Book Plunge: Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America

What do I think of Jeff Ryan’s book published by Portfolio? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I like to listen to audio books while I’m out walking around and I am always interested in learning books about the gaming industry, something I’ve been a part of all my life. This one was a book about the invention of Super Mario and what he has done since then. The book goes through several chapters and many of them have a name that is a reference to a Mario game, though certainly not the focus of that chapter, a rather punny idea.

Mario is in many ways the unlikely hero in the book. Imagine you had a blank slate before you and you were sitting down to create a hero. What would you make? Someone like Batman, Superman, the Hulk, Iron Man, etc. is understandable. How many people went with pudgy little plumber in overalls that can jump on enemies’ heads and throw fireballs?

Yet that is what was created.

Of course, the first major game we think of with Mario was Donkey Kong. Mario had other games even before Super Mario Brothers and even Mario Brothers, but Donkey Kong had him there as the main protagonist largely going by Jumpman. Then a shock came in the sequel, Donkey Kong Jr., where it turned out that Mario was the villain.

From there, Mario went on to star in Super Mario Brothers and the world could not get enough of the plumber or his family. The story is the same for the most part, but the adventures keep changing. Bowser kidnaps the Princess. Mario goes and rescues her. Sometimes there have been variations of this, most notably Super Mario Brothers 2 which was a remake of Doki Doki Panic with Mario added in, and also even Super Mario RPG where Bowser and Mario joined forces to rescue the Princess and even after rescuing her, joined forces to defeat the villain Smithy.

For good or evil, Mario is stuck with Nintendo and Nintendo is stuck with him. Mario has far more games to his credit than anyone else and it’s easy for Nintendo to slip out a remade Mario game even years or decades later and still have it sell like hotcakes. Mario has arrived branded on everything and if there is any athlete who has the name Mario, what nickname does he get? Super Mario.

Ryan in this book takes us through all this history including the war with Sega and then after that, the battle against Sony and Xbox. It stops shortly after the Wii. I found this interesting saying the future would definitely have to include consoles with bodily motion involved and yet the next big one after the WiiU that Nintendo made was the Switch. This I consider a wise move since Nintendo has had great success in the portable market and the Switch combines both of them.

Mario is a hero for everyman. He doesn’t really excel at anything, aside from perhaps his ability to jump, but he is still the guy who is unlikely and yet going out every day to save the Princess and battle a lizard king who is often much bigger than he is. (Especially since so many games end now with a giant Bowser.) Mario has indeed conquered America.

If you are a fan of gaming, I recommend getting this one. If you want to know about the history of Mario, I also recommend this. I found this a quite enjoyable read and wanted to listen to it more and more. For we who are Christians, it reminds me we need to be in the gaming market as well and producing good games people, not just Christians, will want to play. We don’t need to create some fantastic superhero with an incredible story. An ordinary plumber can do.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)


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