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September 14, 2019 5:24 PM   Subscribe

The Original Super Mario Bros. Launched On NES 34 Years Ago [Nintendo Life] β€œThe original Super Mario Bros., one of the most celebrated and adored video games in history, was first released 34 years ago today, on 13th September 1985.It was on this day that the game launched for Nintendo's Famicom console in Japan, a system which would soon go on to release as the NES or 'Nintendo Entertainment System' across North America, Europe, and more with a copy of Mario never far behind. You likely don't need us to tell you, but it went on to be the best-selling game for the console, selling an estimated 40.24 million copies worldwide.” [YouTube][Super Mario Bros. Retrospective by Jeremy Parish]
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can still play the 8 bit music and effects in my head.
posted by porpoise at 5:44 PM on September 14, 2019




It's a pretty good game, all things told. A bit repetitive in level design, but it's still surprising how much they managed to wring out of their limitations.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:58 PM on September 14, 2019


Pretty good for a game with 5 minutes of gameplay!
posted by explosion at 6:13 PM on September 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


That record was recently beaten!

Also, this game is my white whale. I've played it on and off my whole life, and I still haven't beaten it, even with warps.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 6:23 PM on September 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


I recently bought Mario Maker 2 and got a few minutes into it quite pleased with what I was seeing before realising I was playing the menu. (this is not a joke)

Anyway, Nintendo taught me to care about good software design and so much of what makes them great was already on display in Super Mario Bros.
posted by seraphine at 6:55 PM on September 14, 2019 [7 favorites]


Recently I've been into the YouTube channel Summoning Salt and his history of speed run record progression. He has a few on Super Mario Bros.:

4-2: The History of Super Mario Bros.' Most Infamous Level
The History of Super Mario Bros Warpless World Records
World Record Progression: Super Mario Bros

I've never been interested in speed running myself but I find his videos fascinating.
posted by good in a vacuum at 7:09 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ah, explosion and J.K. Seazer you beat me to the speed running angle.
posted by good in a vacuum at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2019


32 KB for code, 8 KB for sprites.

That's it. That's the whole game.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:11 PM on September 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


I found myself wondering out loud a couple years back how much longer it would be even sort of common knowledge that you could continue on SMB by holding the A button while you pressed start on the title screen.

β€œWait, you can continue on SMB?” came the responses from people only a couple years younger than my 34-year-old self.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:33 PM on September 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


TEARS IN RAIN, PEOPLE
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:43 PM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]


32 KB for code, 8 KB for sprites.

Technically, 4 KB for background tiles and 4 KB for sprites. But that's not even entirely accurate. Here's the full pattern table for SMB, see the random-looking static at the lower-right, in the last 1.25 rows of tiles? That's the character map for the title screen -- there wasn't any room left in the program ROM for it, so they stuck it at the end of the character ROM, reading it into RAM when needed.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:58 PM on September 14, 2019 [5 favorites]


December, 1986. My dad and I went to Kmart, probably to buy a present for my mom. Having no impulse control, he bought me the NES Deluxe, with R.O.B. and Gyromite instead of SMB. As we were heading to the register, 7 year old me buzzing with excitement over this unexpected non-holiday gift, my dad figures that since he's getting me this ($453 in 2018 dollars, per Wikipedia), he should get my mom an unexpected non-holiday gift, too.

When my mother found out that my dad randomly bought me a Nintendo right before the holidays, she was furious. Obviously. But my dad was prepared. "But honey, I bought you something, too." And gave her a lamp. A plain, white lamp. My mom has held a grudge about that for 33 years.

So I never had SMB as a kid, but I do have a neat little robot that lives in my office and my mama's grudge lamp lights up my bedroom now. I plan on passing that white lamp down to Kid Ruki as a family heirloom.

Oh, and we totally forgot to buy the actual gift for my mom.
posted by Ruki at 9:04 PM on September 14, 2019 [19 favorites]


I coveted a NES as a kid but never owned one. I've since played SMB in multiple formats, but it has only been since I've played all of the NES games that the Switch gives you access to that I've really come to understand its brilliance. Like, almost every other game on that system is just dire compared to the Mario games, it's incredible.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:48 PM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]


On a church trip many years back, I stayed at an older couple’s house for the week. They had a NES there for their grandkids. Of course I was happy to play SMB during downtime. One afternoon our hostess, a sweet and kind little old lady , turned on the TV and started up SMB and started playing... and she was pretty much speed running it. You shoulda seen our jaws drop.
posted by azpenguin at 12:44 AM on September 15, 2019 [7 favorites]


ominous_paws: You should have seen it when it hit the local arcades. Check their other flagships: Metroid and the first Legend of Zelda. That stuff was hard to comprehend after the Atari 2600 (in my case, my brothers Coleco Gemini, which could play atari _and_ coleco carts).

I play through the first one a few times a year. Pretty much always have, sometimes the quick way, and sometimes all the way through. That last hammer brother still pisses me off.

Googling is failing me, but there are pics of (i think) Miyamotos design notebook for the levels of SMB1, and its amazing seeing how well thought out it was from the beginning.
posted by lkc at 1:33 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


continue on SMB by holding the A button while you pressed start on the title screen

...WHAT THE FUCK? MY ENTIRE LIFE IS A LIE.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:34 AM on September 15, 2019 [12 favorites]


continue on SMB by holding the A button while you pressed start on the title screen

Omfg, how the fuck did I not know this or anyone else in my circle of friends. Ugh.
posted by Fizz at 4:59 AM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


I got a NES for Christmas 1986 when I was 12.

