In the college basketball world — and in office cubicle farms across America — March Madness is underway. Tens of millions of workers pretend to be working while filling out brackets in the pursuit of cash prizes and bragging rights amongst their friends and coworkers.
Local Minnesota sports radio station KFAN (FM 100.3) devised a creative bracket of their own — but it has nothing to do with college basketball. Their tournament — the ‘2014 Cartridge Video Game Bracket’ — pits classic video games against one another to decide which cartridge title is the ‘Greatest Of All Time.’
While the NCAA college basketball tournament is just getting started, the ‘Cartridge Video Game Bracket’ has been running for weeks on KFAN’s website, with fans voting titles through the tournament, and now they’ve narrowed it down to the Final Four.
Here is a quick rundown of the four remaining competitors:
Super Mario 3 — Nintendo Entertainment System Finalist
Release Date: 1990
Total Copies Sold: 18 million
Total Revenue: $1.7 billion (inflation adjusted)
Why should it win?
While the original Super Mario (1985) set the precedent for the side-scrolling, brick-breaking, coin-collecting, bad guy-smashing that would become the model for so many 8-bit and 16-bit games to follow, Super Mario 3 took the archetype to a whole new level.
It was 24 years ago, but I still remember the first time I played Super Mario 3 — the graphics were crisp and clean, the gameplay was addictive and fun, and the difficulty level was challenging but not impossible. The game was alive and full of possibilities — it felt like being an active part of a cartoon.
And remember “warping” (in World 1 – 3, by crouching on that notorious white-block platform)? Or gingerly navigating through the huge, wooden, canon-strewed airships at the end of each world? Classic stuff.
GoldenEye 007 — Nintendo 64 Finalist
Release Date: 1997
Total Copies Sold: 8 million
Total Revenue: $250 million
Why should it win?
It’s very hard for me to believe GoldenEye 007 sold “only” 8 million copies — everyone I knew was playing this game (obsessively) back in 1997 (and 1998 and 1999). The term is overused, but it’s fair to say GoldenEye was a “revolutionary” title in video gaming, bringing iconic first person shooter elements — multiplayer, sniper rifles, missile-launchers, “head-shots”— effectively to the console for the first time.
While FPS pioneers for the PC like Doom and Quake deserve plenty of credit, the success of franchises like Halo, Battlefield and Call of Duty all ought to pay at least a bit of homage to N64’s Goldeneye 007.
Even in 2014, it’s not uncommon to hear gamers mention old-school GoldenEye (or “Bond”, colloquially) as the grand patriarch to all great first-person console shooters that would follow.
And who doesn’t remember at least one epic 4-player split screen ‘Bond’ session that lasted deep into the night? (“Just one more game guys?”) Or how about a well placed proximity mine blowing your best friend to smithereens while he was attempting to sneak off to “camp” in his favorite snipers’ nest — priceless.
Mortal Kombat 2 — Sega Genesis Finalist
Release Date: 1994
Total Copies Sold: 18 million
Total Revenue: $400 million (including all console versions)
Why should it win? (It shouldn’t… see below)
Remember Mortal Kombat? Of course you do — it was the one-on-one fighting game that used gratuitous blood and gore to propel itself to the forefront of the video gaming world in the early 1990’s.
Originally an arcade hit, ‘Kombat’ — which included violent and climactic coup de gras moves called “Fatalities” that yielded the player bonus points and the respect of their friends in exchange for performing over-the-top, death blows — was ported over to home consoles in 1992. The sequel, Mortal Kombat 2, was released for Sega Genesis in 1994 to widespread anticipation and immediate acclaim for its increased roster of fighters, as well as improved control and fighting dynamics.
Super Mario Kart — Super Nintendo Entertainment System Finalist
Release Date: 1992
Total Copies Sold: 14 million
Total Revenue: $8 million
Why should it win?
Bottom Line: Mario is the Godfather of console video gaming. Mario-related games have sold over 450 million units to date and a good portion of that success (outside of the specific ‘Super Mario’ series) was originally ignited by the release of Super Mario Kart for the SNES.
‘Mario Kart’ was among the first non-side-scrolling uses of the Mario cast of characters and spawned sports, puzzle and party/variety franchises such as Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, Dr. Mario and Mario Party — all of which became wildly popular.
Apart from its cultural and economic impact, Super Mario Kart is just a damned great game. It’s simple, yet challenging. It’s well balanced competitively with an almost-addictive replay value.
Even to this day there are few video game experiences quite as satisfying as weaving through obstacles while chasing down a fellow racer… and then wiping him out with a well-timed, heat-seeking (red) turtle shell.
Which game in KFAN’s Final Four should win?
Very tough call.
It depends on the criteria, but if you put a Golden PP7 to my head and forced me to pick one, I would say GoldenEye 007 for Nintendo 64.
You could definitely make a strong case for one of the Mario titles given the little Italian pixelated plumber’s huge impact on video games over the lase three decades…
However, multiplayer, first-person perspective gaming has come to define a large share of the modern console video game industry. That phenomenon started, in large part, thanks to good old Goldeneye on the N64, and I’d rank it #1 of the four remaining titles on this list.
Which game doesn’t belong in the Final Four?
Easy. Mortal Kombat 2.
Mortal Kombat games were very good and indisputably important in the evolution of games in the fighting genre, but (A) ‘Kombat’ was (much) better as an arcade game, and (B) Sega Genesis was known more as a platform for sports titles like the famous Madden football franchise, NBA Live, NBA Jam, Sega Sports’ NFL Football, World Series Baseball, etc.
KFAN — the sports network — should have given more respect to sports games for Genesis. Period.
Also, what about Sonic the Hedgehog, KFAN!?
Sonic was to Sega — in a much smaller way — what Mario has been to the Nintendo brand. Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sold a combined 21 million copies, topping the list of Genesis’ best selling games of all-time, and every gamers’ favorite speedy blue hedgehog is a glaring omission from this tournament. I saw Sonic the Hedgehog 3 made it as a #6 seed only to get bounced by Street Fighter II — not good enough KFAN. Not good enough.
Overall, I think the entire Sega Genesis bracket is pretty jacked up from head to Toe Jam and Earl. Where is NHL ’94? It might be the most iconic sports video game of all-time, irrespective of console (it does show up on the SNES bracket losing out to NBA Jam). And why in the name of a giant blue Genie is Aladdin the top seed? For a Disney licensed game, Aladdin was good… but a #1 seed?! C’mon, man. It’s Aladdin.
Which game will KFAN’s loyal rubes actually vote for to win?
It pains me to agree with the legions-o-rube at KFAN, but my guess is GoldenEye will win the bracket.
Call of Duty games have sold over 100 million copies and the Halo franchise has moved over 50 million units — console first person shooters are the beating heart of what it means to be a “gamer” in 2014. As far as consoles and cartridges go, the genesis of FPSs was Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye 007, and I’d bet ‘Bond’ wins the tourney, since a big chunk of KFAN’s fanbase are probably playing a first person shooters online as we speak…
Stay tuned to KFAN and Minnesota Connected for updates and coverage of the climactic conclusion of the ‘2014 Cartridge Video Game Bracket.’
Photos via: Google