I fell into the gaming rabbit hole at age seven, a time when my classmates talked about Pokemon, Game Boy Color, and N64 nonstop as if they were the coolest things in the world. And they were. 

I didn’t immediately have access to gaming consoles in my own home, but rather I had a babysitter with two older boys who had every console imaginable. NES, SNES, N64, you name it they had it, and they were kind enough to allow me to play on those consoles when they weren’t using them. 

Typically it’d be the two of them in their room with their N64 – which was the newest console at the time – and I’d be out in the living room with the NES and SNES.

 

In a separate Mar10 feature here on Prima, I talk a little bit about the SNES mouse that you used to play Mario Paint. It’s a funny memory that I have, me having to puzzle out how to use that thing at the age of seven, too stubborn to ask the babysitter’s sons for help.

I also had to figure out how to play all of their well-used games available to me on the NES and SNES, none of which had an instruction manual. Or the original box they came in for that matter. Instead, the cartridges were stacked by the TV near the VHS tapes.

It was a pick one up, play it, and find out kind of situation.

I remember how I went through each one, setting the difficult ones off to the side for later. What I was ultimately left with was Donkey Kong Country plus an assortment of Mario games including Super Mario World, Mario Paint, Super Mario All-Stars, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.

Those were my starting points, my golden tickets into the world of gaming. Before I got my own N64 and Game Boy where I could play games like the one I mentioned in another Mar10 article, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, I first had to sit down and master the Mario games that were available to me on NES and SNES. 

Looking back at my childhood, I’m glad that I was introduced to the fundamentals of gaming this way. The older Mario games were perfect in the sense that they weren’t overly easy, nor were they too hard to the point where I had to set them aside in defeat. 

They were designed in a way to help encourage you to keep going no matter which one you were playing whether it be Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario World. And they were very effective. The assortment of Mario games I played as a kid showed me that gaming could be fun, even addicting.

Adding to this, the more time I put into those Mario games, the easier the rest of the NES and SNES games that I’d previously set aside became. I felt like I was learning without having to have someone show me, without having to ask for help. For my seven-year-old self, that was magic. 

And even when I became obsessed with games like Pokemon Silver after getting my very own Game Boy Color, I never stopped playing Mario games. I've had at least one Mario game on every single Nintendo console I've owned whether it be Game Boy, N64, GameCube, DS, 3DS, Wii, etc. 

I also keep an eye out for Mario games to play on Nintendo Switch, not just for myself but for my son now as well. My son is turning three in a few days (time really does fly) and is obsessed with video games. He’s just like I was when I was a kid – he doesn’t want to ask for help, he’s too stubborn.

Instead, he teaches himself how games work through trial and error, or by watching other people play. On that last note, I find it adorable when my son tries to play Super Mario 35 (a game of his choosing). 

After he gets a Game Over, he’ll sit there and toggle between other players and will watch them play. He does this with a serious look on his face like he’s studying for a test. It seems to help too because the more he plays now, the farther he gets. 

Mario isn’t the only game teaching him the fundamentals of gaming in the ways that it taught me, but it’s definitely building a nice foundation that I’m sure he’ll look back on with fondness when he’s an adult as well.

And when he does, I’ll be sure to let him know that he got farther in Mario at the age of three than I did at the age of seven and how impressive that was – and is – to me. I’ll also be sure to lose graciously when he inevitably learns how to defeat me in Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. 

I know that Mario will show him the way to gaming prowess and victory, just like Mario showed me, and I look forward to seeing him grow as a gamer the way that I did as a kid. And if he decides to have kids when he’s an adult, I look forward to seeing him pass the Mario torch down to them as well.

Or even just seeing Mario become a game he uses to connect with other people and to make friends. Mario is timeless, so I have no doubt he’ll be able to do any and all of that if he chooses.

As a side note Mario will probably outlive us all, just like I’m sure Tetris will outlive us all, but that’s a different subject for a different day. Anyways, no matter what happens in the world of gaming, you can always trust in Mario to be there to help show you the way.

Thanks, Mario.