(Super Mario Bros, October 1985, Nintendo)
Perfection. That is perhaps the only proper word created to describe Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi "Ten Ten" Tezuka, and Koji Kondo's realized vision of a sequel to the original Mario Bros. When it comes to the "Black Box" titles, none come close to this magical tale that whisked many a young mind away far off into a land unlike any we had ever seen before. Super Mario Bros. Perfection.
Who else makes the Mario face with these blocks?
As for the story, when you say it out loud, it sounds like you may have just left the Guggenheim with Tim Leary on enough LSD to kill a rhino. At the base level, it's two dudes saving a princess from an evil dragon. That's where the logic ends and the kick-assery begins. Aforementioned "dudes" turn out to be two plumbers who starred in the previous title (Mario Bros, apropos) who eat magic mushrooms, jump like Lebron on a sugar high, and throw fireballs. There were power-ups in games before but one that doubled your size? Another that shot fire out of your hands? One that turned you into an invincible Goomba destroying machine? Never before had anyone seen anything like this and it was just captivating. Every world has 4 stages, with the fourth being a castle controlled by a fake version of Bowser until World 8. The stages are greatly varied with only two stages being re-hashes of the previous ones. My personal favorite is what I called as a kid "The Void" because it was alot like 1-3 but all in black and white. It was the perfect adventure for young gamers, you ran through grassy plains, made your way through dark caves, swam to your next destination, and avoided flying fish and shit-kicking beetles the whole way.
My personal fav, "The Void" 5-3
Let's not forget the music. Holy mother of God, the music. Everyone, and I mean everyone knows the Mario 1-1 Theme (officially known as "Ground Theme") created by Mr. Kondo. When you think that just his royalties on ringtone sales for that one theme alone have him set for life, it is staggering, considering he also did work on the soon-to-be reviewed Legend of Zelda. No bullshit, and I've done this, you can walk practically anywhere, start whistling the Mario Theme and people will follow suit. It is like a gamer handshake. We only think of it as what it is, but if you told me as a kid "Hey, that's a Calypso beat with steel drums!", you would've been looked at like you just puked on my feet while I was wearing flip-flops. Calypso my balls, that's simply the Mario Theme.
Firework mystery, talk of the playground.
The controls couldn't be more spot-on. If you died, it was your own damned fault, pick your head up little soldier and try, try again. The magnificent part of it is that at the time, these guys were creating the mold as they went and did so in ways that would re-define gaming forever. Sure, you had Metroid, Zelda, Contra among others that were just as great in their own ways but there is something about Mario that is more than can be described but I'll give it a go. You are CONSTANTLY doing shit in Mario. In just 1-1 alone, you meet the Goombas, Koopas, Mushrooms, 1-Up, Fire Flower, Star Man, break blocks to find hidden goods, keep watch on your coin counter, make sure you beat the timer, duck on top of every pipe to see if it will take you anywhere, and try to figure out how the fuck you just made fireworks appear after you grabbed the flag. THE FIRST LEVEL!!! That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of unlocking the rest of the secrets that I had to test out after hearing about it at school due to no internet in the early 80's. Secrets exist like the -1 World, an infinite water stage glitch that I never thought was real until I saw it in Nintendo Power. One of the funniest things I've read was an interview with Miyamoto about the Inifinite 1-Up trick at the end of 3-1. He was asked about the glitch and he replied that there wasn't one. He purposefully put that there and couldn't believe people found it. Honestly, I've done it and the guy that figured it out had to have accidentally pulled that off, I mean, how the hell would you know?
Gaming's first catchphrase!
The only negative I can even possibly find with this game is the 2 player. If you are Mario, you have to die in order for it to be Luigi's turn. If the person playing Mario was good, go to the store, take a shit, balance your checkbook, develop a written language for Sea Monkeys, and make a LEGO fully functional house and THEN, it might be your turn. In one of those weird "I'd never think anyone else would do this but me" things, I used to boot up 2 player, immediately feed Mario to a hungry Goomba, and rock the whole game as Luigi. Recently, I spoke to two other people who did the same thing. Awesome.
Oh, 8-3 how I hate thee.
In what will be I'm sure one of the longest reviews of a game, no other game deserves it more. SMB is the benchmark of the Black Box games to this day is beaten by me at least twice a year. In an era where acheivements were real trophys on your dresser, noone cared which voice actors were used, and "X Box" was more likely to be the name of a seedy porn store on Westheimer, Super Mario Bros was the king. It has been ported and thrown on more systems than any other game besides Tetris and shows no signs of slowing down.
The first final boss I ever met. I heart Bowser.
10/10. No other way this one was going. This game is mandatory to play.
THE JOURNEY WILL NEVER BE OVER!!!!!
Special thanks to N-Styles for the info about the gun. If you think it's bullshit, there are original archived documents from Miyamoto himself! Check them out here: