“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.”
It’s now 2018. I wanted to start off this solar cycle with a review of some important game, a significant title that has changed the course of interactive entertainment history. When I think about requisites like these, I remember that there’s really only one title that fits that description. Well, this one and a handful of other movers and shakers.
Super Mario Bros. is one of the most influential video games of all time, first released in 1985 on the NES. It inspired a billion pretenders, shifting the industry from shooters and sports to platformers, framed design in gaming for decades to come, cemented itself into popular culture, and almost single-handedly saved the gaming industry in North America after the market crash of ’83. It was the best-selling video game of all time for decades with over 40 million units sold until it was dethroned by 2006’s Wii Sports. Now, 33 years later, it remains one of gaming’s best-sellers, currently the fifth best-selling game in history and the second best-seller of all time for a single platform.
So how did this luminary come to be?
It began with Shigeru Miyamoto, an industry icon who changed the world with his inventions: Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda among them. Miyamoto was also the creator of the arcade game Mario Bros., and when that original adventure with Mario and his second-fiddle sibling Luigi battling turtles in the sewers showed some legs in terms of commercial success, Nintendo decided it was time to put the brothers in a new, simple game currently in development and call them “Super”.
The original prototype was vastly different than the final result; the prototype was not a side-scroller and would’ve involved shooting bullets instead of fireballs and pressing up on the d-pad to jump. What a mistake that would have been! Though the concept that would eventually become Super Mario Bros. didn’t originally involve the plumbers, Nintendo wanted to continue their traditional emphasis on athleticism in game design and the hero once known as Jumpman fit the bill perfectly.
Super Mario Bros. was a paradigm shift for the broken gaming industry: a bright and happy game not bothered with blasting bug aliens or engaging enemy soldiers but with bright colors and blue skies instead of perpetually black screens (excusing a few levels). Super Mario Bros. concerned itself with delightful music that immersed players rather than merely attracting them with bleep and bloop sound effects. It brandished a simple but direct goal to rescue the princess instead of merely earn high scores.
The North American industry had been decimated by the time Super Mario Bros. was ready. Shockingly, the market had faced a 97% drop in revenue between 1983 and ’85, resulting in widespread bankruptcies. That’s when Nintendo stepped in to remedy the “Atari shock”, as the crash was known in the Land of the Rising Sun, with a cheerful little man in overalls and quality game design. In 1985, Super Mario Bros. carried the sales of the Nintendo Entertainment System and with it the success gaming industry. Games were back into the good graces of consumers and into millions of homes everywhere. Miyamoto had scored one of the greatest revolutions of his career. He was just 33 years old at the time.
That Super Mario Bros. became one of the technology world’s biggest and best success stories is no secret, but the question must arise about how well the game holds up after all this time has passed. Upon its original release, there wasn’t much else as streamlined and perfected, but is it still a great game today?
Let us lay down a supposition for the rest of this examination: A video game can be great without aging well and without remaining as enjoyable as it once was. In other words, greatness can be measured not just by enduring accessibility but by historical significance and influence. A stage in the evolution of gaming, a piece of that great jigsaw or a thread of that great tapestry, is as important as the whole of gaming as we know it. Current gen games, especially those out of the West, may not even be here without Super Mario Bros.’s rejuvenating impact, though it was quickly outpaced.
After all, face the facts. Super Mario Bros. has thus far been surpassed by its many predecessors in nearly every way imaginable. That’s how the series has kept churning out winner after winner. Mario himself, one of the most enduring and instantly recognizable icons in entertainment, has already appeared in over 200 different games.
Later sequels expanded upon Super Marios Bros.’s cast of characters with new enemies and allies. Bowser gained the Koopalings, Bowser Jr., and a host of soldiers and baddies under his command which are too many to name. Likewise, Mario gained new comrades in Yoshi, Daisy, Geno, Rosalina, Pauline, and Toadette, and new rivals in Wario and Waluigi, and many more.
