This post was previously featured on Questicle.net. In honor of Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary, the Archive is republishing it for your reading pleasure.
Shall we play a game?
“What’s-a this life for?” Mario wonders.
Mario starts off small and weak. Doubts plague his heart. He shouldn’t be here. This isn’t his world. Eventually, he moves forward, his spirits buoyed by the jaunty background music (does every area contain music, he wonders). A Goomba rolls slowly towards him. He jumps, squashes him, questions if he should feel guilty for having done so, then looks ahead. Blocks with question-mark symbols blink seductively in front of him. He can’t resist. With the force of his mighty noggin, he bumps the three in front of him. Two yield coins, one, a mushroom. He ingests it without thinking. Immediately, Mario feels power. He is taller and bigger. He runs faster and leaps higher than ever before. He speeds past two large pipes in the ground, more Goombas, then stops before an open gap. Something feels different about this innocuous area. He jumps absentmindedly. A green mushroom appears out of an invisible block hidden in the ether. He grabs it, feeling ever more confident, and leaps the gap.
Just made it!
Another question-mark block. This time, his prize is a neon flower. As he touches it, flames emerge from his hands. A Koopa passing by is fried instantly. He chuckles to himself, then runs forward, incinerating any and all impediments, collecting all the items from question-mark blocks. At one point, a star emerges. His body consumes it, and the result is pure power and momentum. Mario runs forward with little regard for anything in front of him. Goombas and Koopas are cut down simply by touching him. Pipes and blocks are no match for his leap. He wants this godlike feeling to last forever. But it ends, and he’s weary.
Mario’s cackles could be heard on the opposite side of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Mario stands at the foot of a block mountain, wondering what the other side holds. Wanting to rest but more curious than tired, he musters up his strength and climbs to the top. On the other side is a flagpole. Beyond it still, a castle. While he could probably jump directly down and be fine, he decides not to plummet from this high vantage point. He takes a breath and leaps towards the flagpole, higher than ever before. The gently waving flag passes him by. He grasps onto the middle of the flagpole before sliding to the ground. Fireworks go off in the distance as he walks towards the castle, still unsure of what’s happening with the Mushroom Kingdom.
Kind of Blue, by Miles Mario.
Haunting blue tones permeate this underground area. There are hidden secrets here, Mario feels, that are greater than those above ground. With these secrets – 1-Up mushrooms, brick blocks filled with coins – come more enemies to protect them. Mario whips up pipin’ hot fire sandwiches for every Goomba and Koopa he sees. The Piranha Plants prove trickier. They only appear every couple seconds before venturing downward into their homes.
The underground demands caution, Mario realizes. He can not run and jump with reckless abandon like he could in the overworld. He felt emboldened with power in the previous area, but here, he is humbled. His powers, while still useful, are limited by the closed-in environment. As he is sucked upwards by the final pipe, he is grateful for the experience, but wonders about the remaining secrets. Perhaps, at some point, he could return to find more.
Barry White plays softly in the background.
Mario’s thankful to be breathing fresh air once again. The pipe must have shot him out at a high altitude: all he can see are the tops of gigantic trees. He begins to run, then slows. He must be cautious as he jumps among the treetops. Any ill-timed hop could send him careening to the underground and beyond.
He moves carefully forward, then comes across two levitating pink platforms. They aren’t moving in sync with each other. Mario can’t wait for them to sync up, so he jumps on one, then the other, barely landing without falling into the ether. He steadies himself, then, high on adrenaline, decides to run as fast as he can through the trees. His jumps are elegant, powerful, and he has more control over them than ever before. He can’t even see the trees or bricks under him as he soars by.
There’s more than one way to get high, baby…
Finally, his hands land on a familiar texture – cold, metallic, greasy. He slides downwards on the flagpole, amused by how quickly he arrived. He brushes the sweat off of his brow, feeling like a million lira. Then he notices the large castle directly in front of him. His gut tells him this isn’t a waypoint, like the last castle. Something insidious waits inside.
I do believe this qualifies as a “Ma-mma M-ia” moment.
The castle is dark, hot, sinister. Mario takes his time walking across the white bricks, absorbing every little detail. Lava seems to undergird the castle structure, which makes little sense. Pillars of flaming balls rotate precariously close to each other within the castle hallways. These weren’t installed for the owner, he thinks.
Mario bobs and weaves his way through the flames before coming to a wide open area. Aside from the tense background music, nothing is happening. Then, without warning, a guttural growl emerges from the dark and rectangular bursts of flame speed towards Mario. He jumps over one, but lands on another. It robs him of his flower, his size, and all his strength. More scared than ever, he creeps slowly forward, barely jumping over the approaching flames.
Mario’s biscuits burn in the night.
The darkness parts and he sees the source of the castle’s evil: a large grinning dragon moving rhythmically before him across a drawbridge. Mario’s shaking, powerless; surely this creature will consume him. At one point, the dragon jumps at the appropriate angle, and Mario sees the axe laying next to the ropes holding up the bridge. An idea forms. Perhaps there is still hope. He waits for the creature to jump again. Right as the dragon gains momentum to push off the bridge, Mario runs under him, grabs the axe, cuts the ropes, and watches the creature fall into the fiery pit. Gusts of noxious fumes blow Mario’s hair about his grim, determined face. The ultimate evil is destroyed. The Mushroom Kingdom is safe. All is well.
It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.
Mario moves deeper into the castle and finds a young mushroom man. Surely this man is the Princess’ bodyguard, captured alongside the Princess. Delighted to see another person, he runs towards him, eager to meet him and Her Highness. The man sees Mario and says nothing at first. Both men stare awkwardly at each other. “Um,” the man stutters. He then smiles nervously before proclaiming, “Thank you, Mario, but our Princess is in another castle!” Before Mario can punch this toadstool punk square in the pasta fazool, the world goes dark. Suddenly, he’s whisked away to God knows where. He knows his quest is not over. The Mushroom Kingdom is not safe. All is not well.
What no hero wants to hear.