels have in common are simplicity and fun. It just shows that you don’t have to overcomplicate things to make fun games. I’m sure that there are more complex and technical Mario levels, but from doing a lot of looking back and playing over the games once again, these are the three that hold the best memories for me. I hope this shed a different light on the topic and you enjoyed my point of view, what were your top three Mario levels? I look forward to seeing everybody else’s articles in the coming days! A toast to Nintendo and their little red plumber, we love you Mario!