In life there are few certainties. Death, or course. Taxes, probably. And only slightly less likely is that Nintendo will re-release Super Mario World this year.
I say that with affection. To a large extent Nintendo was my childhood. Before picking up the guitar or logging into Reddit to insult people about their politics, I played Nintendo games. But playing through World for the umpteenth time on Switch, it’s hard not to feel the company runs purely on the fumes of past successes.
This was shown earlier this month as Nintendo hyped the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros being released in Japan. In wedding terms this is apparently an emerald anniversary – well, the second emerald anniversary, as the stone is also used for the 20th year.
To coincide with the celebrations we are all having Nintendo has re-released Super Mario All-Stars for its online Switch subscribers, itself a Super Nintendo remake of classic NES games. Later this month the firm will launch Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a re-release bundle of games from the Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, at least one of which has already been remade.
Nintendo is hardly alone in flogging old shit in new boxes, of course. In 2018 Activision launched the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, a remake of three classic Spyro games, delivering a copy by drone to rapper Snoop Dogg. The company gave the same treatment to its Crash Bandicoot series the year before too.
While the video game industry is infamous for the practice, other industries are happy to ask fans to buy classics in new formats. Before streaming services were invented music fans were regularly asked to re-purchase music on cassettes, CDs, mp3s, and then again on limited edition vinyl. Even the film industry copied the trick.
And in a way, why not? Playing through a classic on a new system with updated graphics and controls is often better than blowing the dust off your old cartridges. And for younger gamers a re-release is a more convenient way to play yesteryear’s hits than tracking down all the necessary gear on eBay.
The rebuttal is that re-releases often have the vibe of an ageing rocker picking up the axe for another farewell tour. Would it not be better for games companies to put the classics on a digital downloads library and get to work on a new product? Something to ponder while I log my 600th hour on Europa Universalis IV at least.
Image credit: Flash Experiment Mario, May 2008 by Andrew Lin