Game Overkill

Game Overkill – Super Mario Bros.

We all knew this day was coming, so I chose to get it out of the way early. As if Super Mario Bros. wasn’t going to make the cut. For a lot of gamers around my age, if it wasn’t the first game we’ve ever played, it was usually one of the first, if not the first, NES games we’ve ever played.

That was certainly the case for me. I had an older cousin with an NES, and whenever we’d go visit my aunt, I’d sneak into his room and play one of the two games he owned. I may have played some terrible baseball game first (yes, I know “terrible baseball game” is kind of redundant), but if I did, it wasn’t long before I put the other cartridge into the NES and was greeted by one of the weirdest games I had ever seen.

Seriously. This game is bizarre. If all you’ve known are Atari 2600 games, Super Mario Bros. is just about the most foreign thing imaginable, like a kid growing up on VTech games as a 4 year old in the early 2000s, then slipping Katamari Damacy into his PS2 in 2004. Suddenly, I was controlling some little…man…guy, and some…thing is coming towards me. I have no idea what it is or why it flattened when I jumped on it. Next there are breakable blocks, coins inside other boxes marked with question marks, and some weird green turkeys that you can jump on and kick or something. Honestly, they looked like turkeys to me. If I had known what Japan was back then, this would definitely have been the most Japanese thing I’d ever seen. Atari games were so simple, so basic, so easy in comparison. They were nothing more than toys, while SMB was the first game I’d ever seen that felt like games could be something more. I’d played Pitfall! and Aventure and loved them, but even they couldn’t prepare me for what games would become in the next console generation, which SMB absolutely heralded better than any game since, and it pretty much did it all in the first few seconds of the game.

No other beginning of a level is so iconic that it can be drawn from memory by millions of gamers around the world.

No other beginning of a level is so iconic that it can be drawn from memory by millions of gamers around the world.

I’m not the only person who was struck by just how different the game was. Here’s Rizzard Core, one of the MANY people to include SMB on their list:

What can be said about the original Super Mario Bros. that hasn’t been said before?

I’ll just share some memories – the first time I saw it was at a friend’s house, and all I had seen up to that point was Atari.  Man, was I blown away!  The colors, the fluidity, the action, the speed, the weirdness!

As I got older it just got better – cheering like mad the first time I beat world 8-4 only to start over on a more difficult 2nd quest.  Being thrilled every time I found a warp zone or hidden block.  Spending hours trying to make the glitches work – the minus worlds, the small fiery Mario trick, and jumping over the flagpole (which I still maintain is a hoax as I was only ever able to accomplish it with Game Genie.)

The game may not have aged well in comparison to its successors, but it will always be on any top x list of video games of all time in my book.

As part my of multiple play throughs for this, I did manage to find the Minus World and get the small fiery Mario. I almost gave up on Minus World. It took forever to finally pass through that pipe and wall, but I can confirm that it works. As for jumping over the flagpole, I’m with Mr. Core. I’m still not convinced that it’s possible outside of a Game Genie.

Continuing with what he said, there isn’t much to say that hasn’t been said by pretty much everyone everyone who has had the chance to play the game, so I’m going to let some people who listed the game share their thoughts.

When I was five, my family, like many families, had an NES. We owned Super Mario Bros. among a handful of other titles that were relatively more sophisticated than the rudimentary adventure of Mario in the surreal Mushroom Kingdom, and being an impressionable little cereal-eater that I was, I would often rent or beg for the latest NES games whenever I’d hear about them. Many of these promising games (often licensed titles) would entertain me for less than an hour before I’d realize something that I now hold true: gameplay is fundamental to a game’s value.  Before long, I’d set aside whatever frilly, nugatory game I’d just acquired and pop in Super Mario Bros.  There is something so tangible yet so visceral about it.  The game teaches you how to play not only itself but entire future generations of games.

Scott Sparr

Super Mario Bros. on the NES holds a special place in my life as literally being the oldest memory I can recall. I had to have been 2 or 3 when I first picked up that boxy, rectangular NES controller and started hopping around the Mushroom Kingdom. I don’t know how long it took or how I figured it out, but in time I was able to find the secret pipes, and make it all the way to World 8. Never did beat it in my childhood days but those early memories show that Super Mario Bros. clicked with me and is the reason I fell in love with video games. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Austin Clark

When I first experienced Super Mario, I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old. At the time, I was more interested in playing the other game on my friend’s NES cartridge (Duck Hunt…it involved a gun and I was 5) because I generally couldn’t get past the first Goomba in Super Mario Bros. You can imagine my excitement when I finally figured out how to jump over him!

Fast-forward to the present day. I can credit Mario for heavily influencing my imagination. Honestly, if I saw a brick block with a “?” slapped on it floating in midair, I doubt I would be very taken aback. It’s that kind of magic–the walking, fanged fungi; the magic mushrooms; the fire flowers; the evil turtles–that Mario presents to us and yet makes it seem so natural. As a child, it made perfect sense to me, and that has carried over to my adult life. So here’s to you, Mario, for fostering my imagination and providing me with hours of enjoyment as both a kid and grownup

Kevin Record

Super Mario Bros. was the first game I can remember becoming obsessed with beating. Up to that point, I just had an Atari 2600. In those games, you don’t ever win, you just do a little better each time. Mario, though, had a finite end and I was determined to get to it. One day during summer, I finally found that elusive princess and felt that deep satisfaction of not giving up and defeating my first game.

