Ask older generations of Mario fans what they used to enjoy about the game and the chances are they will tell you it was the pure excitement of the platform games that made them fall in love with video gaming. Indeed, back when you had two buttons and Mario wasn’t able to do a sequence of rather impressive jumps but instead had to daringly leap towards the edge of cliffs, the games provided all manner of excitement and challenge compared to some of the flashier, graphically intensive games of today.

This has, in one sense, been brought back with the creation and success of Super Mario Run, a game that has transported Mario to the world of mobile gaming, and one which has received pretty positive reviews since its release in December 2016. With this in mind, it’s clear that nostalgia for old-fashioned arcade games remains. Indeed, taking Super Mario Run as our example, it is fascinating that despite these positive reviews, the game has struggled to be a commercial success for Nintendo, even though it has been downloaded over 200 million times. In contrast to this, games of old, including original Nintendo arcade Mario games, like the classic Mario Bros. from 1983, were all able to achieve solid success, helping to drive the success that led to Nintendo being one of the dominant players in the gaming console market.


Nostalgia or something more?

With Nintendo’s focus firmly on the Switch at present, there appears to be nothing concrete at the moment to suggest that they are going to go back to arcade gaming releases for Mario. That said, there is certainly a clear development of a subculture that is embracing traditional arcade games. This isn’t just a subculture that is being dominated by the over-40s but instead one that has a cross-generational appeal.

Despite the fact that games are continuing to become more and more complex, with virtual reality, augmented reality and hugely improved 4K graphics all available, it seems that not all gamers are concerned by these developments. Indeed, some are suggesting that Sony have found this out, as they have had a slow take-up of their PS VR headsets despite the fact that they are relatively affordable and even though success is being claimed by Sony after they sold more than two million units.

Nintendo, in the past, have been keen to be at the front of any technological developments and the Nintendo Wii was an incredibly different, exciting, and successful games console that highlighted that being different can bring success in the gaming world; indeed, the Nintendo Switch sold 4.8 million units in the US in its first 10 months (800,000 more than the Wii did). In this light, it would seem odd to see Nintendo go backwards in order to move forwards, but there are some signs that this company has a keen eye for putting nostalgia first.

Forward to the past?

Console gaming isn’t the only area where we have seen this trend, with a retro approach helping brands hit commercially successful heights. Take the casino industry as an example. While Las Vegas saw 42.2 million people visit the area in 2017, relatively few of these individuals are choosing to actually gamble there and the numbers are down on previous years. Online casinos, meanwhile, are thriving, a fact that, according to Betway’s analysis, has plenty to do with creating games that make use of retro arcade themes and colors to help create more excitement. With no sign of the retro market slowing down soon, with characters like Mario, Sonic and even the Starfox crew all still remaining popular in the gaming world, we may continue to see companies embrace the idea of moving forward by using ideas from the past.

Still a super brand

Interestingly, this nostalgia has also manifested itself in the rebirth of certain consoles; in particular, the SNES classic, which has sold over five million units, and with the addition of Starfox 2 as well as classic games such as the timeless Super Mario World, it is clear to see how nostalgia has made this retro classic a commercial hit.


Other games such as the NES’s Super Mario 3, also playable on a retro NES console that has been a commercial success, as well as the enduring popularity of original Game Boy games like Super Mario Land (which managed to sell over 18 million copies) that helped to make Nintendo a household name, prove that the Super Mario legacy is one loved for its older games rather than its more recent titles, even popular ones like Mario Kart Wii.

In this same vein, more modern Super Mario games, and even more recent Nintendo products have been a bit like Star Wars: Episode 1 rather than the more recent Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which worked nicely as a nostalgic throwback to The Empire Strike Back. After all, if a product is loved, repackaging it for the modern world can help it to find popularity again.

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