For many in my age bracket (32), Mario was our introduction to gaming. I vividly remember the night my father brought home an NES and invited friends and family over to see what the fuss was about.
It came with this game.
Being one of the youngest in the room, and also the sort of person who susses out a situation before jumping in, I waited patiently for my turn. I watched with fascination as everyone tried both games, analyzing which would be the perfect choice for my turn.
When the time came, I told my dad “I want to play the one with the man who jumps”. Yes, I was already a hipster calling him ‘Jumpman’ instead of Mario.
My next memory came (what must have been) a few days later, watching my father attempt to clear level 1-2. The vertically scrolling platforms caused him much grief. My mother whispered “shhh, this is the hard part”. Those platforms were the end of my dad’s relationship with gaming and the start of mine.
My dad came to Canada as an 8-year old refugee from Hungary, his brother didn’t make it until his 40s, bringing a wife and child. Luckily for me, this child loved gaming as much as me and became my Mario Bro as it were. I remember with embarrassment being a bratty kid and telling him although we had a full-body-suit Nintendo controller, my mom didn’t want him to play with it. Luckily, my cousin forgave me and still lets me screw up his Destiny runs to this day.
Compared to other games at the time, Mario felt so warm and inviting. The movement and jumping mechanics had a weight and feel that outclassed everything else. I loved the world, its puffy trees, and the night levels.
Mario 2 and 3 are potent examples of how far game technology can evolve in one generation.
Long-time A90sKids will remember my Mario 3 story, but we have many new readers, so I’ll keep it brief.
When I was about 7, I had an older friend 2 years older, which was significant at the time. My undeveloped brain considered him a mentor, and how wrong I was. We played the hell out of great games like Mario and terrible ones like Bart vs The Space Mutants. One day he proposed I trade him Mario 3 for his Mario 2. Looking back I can see that was a terrible trade financially, but at the time I was wooed by Mario 2’s exotic environments and new-ness. “This trade is for keeps” my non-mentor stated.
Back at home, I mentioned the deal to my mother, who was the actual owner of the game considering I was 7. Technically she was the half-owner as her husband (my dad) would be entitled to half in a divorce, although I doubt they would pay a lawyer to decide the ownership of a NES cartridge.
My mother with grace and wisdom didn’t bang the gavel and forbid my deal, she instead asked a simple question.
“Mathew, are you sure you want to trade Mario 3 forever?”
When I thought of the dancing trees in the world map, the tanooki suit and green boot power-up, I couldn’t possibly fathom never experiencing that again. I would have to change the deal from ‘for keeps’ to ‘for a week’.
My non-mentor-older-friend was furious! How could I listen to my mother he roared (seeming very similar to Bowser). I could tell this was the right decision by his rage, and although our friendship was irreparably broken, Mario 3 and myself bounced off into the sunset in a wind-up green boot.