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March Madness: The Nintendo Bracket

March Madness: The Nintendo Bracket

The Nintendo bracket was by far the most difficult to decide. Nintendo is known as the gaming giant which brought video games off life support after the great crash of 1983 and turned it from a passing fad into a billion-dollar giant which is now intrinsically linked with the entertainment industry and popular culture. They’ve created so many iconic characters that I purposely had to scratch some off in order to get a shot at some of the other, more random characters who aren’t Nintendo icons. I scratched Donkey Kong from the seeding since he is, in the most technical sense possible, part of the Mario series. I also left off Pikachu since he can be replaced by any other Pokemon. And still, look at the selection: In any other bracket, Samus Aran would have been a top seed for sure. I hated not giving her the bye, but such is the cultural iconoclasm of Mario and Link. If you decide to take bets on this tournament, Nintendo’s loaded bracket is the definite favorite to produce the winner. 

1 – Mario
Who
A humble Brooklyn plumber who has been repeatedly called upon to rescue the royalty of the Mushroom Kingdom from the clutches of the evil Bowser, Mario is Nintendo’s shining star. He first appeared as the main character from Donkey Kong, using the pseudonym Jumpman, and has since been credited with creating the modern prototypes of the side-scrolling platformer and the 3D platformer which has been copied by almost every platform game since. He’s also successfully branched out across a wide range of genres, including classic forays into RPGs and racers. Despite the strength of the other characters in Nintendo’s arsenal, their top seed could never be anyone else. 
Abilities
Mario’s first real adventure game granted him the abilities to change sizes, warp through worlds, shoot fireballs, and turn invincible. That’s not even mentioning his best asset, a simple high jump which became the terror of a thousand Bowser underlings. Since then he’s also learned to fly, throw hammers, turn into a statue, ride a very hungry dinosaur, travel across the galaxy…. And that’s only covering a handful of the things he’s capable of in his core games. Bringing his other adventures into it, Mario is almost unstoppable and – in spite of his portly appearance and cheerful disposition – not a guy any other character in the tournament will want to face. 

2 – Link
Who
The elven star of The Legend of Zelda series, a series so well-produced that very few of its games haven’t been game of the year material. The Legend of Zelda games are a Criterion Collection of gaming all on their own, and are credited for being the template of the overhead adventure games which had strong cult followings in the Golden Era. The viewpoint of these games has gone the way of Sega consoles, since the advent of 3D rendered them unnecessary, but the genre still exists and continues to evolve. Link is the savior of the land of Hyrule, the rescuer of Princess Zelda (former rescuer, anyway; she’s taking a more active role in the series as of late), and the foe of Ganon. He is the bearer of the Triforce of Courage and at different times known as the Hero of Time; Hero of The Goddess; and Hero of Winds.
Abilities
Link’s primary weapon is the Master Sword, a magic sword, and he is known for swordsmanship and skills with the boomerang, slingshot, and bow. He is also known to wear magical garments like bracelets, shoes, and gauntlets. He also has a knack for musical instruments which – you guessed it – have enormous magical qualities and allow him access to the space-time continuum, allow him to change the seasons, or access to the inaccessible. In short, Link is a hero’s hero for those who dream of being celebrated in worlds similar to Middle-Earth or Narnia. You can expect quite a bit from him.

3 – Samus Aran
Who
The greatest of all bounty hunters would make even Boba Fett back down quickly if he learned Samus was also on the trail. The star of the always-popular and usually-acclaimed Metroid series also has the distinction of being The First Lady of Video Games. Samus’s gender was shown to be female upon beating the first Metroid game, when she took off her helmet and blonde locks draped out. She even has one of the feared Metroid creatures on her side, after one mistook her for its mother, which is bad news for the space pirates she’s gunning for.
Abilities
Samus’s metallic yellow suit provides her with protection against every atmospheric threat you can throw at her. Through the course of the Metroid series, Samus arms herself with a lot of suit and blaster upgrades, including the nasty Screw Attack, which wipes most of her foes in one shot while making her almost invincible at the same time. Her wave blaster and rocket launcher aren’t anything to sneeze at, either.