In just three years, the two sequels Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3 improved upon its now metaphorically cobwebbed graphics, the area where this and other retro games seemingly age the worst. Those two immediate sequels also deepened the gameplay without sacrificing its simplicity, adding new playable characters and the gift of flight.
So why call the original Super Mario Bros. one of the greatest games of all time if it has been so surpassed? The key to answering that question is the word “Foundation”.
Super Mario Bros. formed a foundation for the gaming industry as we know it today. Yes, gaming pre-existed 1985 in the double-A’s: arcades and Atari, but the market crash of ’83 was a recession due to oversaturation which Atari contributed to. Atari did not provide a lasting foundation for the gaming industry (consider how few games take influences from titles on the Atari 2600 compared to games influenced by Super Mario Bros. alone; that gap of comparison is enormous). Likewise, the golden age of the arcades saw its heyday with crazes surrounding wildly popular games like Pac-Man, but gaming could not take root in the consciousness of the consumer’s home without dumping the coin-op system and creating a one-time purchase console that fit nicely next to the VCR and stereo.
The New Yorker once wrote that Super Mario Bros. “…depending on your point of view, created an industry or resuscitated a comatose one.”
Secondly, Super Mario Bros. was the foundation for a standard of quality. Nintendo was once notorious for their strict rules in exactly what could be allowed on their NES, but it paid off and gaming has benefitted tremendously from it. Quality control ensured a course correction with Super Mario as the vanguard.
There were too many consoles in the second generation of gaming and they were stuffed full of shoddy ports, innumerable clones, and homemade messes. Of course there were diamonds in the rough but the rough was rough indeed. The Atari 2600’s Pac-Man port comes to mind, as does the infamous E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial landfill fodder, a game so shortsightedly rushed into the market that it became a financial disaster. At the height of oversaturation, bargain bins were stuffed with cheap knockoffs looking to capitalize on this new and exciting field in technology. That was before it all came tumbling down and North American consumers lost interest.
“Atari collapsed because they gave too much freedom to third-party developers and the market was swamped with rubbish games.”
-Former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi, 1986
Cue the NES in North America with Super Mario Bros. as one of its seventeen launch titles. Once called a miscalculation on Nintendo’s part, the NES was a success, asystem which the Big N sought to protect from oversaturation by implementing early policies such as the following: no third-party developer would be allowed to put out more than three “software packages” a year for the system. Some companies found their way around the rigid product licensing by creating subsidiaries under new names (Konami of America’s approach with Ultra Games, for instance). This allowed them to develop and publish even more games for the system. The NES also included the 10NES lockout chip which ensured that nobody could make an NES game without Nintendo’s literal seal of approval, though eventual unlicensed games made it past the chip.There were ways around this as well, though, with companies like Atari vying for a piece of the pie with Tengen and even Color Dreams/Wisdom Tree entering the mix with their unlicensed games, clones that smacked of days gone by. I recommend you watch the excellent documentary by the Gaming Historian on Nintendo’s relationship with Atari/Tengen. Ultimately though, quality was at the forefront of Nintendo’s mind in bringing the NES to bear and that was clear from early on in the console’s lifespan with the thoughtful and deliberate design choices within Super Mario Bros.
It took this eye for quality control to usher in a new era for gaming with the third generation of consoles.
My tertiary point is concerned with Super Mario Bros. becoming the foundation for a franchise.
The Super Mario brand has since expanded to include anime, film, television, toys, and merchandise of all sorts. Mario spin-offs stepped into new genres with characters taking to sports, kart racing, puzzle solving, educational games, RPGs, fighting, simulation, and even horror. In 2017 we received the much heckled/critical darling Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Mario in a dynamic and well-received strategy game! Who knew? What has Mario not been in? FPS?