I didn’t find out about the continue feature until I was in my 30s.

Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
posted by Fleebnork at 6:16 AM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


SMB was a massive step up, indeed. Not only the level design, but also the feel of the character.

I've been playing Super Mario Bros U and even though the moveset is mostly traditional Mario, I was remarking yesterday to my wife about how fresh it feels compared to say New Super Mario Bros 2.
posted by ersatz at 6:38 AM on September 15, 2019


I was first introduced to Mario at a friend's sixth birthday party where the main party game was Super Mario Bros. Everyone took turns playing the game and I was enthralled right away. At the age of six my father brought home a brand new NES from his office; Nintendo was interested in my father's foam production plant producing the foam packaging that encases NES units inside the box. When that NES wasn't at the factory, it was in my bedroom where I played far more Super Mario Bros. than was probably healthy at the time.

At the time the NES was the new amazing thing on the block, and having one was big news to my elementary school friends. When I wasn't playing the game, I was drawing the character illustrations out of the game's manual, following the pixelated appearance of the items and enemies because I just plain didn't know any better. The NES had to go back to Nintendo after nine months, but Mario's adventures stayed with me. Several months later I had saved up enough money to buy a NES of my own and Mario was welcomed into my home permanently.

This is from a larger piece I wrote for Super Mario Bros’s twentieth anniversary. My how time flies.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:41 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


8-bit Big Band plays Mario 1 live

One of my favorite pieces.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:22 AM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


This is a heavy thing for a plumber to wake up to
John Darnielle provides a long intro into a solo version of:
Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle

The Blue on the album version (2008)
posted by art.bikes at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


The only big thing I’ve ever won was a NES with SMB/Duck Hunt. It was shortly after it was released and my mom worked at Prange Way (RIP, PW) at the time and it was the employee holiday party. There was a raffle with a bunch of random other crap but the best prize was clearly the NES and I WON IT! My best friend at the time had an Atari, but this was SO MUCH COOLER! Suck it, Frogger!
posted by Weeping_angel at 6:19 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I remember playing Mario Bros on the Apple IIe's in elementary school. Got a copy for myself and brought it home to our Apple IIc. I remember that there were these flying wasp things that were the worst because since they flew, you couldn't attack them by bumping up the platform underneath.
posted by turkeybrain at 7:14 AM on September 16, 2019


I've recently begun a hobby project to create a new NES game from scratch. One of the main things I've learned is how limited the NES console is, and also what an absolute masterpiece of programming Super Mario Bros is.

In the early days of the NES, games were extremely limited on data storage and depended totally on the hardware features of the base NES console. This is touched on in the video: between 1983 and 1983, games tended to be single screen, puzzle-like arcade-port releases. These are known as NROM games. Later games - pretty much every game Americans and Europeans love - have cartridges with extra chips for data storage and hardware features. Once you start adding this hardware to the cart, possibilities open up and the system really gets pushed to the limit.

Programming an interesting game with an NROM cart is apocalyptically difficult. That Super Mario Bros was even attempted on NROM is madness. The disassembly posted by dephlogisticated (itself a monumental work) shows that the SMB code is a masterclass in constrained programming. Every last damn byte of storage is used, nearly nothing wasted. The method used to compress and store the levels as strips is brilliant, and was copied by many other NES programmers throughout the years.

What a game!
posted by Enkidude at 9:34 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's difficult from more than three decades later to see just how far ahead of its time Super Mario Bros was both technologically and in terms of gameplay.

For comparison to other console games in 1982 the undisputed console king was the Atari 2600 (selling 30 million units). The Atari's second best selling game and probably best game overall was Pitfall! - a platforming game which had to fit into 4k so the character was a stickman and the entire game was procedurally generated with a fixed seed and the Atari 2600's best game was a truly awful port of Pac-Man on which only one ghost could be displayed per frame (which isn't quite as bad as youtube makes it look because CRTs being slightly laggy lead to flickery appearances by the ghosts).

The Famicom (i.e. original Japanese model of the NES) could already do better in 1983 as it was designed to be powerful enough to play 1981's Donkey Kong, one of the five biggest arcade games of all time. In practice it only managed three of Donkey Kong's four screens (Donkey Kong was of course the earliest video game with a visually unfolding story) but was otherwise pretty good as ports went. And the best arcade game from 1985 is generally considered to be Gauntlet, it is no exaggeration to say Super Mario Bros had arcade quality graphics for the time.

Then there's the gameplay which, until then, had basically been of two types. The pick-up-and play quarter-stealers of the arcades which drew you in, had intuitive controls - and were designed to kill you regularly and not reward either exploration or mastery because they wanted you to keep feeding in those quarters. The alternative was home computer games which could be deep and could reward exploration and mastery but were played almost entirely on keyboards (mice weren't yet a standard peripheral) with all the limitiations. And then there was Mario with the hidden warp zones and (relatively) long levels with depth only seen in home computer games while not having any of the irritating parts.

Is Super Mario Bros the best game ever? Few would say even in its own series it was better than either 3 or World. But most groundbreaking and most influential? Spacewar! and Colossal Cave Adventure fans might argue and Ocarina of Time fans might be able to just about make a case, but I can think of few others that can.
posted by Francis at 4:13 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


If Princess Toadstool's dad isn't named King Trumpet, that's a hell of a missed opportunity.
posted by sugar and confetti at 6:59 AM on September 23, 2019


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