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Super Mario Bros. 1

1985 Nintendo




This is a tough one. You could easily say that this game quite possibly defines a generation, and over the years it's been elevated to the status of cultural icon. How does one give an objective review of a game like this?

Since it's assured that everyone in the entire world who plays video games already knows everything there is to know about this game there's really no reason to explain much about it. Personally as a kid I was also pretty much on the bandwagon, a big fan of Mario and other Nintendo first party games in general. I think what drew children to the game was the fact while the main character was generally non-threatening the "World" around him definitely was dangerous with lava and spikes and bottomless pits and such, also the other characters were done in such a way as to come off somewhat surreal, plus the fact that nothing in the game actually makes sense. Mario is a plumber, but he's in a world full of giant mushrooms and turtles. He can throw fireballs. Giant pipes and castles are all over the place. You can walk on clouds. The game makes no attempt to be "realistic" in the slightest, yet doesn't really stick to traditional fantasy stylings. I think it's safe to say that at that time in gaming history something this bizarre could only come out of the Japanese mind.

The game was "kiddie" on the outside, but at it's heart it's a solid platformer, full of tricky jumps, tight controls, hidden areas, warp zones, etc. Plus the fact that the game was 32 levels long was pretty mind blowing. True nowadays when we have videos of people completing it in less than 10 minutes it's not as impressive anymore, however remember back in the day games before this had maybe four screens. A home translation of an arcade game never had the same graphics, never had the whole game, usually large sections of the game were removed and graphics changed around. So the fact that the game looked the same, played the same, and was the same length was a big deal.

So anyway, love it, hate it, bored of it, whatever, all of us must at least give respect to SMB for changing the face of gaming. True it may not have aged well, nor is it the Gone with the Wind of Video Games. It's more akin to the light bulb, that first daring innovation which paved the way to those after it. The game is available for download over the Wii's Virtual Network (as well as in every retro game shop, thrift store, and garage sale the world over) so now maybe the kids today can see why we liked it so much.

In the interest of not sounding too much like a fanboy, we shall end this little retrospective with a list of firsts and facts about SMB1:

- The convention of an extra life as the "1up" comes from Super Mario Bros.

- SMB 1 is the largest selling game of all time (mostly due to it being the NES pack-in game.)

- The concept of a "Warp" which in game-jargon means to skip ahead a level or to a different area comes from the SMB Warp Zones.

- First game to have a movie based on it (which also started the tradition of video game movies sucking major loads of ass.)

- The game is hidden in Animal Crossing on the Gamecube, but can only be unlocked via a cheat device like Action Replay.

- At one time in the early 90s the character Super Mario (along with Sonic the Hedgehog) was more recognizable to American children than Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse (second to Ronald McDonald, actually.)

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