Super Mario Bros. 3

Original version: Super Mario Bros. 3, released on 1988/10/23 for Nintendo Famicom

Recommended version: The WiiU Virtual Console re-release of Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, released on 2003/07/11 for Game Boy Advance

After the immense success of Super Mario Bros., it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. Nintendo actually went about this in two different ways. The first sequel was called Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and featured the same gameplay and art assets of the original, but was cruelly difficult. It was meant to be a satisfying challenge for those who mastered SMB and hungered for more. The other sequel was a reskin of the game Doki-Doki Panic with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad being substituted for the original characters. Its gameplay was different from SMB in every way except that it was also a platformer. Both games are technically “Super Mario Bros. 2,” but neither was a genuine successor to the first one. But on one fateful day in 1988 gamers in Japan were treated to a game that was not just a sequel, but a veritable tour de force.

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Video Game notes for 1987

1987 was a great year. Now I know why Strong Bad constantly refers to it.

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Another WW II shooter

Electronic board game/adventure game based on Sherlock Holmes

Created by Origin Systems, who should have just stuck with Ultima

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Runners-up of 1986

Following the success of Super Mario Bros. in 1985/86, there was an explosion of games in the US, especially for the NES. Most of these, I must confess, were awful. But among the fields of thorns there were quite a few roses. These are the ones that almost made it into the bouquet, but had to be pruned off for the benefit of the fair recipient (that would be you).

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Castlevania (HONORABLE MENTION)

Original Version: 悪魔城ドラキュラ, released in 1986 for the Nintendo Famicom Disk System and for the Nintendo Famicom

This is one of the classics right here. Castlevania takes all the staples of horror movies–vampires, bats, mummies, creaky old castles, etc.–and mashes them all together in one action-packed platformer.

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The Legend of Zelda

Original version: The Legend of Zelda, released on 1986/02/21 for Famicom Disk System

Recommended version: Classic NES Series: The Legend of Zelda for the Game Boy Advance, released on 2004/02/14.

Every legend has a beginning. Some are more humble than others, but what almost all of them have in common is starting with a very rough first draft. The Legend of Zelda, on the other hand, seemed to hatch fully grown. Of course, it was still a first draft in that it established rules and conventions that later entries built upon, but a surprising amount of its structure began here. It seems to have everything: an open world that emphasizes exploration and secret-finding, items such as the ocarina and boomerang, the main cast of characters, and the instantly recognizable theme music that we couldn’t imagine going along with any other game. Let’s take a look at what made this first entry in the long-running series so legendary.

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Hang-On (HONORABLE MENTION)

Original version: Hang-On, released in 1985 for arcade

Following in the footsteps of Pole Position, Sega’s racing game Hang-On gave the player a high-speed over-the-shoulder (or more accurately, behind-the-car) racing game with sharp turns and endless AI opponents. Hang-On added something new to the mix, though. The player sat on a motorcycle-shaped seat that they had to tilt to the left or right in order to steer in-game.

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