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Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America Paperback – September 25, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The history of how a Japanese video game featuring two Italian brothers became one of America's favorite pastimes is covered in exhaustive, enthusiastic detail by video game reviewer Ryan. The author takes readers through Nintendo's early business machinations; the story of Mario's eccentric creator, Shigeru Miyamoto; and the game-changing emergence of Nintendo's motion controller for the Wii, with a breezy journalistic style. At times the tone slips into the white hat–black hat morality employed in most video games, often painting Nintendo's business competitors or detractors with broad reductive strokes—"hardcore gamers sneer at Wii"—and paeans to new Nintendo releases get smattered with exclamation points, so that some pages read like Nintendo promo material. All of this is distracting but not fatal, and the book is a thorough history of Nintendo's victories, written by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable fan. (Aug.) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Jeff Ryan, a lifelong gamer, has been featured on and All Things Considered. He reviewed over 500 video games and covered four console launches as the games editor for Katrillion, a popular dotcom-era news and entertainment Web site. He lives in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845637
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845638
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By KingGeorge24 on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best part of this book, by far, is the cover. It's an arresting piece of artwork for anyone who grew up with a Nintendo: Mario paused in mid-jump, a perfectly Nintendo shade of blue wallpapered behind him. It's an image that promises more than the book offers.

The writing is clean and straightforward but far too often Ryan resorts to pop culture jokes (the intro to Sonic the Hedgehog is particularly brutal) or cultural stereotypes (in the section detailing with the creation of the first Mario arcade game are the inevitable references to yin and yang and Japanese Zen). It's a style that should be familiar to anyone who's read Wired magazine. There are also a few spelling errors sprinkled throughout the book, nothing terrible, although Konami is referred to as Komani.

As a history of Nintendo it's a worthy primer but don't expect anything as in-depth or meticulously researched as David Sheff's "Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World," from which "Super Mario" paraphrased a cover image and a subtitle. "Game Over" was a video game book but also a business book. At nearly 500 pages it offered a level of detail and character necessary to understand the under-scrutinized subject. Ryan too often focuses on the trivial and skates by the interesting; multiple page bios on historical footnotes like Captain Lou Albano and Billy Mitchell yet a single paragraph of background on Shigeru Miyamoto. For a more compelling look at the history of Nintendo and Miyamato, I'd first refer one to "Game Over" and "Master of Play" by Nick Paumgarten from the New Yorker.

Ryan's greatest mistake is in his disregard for any description of the actual act of playing video games. There's never any sense of what it's like to hold a controller in one's hands and play a game.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By M. Lin on October 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am rarely moved to share my opinions on things, but there's a lot about this book that I can't keep quiet about.
As far as the content of the book, I agree with what other reviewers have said in that the author's telling of Nintendo's history up until about the SNES, at most N64 era, is the book's strongest. For Nintendo's history after that, you're not much better off than asking a Gamestop employee for it. As for this writing style, I also felt he was trying too hard to be hip and witty and detracted from the book. To call a past Japanese NOA president "Grandpa Ojisan" (Grandpa grandpa?) and then Reggie Fils-Aime "Will Smith" was about as funny as a Hiroshima joke. But that's his writing style and I've already bought the book, and that's not what really bothered me.
What really irked me with this book is the misinformation. This book seems more like a 200 page wikipedia entry than a published work. A few mistakes is forgivable but the amount this book has makes me wonder who proof-read it. For being written by a 'life-long gamer' and focusing on Nintendo, it's amazing how he can misspell the system that was the catalyst for video games throughout the whole book - the Famicom (FAMily COMputer) not Famicon. Also, it's the DSLL (or DSXL), not DSX (it's still on store shelves for crying out loud). There's also a lot of other wrong info and misspellings, but a few standouts were claiming the original PSP had 16gb of memory built in, that the Xbox 360 and PS3 both required $100 of extra charges to play online at launch, that the original Pokemon's types were fire, water and ice (assuming he was referring to Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur) or claiming that both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were made by Square during the N64 era.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas J. Castellina on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The author obviously did zero research when putting this together. As other reviewers have mentioned, it is full of inaccuracies. I know it sounds nitpicky, but the author consistently calls the "Famicom" the "Famicon". (Also repeatedly refers to "Konami" as "Komani". Here are a few examples of facts that are incorrectly stated:

1. There is a princess at the end of every four levels in Super Mario Bros.
2. You have to push a button to use the hammer in Donkey Kong
3. Bowser is the end boss in the United States' Super Mario Bros. 2.

I've heard most of the stories in this book, so it wasn't too much of an issue to me, but it makes me wonder if the things I didn't know were completely inaccurate. Additionally, for some reason people like Billy Mitchell and Captain Lou Albano get more thorough biographies than Shigeru Miyamoto.

This is just a really poor effort, and it pains me that there are so few books about Nintendo history that something like this may endure and give misinformation to future generations.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By The Litigator on December 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
I suggest Mr. Ryan choose a new profession. His cursory treatment of the video game industry is the literary equivalent of an hour-long made-for-TV documentary. A little cheesy, mildly entertaining, but lacking in both depth and substance.

Several inaccuracies contained in this book have already been mentioned by other reviewers. Here are a few more that I've found, without having to do any research. And I haven't even finished the book yet.

In the movie "The Wizard," Christian Slater's character does not go on a road trip to the video game competition with his two brothers. Slater's character is instead with the boys' father and they are trying to catch the two boys before a hired private investigator does.

Bowser does not make an appearance as the end "boss" in Super Mario Bros. 2. It's some kind of frog or toad that you fight (I remember this from playing the game back when I was a kid. What a shame that Mr. Ryan didn't remember the same thing, assuming he ever made it that far or played the game to begin with.)
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