A rundown of the Super Mario game series: Part 1 Arcade to SNES

I own a Nintendo Switch and currently have yet to pick up a copy of Super Mario Odyssey. I know financial reasons have gotten in the way, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take this time to look back at the franchise as a whole. At the very least I can skim over the mainstream games and talk about the things I like about each game. This time instead of talking about the games themselves, I am going to discuss them in the context of my own personal experiences with each and every one.

First up, Donkey Kong.

Technically this is not a Super Mario game but this is where it starts. I am fairly certain my earliest memory of DK was playing the game at a laundry mat sometime when I was very young, I think around 2nd grade if I am not mistaken. This wasn’t my first exposure with the Mario character but I will share my earliest memories of this game as it’s where the super hero plumber turned globe trotter got his start.

I don’t have a lot of memories of playing Donkey Kong in actual arcades. I was young enough to remember the heyday of the video arcade, this game happened to get released while I was still an infant so as a gamer I was already more into games like TMNT and Ghosts N Goblins. I wasn’t really seeking out primitive games such as DK and the like, at least not right away. My curiosity about this game in particular grew once I read an article in a video game magazine about Mario turning 10 years old and getting his start in the arcade hit Donkey Kong. I also started to notice other Nintendo arcade games with similar mechanics, Mario Bros and Popeye were the two that really stood out. Sometime around 1994 I would try seeking those older games out to give them a try. I ended up enjoying Popeye as a game more than DK around that time. This, of course, would change about a year later once Donkey Kong Country hit the market, but this story is about Mario so moving on.

Mario Bros.

I have to admit I stumbled upon this game entirely by accident one day. The city I lived in at the time had 2 different shopping malls. Each had their own video arcade. One had a smaller game room across the lobby from the movie theater which mostly featured newer, state-of-the-art games, and the other mall that had a very large arcade in the back of a yogurt shop. This place tended to have a vastly larger selection of games thus they were mostly older but still more popular games. In this arcade I discovered the Nintendo VS machines that were hosting Super Mario Bros Vs., among others. I had an NES so I wasn’t really interested in dropping quarters into a machine to play a game I could get at home. What I was interested in is digging into this classic. I remember dropping my token into the machine having no clue what to expect. Yes, it was one of those game rooms whose machines all took tokens. I always hated that but they had great selection of games for the most part so I gave it a pass.

Just a few months later one of my friends brought over a copy of Classic Mario Bros. on the NES which was a port of this arcade game. I tried it out there and became somewhat obsessed with it over the next few years. I was happy to discover it was the basis of those versus levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 and then to see it again turn up as a stand alone mode in the GBA games. Needless to say I became a huge fan of this classic machine.

Super Mario Bros.

I wish I could tell you the story of how my first memory of this game was unwrapping an NES one Christmas morning and popping this fantastic cart into my TV to whisk me onto a journey of awesome. However, that is not the case. In fact my first experience with this game was playing it with my cousin Kevin in his bedroom. He was a great many years older than I was so I don’t have many memories of Kevin other than that time he let me play his Nintendo. I spent what felt like hours, but was probably just a few minutes, trying desperately to get past that first mushroom man monster that would haunt my dreams for days to come.

I finally did get an NES the following Christmas and it came with that SMB/Duck Hunt cart we all know and love. Over the years my appreciation of this game has grown exponentially to the point where I am currently considering it to be one of my favorite video games of all time. Fortunately for me as well I was experiencing this game at the height of it’s popularity, and during the course of it’s first run as a consumer product, so I was able to be the right age to enjoy the Super Mario Super Show that accompanied it. Needless to say it shaped my imagination for a very long time. I used to give out Super Mario Valentine’s Day cards when I was a kid. I loved this game so much I still have a poster that came bundled with it hanging over my shoulder in my living room. In fact it is right behind me now as I type this.

Super Mario Bros. 2

The earliest memory I have of this game is actually a Toys R Us TV commercial that showed just the briefest of clips. I was already HUGE fan of the first game as well as that cartoon so I was anxiously waiting for my opportunity to get my hands on a copy of this little gem. I honestly didn’t know about the backstory and to this day I don’t care, this was a great follow up to what was, at the time, one of my favorite video games. I was so enamored by that TV commercial I used to get up early in the morning when everyone else was a sleep and re-enact the moves from the few brief clips of game play I had seen until I was finally able to rent the game and experience it for myself. In later years I would discover I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did back then, but it was still a great experience for me nonetheless. I also liked how it was more colorful and cartoony in the graphics department and the music was a lot more varied.

Super Mario Bros. 3

I have to admit I did not see the Wizard when I was a kid. To be honest I wouldn’t see that movie until 2010 when I showed it to my sisters kids. It was one of those things I somehow missed out on. I will even say that to this day I still am thankful I got to see that live action mess of a SMB film over this, so I don’t really have any regrets. I do, however, vividly remember the rest of the marketing campaign. To be honest, based on my total lack of memories of that movie makes me question how many others actually do too considering how much attention it gets in the discussions of this game. Regardless, the point is I do remember seeing TV commercials for this game. I also remember the soda promotions where you could get tips from the game inside the boxes of certain soft drinks. There were a ton of promotions surrounding this game and even though I don’t remember the movie that was used to propel it to mainstream status, I did till enjoy the game tremendously. By the time it came out I was actually able to get my parents to buy me a copy instead of renting it so I could enjoy it any time I wanted instead of only on those rare weekends it was in stock.

I just finished a complete run of this game a few days ago. It’s one of those rare games I have played clear to the end and it’s one of the fewer I revisit and try to beat again. Normally if I beat a game I usually consider that mission accomplished and don’t look back. I might re-visit a game if I liked it but most of the times I don’t finish the games I play so it’s even more rare for me to beat a game more than once. Not this game. I don’t make it an annual crusade or anything but I try to go back to it as often as time will allow. In an effort to keep it fresh I don’t like to play it too much because I love it that much.

Super Mario World

I have said many times over this is my absolute favorite video game of all time. I certainly place it in high regards, it could be a contender for greatest video game of all time if it wasn’t for Final Fantasy 7 being pure damn golden goodness. Still, this is quite literally my favorite game to play. I play it a lot. More than I play any other game, new or old. Even with all the hours I sink into Minecraft they don’t compare to the amount of time I put into this game.

My earliest memories of the game were seeing it featured in one of those video game based game shows that I watched. I can’t remember which one it was but they showed some footage of the game and it was awesome. My first time playing the game was this one kid who was saying in the campsite near the trailer park we were living in at the time had it set up in his tent with a Super NES and a small TV. He would invite me over to play his Super Nintendo all the time. Well I say all the time, they were only camping for the weekend so he wasn’t around long but it was enough for me to develop a very strong desire to get an SNES and this very game. As it would turn out due to a series of events I won’t share here, my parents ended up not getting me a Super Nintendo and instead opted for a Sega Genesis. Like I said, I won’t go into what happened and no it was NOT a matter of me getting stuck with a Sega and liking it despite the fact, I had actively switched sides and wanted a Sega over a SNES so there is that to consider. I blame a kid on the school bus that showed me his GameGear and his copy of Sonic the Hedgehog. Suddenly Mario was no loner on my radar. It wouldn’t be for at least 3 more years before I went back and got a Super NES for myself second hand just after the launch of the N64. It was a strange period too coming back to Nintendo and Mario after leaving them for Sega for a very long 3 years. Once I had a SNES and a copy of SMW things had changed. I didn’t turn my back on Sega but I was firmly back in the Mario camp, this time for good as it would turn out.

This is already getting long winded so let’s end here and do the 3D games next time.

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