Mario gets old

If I had any illusions about holding on to my youth, they were dispelled by Nintendo’s hoopla surrounding the 25th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros.

(And may I step to the side for a moment and comment on how much I adore the fact that the name of the game is “Super Mario Bros.” and not “Super Mario Brothers”? Mario and Luigi are the original bros, and for an entire generation they were a first bromance. God bless you 8-bit space limitations!)

Red Wii

Wii, red. Pretty, no?

Sure, a red Wii looks cool, and it’s fab that they’re packaging the console with New Super Mario Bros. Wii (although red console buyers will be missing out on Wii Sports Resort, which is pretty fab too), but if you’re old enough to remember playing the original Super Mario Bros. on an 8-bit NES (which I did), you’re just old. Deal with it.

But because nostalgia isn’t the sole province of baby boomers, and because I’ve been working on ways to (slowly) break my children into the vast wonderful world of video games, I downloaded the original Super Mario Bros. game on the Wii’s Virtual Console several weeks ago. It has been an interesting experiment. A year ago, when the Wii came into the house, the motion-control Wii Sports game had been the girls’ only first-hand exposure to video games, and I remember my amusement when Rabbit (not her real name) tried a demo of the New Super Mario Bros. Wii set up on a big-screen TV at Best Buy. It was a revelation to me that she couldn’t quite fathom pushing a button in order to make Mario jump, but insisted on jerking the controller into the air.

I thought for a while that I was going to have a great column about the new generation of motion-control natives, but when I loaded up the original Super Mario Bros. and gave the controller to Rabbit for the first time, the problem didn’t persist. Neither Rabbit nor Bootsy (also not her real name) is very good at Super Mario Bros., but Rabbit is perfectly comfortable pushing buttons to control the game.

In fact, I shouldn’t make too much of the fact that Rabbit isn’t very good at the game, because, in all honesty, I’m not either, and I never was.


Yeah, you know what I'm talking about, hidden green mushroom

This past weekend, my mother was visiting from Tennessee, and when the conversation turned to video games, she said that she missed games like Super Mario Bros. (Which, oddly, she claimed to have never played.) The opportunity was too good to pass up. With one fell swoop I turned on my Wii and showed her that what was old was new again. In minutes we were laughing as mushrooms bounced off of boxes and pipes unexpectedly and escaped, and as my mother adjusted to the fact that collecting every coin isn’t quite as important as getting to the end of the level before the timer runs out. For a moment, I got to be a Super Mario expert, finding hidden 1-Ups and secret pipes. Happily, no one seemed to notice or care that I never even made it through Bowser’s first castle.

Because the big secret of Super Mario Bros. is that it’s hard—harder than you remember, especially if you haven’t played it in a while. I certainly seemed to have been the odd man out as a child in that I never beat the game, but like most 8-bit side-scrolling platformers, the original Super Mario Bros. is really a game of reflexes and memorization. And there are no save points. If you make a mistake, you generally have to start all over.

All of this is to say that while Mario is an icon for me, and in a lot of ways the game experience I measure other games against, I’ve never really loved the game. I get bored with platformers pretty quickly, and I’ve found that to be true through the years. I’ve been impressed by turns with Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Sunshine, and Little Big Planet, but I’ve given up on all of them sooner or later. They’re each, unique, inventive, and gorgeous to look at, but at some point, I need a game to revolve around more than jumping. I’m getting too old for that shit.

Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.

11 Responses to “Mario gets old”
  1. Kevin Mattison says:

    I seem to recall an epidemic of people either jerking the controller cable out of the Nintendo or, even worse, pulling the console off the table and onto the floor trying to make Mario jump. I think motion control is a natural reflex that needs to be squashed. Those schooled in the world of video games (Arcade games, at the time. I remember envying a neighbor for being the first kid on the block with a Nintendo! This guy = Old.) were able to grasp the button controls rather easily, but neophytes immediately transformed their controller cables into a whips of doom!

    It’s no surprise to me that Nintendo was the first to really implement motion control in such an effective manner.

    • Gavin Craig says:

      Squashed, you say! I still feel like I’m waiting for the great motion control game, but at least by now there are a lot of really good ones.

      And remember that Nintendo has been experimenting with motion control ever since the power glove. It’s been a long time coming.

  2. Kevin Mattison says:

    Also, for the record, I find the Wii to be relatively unattractive in general. The red Wii only more so.

  3. Jill says:

    Now I feel an extreme need to play some Super Mario… sigh.

  4. Theresa says:

    Booo motion control. Yay for nintendo DS, though! And, Luigi is far superior to Mario.

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