I think it’s safe to say it now – New Super Mario Bros. is officially “Old.” It’s been over six years now since Nintendo released its revival of 2D Mario side-scrolling on the original DS, and even then we all laughed at the choice of name – “New” Super Mario Bros. wouldn’t stay that way forever, destined to have its meaning depleted by the passage of time in the same way that New Mexico, New Jersey and New York are all now ill-described by that same adjective. It seemed like a bad bit of branding on Nintendo’s part. A certain mistake.
And yet New Super Mario Bros. still feels “New.” Chronologically the original game is aging, yes. But what we once saw as a singular homage to days gone by has, instead, become the template for an entirely new series of “New” sequels. It’s living on and refreshing itself over and over again – once on Wii already, and twice again on the 3DS and Wii U later this year.
So let’s break down the oldest New Super Mario Bros. into its distinct design components, to better illustrate how Nintendo has tapped into it as a template that New Super Mario Bros. Wii, New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U have more recently revisited. First up, the sheer nostalgia factor of bringing back side-scrolling Mario.
It’s hard to remember now since its imagery has become the standard Mario look ever since, but the rendered artwork of 2006’s NSMB brought the whole Mushroom Kingdom world into the modern era with a fresh, consistent style. Some characters we’d seen frequently over the years, but other classic enemies like the Hammer Bros. hadn’t been prominent in ages. Seeing foes like that again – along with the gameplay’s simplicity of running to the right grabbing coins, breaking bricks and jumping on a flagpole at the end of each stage – was powerfully nostalgic and formed the foundation of the first game’s appeal.
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