Our review of one of the latest Nintendo related books to hit the market.
Before Mario is a newly released book aiming to inform readers about Nintendo’s toys, games, and products released before the Famicom (NES) era in 1983. For those not in the know, Nintendo started off as a playing card manufacturer in 1889, so there have been many products released by Nintendo in this close to 100 year long history. With that said, Before Mario has a slightly narrower scope, instead focusing only on Nintendo’s products from 1965 to 1983.
Before Mario is written by a Dutch Nintendo Collector named Erik Voskuil, a man who has one of the world’s largest collections of old-era Nintendo toys. Voskuil also runs a blog with the same name as this book.
The Before Mario book is hardcover, 224 full-colored pages, and measures 9.5 x 8 inches. It also features a heartwarming foreword by Satoru Okada, one of the first electronics engineers Nintendo hired back in 1969. You may not know him, but Okada worked on many Nintendo products including the Game & Watch series, Metroid, Game Boy, and the Nintendo DS before he left the company in 2010.
The heart of Before Mario lies in its 52 different product descriptions accompanied by a minimum of two pages of pictures and artwork from these classic items. The book breaks them all down into five different chapters as follows: Family Games, Toys, Electro-Mechanical Games, Portable Electronic Games, and Home Consoles. There are also a handful of shorter Bonus Sections as well.
One problem I have with the product descriptions in Before Mario is that they are somewhat short. In some cases I know there is more that could be written about these products and how they relate to Nintendo’s history. This problem might stem from the fact that the pages of the book are in both French and English, so having descriptions in two different languages probably meant space was limited. I feel the book would have benefited if these descriptions were longer and the French language was removed and republished in its own edition.
I also have some minor issues with the formatting of Before Mario. Since the book is in both French and English, the product descriptions are often written side by side. For approximately the first half of the book the French descriptions are on the left, and the English on the right. But then the book appears to sometimes mix up which side each is written on and it leaves the reader fumbling for a second to find what they can read.
One more issue I have with the formatting is that each chapter seems to present products in a random order. Sometimes similar items appear in successive order, and other times it feels somewhat unplanned. The strange thing is that the year the product was released is stated on each page. I don’t understand why the author wouldn’t arrange these items in chronological order as it would have made following Nintendo’s journey a bit easier .
These qualms aside, I still can’t get enough of the visuals found in Before Mario. Since this is a hardcover book of decent size, it’s just a real treat to look at. The pictures are big, colorful, and like nothing else found in any other book that I have seen relating to Nintendo history. Fans of Nintendo wishing to get a good glance at some of these obscure products will enjoy looking at each page in wonderment.
It’s hard to recommend Before Mario as the best book on Nintendo’s history due to its brief product descriptions. If you are looking to learn more about Nintendo history, I--and even the Before Mario book itself--suggest reading the History of Nintendo series by Florent Gorges.
With that said, Before Mario does shine on its own due to its hardcover, size, and beautiful pictures. Nintendo fans around the world will enjoy just paging through it and leaving it out for guests to take a glimpse at the products that came before Nintendo was the video game giant we know and love today. The bottom line is that Before Mario is easily the best Nintendo coffee table book on the market today.