Super Mario Memories — Mine and Yours

September 13th, 2010 by Benj Edwards

Super Mario Bros. (1985) Title Screen, Cropped

Super Mario Bros. turned 25 years old today.

I first played this NES masterpiece when I was about six years old — around late 1986 or early 1987. I remember visiting the house of my brother's friend, venturing upstairs and seeing a futuristic grey box attached to his TV set. There, on the screen, unfolded an astoundingly magical, enchanting, mysterious, and captivating world of mushrooms, flying turtles, and flowers that imbued your character with the power of fire.

What enchanted me the most (aside from the fantastically whimsical setting) was the fact that Nintendo had packed the game with secrets like invisible blocks, hidden extra men, and — my god — warp zones. Us kids had even heard rumors of the Minus World, which prompted joyful quests to uncover every mystery of the game.

Nintendo Entertainment SystemBefore the NES, video games to me meant Atari 800 and 2600, which I had seen my older brother playing throughout my early youth. I loved them, sure, but Super Mario Bros. simply blew my mind. It was nothing, and I mean nothing, like that which had come before. SMB elevated video games to an entirely new plane of existence in terms of its worldview and philosophy of play. For the first time, I truly felt like I was visiting another land — and living out an alternate life — in a video game.

For folks born after 1990 or so, what I've written above may seem like a load of hyper-inflated flowery language. But it's very hard to exaggerate the impact that Super Mario Bros. — a game that sold 40 million copies — had on the video game industry, on the cultural world at large, and on the lives of an entire generation. It was that important.

You Tell Me

So now I turn to you. What are your memories of Super Mario Bros.? When did you first play the game and how did you feel about it?



13 Responses to “Super Mario Memories — Mine and Yours”

  1. Multimedia Mike Says:

    I'll just get this out there now: I never really felt like the original SMB was anything special. It was just the pack-in game that came with my NES in 1989. I played it but I immediately wondered what else I could play on the system (thank goodness for my local game rental shops).

  2. Thomas Says:

    To really know why SMB was such an important game you have to know what the "competition" looked like back then. The colorful world of the Mushroom kingdom is the opposite of the dark and gloomy space games that were more or less dominating back then. Sure, looking at the Atari VCS you could argue that there were more diversity than just space shooters, but on the other hand the graphics of that machine was so poor that you could easily switch titles on some games and noone would notice it.

    My neighbour got a NES for his birthday and up until then we had mostly played games on his Odyssey2. It was a revelation for us both and I don't think I've played a better pack-in game to this day. (Well, maybe SMW on the SNES but no other company comes close). Despite playing other games we always returned to SMB at some point. At least until The legend of Zelda showed up.

    I still say to this day that Shigeru Miyamoto set the standard right then and there for how good platformers should behave. He set the bar and through the years I've complained at many games not being able to grasp the simplicity of the controls, the urge for exploration and the sense that nothing is impossible - anything goes. Everything else Miyamoto has done, no matter how great, it can be traced back to this game.

    Perhaps not the best Mario game anymore but it's still timeless fun, as New Super Mario bros Wii showed us. I take off my hat to the man in the red cap, and of course to his ingenious creator!

    Happy birthday Mario!

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    Excellent analysis, Thomas!

  4. nadnerb Says:

    This interview with Miyamoto delves into the story behind Mario and SMB's creation, from the choice of overalls to why the pipes are green. One of my favorite interviews and a great read for today's anniversary.

  5. Andy Says:

    I was about 4 or 5 when the brand new and shiny SMB cabinet hit the laundromat my old man used to own. We had all kinds of games: Donkey Kong, Pacman, bunch of random platformers and various pinball machines etc. Though it was SMB that was played to death. There was always a crowd and you always had to wait in line to play. Very few arcade games were capable of doing that in '85.

