Original ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Controls Criticized by Sega Developer

By November 8, 2014

The original Super Mario Bros., released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, is arguably one of the best and most important video games ever released. It’s design was very good with fun levels, imaginative characters, and an easy-to-follow story, but of course it caught on with people in the way that it did because of the way that it controlled. The NES/Famicom controller was very straightforward, with a single directional pad, “Start” and Select” buttons in the middle, and “A” and “B” buttons on the right side. Super Mario Bros. took absolute advantage of the control layout to create an experience that was simple, intuitive, but also progressively and deceptively challenging in a lot of places. It was a template upon which every single 2D platformer that followed would try and emulate, and most people generally realize that the Italian plumber’s first “super” adventure changed the very face of what, at the time, was a struggling industry.

Though now, it appears that even the most revered classics aren’t without their critics.

Ryuichi Nishizawa, a video game developer known primarily for creating a platformer game called Wonder Boy, spoke about the thing that catalyzed his drive to create his own 2D platformer in that series. In a book entitled Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works, Nishizawa recounts what actually motivated him to create Wonder Boy, whose first game was released in arcades before being ported to Sega’s home console at the time, the Master System (forerunner to the legendary Sega Genesis). He said,

I think what motivated me was Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom. It was a huge hit in Japan at the time, but I just didn’t like it. The game had a very bad control system. Some people say that was its strength, but I still hate it, even to this day. The movements just didn’t feel right. To put it simply, the game was frustrating. I wondered why it wasn’t more exhilarating, and that spurred me on to make Wonder Boy.

These comments from Nishizawa are especially ironic, since one of the major critiques of Wonder Boy when it was initially released lay in many comparisons that people made between it and Super Mario Bros. While it might be a bit easier to understand modern critiques of a now-30 year old game like the original Super Mario Bros., this comes from a rival developer that was a conscious observer of the video game medium at the time that game was released, and just doesn’t recognize that game as the iconic classic that so many others seem to think that it is.

What do you think? Is Super Mario Bros. a definitive classic and standard-setter for the platforming genre, or do you agree with Nishizawa that it just isn’t that great? Be sure to leave a comment below!

(h/t Nintendo Life)

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.