1. Super Mario Brothers

Game at a Glance

Why It Makes This List

To paraphrase a quote I read once about Super Mario Brothers, this title truly is gaming.

It's easy to forget now given that we're nearly three decades removed from it, but in 1985, there was no guarantee that there would continue to be a videogame industry. An entertainment medium that had subsisted upon simple arcade machines and Atari/Colecovision consoles had been decimated by the economic downturn, and a flat out crash of hardware sales in 1983. It was not out-of-the-question to wonder if video gaming's moment had come and gone.

Super Mario Brothers changed everything. So many of two-dimensional gaming's conventions were established by this title: moving from the left side of the screen to the right, hidden power-ups, a limited count of lives, hidden secrets, two-player alternating gameplay, defeating enemies by jumping on them...Super Mario Brothers broke gaming out of the "one-screen" mold that it had been confined to, and established the framework by which fantastic multiple-screen worlds could be realized.

I do not know if Mario was the very first video game that I ever played. But, certainly, the character of Mario was the first that I ever associated with playing an interactive game with a physical controller. (In this, I certainly was not alone, as surveys revealed that Mario was at one time more recognized and well-known than Mickey Mouse.)

I still have never managed to beat this game. (I got close with the added benefit of level saves in the All-Star re-release. But even then, no victory.) World 6 is about where I start hitting my wall. In this, I certainly have come a long way from the time of my youth. I still remember trying to get my cousin to beat the first castle for me.

These classic tunes and sound-effects are still instantly recognizable. Emulated versions with new levels have been used in Youtube videos, from everything to comedy to legitimate gameplay analysis. If you were to put an original NES in front of a five year old today, with this game loaded, they would still be able to play it. (They might react a bit like the kids from Back to the Future: Part 2, describing it as a "baby's toy," but them's the breaks. We had 8 bits to work with when I was a youngin', not 128.)

When video games take their rightful place alongside painting, the written word, and movies as a legitimately recognized art form, Super Mario Brothers will be the first item at the Smithsonian exhibit. It may not have been the first video game, but in so many ways, it gave the industry its true birth.

Genius. Classic. Timeless.

Number One.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this retrospective as much as I enjoyed creating it. :-)