Written by Drew Beyer // Uploaded and Edited by Andrew Busch
Peach might be the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, but I’m convinced my mom is the queen. I wrote a couple of days ago about her impressive skill at Banjo-Kazooie and it influenced my hype for the upcoming Yooka-Laylee. I think National Mario Day is the perfect time to pay further homage to the woman who got me into gaming. If you’re wondering, I promise she’s not better than you at every game. She specializes in a select few. While I consider myself a jack of all trades, master of none sort of gamer, my mom masters the games she likes. Those games are Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, and 3, and Super Mario Galaxies 1 and 2.
The story of my mom getting into old school Mario always amuses me. She first encountered Super Mario Brothers in the late 80’s, shortly after it was first released in the US. Her experience with video games up to that point was basically limited to a text-based adventure game, the imaginatively named Adventure. So when she played SMB on my uncle’s NES, it didn’t go too well. In fact, she couldn’t even make it over the first gap in level 1-1, which my uncle teased her for.
But the future queen of Mario would not be deterred. Once she got her own NES (while it was technically given to my dad, for all intents and purposes it was hers), she devoted herself to beating Super Mario Brothers. Not only did she catch up to my uncle, she ended up beating the game first, leaving him to call her when he got stuck, which I’m convinced she still considers an milestone moment in her life.
As the Yooka-Laylee preview implies, my mom is the person I credit with getting me into gaming. My fondest memories of early childhood revolve around watching my mom blaze through the original Mario Brothers trilogy on her NES, and one of her favorite stories with which to embarrass me at dinners is talking about how one of my first intelligent sentences was “you should play the game with castles in the sky and dwagons.” Needless to say, Mario has been constant fixture of my life. I’d occasionally try to join her as Luigi, and while she was always encouraging, I wasn’t nearly skilled enough to keep up. I’m closer now, but she’s still better than me. When it comes to old school Mario, I’m very much player 2.
That might change with the upcoming release of Super Mario Odyssey, as Nintendo claims it will be closer to Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, two Mario games that I happen to be better at than my mom. I consider this one of my greatest achievements. It’s a running joke that my mom and sister only play games at which they can beat me (or have no competitive element, like Animal Crossing). I earn my victories.
At the time I’m writing this, we have very little information about Odyssey beyond a few screenshots, a vague idea of a release date (Holiday 2017) and a singular trailer. While the juxtaposition of cartoony Mario with normally proportioned people might befuddle some, I have utter faith in Nintendo. And if there’s one thing Nintendo never fails to deliver, it’s wacky charm, so I find the oddity endearing rather than frustrating. I’m very optimistic about Super Mario Odyssey, especially now that Breath of the Wild proved that Nintendo not only learned from industry trends but can incorporate them without compromising the heart of their games.
While defeat might have inspired her to start playing old school Mario, my mom continues to play the games to this day because she thoroughly enjoys them. She knows the games inside and out, but she still has a ton of fun blazing through the familiar levels regardless. It’s a refreshingly simple motivation. She doesn’t need new and exciting challenges, cutting edge graphics, or increasingly complex systems. As long as she has 8-bit Mario, mushrooms, and a series of immaculately crafted levels, she’s happy. It took her a long time to leap dimensions from 2D to 3D because until Galaxy none of the 3D games brought her the same joy the 8-bit ones did.
This National Mario Day, I’m incredibly grateful to Nintendo for giving my mom and I Mario to share. Even if I can’t see her very often these days, I know I can always text her new Mario screenshots or call her to talk about about the old games or the new. Mario games invoke a special kind of nostalgia in me. There are plenty of awesome games that remind me of why I’ll always call myself a gamer, but old school Mario and Banjo-Kazooie remind me that I’m my mom’s son.
So I guess what I’m trying to say here is I hope everyone can find something to share with the people they love like my mom and I share Mario. That might mean parents playing games with children, children playing games with parents, friends playing games together, or whatever else. Gaming lets you share unique experiences with those close to you- nobody will ever make the same sequences of jumps, or stomp the goombas in exactly the same way. The broad strokes of games remain constant, but the moment-to-moment experience is new every time.
Mario extends beyond my mom and me, too. My entire family will share the experience, watching her play levels the way other families might watch episodes of tv shows. Our paths are crossing less and less often as my sister and I get older, but our love of Mario remains constant.
Come this holiday season my mom is definitely going to be playing super Mario Odyssey and I hope I get to watch her, even though my life is much more complicated now than it was when I was watching her sail through the sky with the raccoon leaf in Super Mario Bros. 3. I know my personal review of Mario Odyssey will be highly dependent on whether or not my mom thinks the game is fun. Because she’s the queen, and the queen’s word is law.