Is Mario, Zelda Love About Quality or Nostalgia?

Jan 23, 2013
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I know I might hear some complaints from Nintendo fans for this, but I have to ask: is the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda love about the quality of the games or the nostalgia?

As I’ve said here before, I’ve been playing games as long as I can remember. And as an owner of the Nintendo Entertainment System, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, and Wii U, I’ve played just about every first-party game Nintendo has ever launched. For years, Nintendo games have been entertaining me.

[Image credit: Andrew Becraft]

Still, I can’t help but shrug whenever the company announces a new Mario game or, as it did today, updates to its Legend of Zelda line. And yet, as I looked around the Web for the reactions to the news of an updated Wind Waker and a new Legend of Zelda title designed specifically for the Wii U, I was shocked by what I found.

Nearly everywhere I looked, people were expressing their excitement for the new title, and that Wind Waker was to be updated with HD graphics. Around the world, people seemed to be anxious to see the titles at E3, and couldn’t wait to finally get their hands on them. It wasn’t the standard, run-of-the-mill excitement, either; it was as if the greatest news in the history of gaming had just been passed down.

Of course, I expect such a reaction from the Nintendo faithful. For decades now, Nintendo’s fans have remained loyal to their favorite company, and anything short of outright excitement wouldn’t be enough for those folks.

[aquote]Is all the excitement more to do with nostalgia than quality?[/aquote]

But I’m not quite sure the Legend of Zelda and the Super Mario franchise truly deserve all the hype. I can’t help but wonder if all of the excitement has more to do with the past and nostalgia than the actual quality of the titles.

Those who make the quality argument certainly have the numbers on their side. According to data from Metacritic, there hasn’t been a single Legend of Zelda console game launched in over the last decade that hasn’t scored in the 90s (out of 100). And although New Super Mario Bros. U could only muster an 84 on Metacritic, its predecessors scored well into the 90s.

Nintendo supporters would say that such scores prove that the excitement surrounding new titles is justified. After all, if the franchises are delivering such great experiences, why wouldn’t we be excited for the future?

But perhaps those numbers tell a different story. For the most part, reviewers are of the age that grew up playing Nintendo games. And I, like so many others of my generation, tend to give Nintendo’s first-party titles some passes because, well, we remember the good ol’ days. There’s something special about Link and Mario, and saving the world with those characters. We have a deep-seated love for them that will not – and cannot – go away.

Perhaps that’s why we tend to forgive the fact that we’re playing basically the same game every few years. Although Nintendo has done a good job of bringing some new mechanics to the titles, for the most part, a Mario game is a Mario game, regardless of whether you played it 15 years ago or today. The same is true with Zelda.

If the titles weren’t Mario and Zelda, would we have viewed them as favorably? Some might say no. Others, of course, wouldn’t believe that a Nintendo game would get any special treatment.

But perhaps it’s something to consider. Nintendo’s flagship franchises have affected an entire generation unlike any other game to other generations. And that could – could – be playing a role in our feelings towards the Zelda news.

What do you think?


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