Everybody’s favorite Bowser basher, Goomba grinder, Koopa killer and Mushroom masticator blew away 8-bit Japanese gamers on this day in 1985. While Nintendo’s mascot would take another month to arrive on the North American continent, Super Mario Bros. wasted no time turning the video game world on its ear. No other game has ever made such an enormous splash and changed the way players viewed their interactive worlds.
Super Mario Bros. heralded the end of an era, and the birth of another. Games like Space Invaders and Pac-Man, once the unstoppable juggernauts of the arcade scene, suddenly looked dated and behind the times with their static screens and clearly-defined boundaries. Mario smashed through these preconceived notions of what video games could do like he was knocking coins free from a ? block. Worlds were no longer confined to the length and width of the monitor, but instead continued on in every direction as Mario ran to the right, climbed vines into the sky, plopped into lakes for a swim, navigated blue underworld caverns, and explored castles replete with deadly traps. Eight total worlds, each with four levels, all populated with secrets galore (and that second quest where you could do it all again, only harder), gave gamers something new at every turn as opposed to more of the same.
Even Mario himself grew up. No longer content to be just a handyman or an evil zoo keeper with a monkey fetish, he and his brother Luigi became bona fide adventurers and explorers. It’s almost impossible to explain today what Super Mario Bros. did to gaming, because every major title since owes some debt to the little plumber with the big heart. Thankfully Japan saw fit to share him with all of us today in Retro Gaming history. So happy birthday, Mario–here’s a toast to the first time you went ‘Super’ and conquered not just the Mushroom Kingdom but our little gamer hearts as well!