25 years ago today, one of the most iconic and enduring titles in video game history was released to the Japanese gaming public…one that would eventually take the United States by storm and drag it out of the funk that reeled from the video game crash of 1983.
Christmas of 1986 was a big deal to me. That was when me and my brother received our first Nintendo Entertainment System, and with it, the Super Mario Bros./ Duck Hunt pack-in game. For months, we helped guide the red-clad plumber (and that green guy, what’s-his-name) past Goombas, Koopa Troopas and Bullet Bills in order to rescue the princess. After we first started reading Nintendo Power and other hint books, we learned the secrets of the Warp Zones and the curiosity of the never-ending Minus World. There was also that trick you could use to get infinite lives by kicking the Koopa shell against the staircase in World 3-1, but I could never get in position to hit it more than three of four times before it went scattering into the pit.
I’ve played many, many, many Mario-themed sequels and spinoffs since then, but the day I was finally able to beat the real Bowser in the original game was perhaps my earliest “crowning” video game achievement. My most frustrating moment was getting past the castle in Worlds 4-4 and 7-4, because those were the ones where you have to jump on the floors in the proper order before you could get to the end. It wasn’t until Super Mario All-Stars came out in ’93 that I was able to get past them consistently (the game gave you little audio cues to let you know if you’d done things the right way. I used to take the Warp Zone in 4-2 to skip right to World 8 and save myself the aggravation. When I finally got the courage to stare that level down and play all of the Worlds in order without using the warps, I was finally fully satisfied with my experience.