We all know Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda were genre-starting games. They inspired just about every games since, and they are among the best selling titles of all time. They set the bar so high, in fact, that even Nintendo was unable to successfully follow them up.
1988 brought the release of a number of high caliber sequels, including Super Mario Brothers 2 and Zelda II: the Adventure of Link. Problem is, neither of these games lived up to expectations. They offered better graphics, but completely changed the way the games played. Super Mario Brothers 2, for example, didn't even have you fighting Bowser. And Zelda II, well, it just wasn't the same when they changed the perspective to 2D, as opposed to overhead, like the original.
These games are looked back upon as the weakest links in Nintendo's early game career. But that doesn't mean they didn't impact this industry.
The Other Side:
Even Nintendo's worst games are better than 90% of the games out there (unless you want to talk about Star Tropics). The Adventure of Link, while not as good as the original, is still an engaging game with a good story and great play control. Compared to most other adventure games of the era, Zelda II was far and away the best of the bunch. Its only real problem was that it did not play like the original Legend of Zelda.
Also worth defending is Super Mario Brothers 2. While it may not play, look, or resemble the original Super Mario Brothers
game, some gamers consider it the most daring game of the series. Instead of jumping on enemies, throwing fireballs, and exploring pipes, Mario, Luigi, the Princess, and Toad all journey through a dream world to defeat Wart. But what do you expect? For one thing, what was Super Mario Brothers 2 here, was Doki Doki Panic. The Japanese Super Mario Brothers 2 actually played, looked, and felt exactly like the original, except with an evil under current.
These games may have been disappointments, but that wasn't reflected in the sales department. Zelda II: the Adventure of Link is one of the best selling N.E.S. cartridges, and Super Mario Brothers 2 also faired well in the marketplace. But that doesn't mean Nintendo didn't learn a thing or two from these games.
For the Super NES, Zelda: A Link to the Past offered a vastly different experience than Zelda II. It offered almost exactly the same style of game play from the original Legend of Zelda, but improved the graphics and introduced dozens of new items. It is often considered one of the greatest adventure games on the Super NES, a system with it's share of ground breaking adventure games.
Before Zelda needed saving a third time, Mario was asked to save the N.E.S. from
the onslaught of 16-bit titles. Super Mario Brothers 3 played exactly like the original Super Mario Brothers, however, it did manage to improve on the theme in a number of important ways. For one thing, Mario was able to change into different costumes, each offering a different skill. The game was also longer, and featured a number of bosses, instead of just one.
These third installments proved to the game playing world that Nintendo had done more than just rehash the source material, but made new and exciting games for their popular heroes. Gamers the world over embraced these games, and the rest is history.
Where Are They Now?:
These days Nintendo is calling on Mario and Link to yet again help them out of a tough situation. This Christmas Nintendo finds themselves in something of a precarious situations. For one thing, there is no chance for Nintendo to regain the number one spot in this life cycle, and to make things worse, in the U.S. and Europe they are losing to newcomer Microsoft.
But when the going gets tough, Nintendo seems to find a way of pulling out the best games of the year. Super Mario Sunshine is one of the best selling games of 2002, and in both Europe and the U.S. it helped to almost double the sales of the GameCube system. It is now packaged with the GameCube, and just one of the many must-own titles on the system.
Perhaps hoping to see if it would get a better response a decade later, Nintendo picked Super Mario Brothers 2 as the launch title for the GameBoy Advance in 2001. Gamers were yet again invited to steal a piece of Mario's dreams, and this time was embraced with glowing reviews, good word of mouth, and extremely strong sales.
Link, on the other hand, is about to embark his biggest quest yet. The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, is potentially the biggest game of 2003, and will even offer a limited edition version of the Zelda game on the Nintendo 64DD. Using the popular, and overused, Cel-Shading technology, this GameCube Zelda looks more like a cartoon, right down to his numerous facial expressions.