The developers behind this legendary XBLA title were anything but subtle in portraying their influences. Many, if not all of the cutscenes in Super Meat Boy feature shot-for-shot parodies of iconic moments in games like Mega Man, Castlevania, and even Pokémon.
But the greatest ode to any of the classics is saved for Mario, taking form in not another clever cutscene, but in the moment-to-moment gameplay. Though 2D platformers were already on a rise, no contemporary of Super Meat Boy offered such hyper-precise controls, excellent map design, or smoothness in progression of mechanics. Of all the games mentioned in this list, Super Meat Boy stands as the truest dedication to Mario in both gameplay and presentation.
It isn't hard to see the parallels between Team Meat's super hardcore platformer and the Nintendo title that started it all. Indeed, even the name "Super Meat Boy" sports the same initials as Super Mario Bros. From the game's opening cinematic to the final blow dealt to the evil Dr. Fetus, references to Mario are littered throughout Meat Boy's arduous journey to saving Bandage Girl. In fact, this journey itself is a parody of Super Mario Bros.
Most gamers can easily recognize the Mario-Peach-Bowser paradigm in Super Meat Boy. However, Meat Boy's story has more endearing qualities amidst the tongue-in-cheek humor. Bandage Girl is not royalty; she is essentially an equal to Meat Boy (besides being a semi-typical damsel in distress). The imagery of Bandage girl clearly suggests that she is a real necessity in Meat Boy's life. Conversely, it may have become more clear to us several game generations later that Mario is infatuated, if not in love with the princess. But it wasn't so clear in the initial game. For all we know, Mario is doing no more than his civic duty to the Mushroom Kingdom by taking up arms to rescue the princess (or something far more sinister, as many conspiracy theorists believe). In Super Meat Boy's case, it is very clear from the start that Meat Boy is on a quest of the heart.
Unfortunately, this proves to be one of the most relentlessly unforgiving quests of all gaming history. Throughout the game, Meat Boy is beaten, squashed, sliced, and otherwise inhumanly slaughtered over and over again. The game makes Meat Boy's sufferings gruesomely apparent with a kill-cam compilation of every failed attempt playing upon finishing each level. What makes this all the more painful is that even when he does reach Bandage Girl at the end of each level, she is once again snatched away by Dr. Fetus. No matter what our efforts, no matter how great our triumphs, the developers here constantly remind us of the inescapable truth that our princess (Bandage Girl) is always in another castle.