In this series of articles we'll write about one Mario game every day for 30 days, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
As part of the inevitable circle of life in gaming, we come to a compilation of remasters. In some respects Nintendo was a trailblazer, as remasters and upscales are all the rage in modern gaming; with good reason, too, as playing a better version of a great title isn't exactly a chore.
As we suggested in our Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World entries of this series, which covered consecutive years, there was notable proximity between the two titles across hardware generations. Yet in the quest to keep entries in the IP fresh Nintendo was still a little time away from what would prove to be a significant diversion with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. Not only was there a gap to fill for the company's most bankable franchise, but an opportunity - therefore Super Mario All-Stars was produced.
Had Nintendo simply dumped NES titles onto a SNES cartridge and released as a bundle, it would have probably done just fine. Instead, though, four releases got the remaster treatment in one package.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
- Super Mario Bros. 3
This was, notably, the début of Lost Levels in the West, and you can read our summary of its story right here.
Four games in one, then, yet they arguably became the definitive versions of these titles. Yes, there's a purist angle that prefers the 8-bit original, but all four titles had an impressive visual overhaul to a template far closer to Super Mario World. It was a pretty significant leap in the graphics, and considering that these were some of the finest games of the 8-bit era now being brought up to modern standards, there was understandably plenty of excitement around the bundle.
Audio was also spruced up, and this bundle added a save function; it couldn't be abused like a Virtual Console save state, but it helped a great deal to split up runs if real life got in the way. Like so many of the better remasters nowadays, it was a good-value compilation that enhanced excellent original games, making it a win-win. In 1994-1995 Nintendo would go further in the West by throwing in Super Mario World, too, along with hardware bundles featuring these five top-notch Mario experiences.
Nintendo and its rivals aren't shy of remasters in the modern day - though the big N is less prolific than some other publishers in this area - and the All-Stars collection was an early proponent of the strategy. However, if the SNES release of 1993 was a gem, we should briefly mention Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition on Wii; unfortunately it showed what not to do with a collection of remasters. That promotional edition was a ROM dump of the original All-Stars (no Super Mario World, either) with no tweaks and some underwhelming extras - oh, and it was 50hz in Europe. 50hz! In 2010!
Desirability of such a collection really is all about context, then, and the 1993 release certainly hit its mark.