The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

100° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Remember the plumber: Video games that never die

    Video games are constantly evolving, and as new technologies come out, they only seem to get better. Still, time has shown older series to be immensely more popular than new ones.

    Franchises like Super Mario Bros. and Pokémon are some of the most recognizable and have been around for decades — but what is it about these games that continue to put modern, big hits like “”Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2″” to shame? The answer is different for each legendary title, and budding series would do well to follow their examples.

    This wasn’t in the job description

    Mario is inarguably the most recognized character from video game history, and his series has sold more than 210 million copies throughout his 200-plus appearances. He didn’t start off the way the world knows him today, though. In fact, when he was first created by Shigeru Miyamoto he was a carpenter named Jumpman.

    His first appearance was in the 1981 classic “”Donkey Kong,”” which had Jumpman trying to save his girlfriend Pauline from his angry pet monkey, Donkey Kong.

    After his stint as a carpenter ended, he dumped Pauline, apparently picked up plumbing — though he never finds time to work — and moved to the Mushroom Kingdom. Once there, he upgraded to Princess Peach, who also had a habit of getting kidnapped, this time by the King Koopa, Bowser.

    No one really complains about the recurring patterns in nearly every Mario game because Nintendo has done a good job making sure each game is well-made. Its an easy formula: Mix it up, but keep it simple.

    Mario has done it all, and that’s half the reason gamers never seem to tire of the mustachioed hero. Even when Mario stars in a platformer, Nintendo creates such a beautiful and unique setting each time that every adventure feels fresh.

    The other reason Mario does so well is that almost all of his games are relatively straightforward. Each level is typically broken down into puzzles with power-ups scattered throughout to make things easier.

    By staying true to this winning strategy, Nintendo has assured that as long as Mario is the star, there will be success. One has to wonder, though, did Mario realize what he’d have to put up with when he became a plumber?

    We choose you!

    When Pokémon first dropped in 1996 it hit Japanese gamers like a tsunami, and two years later the United States got its hands on “”Pokémon: Red & Blue.”” The game became a huge phenomenon, sweeping half the world and causing Pokémon to spill over into TV shows, toys, books and trading cards with great success.

    It isn’t how cute or cool the hundreds of Pokémon are that keep players coming back, though. In truth, many fans who grew up with the original generation actually dislike all of the additional Pokémon and prefer it when there were only 151.

    Still, people play because, like the Mario franchise, the heart of the game is simple. If players want, they can go through the whole game only catching and battling Pokémon. What sets this series apart, though, are the continuous new additions that reinvigorate every game. Even when a game is just updated, like with “”Pokémon: Fire Red & Leaf Green,”” players line up to pay.

    The franchise’s newest innovatiion, made for the newly released “”Pokémon: Heart Gold & Soul Silver,”” is by far the most interesting addition to any handheld game to date, and is a prime example of why Pokémon has remained popular for so long.

    The “”Pokéwalker”” is included with every copy of the game and allows players to transfer their Pokémon to a pokéball-esque device that’s roughly small enough to fit in your palm. It’s meant to level up your Pokémon on the go, and uses a pedometer to count steps. It probably doesn’t have much place on a college campus, but for those who are closet Pokémaniacs, it works in your pocket so no one will ever see it.

    It’s never final

    People who are new to the world of video games are constantly confused about the Final Fantasy franchise, but among gamers it is known as one of the best role playing game series to exist. The widely successful series was made as a last-ditch effort to save game developer Square from bankruptcy, and some speculate that’s where the name originates.

    Regardless, it wasn’t the final anything, and the count will soon be up to 14. What’s most impressive is that almost every game has been known to contribute to the role playing game genre.

    The first game, called simply “”Final Fantasy,”” is actually credited with the popularization of the genre. Each game after served to further develop the unique class and battle systems. What really makes the series stand out, though, is something many games lack: a good story.

    The twisting stories and in-depth character development keep the games interesting, offering more than the brainless gaming of other series. Even if the story is always “”young group of heroes fights world-threatening evil,”” if it works, why change it?

    Another aspect of the Final Fantasy series seen in the newer releases is the stunning visuals and impressive music scores. In fact, in “”Final Fantasy XIII,”” the Blu-ray cut scenes on the PS3 are beyond eye-popping, and the music sets an excellent tone for the game play.

    One final reason Final Fantasy stands at the top of the RPG ladder is because the games successfully managed to transition from a traditional RPG to a massively multiplayer online RPG. While it doesn’t quite compare to genre titan “”World of Warcraft,”” it comes in a respectable second.

    Make it or break it

    Games these days are great, and new heroes like Master Chief from “”Halo,”” Commander Shepard from “”Mass Effect”” and Sora from “”Kingdom Hearts,”” have cut their own paths into gaming history, but only time will tell if they’ll stay around for the long haul.

    So far, things don’t look too promising. The characters are good and the games even better, but lately there seems to be a trend of using popular characters less. The newly made characters of this decade have the potential to go on an unlimited number of adventures, just like Mario. Yet game developers favor making entirely new series instead of revitalizing existing ones. It certainly is a way to diversify a console, but it doesn’t guarantee the characters will be remembered in 20 years. Now Mario, he’s an iconic figure who will never be forgotten.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search