#70: Super Mario Bros.

There is, frankly, not much I can say about this game that hasn’t been said to death by writers who are better than me. If a single game can be said to have saved the video game industry in North America after the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, this is it. Still, this is Games I Beat In 2014, not Games I Beat In 2014 That Have An Easy Original Angle To Them.

Released in 1985 with the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Mario Bros. stars a plumber named Mario. In the Mushroom Kingdom, the lovely Princess Toadstool has been kidnapped (She would later change her name to Princess Peach–note that this attempt to enter the Witness Protection Program doesn’t prevent her from getting kidnapped. Repeatedly.). The evil Bowser, King of the Koopas, wants the Kingdom for his own, so he kidnapped Toadstool and turned many of the people of the Mushroom Kingdom into blocks (I don’t recall if this second detail was added to the US version’s manual, or if it came from Japan). It’s up to Mario to travel through 32 stages, including caves, ponds, and castles, to defeat Bowser and rescue Toadstool.

Super Mario Bros. is divided into eight worlds, each with 4 stages. Stages 1 and 3 are always outdoors. Stage 2 tends to be the “different locale” level (Cave, underwater), although that’s not always true. Stage 4 always takes place in a castle. Deviously, several of the castles are mazes, where taking the wrong path leads you back to the beginning.

Although there are 32 stages, Nintendo worked to cram in as much game as possible into a small space. As such, several stages are repeats of earlier stages, only harder. For instance, stage 5-3 is stage 1–3 with narrower moving platforms and Bullet Bills appearing throughout it. Stage 6-4 is stage 2-4 with additional firebars scattered throughout. And so on.

In the US, Super Mario Bros. was a game of firsts. I can say that it was my first exposure to something resembling a cheat code. Normally, when you lose all your lives–you start with three–you have to restart all the way back from 1-1. By holding A while pressing Start on the title screen, though, you can go back to the start of the World you died in (For instance, if you Game Over on 5-3, the code will take you to 5-1). It was also the first game I played that had ways of skipping levels built-in–there are three Warp Zones in the game which allow you to skip entire worlds. Utilizing these makes it possible to beat the game in roughly five minutes. Note that for this entry, though, I did go through all thirty-two levels on a single credit.

Actually getting through the game in one credit can be done in under an hour (My best time is around 22 minutes and 30 seconds). Building up the skill to do so is the tricky part; in particular, any levels with Hammer Brothers in them are liable to have you cursing up a storm if you don’t make it to them as Fire Mario.

In short, Super Mario Bros. is maybe the most influential game in North American video gaming history. It was re-released in various forms on numerous consoles, and the original cart (Either on its own, as part of an SMB/Duck Hunt combo, or even in the SMB/DH/World Class Track Meet 3-pack) is easily obtainable due to being the pack-in game for the height of Nintendo’s industry dominance. While the gameplay is simplistic–you can’t even scroll the screen to the left!–it also laid the template for every 2-D platformer that followed it. Go and play it.

-EE

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