Super Mario Bros.
Some of the first video games I ever played were Pac-Man, Centipede, Tetris, and Pong. However, it wasn’t until I played Super Mario Bros. that I saw the true potential of gaming. It was time to say good-bye to stationary backgrounds, and hello to side scrolling platformers.
Unlike later versions of Mario, which begin with Princess Peach’s kidnapping, the very first video game starts players off without a storyline, narrative, or even character dialogue. The game simply says, “Ready, set, go!” Players are left to explore the world on their own with no real purpose other than to make it to the other side of the level in one piece.
It isn’t until you rescue the first resident of the Mushroom Kingdom that you realize that there is a princess to save.
For me, saving the princess was never the focus of the game; it was something that needed to be done in order to complete the game. The game was more about overcoming the obstacles, and in a way testing a player’s humanity. There is no promise of reward for saving Princess Toadstool, players rescue her because it is the right thing to do. Sure players collect gold coins, but there isn’t anything for you to spend them on. This is one game where the coins don’t matter.
Besides, Princess Toadstool is standing just a few feet away from the bridge control. She totally could have sent Bowser into the lava below any time she wanted. I think the whole damsel in distress routine was merely a ploy to test Mario.
My rationale probably doesn’t make sense to most people, but it’s what drew me to Super Mario Bros. I really enjoyed playing the everyman. The character who is outnumbered at every turn, and should, for all intents and purposes, fail. There is absolutely nothing special about Mario except for the fact that he is willing to put his life on the line for people he barely knows. Princess Toadstool is in trouble, but hardly in distress, which was a welcome change to many of the fairy tales I read.
With simplistic controls beneath your fingers, it didn’t take long to discover how to defeat the numerous enemies that are out to get Mario (probably because he is a terrible plumber). Power-ups like the Fire Flower, which allows you to shoot fireballs, and Starman, which temporarily makes you invincible, provide new ways to avoid an untimely death.
Vigilance is always necessary however, since even a hollowed out Koopa Troopa shell can fight back.
Super Mario Bros. encourages further exploration by placing secret blocks filled with goodies, hidden areas, and warp zones that create short cuts to other worlds. Only those who are interested in more than gold coins can find all of these delightful prizes.
When I was a kid, Super Mario Bros. turned me into an Italian plumber with a knack for finding gold coins hidden in bricks, and a serious mushroom addiction. Since then I have taken on numerous roles, visited hundreds of strange new worlds, and learned how to wield a wide range of weapons. For that, I am eternally gratefully I was able to accompany the Mushroom Kingdoms mightiest and humblest hero on his first quest.