If I say the name Mario, who do you think of? Possibly a family member, or depending on your interests, an athlete, actor, or singer. But for many people, there's only one Mario, and he's super. In the early 1980s, Nintendo was a struggling company that seemed, to the outsider, destined to fail. Twenty years later, it's synonymous with home video systems and has created a solid lineup of classic characters (Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach, Kirby, Yoshi). Along the way there have been imitators and competitors, designers and visionaries, successes and failures. Nintendo's history (and, wrapped up in that, the history of Mario as a character and icon) is recounted in this new book from writer and gamer Jeff Ryan.
I'm just a few years younger than Nintendo, so that gives me a bit of a different perspective than someone who remembers when Donkey Kong came out. I did, though, keep reflecting back on my own experience as I was reading. When my cousins would visit in the mid-80s, we'd rent a NES and play Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Later we inherited a NES from my uncle and I grew to love Super Mario Bros. 3. We had two Gameboys, but we only had three games for them: Tetris, Dr. Mario, and Jeopardy! (and we never played the two against each other in Tetris). Later we got a Super NES and then we kind of stalled out. I've never played Mario Kart, I have a hard time with the N64 games, and I've never played a Game Boy in colour. In university I discovered online emulators, and in January of this year I purchased a Wii. I don't consider myself to be a gamer, but I like the straightforward adventure that most of the Mario games offer. With that perspective, I really enjoyed this look at Nintendo and modern gaming history. Much of this information was new to me, and I found it to be written in a really straightforward and engaging way. The highest praise that I can give this book is that it had me really eager to buy some classic Nintendo games (on my Wii, of course).
See more at the SuperMarioBook website.
I read an advance copy at NetGalley courtesy of Penguin Portfolio.
Find it at IndieBound.
Read it with:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Wii for Dummies by Kyle Orland
Double Trouble: Nintendo Adventure Books #1 by Clyde Bosco
Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton
Super Mario Galaxy 2 by Catherine Browne
Level Up by Gene Yuen Lang and Thien Pham