As a child of the 80's, I grew up playing a wide range of Super Mario games made by Nintendo. My all-time favorite will always be Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. It was the game that introduced Yoshi, one of the most ingenious video game characters ever, and there were so many hidden levels and Easter eggs in that game that it seemed like a near endless adventure, but not an impossible one. Jeff Ryan's Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, takes readers on the journey starting from before Nintendo even put out its first game. And while it was fun reliving the introduction of games and characters I haven't thought about in years, it was even more fun finding little tidbits of information that make the popularity of the little Italian hero even more remarkable.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a pretty straightforward nonfiction book about the history of what is arguably the world's greatest video game company. But it is also not so straightforward in that Ryan tells the story with humor and incredible insight that I feel like we wouldn't get if the story was told straight off. Every chapter is named after a different Mario game, there are many references included that aren't just about video games, and instead of being bored by facts and figures, I was intrigued by them and wanted to know more. In other words, Ryan made learning fun. Granted, the subject matter makes it easier to do. And a big theme throughout the novel involves both the Japanese culture and their way of doing business, since Nintendo is a Japanese company. And with Ryan starting his history with before Nintendo even existed as a brand, readers are able to fully understand just how much the video game industry owes to pioneering games like Pong and even older brands like Atari.
My Verdict: This is an incredibly fascinating book. If you ever played a Nintendo game, not even just Super Mario, with any sort of intensity, you will enjoy this book. Now, if you are just a child of the 80's like myself, and have only intensely played a handful of the Mario or Nintendo games Ryan mentions, but watched your older brother or cousins and their friends playing many more, then you will absolutely love this book. So, needless to say, if your allegiance to video games is at all stronger than that, then this book is for you. Like I said before, Ryan makes learning fun, and reliving a history that many of us were alive for can still be a suspenseful experience. Even when I knew what game was released next or what move Sony was about to make with the PS2, I was still anxious to turn the page and read the next chapter.
Favorite Moment: When Nintendo changed the video game world with the Nintendo Wii.
Favorite Quote: "Since the late 1970's, Sega wasn't so much the Pepsi to Nintendo's Coke as it was the RC Cola. It had been Rosencrantzing and Guildensterning it's way around the gaming world for decades, always buffeted by the wake of others, rarely the one making waves." Ha! And completely true...
Recommended Reading: It only makes sense that I would recommend Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. This book reads like a video game and was just as fun and intense.