Mario certainly knows how to take a simple platforming format and add so many new dimensions that it feels like a game with its own class. Many thought there would be no topping Super Mario Bros. 3, but it happened right at the launch of the new system. The unbridled success of Super Mario World solidified the notion that the portly plumber sells systems, and the tough challenge thenceforth was to make sure that development of a new system also required a new Mario adventure in the works. Lest we forget, one of the best sidekicks, the adorable green dinosaur Yoshi, made his debut in Super Mario World, and has since starred in many of his own great adventures.
Side-scrolling platformers were by far the standard format for both the NES and Super NES, flooding the market over and over again and eventually becoming redundant. Then Donkey Kong Country came along, and any aged gamer will attest to having a "wow moment" the first time they loaded up the game. Experimenting with a Silicon Graphics workstation, developer Rare was able to produce one of the first console games with pre-rendered 3D graphics. And while young gamers today might quickly brush this aside, it was a big deal back then. It basically spawned what today would be considered 2.5D graphics, which are heavily used in games that try to rekindle traditional platforming models with current technology.
As with other games on this list, Star Fox's successor is considered the hallmark of the series, but the original was truly revolutionary. 3D polygon graphics were considered beyond the system's capabilities at the time—which is actually a fairly accurate statement. So the Super FX chip, which allowed such dynamic displays, was built into the game cartridge itself. Thus we were gifted with a truly mind-blowing visual experience, and the rest is history. Not only an evolution in display, but a variation on difficulty settings came from this classic gem. Instead of choosing easy, medium, or hard modes, you're mission path would decide your skill test, also multiplying the replay value of the game.
Unlike the first game in the venerable series, Final Fantasy II eliminated the player's choice of setting up a team and picking classes. This omission may have seemed risky during development, but by creating specific playable characters, we were presented with real heroes whose relationships were crafted throughout the journey, giving a much greater sense of attachment between the player and the characters. FFII is a perfect example of a game that has stood the test of time, as anyone who played it years ago will immediately recognize Cecil, Kain, Rydia, Palom and Porom, and the rest of the crew.
I may sound like a broken record here, but Super Mario Kart single-handedly launched the success of kart racing. Some may play every new version that has infallibly come out on each Nintendo system since the SNES, and others cringe when they hear another regurgitation of the racer is coming. Either way, there's no denying the success of the series. Not only was Super Mario Kart the first of its particular racing style, but it was also the first title to incorporate characters from different franchises, which has now become a staple with any Mario sports or party game.
Date: February 16, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*