As Mickey Mouse is to Disney, as Bugs Bunny is to Warner Bros., as Beethoven is to classical music, so is Super Mario to the gaming industry. Representative. Few franchises have even come close to this scope, scale, and success, beginning with Super Mario Bros. It always seems to me as if nobody really cares about Mario games. His fans are different than those belonging to the Zelda series. Nobody ever pines for more Mario, but when these games come out they’re met with roaring approval. Odyssey in recent memory is just one example of that.
Fourthly, finally, Super Mario Bros. was the foundation of childhood for people now in their 30’s. This was certainly true for me. This is one of the earliest games I can remember playing. In a nutshell, Super Mario Bros. represents all of the happiness, the brightness, the idyllic nature and purity of stereotypical and picturesque childhood, even though many of us perhaps didn’t experience those specific ideals then. Given the amount of units sold, players that grew up with this adventure resemble a sizable group within the gaming community.
Super Mario Bros. therefore represents to a whole generation of gamers what it felt like to be a kid. It influenced our perception of video games and entertainment, thereby influencing the technology that Millennials, Gen X’ers, or Xennials create (or whatever stupid term they decide to call us this year). In this sense, Super Mario Bros. has had more effect upon the world that we live in than merely the context of gaming. It’s a part of my generation. So many millions have played it that its design philosophy, challenge, and emphasis on momentum and fun rippled out through our creative talents. We too learned to create entertainment that taught without spoon feeding.
The gaming industry would look vastly different without Super Mario Bros. Earlier I spent some time scrolling down the home page of my blog, picking out the games that might not have ever existed without Super Mario Bros. Gaming would surely have been different without this game and just maybe a large part of the rest of the creative world would have too.
While primally basic, these ancient graphics achieved a unique personality that hadn’t yet come to the fore in video games. Previously, inarticulate shapes and colors predominantly represented characters in a game, if you could find a game that even had characters in the first half of the 80’s. Again to evoke the exemplary Pac-Man, that arcade smash hit was a pioneering exception in creating a cast of characters, however simple. The way had already been paved with Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. in the arcade as well, but Super Mario Bros. took this fledgling sense of charisma and infused it into every frowning goomba, gnashing turtle, gaping guppy, undulating squid, and rictus-grinning Bowser.Resembling more the flat colors of the second generation than the dark outlined sprites and detailed backgrounds of the third that had yet to grow to full flower, Super Mario Bros. is the clear intermediary between those generations, accomplishing more than its predecessors and opening the way for its successors, though unable to enter that promis
ed land itself. There is then the matter of this game’s placement in history as a decisive factor in critiquing its visuals.
It is an early NES game, barred from the luxury of advancement that its sequels and latter peers enjoyed. What it was able to accomplish with the tools of its time was noteworthy, though this also means that it is far from the prettiest game on the NES. Still, its brightness and warmth was a welcome change from the darker, duller imagery preceding it. Additionally, it’s unaffected by significant slow down or much sprite flicker that I could detect, Super Mario Bros. seems like a confident sampling of what the NES was capable of. Further, it utilized graphics in such a way as to communicate to the player what was dangerous and what wasn’t, so there would be little confusion in that area.
How could musician Koji Kondo have known that the score he wrote for Super Mario Bros. would become some of the most famous video game music ever? Six songs are all that occupy this icon’s musical landscape yet they were clearly lavished with attentive design that hadn’t been seen before in gaming, excepting the fewest examples. To highlight the theme of athleticism in the game, Kondo composed tracks that were fast paced and kept the player on the edge of their seats. As the timer runs down in a level, the music famously speeds up, in turn reflecting upon the gameplay and making it seem even more frenetic (though this was not the first game to do this). The relationship between music and the actual experience of playing the game is one that we now take for granted as always having been there, but Super Mario Bros. was the game that made this the standard that we think it to be.
