Super Mario Bros. - Our First Video Game Header Image

The header image for this post was created by DeviantArt user skribbliX

What can either of us say that hasn’t already been said about this game? I’m not sure that there’s a lot that we can say, considering that everyone and their mother has played this game and has expressed their thoughts on it.

… See you next time, then

So I thought I’d take a look back at Super Mario Bros. (I’ll shorten that to SMB for this post), when we played it, and how it may have affected us both, rather than some kind of review. Because there are millions of reviews for this game.

Maybe even billions.

… ok, maybe not billions.

Our First Console

The Nintendo Entertainment System was our first video game console, and the Third Generation wasn’t a bad place to start at all. A lot of the really famous game franchises that we know today were dreamt up back then.

Come with me while I tell you a story:

We couldn’t afford to add a wibbly wobbly affect here, and Jamie couldn’t be bothered to write a plugin for it.

For the full effect, shake your head from side to side a little as you scroll down.

… on second though, don’t do that.

It’s Boxing Day of 1990, and we’re both sat watching our Mum opening her birthday presents. A huge box, covered in wrapping paper is presented to the pair of us. “It’s the last of your Christmas presents,” we were told.

I was around 4 or 5 (which would have made DjStump was 2 or 3), so you can imagine how big the box looked to us. We both looked at each other, got excited and started tearing away at the wrapping paper.

We were children, after all.

It was a box with “Nintendo” written on the side. It had pictures of a grey box with some very square controllers (ones that would lead to a condition known as Nintendo Thumb, after hours of use),  and had “Nintendo Entertainment System” written on the side of the box in gold lettering on a transparent background.

Orignal NES Packaging
I’m pretty sure that any modern graphic designer would have an aneurysm while studying this packaging

I slowly opened the box and we both peer into it. DjStump reached in and pulls out a grey rectangle, about the size of an iPhone 5s, with corners sharper than Groucho Marx’s wit. It had a long, black wire coming out of the top of it.

I reached in and pulled out a monstrosity of a thing. It’s huge, grey, has a joystick on it and two massive red buttons. It was an Advantage Controller, and it was ace.

NES Advantage Controller
This thing got more use from either of us than the original controllers

Mark took out a power plug with a long, black cable. I pulled out a long black cable that has a strange adaptor on either end. We looked at each other, then took out the large grey box – the last item.

The grey box had a hatch on the front, and it opened with a squeak. There was a long, flat, grey thing inside. I pressed down on it there was a clicking noise as something was released and a cartridge springs up. I was worried that I’d broken it. I looked at my brother. We both looked at our parents.

“It’s meant to do that, don’t worry. Take it out and see what it says”

I slide the cartridge out and read the title: “Super Mario Bros. slash Duck Hunt?”

About 20 minutes later, we’d plugged the NES in, it’s powered on and we’re playing SMB. Mark was first on the controller, figuring things out and making his way to the end of the level. We eventually madeit to the first castle and the music kicks in.

It’s pretty tame now, but as a child, that was pretty spooky

It wasn’t long before we’d beaten the first boss.

Jamie’s Thoughts on Super Mario Bros.

Almost everyone who reviews or discusses the original Super Mario Bros does it with the benefit of having played it when it first came out. And in my opinion, there’s always something missing from the viewpoint of the folks who review or discuss it without having played it when it first came out.

During the process of writing this post, I decided to marathon my way through the game.

Without using any cheats, hacks or anything.

 Playing Super Mario Bros.

Unless you have original hardware, you’ll have to play SMB via an emulator.

I’m obviously not going to link to where you can download a ROM as the legality of that is a little grey

Also, I’m not counting all of the web-based remakes of the original

I use NES.emu on my GPD XD (which is an Android tablet that masquerades as a handheld console) to play NES games.

Here’s the start screen for the Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt cartridge:

Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt Start Screen
The memories that come back to me when I see this screen

From here, we’re booted into the game and we see all of the now familiar elements: platforms, tiny Mario, Koopa Troopers, Mushrooms, all of it. As soon as we do, the memories come back to me.

Which is probably one of the reasons why Nintendo keep re-releasing NES games and hardware.

Entire articles have been written,  and games design course given, based around the legendary level design of the first world.  SMB, Metroid and the Legend of Zelda all use the same technique: drop the player into the world, and teach them how to play the game by repetition and slowly adding new features.

In fact, if you take a look at the World 1-1 map on Mario Universe, you’ll see just how really well put together the first level is.

It’s a technique used to build tutorial levels, to this day. Seriously, the next time you’re playing Tomb Raider, Uncharted, or any other modern action adventure game with platforming elements, pay really close attention to the way that you’re taught o play the game.

It’s an amazing tactic used throughout the entire game, all the way to the end of World 8-3. It teaches you everything that you need to know about how to survive the game, and what each new platform or enemy does, as you encounter them. Once you’ve finished World 1-4 (burning the first King Koopah to death), you know the very basics of what to expect – all the other things (Bullet Bills, floating platforms, etc.) are extra flourishes.

Anyway, that’s me discussing and reviewing this game. Which is what I said I wouldn’t do. Back to the point.

I remember spending hours sat in front of the TV on hot summer days, cross legged with Djstump sat by my side (or taking the controller half of the time), as we tried to figure out how to get to the next stage, how to bounce off of a flying turtle with enough of a trajectory to land on the next platform, or figuring out King Koopah’s movement patterns.

Whenever we got tired of playing SMB, we’d move on to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. We used to swap tips with the boys next door on how to play TMNT, because of course every boy our age played that game.

The’s definitely a post for another time.

The long and short of it is that this game (along with the few in our stable of core NES games) became our source of entertainment and our education in gameplay mechanics. We grew up playing games like the original three SMB games, TMNT, and Power Blade.

Power Blade is another game that I’ll have to write about.

 It informed what we wanted out of games, as we grew older and started playing games that were more technologically advanced. No matter what the platformer was about, or what the graphics were like, it was always compared to one of the first three SMB games.

Even if we weren’t conscious of the comparison.

Jamie is one of the Waffling Taylors. He spends a lot of time blogging about things sometimes related to programming and sometimes not.