The video game industry is frequently chastised for not doing enough to preserve its history. While options like the Virtual Console, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade enable players to revisit a small selection of the games of yesterday, the reality is that far more titles have fallen through the cracks. Countless classic video games can only be played on the consoles they were originally released on, and that is not only frustrating for older fans, but for younger gamers interested in experiencing those titles for the first time. Nintendo, for the most part, has done a pretty good job of making sure that the titles it has published are available on the Virtual Console, however. In fact, some are even available twice.
Mario’s various outings have seen multiple releases on the Virtual Console service. Wii U owners in all territories can download either the original versions of Super Mario Bros. 2, 3 and Super Mario World, or the Super Mario Advance remakes that originally appeared on Game Boy Advance. N64’s pioneering launch title Super Mario 64 is also available in all territories, while Japan and Europe offer the 2004 remake, Super Mario 64 DS, as well. It might seem redundant (especially in light of the fact that so many games are missing on the service), but there are a few notable reasons for both versions of these games to be offered.
The interesting thing about these types of remakes is that they’ve become somewhat of an outdated concept in today’s video game industry. Newer releases of games like Super Mario Bros. 3 were necessary before digital downloads became a staple of newer consoles. There just wasn’t any other way for fans to experience those games short of picking up an older video game system. While there is still a pretty big market for HD remasters of certain titles, remakes such as the Super Mario Advance series have become less frequent as it has become easier to acquire faithful recreations of the original versions. In their own way, these remakes have become as much a part of gaming history as the original titles themselves.
Offering multiple versions of the same games on the Virtual Console also helps to cater to a younger generation of fans. Many gamers aren’t old enough, or perhaps lucky enough, to have grown up with Nintendo’s most famous consoles. It’s been nearly 15 years since the first Super Mario Advance title released on Game Boy Advance. So much time has passed that there are people that grew up with that particular version, complete with all the changes it brought. For many of those gamers, the re-release is the definitive version of the title.
The biggest reason for these games to exist on the Virtual Console is because of those particular changes. The original versions of Mario’s games are classics for a reason, but Nintendo updated the games with a number of enhancements when they came to handheld systems. All three titles in the Super Mario Advance series offer updated visuals, alternate controls for Luigi, and even exclusive new levels. Then there’s Super Mario 64 DS, which offers extra stars, and three additional playable characters. Purists can opt to download the original versions of each game, but fans who have yet to experience these titles might actually be better off checking out the more recent versions. The experience is mostly the same, but the new additions might make them more accessible to a younger audience.
As the gaming industry gets older, the need to preserve games becomes a greater necessity. The Virtual Console service offering remakes in addition to their original versions is a good thing in the long run. It’s a way to preserve history, no matter whose history it is. The ability for gamers to play the versions of the games that they grew up with and pass them down to younger generations is an important one. It adds a stronger legitimacy to gaming as an art form. It isn’t a perfect system; there are still plenty of games missing from the Virtual Console service, and Nintendo should offer these games on the 3DS Virtual Console, as well. Perhaps one day, the company will take it one step farther, and offer the option to play each Mario game and toggle different graphic styles and options on and off, offering a blend between the old and new. For now, however, having both versions of these games available makes the Virtual Console a stronger overall service.