Super Mario by Jeff Ryan

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, what company’s name was synonymous with video gaming so much so that many people didn’t realize that it was a company but rather the occupation itself? If you said, “Nintendo” then this book is for you.

Super Mario
How Nintendo Conquered America
By Jeff Ryan
Penguin / Portfolio Hardcover
August 2011

Starting during the explosion of the arcade, this book chronicles the growth of Nintendo as an entertainment company through its renewed dominance in the market with the Wii and DS systems. More than a history lesson, though, Ryan takes the readers through and behind the scenes of what happened giving life to the facts and enlightening those barely remembered moments of the past.

Every chapter is a detailed and delightful mental stroll down memory lane. From the origin of Mario to his use in dozens of games through the years, Ryan’s attention to detail rewards readers and fans of Nintendo and gaming. Some details I, as an avid gamer growing up during this time in America, had never heard. For instance, I had no idea that Mario’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto created not only Donkey Kong and Mario, but was the driving force on games like Zelda, Pokemon, and Nintendogs. In fact, it seems like every game that Nintendo has made over the last 20+ years that has been a favorite of fans has been helmed by this video game genius.

Not everything in the book worked though. In fact, some of it “flopped like a koi.” Ryan used that quote to describe the Virtual Boy. And if you think that was oddly misplaced in the narrative then you and I agree that parts of this book are written in what I can only describe as a forced cool. From quotes about video games either selling a million copies “and a bag of chips, or [they] were whack” to others that refer to pop culture in ill-fitting ways, Ryan’s choice of words distracted instead of added to the narrative. Not always, but enough.

This book is a treasure for gamers and fans of Nintendo and is highly recommended in spite of the author’s interesting and sometimes distracting writing style.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.