“Amazing Throwing”

For a trip down memory lane, check out this old TV commercial for Super Mario Bros 2:

What I find interesting about this commercial (aside from the cheesiness) is how pure it is. Unlike its predecessor, Super Mario Bros 2 was a game about defeating your enemies by throwing stuff at them as opposed to jumping on them. So Nintendo focused their commercial almost exclusively on that aspect of the game.

If the first Super Mario game was all about “amazing jumping” (as Miyamoto has supposedly said), then the sequel added and focused on “amazing throwing.” The developers got it. The marketers got it. And not surprisingly, the rest of us got it, too.

What’s the essence of your game? Can you say it in a few words? Can everyone else you’re working with say it in a few words?

If not, why not?

8 Responses to “Amazing Throwing”

  1. Mario 2 was actually a rebranding of a non-mario game, perhaps why it focused on this throwing element?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario_Bros._2

  2. > Mario 2 was actually a rebranding of a non-mario game,
    > perhaps why it focused on this throwing element?

    Yup, I’d noticed that in the Wikipedia article. But why it is focused on throwing is less interesting to me than how tight the focus is, and how well that focus is reflected in the marketing materials.

  3. Great point! New social and casual games are nice and simple, so have a similar focus on just a few key “verbs”. The most important thing players need to know about a game is what they get to DO, and in SMB2 it was all about throwing.

  4. Very profound post, David. Essence indeed!

    I enjoyed the tone the commercial took. “He’s bigger and badder than ever!”. They got the essence of the mechanic, but totally missed on the theme. Mario is not resident evil. It’s light-hearted and playful, even if he is shooting fireballs. Feels like marketeers that were used to dealing with more adversarial themes and couldn’t deal with something different.

  5. > Very profound post, David. Essence indeed!

    I missed your sarcasm, Kim. :-)

    Like I said, ignore the cheesy tone and look at what the commercial is actually *showing* you. All the gameplay in the commercial features the new core gameplay loop: taking hold of something and/or throwing something. The audio is classic 80s, but the gameplay snippets say it all.

    > They got the essence of the mechanic, but totally missed on the theme.

    I don’t remember the game well enough to argue this point. There’s no question that Mario as we know him today is light-hearted and playful. I’m not entirely sure he was so light-hearted back then. When I was a kid, I felt *stressed* playing Mario games in a way that I certainly don’t feel now (and I don’t think age is the sole contributor to that). I’m also not sure that Nintendo’s demographic targeting was the same at the time this game was released. But like I said, my memory isn’t good enough to argue this point.

  6. The essence of the games produced by Nintendo is simplicity, innovation and fun. I agree with the post of David Essence indeed, the fewer things players need to know, the easier they can play and enjoy the game. I played the Super Mario Bros 2 enhanced version on GBA, and I almost spent 60 hours on it. The “amazing throwing” appealed me so much. There are many different things can use to throw and players can find various ways to get and throw them like the boss fight. These features can be simply caught in this commercial and I think it is very successful. In that time, a large number of games were all about shooting and defeat the enemies. Compared with this, a new throwing gameplay loop Nintendo created is much more brilliant. Thus the game with simple throwing, creative throwing and interesting throwing should succeed in that time.
    By the way, I played another game called Chip ‘n Dale- Rescue Rangers released by Capcom in 90s. This game is also focused on throwing the boxes and defeating the enemies. I think it was also successful in that time.

  7. Definitely agree with Dave about the palpable menace of the Mario games. I remember nearly wetting myself the first time that big hand grabbed me off the bridge in world 8 of SMB3. And dreading crossing it every time thereafter. Those mask things in SMB2 that chase you really bothered me. And let’s not get started with the creepiness of Birdo. Super Mario World was the first cheery Mario game. I guess we could argue about whether Miyamoto *intended* the earlier games to be cheery but was prevented technically from doing so.

    One thing that really struck me about this ad is how aggressively the viewer is encouraged to view the game activities as representative of “real world” activities. If only you used your imagination, going into that 8-bit triangle was just like exploring a real pyramid! We’ve become game-literate enough now that ads can just let gameplay speak for itself, but back then it was almost certainly necessary.

  8. Nice. The classic games were simple and just worked. I wish new games were more like them. Todays games are about the bling and forget the grass roots of what makes good gameplay. Even with all those pixels, sometimes I like to sit down and jump on turtles.

    BTW, what’s the elevator speech essense for Triple Town?

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