Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt (NES, 1988)

 

In honor of Super Mario Bros.’ 35th anniversary, the Archive is playing every single release, re-release, port, and remake of the original Super Mario Bros.

 

PUBLISHED/DEVELOPED: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: 11/1988 (US), 12/1988 (EU)

 

I emerged from my mother’s womb, gasping for air, and clutching Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt in my right hand.

 

Or… maybe that never happened. I was born in the summer of ’85, a full three and a half years before the SMB/Duck Hunt combo cartridge would grace our sweet American shores within the NES Action Set. Also, the NES wouldn’t be released in America in any capacity until October 1985, another few months after my birth. Also, from what I understand, my mom’s womb was sealed tight until my exit. No NES carts in there!

 

Hello, old friend.

 

No, I did not appear from my mom with the world’s most iconic combo cartridge in hand. But considering I received the NES Action Set at the tender age of four, I can truthfully say that my conscious mind doesn’t remember a time without Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. Like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” or the first “Ghostbusters” film, SMB / Duck Hunt is one of those pure 80s creations that feels like it’s always existed.

 

 

For myself and millions of burgeoning millennials, Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt was the pixelated gateway drug, the portal to new dimensions. We had all experienced moving images on our television set from an early age. Now, with Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt, we were asked to actively participate in what was happening on screen. When Mario jumped, we jumped. When Mario got a Mushroom and grew larger, we felt our own strength increase. When Mario ran into a Goomba, we cried and fell on the floor. We weren’t simple. We had just become one with a paunchy, mustachioed Brooklyn plumber. His triumphs were our triumphs. His pain was our pain. No mere television show could produce such reactions. Video games were a brave new world entirely, one that would consume us if we weren’t careful.

 

 

Too… much… power…

 

Of course, Super Mario Bros. is the real breadwinner in this relationship. SMB is an Adventure with a capital ‘A.’ 32 smoothly scrolling levels, it changed video games forever, Mario still controls like a dream, yada yada yada, a true American classic, except it’s as Japanese as it gets. Duck Hunt is the game where you shoot ducks. And clay targets, if you’re feeling like your dad. There’s that goofy dog that laughs at you when you miss. He’s amusing, although lots of folks that live on the Internet seem to hate him. I’m reaching really hard here, folks, but Duck Hunt just doesn’t compare to SMB in quality and scope.

 

Look at that enthusiasm! 12/10 good boy.

 

What would our young lives had been like if Nintendo had paired two of their great early adventures – SMB and Metroid or Kid Icarus – together instead of SMB and Duck Hunt? Too much greatness in one combo cart? Or was Nintendo implying that we should complement our larger adventure with smaller, more immediate fare, like Duck Hunt or Hogan’s Alley? Without Duck Hunt‘s perhaps inevitable placement in the combo cart, we wouldn’t have received that quintessential piece of 80s tech, the neon orange Zapper. And a childhood without a futuristic video game gun isn’t much of a childhood at all.

 

One can only collect so many coins…

 

Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt is one of the most ubiquitous NES games, and thus, can be found for a few dollars used online. Loose copies of the original Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt are much more rare than the combo carts and cost several dollars more. Today, Super Mario Bros. is a universe-conquering franchise. Duck Hunt is still a lone NES title where you shoot ducks (and/or father-approved clay targets) with your canine companion. While Nintendo likely never viewed them as games of similar quality, they each sold different, at-the-time equally important aspects of Nintendo’s new “Entertainment System.” If you didn’t like Super Mario Bros. (you monster), you could shoot virtual ducks to your heart’s content with the included Zapper. If you didn’t like Duck Hunt, you could go save the Princess again and again.

 

Our dads taught us well.

 

There will never be a world without Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt. Even if all of the combo carts are rounded up and buried in the New Mexico desert somewhere, the millions of personal memories made from this most blessed of pairings will permeate our atmosphere for ages to come.

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