I had played Super Mario Bros. on my Commodore 64 before I ever played it on a Nintendo Entertainment System. That game, I found out years later, was actually an altered version of a game called Great Giana Sisters which had been written for the C-64 in a deliberate attempt to cash in on the Mario craze. By the time I got my NES, the hotly anticipated Super Nintendo console was about to be released. I never got one of those. I was happy with my regular old Nintendo. I was never very good, but I had a Game Genie which I shamelessly used, and that helped. I had all the classic games — Kung Fu, the Double Dragon series, a few of the Castlevanias. I had all the Batman games, even though only Batman: Return of the Joker was really what you would call a great game.
And I had Mario. Like I said, I was never much of a gamer, but to this day I still think Super Mario Bros. 3 is the best video game I have ever played. Certainly it’s the most fun. The other two NES Mario games bring back great memories, too. Shit, the original Super Mario Bros. came packaged with the console! You could not avoid it; you had to play it. And what a great game it was.
Yesterday I read Nathan Rabin’s My Year of Flops entry on the misbegotten Super Mario Bros. film from 1993, and since then I’ve been swept up in a wave of warm nostalgia for those simpler days, when I would sit in the cool, unfinished basement of my childhood home, on a smelly old couch, and play Nintendo on an old TV from the 1970’s that had once belonged to my grandparents. I can still recall that smell, a mix of stale basement, crumbling insulation, and baby powder, which we used when we shot pool on the old pool table — the one we had before Pap converted that room into my bedroom when I was 15; the one with the orange felt. The walls were plain wood panelling, the tile ceiling was falling to pieces, and the floor was bare brown concrete wherever there wasn’t a rug.
It was a wonderful place to grow up. And now that I’m grown-up, it’s a place completely lost to me. But I can remember a tiny, ultimately insignificant but nonetheless comforting part of it by going back and playing those old Mario games again. Since I don’t happen to have my NES with me at this moment, I have found a few next-best-things. These are flash-based Mario games you can play online. There are hundreds of these, some very different from the original games, but the few I have embedded here are pretty good. This first one is my favorite. I found it at Mariogame.info, which has lots more if you are interested. It looks and feels like one of those remakes Nintendo has been putting out for the newer systems, like Super Mario Deluxe, with music from the original games, including Super Mario Bros. 2, which was always a dear favorite of mine, so that’s appreciated. Check out Super Mario Flash: Then there is this one, the similarly titled Super Flash Mario Bros. from Mariobrothersonline.net. This one feels more like a port of one of the Super Nintendo games, and is also a hell of a lot of fun. At the above website, they also have several other Mario games playable online, as well as three versions you can download and play whenever the hell you want. Mario Forever looks good to me. We should be so lucky. Enjoy.