Kondo was a part of the design team from the beginning of the project, when it was in its prototypical stages, and he therefore approached writing and adapting the music for Super Mario Bros. with the concept of “theme” in mind, crafting music to fit the game rather than merely accompany it. Previously, music in video games typically took the form of sound effects and individual notes, or if they were melodic then they were confined to sound bites and little ditties. Introducing thematic music to games in Super Mario Bros. created a marriage that has remained wedded since. Kondo wanted his music to not be ambiguous, but create concrete imagery and emotion in the person playing the game, in turn influencing how they engaged with the game as a whole. Remember that the next time you enjoy your favorite video game soundtrack and the emotions it conveys.
“…the [Super Mario Bros.] music is inspired by the game controls, and its purpose is to heighten the feeling of how the game controls.”
Perhaps the most famous video game songs of all time, the “Super Mario Bros. theme” aka the “Overworld theme” or “Ground theme”, is one that millions can recall to mind. I tested this out on my relatives and found they could identify the song as belonging to Super Mario Bros. if I played them a brief clip of it, or they could hum it themselves, without even having played the game in thirty years. Despite this theme apparently being the most difficult and time-consuming track to compose for the game, it has since become the musical foundation of the entire Mario franchise, the foundation for immersion in game music, and one of the most recognizable themes in the entertainment world.
Such is the power of music that emphasizes imagery and emotion. The “Overworld theme” grants a sense of leisure, such as in taking a walk. I always thought of the percussion in the song as synonymous with Mario’s footsteps somehow. The song also creates a sense of hurrying about. The calypso style channels the Caribbean (indeed the theme is often interpreted with steel drums), making it feel lighthearted and pleasant. It’s a happy introduction to the game and has a sense of interactivity with Mario’s movements.
In direct opposite to the “Overworld theme” is the “Underworld theme”. At only about 12 seconds long, the theme is dreary and repetitive. It’s the darkness to the Overworld’s light. It utilizes a reverberating motif which evokes the sensation of sound underground, echoing in a sewer or dungeon. Beyond that, I’m not certain what else I could say about the “Underworld theme”. It’s famous? Yeah, it is.
From underground now to the “Underwater theme”. This is actually my favorite track from Super Mario Bros. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in and around and on the ocean. When I learned to snorkel and later to dive, I sometimes heard this song in my head. You’ll notice again that Kondo’s compositions accentuate what happens on the screen while the music plays: this song evokes the ebbing current and weightlessness of being underwater. Going with a 3/4 timing, there’s an elegance to the “Underwater theme”, like a slow waltz. It feels like a break from the faster-paced platforming in the rest of the game, perhaps underscored here (underwater score) by the change in Mario’s controls while swimming.
And back to frantic running again! It seems like the “Castle theme” was so designed to make your blood boil like the lava pits. It’s energetic and dark, highlighting the frustration that can come from missing your jumps or getting trapped in the looping mazes. It’s a track that feels as if it would fit right in with The Legend of Zelda, which Kondo (credited as Konchan) composed the music for. Not only does it sound like a faster version of The Legend of Zelda’s dungeon theme, but it similarly uses the bass track to prescribe the melody rather than the repeating high notes.
The last two tracks are the “Starman theme” aka the “Invincibility theme” and the “Game Over theme”, as well as a handful of fanfares that play upon level completion, timer rundown, and death.
Why play a Mario game? Because they are about momentum, fun, and gameplay.
“The first game prototype we had going wasn’t very good because you couldn’t see very far ahead of you. People wanted to have more of the world visible onscreen, but I didn’t want to make Mario any smaller than he was. So we decided to build the world on the scale of a smaller Mario, then make him larger in the final version. That’s the moment we struck upon the idea of starting Mario out small and letting him get bigger later. Since the game’s set in a magical kingdom, I made the required power-up item a mushroom because you see people in folk tales wandering into forests and eating mushrooms all the time. That, in turn, led to us calling the in-game world the ‘Mushroom Kingdom,’ and the rest of the basic plot setup sprung from there.”
