Saturday, March 18, 2017

Why Super Mario Bros is one of my favourite games


Hey hey, and welcome to another installment of Dave’s Favourite Games. This time around, Super Mario Bros. This video will be an explanation of my history with the game and the reasons I love it to this day. Hopefully it will inspire those who have not played it to try it, and for those who have to find new appreciation of it. Let’s continue.

I like to start these videos off with a story, so let’s do that. My parents tricked me. The NES had been out for a little while. My friend Ryan down the road had one with all the best games. I’d been playing consoles at his place for a couple of years. He got an Atari 2600 before the NES and we spent far too much time over at his place playing both consoles. One day my parents said they were renting me a NES for the weekend from the local videostore. I told them I’d love if they grabbed Super Mario Bros 2 with it, because that game looked amazing. The ability to select from four characters, how colourful it was, the ability to pull vegetables out of the ground and throw them at enemies, that you could ride other enemies and throw them at other enemies? Such things are important to a kid. So they brought home a NES with Super Mario Bros 2. It also came with the Super Mario Bros / Duck Hunt split cartridge, two controllers, and a zapper. My parents informed me that they hadn’t rented the console, they had bought it for me. Needless to say I was ecstatic.

A strange thing happened. I took turns on that weekend with Ryan and my Dad who was interested in the NES as well. I wanted to play Super Mario Bros 2. They both wanted to play Super Mario Bros. I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t as colourful, it was a lot harder, and you could only play as Mario and Luigi (and they both looked and played the same). I reluctantly let them play, and even had a few goes myself, but my imagination and heart was set on the US sequel.

It wasn’t until years later that I reconnected with Super Mario Bros. I think it was in my early 20s actually. I had played the game a handful of times on my NES, but it was through emulation that I rekindled my love of the game. Years ago, Ryan and I had discovered the secrets of the game either by ourselves or on the school ground. We knew how to use the warp pipes to get to world 8 as fast as possible, and my newly found love of the game was partly due to that reason. Years later in a university paper I wrote on Super Mario Bros, I would describe the concept as “forward flow”. The idea that there is a joy in certain games to keep moving forward no matter what. To leap into the unknown with wild abandon. Of course what really helps this along is knowledge of the level, so you know when to jump, what you can get away with, and when to adapt. The best example I have of this is jumping over the Piranha Plants in 4-1. It looks like you’re going to take the hit, but if you time the jump right, you can scrape over their snapping by a pixel or two. No matter how many times I do it, it’s still exhilarating, like I’ve gotten away with something I’m not supposed to.

I’ve always used Super Mario Bros when discussing game feel. There’s something about how Mario controls and his jump that feels great to this day. The friction of sliding along with the screeching sound effect, or how when navigating a landing on a small platform midway through your jump Mario will end up turning backwards, giving a greater sense of joy that you’ve pulled off a tricky maneuver. There’s a fire flower in 1-2 that I never need to get but I always do, because the way to reach it is to use the game’s rudimentary physics to bounce off a wall in mid jump, essentially wall jumping to the fire flower. I wonder if little moments like this inspired Mario’s greater library of jumps, especially in the 3D games. The plumber has seemed to have gotten more acrobatic throughout his games, but that even as tenuous as the connection might be, to trace some of his later abilities back to what is possible in Super Mario Bros puts a smile on my face.

Secret shame time: I cannot actually remember completing Super Mario Bros. I swear I must have since I know all the secrets like the back of my hand, and 8-2 and 8-3 have many familiar elements as I play through them. Maybe it’s the time that has passed between serious plays. I visited as many levels as possible for this playthrough, and it’s easy to forget how difficult Super Mario Bros can be. Anything with bullet bills, and hammer brothers especially, not to mention how crazy some of the platforming gets. I had a talk with a friend whether or not he thinks 8-2 or 8-3 is the more difficult level. I argue for 8-2 because of the Lakitu, the Bullet bills, the Paratroopas and the perilous pits littered throughout the stage. I can see where he’s coming from with 8-3 as the stage is basically a full on Hammer Brothers gauntlet. Let me know which stage you think is the most difficult down in the comments. Maybe it’s something from world 6 or 7. There are definitely some nail biters along the way if you choose not to use the warp pipes.

So I did complete the game this time around. 8-4 is actually a bit of a let down after the madness of making it through 8-2 and 8-3. It uses the mazes that previous castles have used, but this one is pretty easy, even with an underwater segment. I think a lot of difficulty in Super Mario Bros comes from the low amount of lives. How if you get a game over, you have to start over. Sure it’s easy to get back to any point with the warp pipes, but you might have a bout of bad luck and find yourself without the leeway to make mistakes. A lot of people overcome this obstacle by using the infinite 1-up trick in world 3 (and I think it can be done in world 5 as well). I might have been able to do it at one point in time, but not this time through. I relied on save and load states instead.

And I think that’s all I have to say. While the controls weren’t as tight as I remember them being, the game still controls incredibly well and is a joy to play. There are so many nail biting moments as you’re running through these obstacle courses, so many close calls, and because of the random elements of some of the enemies, and your own skill, it never seems like you’ve played the same way twice. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this favourite game of mine, whether they be positive or not so positive experiences with it. I would prefer positive however. Until next time,

Thanks for watching.

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