The Anatomy of Super Mario Gaiden II: Check yourself

Before Mario leapt into the page of legend with Super Mario Bros., he took one last side excursion. Wrecking Crew doesn’t really count in the lineage of the core Mario games; not only does it not involve a single bit of platforming (Mario can’t jump!), it’s not even by the usual Mario folks. Instead, it’s […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario Gaiden: Mario is missing

Man, I used to think Zelda II was the official Nintendo black sheep. But you guys and your preemptive strikes against Donkey Kong 3 have made me change my mind entirely. Donkey Kong 3 is weird, to be sure. It represents a radical shift in style, tone, and structure from the previous Donkey Kong games. […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario IX: Family business

After featuring Mario as a villain in Donkey Kong Jr., Nintendo’s next title in the Donkey Kong series… had nothing whatsoever to do with Kong. Instead, it focused solely on Mario, once again in the role of protagonist, in a game that in many ways seemed like a step backward in terms of design yet […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario VIII: Mario gets Konged

The final stage of Donkey Kong Jr. neatly embodies the gestalt of the entire game. It calls to mind the equivalent level of the original Donkey Kong, yet its familiar objects finds itself turned (literally) sideways to make use of Junior’s vertical agility. You remember the final stage of Donkey Kong, yes? The construction site […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario VII: A shocking turn of events

Donkey Kong Jr.‘s repetition of its predecessor’s beats continues here. Where its second level resembles Donkey Kong‘s third stage, the third level here somewhat evokes Donkey Kong‘s second stage.   Which is to say, it’s the low point of the game. The problem with this screen is similar to the one with the cement factory: […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario VI: Gradations

Everyone’s really angry right now about game systems they’ve never played, huh? That’s lame. Let’s do something different and get all salty about one that’s been around for a few decades instead. I’ll say this for the second level of Donkey Kong Jr.: It does a much better job of being a second level than […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario V: Junior league

After Donkey Kong exploded into what was the single biggest of success to that day for Nintendo, a company more than 80 years old at that point, a sequel became inevitable. Nintendo didn’t really know how video game sequels are supposed to work in those days, though, so they went about making a follow-up in […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario IV: The kinging of Kong

Here we are, already at the “end” of Donkey Kong: Its fourth screen. By today’s standards, DK is comically short, but four uniquely designed screens was nothing to sneer at back in 1981. Besides, arcade games weren’t after long-term immersive commitments. This was a light snack of a game to see how high a score […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario III: Ape, escaping

Yes, I know Donkey Kong is a gorilla. Whatever.   If the cement factory stage represents Donkey Kong at its worst — and remember, “worst” in a game this well-designed simply means “OK but not amazing” — the lift level that follows it offers Donkey Kong at its best. While this screen may not offer […]