I heard one time that Mario was just as popular with people as Mickey Mouse — perhaps even more popular. While I don’t know if that’s entirely true, I imagine it is not far from the truth. This simple handyman has gone from being a monkey-wrangler to a superhero to a household name.
My first memory with the character goes back to playing Donkey Kong in arcades. I don’t remember much about it, because I was so young, but I do remember playing. The clearer memory goes back to the Christmas when I got my Nintendo Entertainment System. Earlier that night, my cousin received one at my grandparent’s house. My dad and others were playing Super Mario Bros., and they asked me if I wanted to try. I was so hesitant, thinking that I couldn’t do it. Just a bit later, though, I was loving it and wished I could play more. Later that night, when we got back home, I was presented with my own NES as a gift. My life was forever changed.
Over the years, I’ve played every mainstream Mario game that comes out, and I own all but a couple. Even though many gamers have gone to first-person shooters and real-time strategies as their preferred genre, my heart is still with the action platformer that all started with Super Mario. In my opinion, Nintendo is one of the best at it. They’ve turned Mario into a game that is always fun and challenging — just what I want in a video game.
My favorite traditional (2D) Mario game is a tough call. I am a huge fan of Super Mario Bros. 3, but I also really like Super Mario World. Both really took the series to the next level, but did not change things so drastically that it felt entirely different. They were both natural progressions for the series. In fact, that’s the case, I believe, with most of the Mario games. You rarely sit down to play a new Mario game and think, “Wait, what do I do?” Similarly, we seldom say that a Mario game is exactly like the last one. With each iteration, there are improvements but it is never overwhelming. While some people critique this, I see it as a positive. I know what to expect from Mario, and I like it… a lot!
When Mario stepped into he 3D space, I was apprehensive at first, even as a younger child. When I finally gave it a chance, though, I realized this was where the series needed to go. Super Mario 64 broke ground in a great way for 3D video games, and they have been getting better ever since then. When the super plumber stepped into outer space, though, in Super Mario Galaxy, is when I feel like Nintendo really got it right. That game and its sequel are two of my favorite Mario games. In fact, I have a hard time deciding if I like them better than my 2D favorites. I honestly go back and forth depending on the day.
While my wife isn’t into video games nearly as much as I am, one game we enjoy playing together is Mario. We’ve played through the New Super Mario series a couple times, and while we can easily get frustrated with each other when we knock the other one off a platform or “bubble” too early, one thing we always experience is fun! We truly have fun playing Mario together!
One cannot speak about Mario without talking about his creator, Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto. I am grateful to this man’s creative genius. His whimsical style and desire to create this character is something will always treasure. When I feel like kicking back, escaping the craziness of this world, and playing a game, more often than not, Mario ends up on the screen. Miyamoto somehow knows exactly what is the right balance of fun and challenge. That is who he is, and it shines through in his games.
Another moment I will treasure was when I got to meet Mr. Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, at my first E3 Expo. He was such a kind man, and I couldn’t help but think that I was meeting the real-life Mario when I talked with him. It was like my childhood was coming full circle as I was able to come face to face with my favorite fictional hero. We didn’t talk long, but the brief conversation we shared was great.
On this March 10, what Nintendo has affectionately called “MAR10 Day,” I cannot help but remember all the fond memories I’ve had playing Mario games. It all started with a plumber rescuing a princess from a giant monkey and moved onto saving the Mushroom Kingdom from a giant lizard. Now he has moved into many hearts around the world. While I enjoy creating my own levels in Super Mario Maker, I wait with baited breath on the next chapter in Mario’s grand adventure!
As the toads and princesses have said many times before, thank you, Mario!