4 – Kirby
Who
Literally a small, pink, round ball of fluff, no one really knows who Kirby is or where he’s from. He first appeared in Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy, fighting to rid Dream Land of the evil King Dedede. Since then, he’s gone on to become one of Nintendo’s most recognizable and reliable characters in a series of popular and solidly-built platformers.
Abilities
We’re all aware of Kirby’s looks. I’m sure that’s part of the reason King Dedede thought he was in the clear the first time he took over Dream Land. Unfortunately for him and his minions, Kirby has an appetite, and a certain affinity for sucking up everyone in the immediate vicinity and spitting them out at someone else. If no one else is there, Kirby can gulp a nice hunk of air, which brings his weight down enough for flight. In later games, swallowing bad guys allows him to nab their characteristics, and his strength is then magnified quite a bit through various physical, chemical, or electrical means. Yes, Kirby might look like a wimp, but if you’re thinking that, he’s probably got you right where he wants you.

5 – Mega Man
Who
The star of the Mega Man series is nicknamed the Blue Bomber. He was created by the great scientist Dr. Light to be a lab assistant. Light also had an acclaimed colleague named Dr. Wily, though, who despite being a breakthrough scientist in his own right was constantly upstaged by Dr. Light. Sick of living in the shadows, Dr. Wily created an army of robots to take over the world. So Dr. Light responded by outfitting his assistant in some blue armor and giving him a little bit of weaponry to stop Wily’s robot army.
Abilities
When starting out, in various games Mega Man will start out with a slide, a powerful kick, and a potent uppercut, but his signature weapon is the Mega Buster, a solar-powered arm cannon which can charge bullets. That’s only the beginning, though; Mega Man’s true trademark is the absorption of the attacks of the mighty boss enemies he faces. Killing Wily’s boss robots opens up new weapons like the Bit Cannon; Crystal Eye; Laser Trident; Time Stopper; and Wave Burner, and those don’t even scratch the surface. The thing with Mega Man is that Dr. Wily was really good at building robots, and the fact that his robots are regularly equipped with weapons capable of controlling fire and stopping time means Mega Man will eventually have those powers himself. And there are lots of robots Wily built! If you’re looking for a safe sleeper pick to bet on, here’s your man.

6 – Simon Belmont
Who
A renowned vampire hunter from the 17th century, Simon is the star of the first two Castlevania games. Castlevania is a long-running series with many protagonists, but Simon is – with the possible exception of Alucard – the most iconic of them. That’s no small feat, because since the 12th century, Simon’s clan was the one charged with entering Castlevania and defeating Dracula once every century when he came back to life. Simon wasn’t quite able to kill Dracula in their first face off, and Drackie in fact managed to curse him, so he was then forced to gather Ol’ Pointy Teeth’s remains and burn them. The initial attempt blew over, the vamp came back, and Simon fought him a second time, lifting the curse upon his victory.
Abilities
Like everyone else in the Belmont family, Simon was endowed with the Vampire Killer, a powerful whip made for, well, killing vampires. He is also allowed to use a variety of supplemental weapons – including holy water, which is carried by all good vampire hunters, and a very powerful cross which also doubles as a boomerang.

7 – L-block
Who
One of the various block formations in Tetris, the most popular video game of all time. The L-block has no real identity, origin, or explanation beyond being the L-block.
Abilities
The L-block can be a nightmare if it drops at a bad time, but used wisely, it’s one of your best friends in Tetris. The shape makes it ideal for sliding into single-block outcroppings or – when used by a master – turning upside-down for use in preventing other blocks from disrupting a potential tetris as you wait for the straight to drop. When utilized to its greatest potential, the L-block is one of the game’s only two sources for triples.

