Factions in Popular Culture that Made a Difference: Gaming: Super Mario Bros.

            Like many gamers who are of my generation, there was a time when there was a limited choice in which home gaming console a player could get. Telstar and Atari came before my time, but I did play on the Nintendo Entertainment System. My parents bought it because it was to help improve a sibling’s hand-eye coordination, which it did; and, to provide a different form of entertainment because my siblings and I were watching too many cartoons, keep in mind there were no “gaming addicts” during the 1980s.

            This console, unlike many other ones, came with a game (and yes, you really had to blow  into it to get it to work). This game was the 2-in-1 Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. The latter made more sense than the former: you are a hunter and you are either hunting with that annoying dog, or shooting discs at a shooting range. In Super Mario Bros. you knew you had to save the princess, but plants that shoot fire, fish that literally jumped out of water, and mushrooms that make you grow…the game was both fun and strange.

            The popularity of these games were much bigger than everyone knew at the time. Anyone else who did not own a NES had played on the console at the homes of those who did have them. And, even though Duck Hunt fulfilled the fantasy of shooting at the T.V., it was not as challenging or as rewarding as completing a level in Super Mario Bros. Plus, there were secret rewards and warps hidden throughout the game remember the warp pipes? You wanted to continue playing Super Mario Bros. for the rush and to hear the music. This game eventually allowed the curious players and the gaming companies to try other games. That was when you began to see which genres of video games were gaining popularity: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gotcha!, BattleToads, DuckTales, Paperboy, etc. The Super Mario Bros. game became known as the first platformer game.

            Super Mario 2 was an interesting game because you got to play as the princess for the first time. Personally, I had trouble with that game because of how one had to complete each level. I never made it to the final boss, but I enjoyed the various levels and the extra challenges within the game. When Super Mario 3 was announced, my parents already knew my siblings and I would want it for Christmas (it was announced during the summer and the advertisements were non-stop), which they made happen. The developers of Super Mario 3 invested equal time to both the story within the game with the gameplay. Each of Bowser’s seven children have overrun seven smaller Mushrooms Kingdoms. You had to defeat them on warships, and then deal with their father after you defeated all of them. The best part of the game was both players could play each world interchangeably, and play a versus mini game (POW!). The leaf and the frog costumes and power-ups were very cool and the angry sun added more to the memorable gameplay we were all familiar with by that point. I enjoyed “Water Land” and “Giant Land.” “Sky Land” was very annoying, half the world took place on land for crying out loud!

            The 1990s brought an interesting change to the gaming industry: multiple gaming consoles that were good were being released. The most successful ones at the time were the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo (there were also the Sega Game Gear and the Game Boy both are handhelds); the first reasonable rivalry to be taken seriously involving video games. Also, this was the beginning of something else: did you own one or both consoles? My family had the Sega Genesis. We loved the Sonic the Hedgehog games, but my siblings and I were curious about Super Mario World (and Donkey Kong Country), and how the character ‘Yoshi’ performed in a platformer game, and not in a puzzle game named after the character (Yoshi is a great retro puzzle game to invest in, it was originally for the Game Boy). However, my parents had recently witnessed video game addiction thanks to my older brother, and refused to buy no more than one console per gaming generation. How do young children deal with this dilemma? They look to their friends to help them out! Our friends within our neighborhood had a Super N.E.S. So, when we wanted to play Mario, we all met at their house, and when we wanted to play Sonic, we gathered at my parents’ house. Super Mario World was, and still is, one of my favorite video games (and one of the greatest games of all time). And, everyone should play it at some point.

            Fast forward a few years and the Nintendo 64 came out, and everyone was curious about Super Mario 64 and the 3D gameplay we would get to experience (though more kids at my school had more interest in the upcoming Zelda game). That game gave us the chance to play with interchangeable caps—the red one (flying) was my favorite—and to witness Mario drowning in water and in sand, and die from poisonous gas. I collected all of the red coins and have yet to gain all 120 stars (it’s a long story). And yes, my siblings and I attempted the ‘Luigi gameplay,’ and all it is, is an urban legend. Mario Kart 64 had all of my siblings, my friends, and myself playing at the same time. The levels within the racing game and the multiplayer levels were fun and challenging. This activity did lead to more fighting amongst ourselves, but the gaming was (sometimes) worth it.

            Next, came the Nintendo GameCube with Luigi’s Mansion and Super Mario Sunshine (both games were terrible). By then, I had resorted to playing retro Mario on both my Game Boy (Super Mario Land) and Game Boy Advance. The spinoffs, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart Double Dash, and other ‘party’ games such as GoldenEye 007 made up for those other Mario games. Once again, gamers would gather to play, but this time everyone played at the same time. The Mario Party games were fun too, but it did not compare to the fighting and the racing game under the same name. Besides, we were getting insight into ‘other’ Nintendo characters. For instance, Mario saved Princess Daisy, not Princess Peach in Super Mario Land, and both princesses were in the Mario Kart game as playable characters. Then, there was WaLuigi…who came up with that name?!

            The hype surrounding the Nintendo Wii (originally called the Nintendo Revolution) was similar to a Harry Potter release party. That’s how long the lines were in order to get one. Everyone wanted to experience the wireless controller. Even non-gamers were interested in this console. And, Super Mario Galaxy looked very promising. That game was everything we expected from a Mario game and more: the levels were on planets, you could fly whenever you were able to, and all of the bosses were of believable sizes and challenges. I have yet to play Mario Galaxy 2! The Mario Kart game was also a MMO and witnessing that sort of competitiveness was mind-blowing and engaging.

            I have not mentioned too much about the Mario games for the handhelds, but I will say that playing Super Mario Land  on the Game Boy was an experience all by itself. I thought at my young age that the game would be similar to the Mario console games, but it was not and I loved that the most. The Game Boy Advance allowed me to return to the original Mario games—Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World—and complete them. Now, upgrade those handhelds to match the Nintendo Wii. Both the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS came with a stylus and two screens in order to further enhance the gameplay. The Nintendo DS (and the 3DS) have provided three different genres of Mario games: the traditional action/adventure game: New Super Mario Bros. a great game with a reference to its predecessors, the reboot of a retro game: Super Mario 3D Land, and the RPG: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Please note, I have not played all of these games, but I have heard great things about them all. I am looking forward to playing these games. Also, I have not played anything on the Nintendo Wii U, so for now, I will not say anything about that console.

            The point of this is, there has never been any Nintendo console or handheld without one Mario game to be played on it. This is why Mario (and Luigi) is (are) a recognized mascot whether or not that person is a gamer. And, as I mentioned earlier, some Mario games and spinoffs were better than others. I believe with the Nintendo eShop, we might see more recent gamers interested in playing the retro Mario games on their 3DS and/or Wii U. When it comes to Mario, any game is worth playing. Has there ever been a Mario game that was not fun to play?!

            I am glad that part of my gaming experience included growing up with these Mario games. Watching Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Yoshi go from 2D side-scrolling to 3D open world was a worthwhile childhood experience. Admit it, you all had fun stepping on goombas and powering up using mushrooms, and still play those games. It is good to know that most of these Mario games have not strayed too far from what we gamers have come to expect from them. As long as the games are fun and familiar, I will always play the Mario Brothers games.

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