Posted on May 2nd, 2011 3 comments
How popular did Nintendo’s Family Computer become after Super Mario Bros. was released on September 13, 1985? So popular that, as it turns out, a third-party Super Mario Bros. strategy guidebook was the top selling non-manga book in Japan for the entire year of 1985. And 1986.
Super Mario Bros.: The Complete Strategy Guide (スーパーマリオブラザーズ完全攻略本) was produced by the editors of Tokuma Shoten’s Family Computer Magazine, the highest-circ game mag in Japan until Famitsu hit it big in the late 1980s. Simultaneous day-and-date guide releases alongside games didn’t really happen until later, so this book didn’t hit shops until October 31 — and still it managed to sell 630,000 copies before the end of the year. What’s more, the 10th best-selling book of 1985 in Japan was another SMB strategy guide — Futami Shobo’s Super Mario Bros. Secret Tricks Collection (スーパーマリオブラザーズ裏ワザ大全集), shown below.
(In what was perhaps a sign of the times, the book that Tokuma’s Mario guide beat out to be #1 in 1985 was the Japanese translation of Iacocca: An Autobiography.)
Mario Mania didn’t truly take hold in Japan until 1986, though. In that year, Tokuma’s guide was again the top-selling book in the nation, with Futami’s getting bumped up to third place. What’s more, those two books were joined by five other guides in the top 25 — strategies for Twinbee, The Goonies, Spelunker, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken. In 1986, you could sell anything Famicom-related and rake in massive profits, basically — and then it happened all over again in America two years later. I knew I was born too late.
Sadly, the guidebook boom faltered in subsequent years as competition increased. From 1987 onward, the only strategy guides that made Japanese bestseller lists were Enix’s official guides for whatever Dragon Quest title they most recently released.