In the first of a series of limited prints, I reminisce on games from NES Online. In rare occasions I’ll talk about the game in question, other times I’ll talk about something somewhat related to it. But everyone knows Super Mario Bros. – including me. So, that’s where the story begins…
Super Mario Bros. has got to be one of my all-time favourite games. Full stop. Period. End of. I wasn’t there on launch day as I wasn’t invited and still unknown to Nintendo but a friend of mine had an NES around the mid-to-late ’80s (20th century) and playing Mario was a highlight. It was my first taste of console gaming as prior to this I was using a ZX Spectrum. Look it up. It was called a home computer and every home had one. Like, 6 or 7 of them.
The NES (that means Nintendo Engineer Suspenders) was space age. My friend would take out the chunky plastic game cartridge and insert into this toaster of a machine. She’d press the power button and the game would start. No Load ““ or going to make a tea while it loaded. I never made tea, I was a kid. Tea was hot, disgusting but mostly dangerous. The controls were different too.
The hardest button to button
On the Spectrum, or Speccy (that’s what cool kids never said) I either used the keyboard or a joystick. The controls for this didn’t have a clicky joystick (the click sound came from microswitches), this had a flat directional pad, a select and a start button and a and b. Two buttons were common on the joystick but to have a menu system built into the controller that didn’t make a clicking sound meant you could play a cheeky game during bedtime with the sound off and the boring grown-ups didn’t have a clue. We phased those squares.
Well, the room lit up with the TV, but that’s not the point. The majority of the noise emanated with a cry from my mouth hole, having fallen down a game hole. Hole, hole, hole. Read more about holes with the Donut County review. Shameless.
While there were only two buttons, pressing one resulted in a jump but with the other, nothing happened. I couldn’t get why my friend was able to jump the gaps effortlessly while I would fall down.
“What are you doing differently?” I would ask in a very manly, for a child, voice.
“I’m just pressing the run button”. These are the words that followed but said by the other person. Who was a girl. I was a boy. Can I make it any more obvious? That might not be the exact thing she said, but that’s what I remember and also helps with the flow of this bit. It gives it a nice pace and doesn’t distract from the content in the slightest.
“But I did that!” was my response to the bit above, if that is what she may or may not have said.
Warp factor zero
What I didn’t realise was that I had to hold the button at the same time. On the Spectrum this was borderline impossible – it would crash the system. That sounds dramatic, but it was very possible it could happen. It used to happen on my Amiga (quite possibly the best home computer ever made. C64 fans). Eventually, I would get the hang of it, but my Mario skills were limited to bi-monthly visits to her house to play the NES.
The NES wasn’t as portable as the Nintendo Switch (added there for SEO), and it wasn’t something you would take to a mate’s house. With that in mind, some of my other friends (I had more than two. Like, 8 or 9) had made several attempts to carry around their tape decks, joysticks, keyboards, numerous cables and cassettes in their backpacks on a weekend. It worked, but it wasn’t fun to be the gaming roadie. By the way, if ‘cassette’ is alien to you like it is with my eldest daughter, you haven’t lived, man.
During these limited gaming visits, the same Nintendo friend would tell me about level warps. Unfortunately for me, these level warps she told me to go down were actually those bits you’re supposed to jump over. It wasn’t until her turn that I saw these level warps did exist, but it was clearly a pipe to dive into and not falling down a hole.
After a matter of months, I finally made my way to the water level which I found just brilliant. It really did feel I was traversing the worlds of… well, Mario. What is the land he visits anyway? Oh yeah, Mario World. That would be a nice link to the SNES title – in the event it materialises on the Switch…
“If you jump down that gap, it takes you to a warp zone”
— said by “a friend”
Something to do with plumbing
Super Mario Bros. is a very simple premise: plumber jumps on mushrooms and turtles in an effort to rescue a princess he’s never met by visiting high risk, most likely void of buildings insurance, castles. Each time he enters one, there is the potential of being burned by lava or burnt by spinning balls of flame and other hazards like people who don’t tuck their chair under their desk. A real threat. And while we’re referring to office hazards, bending with your knees and not your back is always paramount when lifting.
Get past Bowser, based on a real person, and Mario is told by a talking mushroom that the princess is not in that castle. Is the princess worth it? I can’t answer. It’s not my place. However, Mario may possibly be suffering from concussion as throughout he’s eating mushrooms and headbutting brick walls to collect coins that no shop in the game appears to accept. Very much like the pound. Thanks, Brexit.
Here are some interesting facts about plumbing though:
- Albert Einstein said he would have considered being a plumber and the reason why he grew a moustache after playing Super Mario Bros. on a flight to Ayia Napa
- The name plumber comes from Christopher Plummer – a famous deep-sea diver who once played John Travolta in a film about Greece
- Plumbing is spelt p-l-u-m-b-i-n-g.
To this day, I still haven’t completed Super Mario Bros. With all the walkthroughs, speed runs and even hacks, I still can’t do it and I think that is the charm: a game I can never seem to finish. An elusive end to something from my childhood. If I finish it and save the princess, then what? Surely there isn’t much more to life than plumbing, mushrooms and moustaches? Ah, but there is: Super Mario Bros. 2 – with four playable characters! Mama Mia! Yeah, I did.