  6. JackSoar Says:

    My first memories of Mario came before I actually sat down and played SMB1 for the first time. I remember the cartoons, and the game being played by others, but it wasn't until the game was fairly well dated that I owned my own copy. I was hooked on Mario from the minute I did, of course, and I had the benefit of being able to move on to the other early games in the series in short order. There was also the bonus that they were dirt cheap at the time. I remember exactly how much my copy of SMB1 cost: 49 cents. Ah, for the days when retro games were considered "obsolete software."

    I recall going on a long elementary school trip and all I could think of on the bus ride home was that I'd be able to play SMB again (this was of course before the handheld ports). But yeah, I was a Mario nut, and while I much preferred the more advanced gameplay and look of SMW, (even over SMB3) I still recognized that SMB was a classic. It wasn't the first NES game I ever played, but it was one of the best, for sure. The only downside was that you could only go scroll forward in the game, but still, for its time it was a colossal world.

  7. Lost Chauncy Says:

    You pretty much summed up my memories Benj. I remember saving and saving until I had enough to by my very own Nintendo Entertainment System. Starting up Super Mario Bros for the first time was one of the magical moments of my childhood. I've been a life-long avid gamer ever since.

  8. TheSaintOfPain Says:

    The NES was the first true gaming console that my family ever owned, the day it came out here in the United States, and we would spend hours upon hours trying to save that infernal Princess Toadstool. That game is the reason that, even though my first gaming experiences were on a Tandy 1000 and a Commodore 16 (Yes, a 16, NOT a 64), and I had spent many hours trying to finally shoot that damned Wumpus with that one arrow, SMB was unlike anything I had ever experienced gaming-wise, and it would forever cement my love for video games that I have to this day, at age 28.

  9. Alexander Says:

    I first bought my NES in 2001 or 2002, but I was born in 1990, so I was still young enough. I got one because it looked like a fun system, especially when the only game system experience you've had is with an N64. I started with only 2 carts; Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt & Metroid. Now my collection is 26 games strong, and I can play them on my standard NES, special toploader variant, and my portable handheld knockoff.

    However, the best memory I have of my system is when I took the parts from a Zapper, mounted them on a toy rifle, and then rigged up a crude blinking circuit to the trigger, producing a repeating Zapper. Plus, since it was no longer in the standard case, the detection area was much larger, almost like a shotgun… those ducks never stood a chance.

  10. Poncho de Zeta Says:

    Nintendo got it right when they made this one. What's better is that they still put it on as many systems as they can. Case and point, the NES classics on GBA. However, having Super Mario Bros. on gameboy proved to be a bit dangerous to the gameboy…

    I was playing SMB on my GBA-SP one day, and I just had no patience that day. I had just hit game over, and then restarted and gotten to 1-2, fallen down a gap in the floor and died. Then I lost my cool, and proceeded to push my thumbs into the screen, until I heard a quiet *snap*. The screen had cracked and the liquid crystal seeped out into the guts of the machine, still playing the SMB underworld music.

  11. mr. badguy Says:

    My first 8bit game was not the famous ( famous even those days!) Mario, but Jackal. Oh guyz, this was so unbelievable wonderful, to play all those games with friends.
    So I was about 6-7 years old, there was 1992 year…

  12. Nintendo Legend Says:

    Without Super Mario Brothers, the video games industry would have died. The Atari consoles suffered from third-party developers rapidly rushing sub-par games onto the market in attempts to quickly capitalize on gullible gamers, only to underestimate their game savvy when they stopped buying these crappy games (insert classic true story here of millions of ET cartridges being buried in the desert).

    New kid on the home video game console market Nintendo comes along, and the rest is history. Yes, there were other launch games, but Super Mario Bros. was the one that showcased that not only could video games now immerse you into a creative canon, but boast viable gameplay and replay value as well. You had it spot-on. Excellent summary.

  13. Turbo Says:

    I never had a NES, but what I did have was a Gameboy and Super Mario LAND which, in my opinion, is at least as good as the original.

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