Super Mario Bros. provided a foundation for design philosophy in gaming. To demonstrate this, I’d like to take the time to analyze one of gaming’s most iconic stages, World 1-1. This level is deceptively simple but it was crafted with careful thought as shall be seen. It was designed to teach the player about the game by creating situations for the player to react and learn. It is a dialogue-less tutorial.
World 1-1 begins with this wide open space. It’s the digital equivalent of an empty canvas for the player to experiment with, get a feel for Mario’s pace, and discover that the level scrolls to the right. It cannot scroll to the left. I’ve witnessed a variety of individuals from gamers to people who never play games at all taking a few seconds in this emptiness to try out different things and familiarize themselves with the game world. I don’t think that too many retro games from the era granted players this luxury. Many of them start out with enemies immediately racing toward you.
Moving forward, the player encounters two new things: a golden question mark block flashing appealingly in the air and an object moving toward Mario along the ground. The object turns out to be an enemy but realizing it is bad and not good is easy considering the developers decided to put eyes on it. It is a Goomba of course (kuriboh, meaning “chestnut”, in Japanese) and the frowning expression was meant to convey to players that it was dangerous, something which was basically cross-cultural.
Miyamoto has stated that they originally intended to put a Koopa Troopa there but the turtle could not be defeated so easily. The player would have to jump on it and then kick the shell, which could possibly ricochet off the nearby pipe and kill Mario, so the Goomba was invented as a simpler enemy that could be beaten with a single stomp to prevent players from being discouraged by defeat so early in the stage.
The question mark block is placed in such a way that if a player rushes for it and attempts to reach it quickly then odds are they’ll fall right in front of the Goomba and lose a life. This is the level’s way of teaching you to be more careful. However, the first question mark block contains a coin which appears with a two-note jingle (b and e notes, as far as I can tell). The sound is notably bright and is meant to make the player feel happy as a “reward” for having collected the coin, making them want to gather more. The player also collects 200 points from the coin, a quantifiable and measurable way to make them feel like they accomplished something.
One of the four question mark blocks in this immediate area contains a mushroom. It doesn’t have a frowny face but it has brighter, more appealing colors than the Goomba did. This is meant to demonstrate that it’s good, not bad, though the area is so designed that striking the block from below to reveal the mushroom gives the player little time and little space to attempt to avoid it. If the player does nothing, the mushroom will contact them when it bounces off the nearby pipe. If the player attempts to avoid it, they may just bump Mario’s head on another block (some of which are destructible and made of bricks) and fall into the mushroom anyway. Either way, when contacting the mushroom, the player is shown that it makes Mario bigger, an indication of more power. This is again reinforcement for the player to keep playing to find more rewards.
The next section introduces a green pipe followed by three more taller pipes. The increasing height of the pipes forces the player to confront the fact that higher jumps can only be attained by holding down the jump button. You cannot complete the level without learning this. The pipes’ visual design also indicates to the player that they’re not just walls. Walls would come up and end like simple rectangles but these objects have protruding rims, flanges, that suggest they may be hollow and feature an opening on top. Since bigger Mario has a ducking animation, players may experiment with that (I’ve also seen jumping) on top of the pipes in an attempt to go down into them.
Squatting into the fourth pipe rewards the player with a secret bonus room with a trove of coins floating in the air. The other end of the room warps Mario to the end of the level, telling players if they can discover this secret that there are multiple ways to get through the game, hinting at the warp pipes hidden throughout the levels later on.
In this next section, provided the player didn’t take the pipe to the bonus room, there’s an invisible block with a green-spotted mushroom inside, which grants an extra life. In those pre-internet days, secrets were much harder to find but the easiest way to find out was from someone else. When someone told you about the secret 1up mushroom, it would make them feel good, like the game was their own and they knew something special about it. The secret 1up helped veteran players of the game build an attachment to it (I experienced that myself taking my kid brother through World 1-1 and telling him about the secrets).
