There is simply no video game or series in the world that has the mass appeal of 2D Mario games. These side scrolling adventures typically sell upwards of 20 million, uniting gamers of all ages and varying tastes together. It’s really pretty amazing when you sit back and look at the wide range of appeal 2D Mario games have. Whether you play Call of Duty or Cooking Mama, chances are you probably enjoy Mario. No matter who you are, the games are just undeniably addictive, and a downright joy to play. How can one game attract so many different kinds of people? Read on to find out.
Mario stands as the epitome of the 2D side scrolling platformer genre. Countless other games have used a similar style, and some have achieved respectable success, but none of them can even come close to Mario. A huge reason for success of the genre itself is its simplicity. There’s nothing hard at all to understand about “Get from Point A to Point B,” and this simple yet fun style of gaming appeals to almost everyone. Mario has risen to such incredible heights by being both one of the first games to use this style, and also one of the best.
The series has evolved over time, adding new elements and changing some things along the way, but the core gameplay always remains in tact. While some people criticize the series for not changing enough, that familiar nature is a huge part of what makes the game successful. There may be dozens of 2D platformers out there, but Mario was the first to really get the formula right, and now it’s just about finding ways to keep the series fresh without changing too much. For the most part, you know what you’re going to get when you buy a 2D Mario game, but that’s okay. Most gamers don’t really feel like they need to be surprised by Mario, because they’re buying the game to play more of the same classic Mario they fell in love with years ago. Mario rose to the top early on, and has stayed there by staying the course.
A big key to Mario’s success is that it isn’t just a simple game of walking forward and jumping over obstacles unless you want it to be. Mario has a subtle dual nature in that it is both incredibly simple and intricately complex at the same time. While the basic concept of the game is no different than any other in its genre, the gameplay can be so much more fulfilling to those who want it to be. Anyone can pick up a Mario game and understand how to play it in just a minute or two, but for those who want more than just a simple side scrolling game, Mario has so much more to offer. For nearly every simple concept in Mario, there’s a deeper underlying gameplay element. The clever level design of Mario allows for countless puzzles and secrets without requiring the player to engage in them if he or she doesn’t want to.
To a casual player who just wants to get from Point A to Point B, collecting a red mushroom means that they have an extra hit. To a player who really wants to dig into the full Mario experience, it means you can now break blocks with your head, and hidden areas and items are now available to you. The same applies to raccoon tails and fire flowers. While casual players may only see these items as a means of getting the upper hand on enemies, the ability to fly or shoot fire balls can totally change the whole experience if you know what you’re doing. Even the enemies themselves are transformed from obstacles into useful items by a skilled player. Using a Koopa’s shell to break blocks, bouncing off a Goomba’s head to reach an area that is out of reach with a normal jump, or stealing Lakitu’s cloud can all be game changing.
While a lot of games generally try to be as unpredictable as possible in order to keep the experience fresh for players, Mario levels remain virtually the same every time you play for them. This allows players to memorize levels, improving each time they re-try the level. New players may only see this as a way to overcome something that killed them on a previous playthrough, but level memorization can be absolutely critical in unlocking every last secret or breaking a high score. This has probably never been more true than in the recently released New Super Mario Bros 2, especially in Coin Rush Mode.
2D Mario games just do a fantastic job at letting the player decide their level of involvement. You can decide if you want this game to be a “casual” or “hardcore” experience. I think similar things can be said about some other highly successful games, like Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft. The basic ideas of running around a city with nearly limitless freedom, or building whatever you please in a world of endless resources are attractive ideas for a large group of gamers. Yet these games, especially in the case of the former, actually have a deeper, more structured means of gameplay as well.
Mario has been able to set itself apart from other sides scrolling platformers in that arguably no other 2D game does such a perfect job of offering both simplicity and complexity at the same time. If you just want to reach that flagpole at the end of the level as fast as you can, you’re free to do so. But for those of us who want to find every last secret room, hit every single POW block, and collect every single star coin, the game has a lot more depth than what you’d expect from its genre. There’s about a million reasons to love Mario, but perhaps the biggest reason for its ability to appeal to a broader demographic than any other game lies in this dual nature.