There’s nothing quite like owning physical goods, but they can be expensive and shelf space can come at a premium. Every month, Hardcore Gamer picks a premium collectible from our cavernous swag vaults and tells you whether it’s worth a spot in your Collector’s Cabinet.
Nintendo merchandise has always sold well thanks to its patented ability to draw in gamers young and old. More recently we’ve seen an incredible fanbase build up around Amiibos – those little figures which offer small bonuses to their respective games. But what of all the other Nintendo goodies out there? Back in 2009, board game publisher USAopoly obtained the Super Mario license and produced a chess set (as well as other board games) featuring some of Nintendo’s most iconic characters. Although it’s titled “Super Mario Chess Collector’s Edition,” it appears the same exact title is utilized on versions of the game sold in stores today. So, it hardly seems collectible in that respect.
The chess set comes in two versions – one with a cardboard outer box and the other with a tin. My version is the simple cardboard box release. Both versions provide a nice rectangular window near the bottom showing off Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Bowser. All character figures are smaller than Amiibo, but not by much. They also seem to feature less color variation than Amiibos do, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unlike some licensed products each figure does look pulled straight from the games in their brightly-colored, cartoony forms. In any case, each character’s base has letters popping out of it to explain which chess piece they’re meant to represent. It’s best not to take these distinctions literally as Mario is deemed King with Luigi as Queen. On the opposite end Bowser is pegged as King while Baby Bowser gets the distinction of Queen.
Every non-pawn chess piece features a character while pawns are relegated to coins and shells. In an interesting design choice the red player features character pieces associated with the “good” side of the Super Mario world: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Toad, Yoshi. On the other hand the green team features the following: Bowser, Baby Bowser, Birdo, Kamek, Goombas. Considering the amount of more notable enemies to choose from a few of these seem quite strange choices. Whatever the case may be USAopoly ensured that each side has two of the same character for their respective piece to lessen player confusion.
Since there are two completely visually distinct sets of chess pieces in play at the same time, however, it provides an unintentional challenge for players. After all, whereas with a typical chess set you have the same general forms for rook, bishop, and the like here everything has been Mario-ified. Sure, each piece has its name written on the base but checking that over and over is hardly fun. Once you get it down though it feels just like chess because that’s all this is. Chess overlaid with some cutesy Mario characters on a blue and white board. Although it may usher some younger folks into liking chess they’ll have to eventually learn how to play with more standard issue pieces!
The biggest letdown is that all pawns are so dull. Sure, giving each a distinct appearance would only further player confusion, but the coins and shells are incredibly boring. Compared to the fact that there’s ten completely distinct figures already included, it seems like even more should have been designed. Heck, at least the pawns could have been creatures instead. It’s obvious that the biggest expense went toward each figure as the chess board itself is totally middling. It’s a simple bit of cardboard the likes of which come with any cheap chess set. Considering Super Mario Chess is costly, though, you’d hope a bit more effort could have gone into every aspect of its production.
This set is a novel piece for Nintendo collectors, but a bit much for actual chess play. Pick it up only if you’re in desperate need of more Nintendo figures (and possibly your only opportunity to own any official Birdo merchandise) or want to teach a young Nintendo fan the basics of chess.
For Hardcore Fans Only