Beyond that, there’s the first pit Mario has to jump over. It’s a small pit but even if players mess up, they don’t have to go that far to get back to this spot, since death only takes you back to the beginning of the level. The second pit is larger and automatically seems to tempt players to get a running start, providing the first hint for them to learn about Mario’s dashing ability.
Prototype button mapping
The question mark block between the pits contains another mushroom if Mario suffered a hit, reducing him to his tiny state again. This is a second chance at the power up but if Mario is still big when he reaches it, then the question mark block yields a flower power up that lets Mario throw fireballs. One of the prototypes of the game mapped the up button for jumping and the two red buttons on the NES controller for jumping and shooting respectively and exclusively, but that was fortunately changed. Mario can toss fireballs standing still or lob one and then get a running start. If he doesn’t use the fireballs to defeat the Goombas descending from the platforms above then he gets another opportunities with the enemies on the other side of the second pit where more coins await.
This long stretch of an area introduces the invincibility star power up as well as choices for the player to make. When the player is provided with choices that possess real consequences, it highlights the interactive experience with the game. Games are unique in the choices that they can give players since virtually no choices take place while passively watching a film or reading a book or listening to music, other than stopping.
Here, the player can nab the bouncing star and Mario begins flashing. If they do nothing, the nearest enemy will collide with Mario and fall dead, demonstrating that Mario is now invincible. The player can run Mario through this area, taking down the train of foes, or they can try for the rewards inside the many question mark blocks and look for secrets. Either way, the invincibility power up soon runs out. The game seems to be encouraging the player to run faster, but they’ve already learned that leaping headlong into the fray can lead to disaster, so some players may play this section more conservatively.
This section with the twin pyramids is important. The player will have a tough time clearing the jump in the first steps without learning how to get Mario to dash. If they don’t dash, there’s a chance fall into the pit. Even if they fail, though, it’s ok. It’s a learning experience. Good thing it’s not a dangerous pit, they think, and then they jump out and continue on their merry way. But uh oh… now there’s another similar set of steps with a real pit in front of it. The platform on top of the steps is slightly larger, encouraging a running start.
With the level almost complete, or quickly complete if they took the bonus pipe, the player is confronted with a few final Goombas, which will seem like nothing next to their new-found confidence. There’s a risk of getting hit by one of them if the player attempts to jump on them under the blocks, which limit the height of Mario’s leaps, but even if they do, they may still be a big Mario and so a moment of flashing invincibility helps them escape unscathed.
The conclusion of the stage is a tall set of steps, a recurring feature in most of the game’s levels, so World 1-1 is preparing the player for that. At the top of the steps is a broader platform such as the player saw with the twin pyramids a few moments ago, that again encourages the player to run and make a big jump for it (since they may not exactly see the flagpole waiting to catch them). Striking the flagpole at a greater height yields higher points so player’s begin to wonder how high they can get, and they’ll have the chance to do that in subsequent stages.
With World 1-1 complete, Mario jogs into the nearby castle. Players arrived there by interacting with the level naturally, learning from their mistakes, experiencing the joy of discovery on their own. World 1-1 does not dictate to the player, it allows them the chance to succeed and fail, a sense of freedom that later games would either rise to capture or ignore for the sake of expository and rather dull tutorializing.
Armed with the masterful tutelage of World 1-1, the player can then go on to face every obstacle in the game with the tools in hand to overcome them. To say it’s brilliant isn’t giving it enough credit. World 1-1 teaches the player what Super Mario Bros. demands of them and introduces them to the unique precision of Mario’s controls and the physics of this digital world, its gravity, its friction, the weight of its objects, all of them remarkable things about this game.
Building on what I’ve just said, the very first question mark block in World 1-1 tempts players. Consider how easy it would have been for the developers to use a Japanese character for the symbol on the block but then that would have confused players abroad, such as in North America where the NES was being launched when this game was released. Instead, the design team used the question mark symbol which has a far more global meaning, enticing a wider audience.
