If you told me almost thirty years ago that an Italian plumber who guest starred in another game that I never played would become one of the greatest influences on me as a video game player, I would have never believed you. Mario made little of an impact on my until much later (relatively speaking) in my “career”. As I will show you here (and on the YouTube video I have planned for the end of the week), I played Mario since more or less the beginning. So, at least when it comes to me and my history with video games, I know a bit about Super Mario’s Humble Beginnings.
Yes, I owned an Atari 2600. After that, my father bought an Atari 7800 because of the better graphics. And, so, started a race to get the latest and greatest video game system that lasted well into my twenties. Then, as life often does, it took me on a nostalgic journey back in time. A few years ago, I purchased a Hyperkin Retron 77 emulator machine for the Atari 2600.
During my time with the machine, I never loaded up Mario Bros or even Donkey Kong. If I’m being totally honest, the main reason I bought it was because Audacity Games released a new cartridge for the system. Two things about that. They never released the second planned game. Also, I found out the Retron wouldn’t play the cart, so I needed to download the ROM to play the game. I also recently remembered my high score that I posted here a few years go for Frostbite.
But, I played Mario Bros on the Atari 2600. I remember vividly our cat at the time (Snowy, ask me more about the name) sitting on the edge of the TV stand and watching as the turtles fell to their demise and wondering why our floor wasn’t littered with 8-bit turtles.
I grew into a teenager at a time when arcades represented a gathering place for other teenagers. At our mall, they put the arcade right across the hall from a McDonald’s and the theater. Eventually, as we got more daring, we found a Waldenbooks to buy our Dungeons and Dragons source books and novels. But, we always returned to the arcade. I’m talking about quarters waiting on the Mortal Kombat (II is still the best and you can’t change my mind) or Street Fighter machine. Later, I experimented with Tekken, Virtual Fighter, and even Primal Rage. While those quarters waited or, sometimes to unwind after a particularly heart breaking loss, I went over to the sit down Vs. Super Mario Bros machine to lick my wounds. Then, quarter after quarter, I died to that first goomba on the first run every single time.
Nintendo Entertainment System
At some point, my parents relented and bought us a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Most of the games came second hand from the rental service at my mother’s job. I also got exposed to some other hits like Legend of Zelda during a visit to my grandmother’s house where my cousins played the game.
So, it still took some time for the Mario love to take root. I finally saw the potential of the series with the release of Super Mario Brothers 3 on the NES. It both blew me away with the design and graphics and it allowed me to share my love of video games with my younger brothers.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, it took several years and iterations before Mario (and then Luigi and the others) to cement themselves as influential characters in my life. I hope I gave you some indication of Super Mario’s humble beginnings for me as a gamer and I hope you check out the companion video later this week.