Tom Hall

I don’t like Super Mario Bros. and never have, so why did I choose it? I think it epitomizes the platformer genre of video games. It also has a bunch of hidden secrets, which were fun to discover before all the hidden secrets of every game ever were revealed on the internet. While it is tedious to me, it is accessible to nearly everyone able to wield a Nintendo controller. If you do get bored by it, you can always go to the main menu and choose Duck Hunt (assuming you have the SMB/Duck Hunt cartridge).
Even though Natalie admits to not even liking the game, it is clear that she, along with the others, think that it absolutely deserves to be played by everyone at least once. Personally, it might be my least favourite game to contain the words “Super Mario” in the title. It isn’t even that it hasn’t aged well, but while playing it for the first time in a long time, I kept trying to do or wishing I could do thing that are only possible in the later Mario games. I kept wishing I could get the leaf or cape and break some blocks and fly. Even worse, since I was playing it on an emulator on the Wii for a bit, I kept shaking the Wiimote to have Mario spin around like he does in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. That being said, admitting that the subsequent games in the lengthy series kept improving on an already excellent formula, we have to be careful to not forget just how much better that SMB was than EVERY game that came before it. Keep in mind I absolutely do not consider myself a Mario fan. I’d choose Sonic over Mario any day. Still, I would argue that the difference in quality and overall improvement between SMB and every game before is greater than between Mario and any Mario game since. Yes, even Mario 64 or Mario Galaxy.
But the game isn’t perfect. I’d be willing to bet that for most of the people who sent in their thoughts, SMB was also the game that introduced them to what is likely the most hated level time of all time: the water level. If you got to 2-2, you just got all of your fun abruptly halted. Ok, it isn’t that bad, but in contrast to the other levels, it is. My only other gripe would be that quite a few levels, and especially the castles, just feel exactly like an earlier level with slight modification. Sometimes, it feels this way because it is literally what you’re playing. Still, it’s not much as far as complaints go.
Pictured: the opposite of fun.

Pictured: the opposite of fun.

Now, here’s someone you’ve heard from before essentially telling you what I’m trying to say in his own words without knowing what I thought beforehand. He’s like some kind of psychic:
Who could’ve thought this game would make it? Does it really deserve the praise? Super Mario Bros. when put into the context of the time is amazing. Great scrolling, tons of secrets, great difficulty curve and pretty good overall presentation. The looped music doesn’t annoy, the palette-swaps work well and the repeated sections (to save space probably) are barely noticeable except for the castles. But is it still good out of the context of that era? Well, if you grab Super Mario All-Stars and look at it with upgraded graphics, you’ll still notice how well the floaty jumps works with the level design, how well the stages allow a running Mario to flow perfectly until the end of the stage, how it allows for completion without requiring “perfect platforming”. Let’s face it, it’s no Super Mario 3 or Super Mario World, but I’d still play it over so many games, you don’t even know. If you haven’t played Super Mario Bros. yet in your life, please remedy to the situation. Please.
I’m surprised he didn’t call it the Citizen Kane of video games. I wouldn’t have faulted him for it. This next person might as well have called it the Jesus of video games if it was so sacrilegious (I think it would be sacrilegious…I don’t know since I’ve never been religious.) The way he talked about the game, it certainly seems like it was a religious experience.

Super Mario Bros changed my life.

I have called people Friend whom I spent less time with than the Super Mario Bros franchise. My experience playing Super Mario Bros has spanned a broader timeline than almost any other relationship I have ever had. My hobbyist pursuits in the gaming realm, my retro fandom, my writing habits, my choices in how I burn my time — all have been affected by Super Mario Bros.

This website, and this article, would likely not be here if it were not for Super Mario Bros, both on a personal and a universal level. I cannot overstate its significance to me personally, yet I bet I cannot overestimate its influence in any other arena either.

It also happens to be pretty fun.

Eric Bailey

It all comes back to that word: fun. Super Mario Bros. is definitely fun. It also has a surprising amount of replay value for a side-scrolling platformer. For a game released in 1985, it is as close to perfect as possible. Since it doesn’t even seem to be anyone’s favourite game, some people might be surprised to see how high it placed, but it just shows how almost universally loved and praised the game really is. Taking 7th place, it’s Super Mario Bros. It’s quite a bit higher than where I would’ve placed it, but I get it. Its historical importance, plus the fact that pretty much everyone has played some version of it, has likely played a huge factor. Also, as Bailey said, it also happens to be pretty fun.

Super Mario Bros - Game Over

So what do you think of where it placed? Got any personal stories about the game? Please share. Next up will be the first SNES game, though definitely not the last, ActRaiser. After that, I’ll be tackling Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. As always, you can play along with me. Use #GameOverkill so I can see when you tweet about it.