Boss Rush Banter: Has Any Gaming Franchise Made a Bigger Impact Than Mario?

The character of Super Mario is as synonymous with video games as Santa Claus is to Christmas. First debuting in the classic 1981 arcade hit Donkey Kong (another gaming mascot that could arguably sit on gaming’s “Mount Rushmore”), Mario has been providing some of the most successful and most fun gaming experiences ever. While some of gaming’s greats have faded since their heyday (see Pac-Man, Lara Croft, Sonic the Hedgehog, and more) Super Mario has persevered.

Mario didn’t just save Nintendo, but resurrected a dead home console market. In brief, the home video game market came to a screeching halt in 1983, when companies like Atari and Coleco flooded the market with high priced, low quality video game titles and consoles. Customer confidence swayed, and with the rise of home computing, video games that were played on the television were seen to be yesterday’s news.

The original Super Mario Bros. is one of, if not THE most iconic game of all time.

Enter Super Mario Bros. Nintendo entered the risky U.S. market with the Nintendo Entertainment System with this classic platformer as a launch title, and almost overnight home consoles were alive and thriving. In just four years, the NES had sold 61.9 million consoles. Compared to its biggest competition, the Sega Master System which sold only 13 million units, it was evident that Mario was king.

When video games transitioned from 2D to 3D, Mario was there to lead the charge. Many star franchises faltered in the 3D era (see Sonic, Mega Man, and Castlevania, plus more), but Super Mario 64 came to be the standard model for all other 3D games to emulate.

Super Mario 64 revolutionized how 3D games are made, and helped bring video games into a whole new era.

Still not convinced? Let’s talk more sales numbers. The entire Mario franchise is by far the best selling gaming series ever with more that 760 million units sold (Tetris comes in second with only 495 million). This, of course, counts such massive hits as the Mario Kart and Mario Party games, among others. Only counting the core Mario platforming games, the Super Mario franchise is still the fourth best selling gaming series with 380 million units.

The Mario Kart games has had a major impact on casual racing games, and the series alone could be used to argue the strength of Mario’s impact on gaming.

There are of course some franchises that can be seen as having an even greater impact on the media as a whole. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda was revolutionary in crafting an action/adventure experience that continues to push the boundaries of the genre to this day. Halo is largely seen as bringing PC quality FPS action to consoles, and with Xbox Live it has come to define competitive shooters on consoles. Mortal Kombat not only helped popularize violence in video games and lead to the creation of the ESRB, but has been successful in the realms of comics, movies, television, and more.

What franchise do you think has had the biggest impact on gaming? Is Mario indeed sitting on top of the mountain? We’d love to hear what you have to say!

Image Sources: Nintendo Life, Game Fabrique, Cheat CC.

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