The original. Not the Super one or the Donkey Kong one or whatever. Just, y’know, vanilla, flat, Mario Bros.
I have paid 20 dollars for the right to play Nintendo Switch online games for a year.
I do not do this out of love. I do not do this out of obligation. I do not do this out of a desire to play Splatoon 2 online, I don’t own that game and my ego is so fragile that a child defeating me in online squid-based combat would easily destroy me.
I do this because Nintendo gave some nebulous statement like four months ago about maybe getting like a classic game subscription service similar to that of XBOX Live Games with Gold and that’s been cool so I figured, y’know, for a low price like that, 20 dollars per year, why not go for it?
What I got was, I think, that thing I thought I’d get. A whole buncha NES games and the potential of more of them, or maybe Super Nintendo games or something sometime down the road. The games included for the 20 dollar yearly fee are mostly fine, like there’s Ice Hockey, there’s Dr. Mario, Mario 3’s there, no Mario 2 but we’ll take what we can get. Most of these games are among the NES library’s simplest. You’ve got a couple of those sports games that are just the name of the sport, Balloon Fight, and two of Nintendo’s original arcade ports – Donkey Kong, and Mario Bros.
Donkey Kong’s fine. Interested viewers can watch that documentary about Donkey Kong which is very good, and the NES version’s fine.
But it is the humble Mario Bros. which we’re here to respect. The forgotten one. Sandwiched between the game that changed arcade gaming and launched an icon, and the game that changed gaming history forever, Mario Bros is Nintendo’s weird child who everyone forgets about. Mario Bros. is like Trey Smith. Mario Bros. is like Hydrox cookies. Mario Bros. is like some third thing. Mario Bros. has been forgotten by history.
Well, I should clarify – Mario Bros. is forgotten by public history. Nintendo still trots it out on an hourly basis.
Mario Bros. saw six – that’s right, six – releases on the Game Boy Advance. A secondary, mini-game version on all four of the Super Mario Advance games and in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, and then it came out as a pack of cards for the Game Boy Advance e-reader, which was a gimmicky accessory that brought the joy of swiping a credit card to your Game Boy.
This brings me to the crux of this post: I keep my Game Boy Advance (modded, backlit original landscape model, by the way) in my backpack. I have, I think, four cartridges in that backpack with it – Drill Dozer, Tetris Worlds, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
Now, Superstar Saga is a well-regarded classic in the canon of Mario games. It’s no Paper Mario, but it’s well-liked. As someone who’s never really dropped much time into a Mario RPG, I think I could be introduced to a new world of lovely games via Superstar Saga.
But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m spending 17-20 minutes of my day (which is the general length of my commute on the Sycuan Green Line trolley in San Diego) hammering away at the Mario Bros remake that I’m fairly certain nobody else gave the time of day to. And I’m loving it.
And I’m getting really good at it. I’m no Tool-Assisted Speedrun, but I’m getting to the 20th phase with relative ease now, and it’s to the point where I run out of commute time before I get Game Over. I have actually outplayed Mario Bros’ effectiveness as a time-killer.
The NES version is much more difficult to control and I don’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy the Game Boy version, but… Y’know, I guess it’s nice to have if they’re going to give it to me. It’s not like I asked for the version I like either.