8 – Bonk
Who
The mascot of NEC during their brief foray into video games, Bonk was the premier character for the Japanese PC Engine and American TurboGrafx-16. A cuddly caveman, Bonk uses his Conan O’Brien-sized noggin as his primary weapon in his various quests to keep King Drool away from Moonland and its ruler, Princess Za. The PC Engine was a great success in Japan, where it even managed to outperform Nintendo’s Famicom for awhile. It was a different story Stateside, though. NEC entered the 16-bit era with the TurboGrafx-16 right alongside Sega, who was wielding the Genesis. NEC had a knack for picking its bad games to import, though, and unlike Sega, they had no arcade favorites to fall back on. NEC bowed out of the Golden Era quickly while Bonk performed a short tour of duty on Nintendo’s consoles. A planned Bonk comeback in 2010 was cancelled.
Abilities
Bonk literally uses his head, and he has some creative ways to utilize it. He can use it to float by rapidly spinning it in a flip, and he can also drop headfirst onto enemies. The real fun comes when he’s able to power it up, though: He gains the ability to freeze enemies by slamming his head on the ground or shooting red honeycombs at them. He can also defeat them in one shot with fire breath. On the more passive front, Bonk can also learn to fly, shrink to half his size, or grow to several times it. If you want to bring his spinoff future shooting game, Air Zonk (which stood out even on a console still widely renowned in gaming circles for an array of incredible shooters), into it, Bonk is suddenly also packing a brutal arsenal of cartoonish weapons like cards, and occasional friends who fly alongside him shooting missiles.

9 – Pac-Man
Who
The first-ever video game character mascot, and still one of the most beloved. While Pac-Man has gone out in many different directions since his inception, he’s still known as the maze wunderkind with an endless appetite for dots and, when powered up, the ghosts who chase him. Pac-Man was the first game to feature a real character as opposed to a generic thing on a mission, and the first game to feature cutscenes. It’s also credited for being the father of the stealth genre, where you avoid enemies rather than fight them. He demonstrated the potential of characters in video games when he became a cultural phenomenon, spawning a Saturday Morning cartoon and a song.
Abilities
Pac-Man’s appetite is even more bottomless than Kirby’s, and he’s invincible when he chows down power pellets. Later games turned Pac-Man into an adventure star, even giving him abilities beyond those that everyone identifies with him like the Rev-Roll and the ability to throw dots. Still, though, it’s the power pellets making him invincible and letting him eat freaking ghosts that everyone knows him for.

10 – Ryu
Who
If the whole fighting game genre has a face, Ryu is it. Decked out in a traditional white karate gi with a black belt, gamers know at first sight that Ryu is a living buzz saw of arms and legs if they get too close. He doesn’t ask for very much in life – he wants to improve his fighting skills to the point where he’s the best, and then challenges himself by looking for opponents and making sure they put up a good, hard fight. Ryu is the main character in the Street Fighter series, which is credited for bringing fighting games to their apex in the 90’s and maximizing their potential – thus, maximizing the popular image from the 90’s of a pair of teenagers in a bedroom playing Street Fighter II for hours, eating naught but pizza and candy and drinking naught but Mountain Dew.
Abilities
Yeah, a karate master at Ryu’s level can hurt you. Like everyone else in the Street Fighter series, Ryu is equipped with a trio of punches and a trio of kicks. His standout moves include a fireball; the powerful Hurricane Kick, which spins toward opponents in a dangerous flurry of feet; and the fearsome Dragon Punch, which can send any opponent attacking from the air flying onto their asses while leaving Ryu unharmed. Ryu is a great all-around character who can win on offense and defense, fighting from ground or air, and can be powerful in the hands of both the novice and the expert alike.

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About Nicholas Croston

I like to think. A lot. I like to question, challenge, and totally shock and unnerve people. I am a contrarian - whatever you stand for, I'm against.

2 responses »

  1. Who the heck is Gonk…?

    And can you really put Ryu in the Nintendo bracket? Sure there’s SF2 but most of the Street Fighter games are on other platforms/multiplatform :/

    Reply
    • Nicholas Croston

      I’m limiting the number of iconic characters per bracket. A few Nintendo characters for the Nintendo bracket before filling it out with others, a few iconic Sega characters in the upcoming Sega bracket before filling that out with others….

      It has to be done because so few characters are exclusive to a single platform now. Sonic is on Nintendo, for god’s sake. Also, if I stuck to characters exclusive to the four brackets I’m creating – Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft – other characters wouldn’t even get into the contest.

      Reply

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