This article was originally published on September 27, 2011.
I hate to use the word underrated to describe things. For one thing, underrated is such a subjective word; what may be underrated to one person is average for another. Plus, sometimes things are called underrated so easily that they start to become overrated, just as overrated games can become underrated. However, if there’s one game that I will fight people on when it comes to the most underrated game for SNES, it’s Mario Paint. Yes, while I love Earthbound and think it’s one of the best games on SNES, I think that Mario Paint may just be a tad more underrated.
Now for a brief history lesson: Mario Paint came out in the summer of 1992. The game got good reception on its debut, but it seems as if not many people talk about it as much. I remember being about eight or nine (about a year after it came out) and heading up to a neighbor’s house who had this game. It was a game I coveted, but we never really had enough money to buy it– and you could forget about renting it. So I’d have to go over to my neighbor’s house to play it. And, man, did I love it. As someone who loved to doodle and draw, this was just perfect.
There were several different things that you could do on Mario Paint. For one thing, you could do your average drawings and make pretty pictures. Usually, with the SNES mouse, they’d turn out kind of crappy. However, it was still fun to do. Another thing that you could do was animations. You could animate your drawings and come up with what I think are the prototypical AMVs (animated music videos) with enough practice and creativity. Actually, one certain web series/cornucopia of goofiness got its start thanks to this little game. (I’ll get to that later.) There were some minigames included in there, which were brief and more time wasters than anything else. (The title screen was a minigame in itself.) And of course, how could I forget everybody’s favorite item to use: the music maker.
The music maker is what seems to be the most prevalent of Mario Paint’s games that is still around today. With this, you could compose your own songs and play them back, making yourself feel like a musical genius. Of course, because I have a lack of patience when it comes to anything under the sun, I would get three or four measures in before I started getting impatient and give up. On YouTube these days, there are Mario Paint music compositions of so many different songs from rock, rap, and of course video game music. Despite the variety of these things, it really shows the ingenuity of the game and human beings in general.
So why do I think this is considered underrated in particular? Actually it boils down to one thing: its influence. This game has been actually pretty influential to some of the games we see today– WarioWare is probably the most obvious example. The developers seemed to take the minigames from Mario Paint, while adding more of their own. In some respects, it can be considered a bit of a spiritual successor, especially with the D.I.Y. version for Nintendo DS. The game was also one of the earliest ones that utilized user creativity, which Scribblenauts does as well (though that game is more puzzle-related). While it was featured in D.I.Y., the music maker didn’t seem to have a lot of impact on Nintendo games per se, but there are a lot of computer programs out there that seem to do more or less the same thing (though with more advanced instruments). Of course, other games may have done this before Mario Paint , but said game seems to be the most prevalent.
As for one last thing to talk of, remember when I said that one certain web site/cornucopia of silliness was started thanks to this game? Well, that web site is none other than Homestar Runner. The first Homestar cartoon was created using Mario Paint’s animation tools. While others were created with Flash, that was the cartoon that launched the whole wonderland of silly characters. It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t checked it out, and the website seems to have stopped updating lately, so just trust me when I say it was amusing and funny as hell.
So when is Nintendo releasing this for Wii? Or are those devs saving it for Wii U? Don’t give me that drawing tablet crap because that was awful and I had a hard time using that. This is a game I hope to see on the menu for Wii U, because if there’s any system that could utilize that game to its full capabilities, it’s that one. However, it remains to be seen what will happen.
In closing, while the game influenced many others in a variety of ways, Mario Paint remains one of the most underrated games to come from the SNES age. It brought something new to the table instead of the usual genres– in fact, it didn’t really have a genre, just a quirky collection of things to do. Mario Paint gave those of us who like a good artistic outlet a new medium. I’m sure there are probably animators and artists who got their start using this or MS Paint. So if you happen to have an SNES still intact, try the game out– just steel yourself for finding the Super NES Mouse.