Playing a game just for fun, or, why it didn’t matter that I never got past Level 5 in Super Mario Brothers for the NES

It’s funny how the mind works.  How some memories from years past are bright as day while others are completely dark and fuzzy.  It’s a hard fact that we owned a Nintendo Entertainment System.  This I remember very well, from the rectangular controllers with those damn sharp edges to the cartridges and the mystical blowing technique that was occasionally required to get them to load.


Thing is, the only game I actually remember playing on the NES was Super Mario Brothers (and Duck Hunt, rather Duck Watch, because we didn’t have the gun controller).

Super Mario Bros. cover art © Nintendo (source)

I’m not sure I could add any more to the mountains of text devoted to this classic game.  (Here’s another nice recollection.)  It’s hard, the music is catchy, and the princess is always in another castle.  It was a pretty game for its time. Mario looked like a little guy with a mustache rather than a little blob of pixels.  Cute stars and mushrooms would give Mario powers and there were enough baddies and secret passages to keep one occupied for hours and hours…and hours.


I remember putting a lot of time into Super Mario as a youngster.  With the exception of those few gamer savants, any regular person that’s played the game and doesn’t have a short fuse (and I didn’t at the time) knows that it’s not the easiest game to beat.  You have to work hard to get Mario to those castles.  You have to have infinite patience and damn fine timing to beat Bowser.  You have to be crafty to get all the coins on each level and find all the game’s secrets.


But back in those days the word completionist hadn’t even been invented.  And in my little corner, Mario was the greatest game I never beat.  (It wasn’t until a few years later that I beat the game once – the SNES remake – and by god was that a victory.)  I think the farthest I ever going in one sitting was maybe World 5?  Yeah, it had to be 5, because levels 6, 7, and 8 looked complete unfamiliar on the SNES.


Like most early games, there was no way to save your progress.  But unlike the curmudgeon writing this post, my younger self gleefully started over without a care in the world.  It was FUN!  FUN I say!  Maybe it was the music…maybe it was the spritely 8-bits…maybe I thought I could REALLY SAVE the princess this time…!  I don’t recall just how the game so magically infiltrated my young, supple mind, but it did.

There was one time…shhh now, don’t rat me out…shhh, when I actually – hee hee! – woke up in the middle of the night and snuck downstairs…just to play Mario!   It was totally freakin’ awesome!

And probably slightly retarded.

And I still didn’t get past level 5.


But see, not really.  I supposed short of Super Street Fighter, at which I just didn’t excel, Super Mario Brothers was really one of the last games I remember playing just to have fun.  I had no agenda, no goal to beat the game, no intentions of becoming frustrated and giving up.

Oh to be so young a foolish again!  Tis but a mere folly to think that today’s games could be little more than winsome and rakish.  Alas, today we are pushed to excel, to complete, to achieve.  Fie upon that!  And leave me in peace to mutilate my enemies. (All in pure fun, of course.)


  1. I played the SNES version of that, and I never beat it. It’s just too darn hard. I finally was able to beat almost every SNES game I have…except for most of the Mario ones. I just don’t feel satisfied with a game unless I can finish it, so these games made me quite sad.


    1. I also hate leaving games unfinished (but there are oh so many of those!) Glad to know that your life as continued well even without beating SNES Mario. If you ever happen to play it again, I wish you many ounces of pure gold…er, luck.


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