While the SNES was absolutely amazing for RPGs and other fun genres, this still was very much the era of platformers. My brothers and I played Super Mario World, Castlevania IV, and Contra III to death — partially because we loved them, and partially because new games were expensive and only granted on birthdays and Christmas. So rare were they, in fact, that it was unthinkable to advocate for a game whose quality was yet to be determined. You didn’t want to buy, say, R-Type 3 and find out that it was so bleeding difficult that you’d never get past the first stage.
Therefore, it was like a weirdly targeted gift when Nintendo came out with Super Mario All Stars in 1993. At the time, this was AMAZING. It was all four NES era games — Super Mario Bros 1-3 plus the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2 — bundled together in a single cartridge. Even better, there were save states and all of the games were remastered to bring them up to SNES-level graphics.
For a broke teen in the ’90s, this was the most bang for your buck that you could get, especially considering that the playability of at least three of the titles had long been proven to be terrific.
Sure, none of the games could really hold a candle to Super Mario World, but they were still a lot of fun. SMB1 was certainly a heaping of nostalgia (and still handled tight), the Lost Levels was an interesting challenge, SMB2 was a childhood favorite of mine, and SMB3 is an undeniable classic. Honestly, we probably spent more time playing SMB3 on this than the others combined.
But that didn’t matter, because at least there was a choice. I know, we’re in a time today where there are more free games at one’s fingertips than can ever be played, but this certainly wasn’t the case in 1993, especially with an offline console. In one stroke, our SNES had four games added to it, and we felt like rich kings.
I wish that Nintendo had done more with this format for some of its other properties, such as making an All-Star Zelda or something with the first two games remastered. Or All-Star NES collection — pick four classic games and spruce them up. Considering that this game sold over nine million units, you’d think Nintendo would have picked up on the possibilities.