This is how everything works in Super Mario Bros. I recently played Yars’ Revenge for the Atari 2600, originally released in 1982. It’s not my intention to bag on Atari but these are my experiences, after all. Anyway, I’d received several recommendations to play Yars’ and the cover art looks science fiction-ish with the glistening silver insect. The game itself, like many of the games of its time, doesn’t do a good job of telling you how to play it. Is that bar of colors a force field or a hazard? Am I supposed to collect things or shoot things? What am I supposed to do with the objects across from me on the right side of the screen? What changes between each round? Similar to other games from the time, Yars’ Revenge confused me.
There’s little of that in Super Mario Bros. because objects and enemies are clearly labeled by their visual design: frowns, fire, spikes, and so on. Everybody understands that falling into lava is bad or that taking a hammer to the face is bad. Together with the simple control scheme and easy to understand goals in each stage, as well as granting time and space for players to learn, Super Mario Bros. is one of the most accessible games of all time.
Super Mario Bros. may be easy to learn but I’ve always thought of it as quite difficult. I saw it beaten once as a kid but was baffled that you had to start over the game again, a sort of “Second Quest”, only now the familiar enemies were swapped out for tougher ones. I was never able to beat the game for tricky jumps and castle hazards when I was young but by golly if I didn’t try! As an adult, I can report that I have indeed beaten it but I don’t know that I could keep beating it over and over again on a loop.
Defeating Bowser was always a fun challenge, trying to get past him and grab the axe to cut the bridge. Alternatively, you can defeat him by repeatedly tossing fireballs at him, which reveals a death animation where he falls and appears to be a gray Goomba… I lose sleep over this every night.
So many qualities come together to make Super Mario Bros. a fun game to play. Immersive music, tight controls, happy rewards, the balance of ease and difficulty, familiarity and nostalgia. This is not a game I come back to every year but when I do, I always have fun.
With so many words behind us, what more could be said to convince of Super Mario Bros.’s uniqueness? There have been a handful of video games in history which served as bookends to an era and landmarks to influence the next. This is one such game.
My Personal Grade: 7/10
When I was a kid, Super Mario Bros. was ubiquitous. It was everywhere. I cannot remember a single home I visited as a young, young child that didn’t have a Nintendo. In some homes, Super Mario Bros. even rose to the level of a substitutionary description for video games themselves. I remember people saying “play some Mario Bros.” and then they’d go to play either that game or Duck Hunt or Excitebike or Punch-Out!! or some other title on their NES. When Kleenex becomes the stand in word for tissues, when Coke becomes the stand in word for soda, when Mario Bros. becomes the stand in for video games, that’s a rare measure of success.
To me, Super Mario Bros. was a constant in my formative years. Sometimes I had to stay with relatives or spend nights with people I didn’t know too well but no matter where I went in my occasionally turbulent childhood, odds were that familiar gray cartridge would be there, hooked up to a tube TV with rabbit ears. The game was like an oasis and I’d never experienced anything quite like that up to that point. I didn’t even know what to call it or how to describe it at the time. I just remember trying to make Mario jump higher by lifting the controller with my hands.
Super Mario Bros. represent a genesis, the beginning of the stories of so many players out there, millions of them. When I created this blog, I never assumed that I’d create so many reviews for Mario games, yet here I am. Super Mario Bros. is in my DNA. I too tend to forget about Super Mario but I never cease to enjoy playing his games.
This may not be your favorite game. It doesn’t have to be, but I hope you now consider it with me to be a great game, nonetheless. I want to know if Super Mario Bros. was your game growing up, if it served as your introduction to the digital world. If Super Mario Bros. is a significant game to you, let us know about it in the comments below!
I’ll leave you with this…
“What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there. You either shake your head and dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than we think.”
Aggregated Score: 7.6
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