Here's where it all begins. Donkey Kong, starring a character originally called "Jumpman," but who became Mario for the North American release of the arcade game, was released in July of 1981 and kicked off the career of one of video gaming's most popular and recognizable characters.
I've included Donkey Kong Jr. in this tree, simply because Mario made an appearance – as the bad guy. He has Donkey Kong locked up, and it's down to Donkey Kong's son to rescue him from the clutches of Mario.
A really key game in this section of the Family Tree is Mario Bros. – an original coin-op in which Mario and his younger brother Luigi have to protect New York by destroying the monsters that are invading its sewer system. A one- or two-player game, Mario Bros. was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi, and introduced the game mechanics of flipping over turtles and kicking them away – something that would be used time and time again in subsequent Mario games. Despite its notable historic place in the Mario Games Family Tree, it wasn't particularly successful in arcades. However, home versions of the game were, and it sold more than 1.6 million copies on NES in the US alone.
Sequels to that game include Wrecking Crew, Mario Clash on Virtual Boy, and two unusual Japan-only games, Mario Bros. Special, and Mario Punch Ball. Both the latter games were created by Hudson Soft in 1984 for the Japanese home PC market and are unique games in their own right. Mario Bros. Special features four levels, and the objective is to reach the top of each screen. Successfully beating all four levels sees the game start over at a harder difficulty level, with more enemies and hazards to avoid. Mario Punch Ball was an officially licensed game that plays similarly to Mario Bros. in that there's a single screen, only this time players can catch and throw balls to stun enemies, which can then be dispatched by running over them.
Kaettekita Mario Bros. is a variant of Mario Bros. that was released solely for the Famicom Disk System. It sports several new levels, and Mario and Luigi can change direction in mid-air when they jump. Advertisements appeared between screens for Nagatanien food company, who sponsored the game - which is why it also features "Nagatanien World," another Mario Bros variant where players can use a slot machine when their game is over to win a chance to continue the game with a number of extra lives based on the results of the slot machine spin. The game also had a contest – those who reached 100,000 points were given a code that they could send in to be entered into a raffle for Mario cards, while scoring more than 200,000 entered players into a raffle to win a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3, which was newly-released at the time. Everyone who sent in a code got a free Mario keyring.
Super Mario Bros. needs no introduction. The 40-million-selling title is a lynchpin in this Family Tree; one that spawned a huge amount of subsequent games as you can see here. Indeed, most of the games in this section are direct descendants of Miyamoto's seminal platformer.
A variant of that game by Hudson Soft is Super Mario Bros. Special, a Japanese PC version of Nintendo's most successful game that was modeled on the original title, but featured some new levels. The game also doesn't scroll in the same way that the NES title does due to the original PC hardware being unable to do so smoothly, so it's instead a flip-screen game – which makes it far more difficult to play than the original.
The "proper" sequel to Super Mario Bros. is The Lost Levels. If that doesn't sound particularly familiar, that's because it was originally only released in Japan. Notable for being exceptionally difficult, the Famicom Disk System game was considered by Nintendo of Japan to be too tough for a Western audience, and wouldn't appear outside of Japan until its inclusion in the 1993 SNES compilation title, Super Mario All-Stars.
Instead, the West got a sequel to Super Mario Bros. that started out life as Doki Doki Panic, a Famicom Disk System game that was originally meant to tie in with a Fuji TV media and technology expo. However, since Nintendo was looking for a follow-up to Super Mario Bros. for the US market, the decision was made to convert the game into a Super Mario Bros. title and launch it here. It ended up doing very well in the states, and indeed went on to be released in Japan as Super Mario USA. Wired has a really interesting piece about it should you want to find out more.
Two other games on this list that might be unfamiliar are BS Super Mario USA, and BS Super Mario Collection. The former is a sequel to Super Mario 2 that was made for the Satellaview (which I'll talk about a little later). It's levels are largely similar to Super Mario 2, but has a different plot and several new features, including a built-in clock, a points system, and Mario statues to collect, which grant Mario an extra life and fill his life meter. BS Super Mario collection is a remix of the Japanese version of Super Mario All-Stars that was released in four parts, also for the Satellaview.
Another hugely important title in this section of the Family Tree is Super Mario World. Arguably one of the best games in the Super Mario series, it's notable for its introduction of Yoshi, who went on to star in a whole new series of games – which are included within this section because I believe that they are truly part of the Mario family of games.
A special mention should also go to Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Featuring the debut of Wario, this game is responsible for creating a line of Wario games, which I've included in this Family Tree. Should they be here? I think so, since I believe they're an important part of the Mario family of games, even if not all of them feature Mario himself.
There are a few unusual titles listed on this Family Tree that you may not have heard of, one of which might very well be All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. This Famicom Disk System title was a modified version of the original game that featured sprites of famous Japanese celebrities instead of regular enemies. The game was given away as a raffle prize in the show, making it quite a rarity.
And if you're wondering what the hell I am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater is – that's a Famicom Disk System game that's essentially a knitting simulation. Players can design sweaters, add pictures of Mario characters to them, and then make them from the pattern created by the game. Later, it was possible to save patterns and send them off to manufacturer Royal Industries to have the sweater made for you – for around $24. Not a bad deal!