Yesterday, Super Mario Bros. turned 30 years old. Mario Mario himself appeared in a couple arcade games previously, making him a few years older, though a lot younger than that swank mustache would suggest.
Super Mario Bros. wasn’t the first side scroller, the first Mario game, or the first Nintendo game, but it left a huge impact on gaming.
Home video games were all but dead when the Nintendo Entertainment System launched with Super Mario Bros. packed in. The Atari age of gaming had crashed so hard that Nintendo had to sneak it in as an “Entertainment System” with accessories like the R.O.B. Robotic Operating Buddy. Then people got their hands on Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. wasn’t like other games. Sure, there was a point meter up at the top of the screen, but making that number bigger wasn’t the objective. The objective was to finish each level, with each world taunting you – “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” the toadstool would tell you, pushing you along. It’s a simple story, but for the first time a video game had a linear story pushing you along.
Most importantly, though, it was really fun and satisfying. It still is. Mario was originally called Jumpman in the Donkey Kong arcade game, and as a nickname, it still works. Even today, with the brand new Mario Maker for Wii U, even throughout Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, Mario is still a stout little man with a superhuman jump and fists of unyielding steel. Mario’s jump isn’t anything close to realistic, but it has its own physics, something we hadn’t really experienced before in games. As PBS GameShow explains, Mario’s contemporaries had pretty static jumps. Mario, on the other hand, could take a running start and get a longer jump and could even change direction mid-jump. Mastering (or even getting a basic handle on) this mechanic felt satisfying and continues to feel satisfying.
Super Mario Bros. was the true beginning of modern console games, platformers, jumping, and of course designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s legendary library of games. Gaming, as we know it today, is 30 years old.
My first recoverable Mario memory is hitting the first question mark block and running immediately into the first goomba, but my first strong one is opening my copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time, its bright yellow packaging drawing me into that weird new overworld map and the first appearance of Mario’s raccoon tail. What’s your first memory with Super Mario Bros.? Jump into the comments and let us know.