What They Say
Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia: The Official Guide to the First 30 Years is jam-packed with content from all seventeen Super Mario games–from the original Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario 3D World. Track the evolution of the Goomba, witness the introduction of Yoshi, and relive your favorite levels. This tome also contains an interview with producer Takashi Tezuka, tips to help you find every coin, star, sun, and mushroom–even explanations of glitches! With information on enemies, items, obstacles, and worlds from over thirty years of Mario, Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia is the definitive resource for everything Super Mario!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Following on the heels of their very comprehensive series of encyclopedias about the Legend of Zelda series, Dark Horse and Nintendo have teamed up again to release a similar tome about the Super Mario series. Personally, I am a much bigger fan of Zelda than I am Mario, so I was happy to get Hyrule Historia et al first, but it’s actually a bit surprising they did not start with Mario, as that series is and has been the most popular series in video gaming history. Since Mario (and Luigi) broke away from Donkey Kong to star in his/their own games, ultimately leading to the pivotal release of Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System, virtually each Mario game in its long run has sat on or near the top of sales charts at one point or another. A single Mario title is enough to help usher Nintendo through lean times, and its this series more than anything else that kept Nintendo making consoles at times when many experts said they should move purely into software development. Mario is the epitome of what people mean when they use the term “System Seller.”
The Mario series is very popular, is what I am getting at. And so, again, it is a little surprising that Nintendo would mine the Zelda series for encyclopedias first. However, with the success of those books, it was inevitable that a Mario one in this vein would follow in relatively short order. And I have to say, this book is a lot of fun. It is setup similarly to Hyrule Historia in that we get an overview and introduction to the series, but then a lot of the book is spent going game-by-game, in chronological order of release date, discussing things like plot, characters, game play, etc. Included are a lot of pictures, screen shots, and art work, my favorite being the small pictures of the packaging from each game (though it might have been nice to have gotten pictures from both the US and Japanese releases). It ends with a comprehensive listing of every game Mario has ever appeared in, whether an official Mario title or not, just in case you really needed to know how much Nintendo relies on their mascot.
But while this book is fun, and there’s a lot of detail in it, it suffers from the same basic issue as Hyrule Historia: that is that if you are a super fan of the games, and likely you are if you are investing in this, there is little in here that you probably did not know already. Even if you aren’t a super fan, the level of detail isn’t likely to blow you away. The entries for each game read more like Nintendo Power hype pieces than the sort of deep dive you might expect from the term “Encyclopedia.” I am reminded of the little booklet that came with the Limited Edition release of Super Mario All-Stars on the Wii, and how it contained some snapshots of some of the plans Miyamoto hand drew on graph paper when designing Super Mario Bros. Additions like that would have been great, but this volume is sorely lacking touches like that.
What we are left with is a sizeable volume that is a fun, breezy trip down memory lane that won’t challenge you in any way. There’s a lot to dig through and look at, enough that you likely won’t dig through it all in one sitting. In fact, a book like this is really more designed to be consumed little pieces at a time rather than all at once. As long as you do not go into it looking for an intensive look into the development of the Mario series over the past thirty-five years, there is a lot to enjoy in this. But if you really want more of a deep dive, you are going to need to go look somewhere else.
Content Grade: B
Published By: Dark Horse Books
Release Date: October 23, 2018