Just look at that yellow box. Isn’t it amazing? Every person born in the early-mid 1980s has a unique tale about how they first laid eyes on this yellow treasure box, and how they first heard of or purchased Super Mario Bros. 3. I’m here today to talk about mine, and the possibly find out what yours was.
Four years ago, I dove into a personal story about how I never had an NES during my formative years and only played on a family machine at my grandmother’s house, sharing it with the 13 other cousins and siblings. My mother still continues to beat me at Tetris on an annual basis, but this is also the same console I first played Super Mario Bros. 3 on.
Back in the day, we didn’t have internet to find when games were available, and nor were video game launches a calculated and celebrated event. Grand Theft Auto V launching to a billion dollars on its first weekend would not have happened in the 1980’s. It would appear in a store catalog, a television commercial, or just simply be in the story one day. Imagine you’re driving down your local street, and a two story Mario with raccoon tail is sitting on top of a local Toys R’ Us.
That’s how we found out that games were released, and that’s the first time I ever saw raccoon Mario.
Of course, I didn’t have an NES, but we happened to just be passing by that same Toys R’ Us while on the way to a family gathering at Grandma’s house. I couldn’t resist the urge to play it knowing that my NES was less than 20 minutes away. Car rides were so long back then, but the anticipation to play Nintendo made them seem even longer. Wanting to share it with my cousins, my parents decided to stop and pick up a copy so the entire family could enjoy Super Mario Bros. 3 together.
In the early 1990s, Toys R’ Us did not keep the games on the shelves like the do today. You had to pick up a faceless slip of the game you wanted off of a wall of hundreds of other faceless slips and take it to the counter, and they would go into storage to pick up your game. This was back in the days of Toy’s R Us having those awesome huge yellow desks at the front of the stores with ball pits and slides. Remember those? They were awesome, but they don’t exactly pass safety standards these days.
This meant searching the entire wall of yellow tags with NES game titles on them, not knowing what box to look for . We spent a good ten minutes trying to find the Super Mario Bros. 3 tag before finally pulling one of the last ones off the wall. I was ecstatic, ready to finally dive into another Mario adventure just a few more miles down the road.
My 12 cousins and I stem from six families since my father has five older sisters. This means six sets of kids were coming for the family gathering, and when I showed up at my grandmother’s house that day, it also meant five other copies of Super Mario Bros. 3 waiting for us. Back before the days of cellphones, we couldn’t exactly call one another to plan on picking this game up.
The Duwells bonding over Super Mario Bros. 3 is a happy memory of mine, but just the idea that everyone was thinking about one another and wanting to share a simple video game together, that is an even more precious memory.
I never realized it until years later, but my cousins had all obviously seen The Wizard because they knew about the game’s secrets before even firing it up. I had not seen the movie at that point, and it always confused me until hearing about that final sequence of the movie. At the time, I had just assumed they knew because they they were older than me and knew all of the inner workings of all NES games. Konami code, Legend of Zelda secrets. You name it, they knew it.
Of all the copies that showed up on that get together, the one my parent’s bought remained at my grandmother’s house. My cousins all had their own NES consoles at home, so they got to keep theirs. I didn’t end up getting my own copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 until I moved to Wyoming and got my own NES on a cold Christmas morning in the country’s least populated state, freeing me from the shackles of Colecovision once and for all.
What’s your Super Mario Bros. 3 story? Did you see it at a Toys R’ Us? Hear about it in The Wizard or Nintendo Power? Possibly play it early in Japan before everybody else? I know you have one, because it’s not the most successful video game of all time, adjusted for inflation, for no reason. Where were you at the height of Nintendomania when you first laid eyes on this timeless classic?