RAM 001: Super Mario Bros.

Welcome to RAM! What’s RAM? RAM (which stands for Random Access Memory) is a series where we take a memory of a video game, whether it’s a specific moment or something special that happened while you were playing, then talk about what it meant to you! Anyone can help contribute and give their own RAM to the Potaku system! In our first story, I’m going to be looking at a moment in Super Mario Bros that helped spark a habit I’ve formed in games.

The Game: Super Mario Bros is a classic not just for Nintendo fans, but for game players everywhere. It’s where we first got our chance to run, jump and stomp on goombas. Where we first got to tackle the Bowser threat to the Mushroom Kingdom and the first time we saved Princess Peach. It paved the way for the mascot platformer, with other notable examples being Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman and more. Its creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, went on in Nintendo to create some of my favourite games ever such as the Zelda series and Pikmin. It’s revered by a lot of the gaming community, both on the player and the developer side. It’s a true classic and still holds up today, even after all these years.

The Moment: The first time I ever played Super Mario Bros was in the All Stars collection released on the SNES. I was in Year 1 in Primary School at the time and the year was 1996. I had a Sega Mega Drive before hand and played a lot of Sonic. I remember putting in the cartridge for the first time, hearing that audible click and pressing the power button, what came next was the gateway into what became a love of all things Nintendo. Super Mario World popped up first on the screen and it was my first encounter with Mario. Seeing this little dude with blue overalls and a red hat and moustache, running around and jumping on big bullets, goombas and more made my little heart fill with love and it’s never stopped. If I remember correctly, I didn’t play any other Mario titles on that collection for a solid month. I wasn’t particularly good at it to begin with, but soon found myself able to clear levels with ease.

Me and my first dog Sonic!

Me and my first dog Sonic

Being in Primary school, my brother and I were only allowed to play the SNES from Friday afternoon until Sunday night. I always remember the mad dash in from the car to the front door on a Friday afternoon to jump on it and play. One Friday night I was playing Super Mario World when I got stuck on a particularly difficult level and after numerous deaths, threw down my controller in frustration. Dad rushes in to see what the commotion was.

“Dad! It’s too hard! I can’t do it!” I cry to him. “Brendan, it’s a game, if you’re not having fun go and do something else!” He barks back at me. “Fine.” I huff. I sit and cross my arms. He walks away and I look at the Game Over screen.

“I don’t want to stop playing! I want to keep playing Mario! I want to have fun! Wait…aren’t there other Mario games on here? Maybe I should try them?”

I quit back to the main menu and scroll through what’s on offer. I had Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. I went with Super Mario Bros. It was just like Super Mario World! Hooray! I was having fun again! I raced through the first level with relative ease, then the second and then I kept going. I got all the way to World 3 before I died, but no matter, I just started right up again! I spent that entire weekend just playing Super Mario Bros over and over until Sunday night came.

For the next few weekends it was the same deal. But it wasn’t until about my 100th time trying to beat the game when I discovered what has become one of the more iconic parts of the first Mario Bros game. Something so easily missable, but something that blew my young little mind.

I found the secret warp pipes on the second level.

Why it mattered: Most games are designed in a certain way. You’re usually given a clear sort of path on how to tackle things and told that’s the way you have to do it. Take a car racing game for example. You race and look at the course presented to you and it’s linear, there’s only one way to clear it. It’s a set of rules that is adhered to. But sometimes you notice something and think “Can I break the rules here? What happens if I do?” You see a shortcut, or what appears to be a shortcut or a secret and you aim your car towards it and floor it. One of two things happens. You either break the known rules and take that shortcut, or the game says no and keeps you within it’s guidelines.

When you look at that second level in Mario, you’re presented with this.

You have the floor, blocks, coins, enemies and a roof. Where that black is above the roof, you’re given your score and lives. Right in this screen, you’re given the rules and boundaries and for those few weeks, I never thought of trying to break past them and test them. Later on in that level there’s a bunch of moving platforms and a gap in the roof. That one night, I thought I’d see if you could get up there. Sure enough, after breaking the rules, I broke through and realised you could! But what would happen if I kept following it until the pipe? Would I die? Was I MEANT to be here? Was I the first one to do this? Do my friends know? So many questions rushed through my little brain and excitement ran through my system.  What was going to happen! Well…this!

What I found was, what is now one of the most well known secrets in gaming. The reason why this moment was so special and amazing to me was because it made me wonder about games and if every game was like this. It made me explore games in a way I didn’t think was possible, it blew my mind completely open. It made me explore every little nook and cranny in every subsequent game I played. If something looked suspicious or different, I’d explore it until I was sure there was nothing there. I didn’t even find any secrets in Super Mario World before this! I went back and found places like Star Road, secret levels and ghost houses and more. And the best part was I found it by myself, just out of curiosity.

I think that’s what was so special about games back in the day. We’ve talked about this on Potaku, but before the internet and social media, secrets and cheats were passed down and around groups and people and it was a mystery. The internet has wiped some of that mystery away. As soon as a secret’s discovered, a person makes a video and it’s on Youtube. That’s why this moment is so special to me, the fact I found it by myself, that I tested what the game had presented to me and found something I thought I wasn’t meant to. It created an obsessive nature for me in games and it’s a moment that sticks out so clear to me even after all these years.

It’s why I love video games.

RAM is something anyone can take part in. Have a moment in a game that stands out and means something to you? A memory of some amazing gaming moment that you want to share? RAM is here to let you express that. I’d love to see this become a place where people can share those and explain, no matter how big or small that moment is. Games are special because they all mean different things to different people. So please, let us know your moments! Share your RAM with us!

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