The old-school Mario games have always been the bane of my existence as a gamer. When I first started working through my parents’ collection of Super Nintendo games many years ago, each game gave me varying levels of challenge. Over the course of a year or two, I would eventually finish some games and progress a little more through others. After a lot of practice, I would go on to complete Donkey Kong Country 3 or reach the final boss in A Link to the Past or get stuck at the vampire couple in Illusion of Gaia. All of these games I have since completed many times over, but that didn’t mean that all of our old Super Nintendo games had yet been conquered.
While I could eventually beat nearly every one of our Super Nintendo games, and almost every game I have bought since, with very few exceptions (Final Fantasy VIII), I never, and I mean never, could finish Super Mario Bros 1-3 or Super Mario World. That last one was always my favorite, if I had to pick one out of this quartet of painfully challenging games, and as such, it was the Mario game I attempted the most, though to this day, I can’t say that I have completed it.
And I tried. Oh, I tried. My parents had a completed save file where every level was available, and I would have a decent amount of fun trying them out. Oh, yes, the Star Road was pretty fun with the different-colored Yoshis. The Ghost Houses were delightfully spooky and confusing. And I even beat Bowser. But seeing as there was a good several dozen levels I could not complete between the very easiest and Bowser himself, the game had still won out. Additionally, my parents and I would occasionally team up from time to time in a two-player file where we would progress a ways, only to give up after a while when the going got too rough. (I guess after a while, even they were no longer a match for Super Mario World.)
We all want to grow as gamers, I am sure. It is always satisfying to complete a tough challenge, and even more satisfying still when we overcome an obstacle that had been too much for us years before. It probably took me more than a year to initially beat Metroid Prime, as I would continuously get stuck, give up for several months, then return for another go. But I did finish it. And I eventually completed Metroid Prime 2, another game that gave me a rather rough time. And now I can beat them during a single, unbroken playthrough. It is clear my skills as a gamer have improved. And yet, Super Mario World has always remained as a reminder of one game that I just could not, for the life of me, complete, despite my best efforts.
And then quite recently, Mother Duck and I decided to download Super Mario World through the Virtual Console and give it another go in a two-player game. Our progress was very much like Metroid Prime, yet with far shorter breaks. We would play a while, get very stuck, then, we would try for hours attempting to complete a tough castle or other difficult stage (it was almost always the castles that stopped us in our tracks). Sometimes we had to take a break and return a day or two later. But, unlike past playthroughs, we never got stuck permanently. We couldn’t complete the third castle in the Vanilla Dome, so we just bypassed it using the Vanilla Secret and Butter Bridge. From there, we got stuck again and again until we finally made our way into the Valley of Bowser, where we have currently stopped as of writing this post. But I don’t think that’s where we’ll stay. At this point, we could very well make it all the way to Bowser. Or at least close.
And the significance of this is far greater than one might think. It doesn’t just mean, oh, look, we’re close to the end of Super Mario World. Fancy that. It means that I (as far as can be said for a two-player cooperative file) have grown so profoundly as a gamer that my old nemesis is finally starting to buckle under the combined efforts of Mother Duck and I. I can barely believe my eyes as I watch myself breezing through levels that I never would have been able to complete just a few years ago. It’s like watching someone else, yet I’m the one holding the controller. I’m the one pressing the buttons. I am the one emptying my mind and just letting pure instinct guide Luigi (I was player two) over seemingly impossible jumps. How did we complete Butter Bridge which, to my recollection, had far more bottomless pits than was humane? How did we complete castles we honestly thought would be our match? How did we manage to clear all the stages in Star Road and reach the really secret levels (we’re currently stuck on Tubular)?
Years and years of practice and dedication, I guess. Super Mario World has aggravated me since the SNES era, and it is an amazing feeling to have finally trained, if you will, to the point that completion is finally within our grasp. I play video games to have fun. That is my primary goal. But I suppose you could say that a secondary goal is to get better. I mean, lots of games have a competitive element to them. If we want to defeat our competitors in multiplayer games, why wouldn’t we also want to see some personal progress within our single-player games, as well, even if we’re only competing with ourselves?
And now it’s time for some questions for you, dear readers. What game(s) do you see as your ultimate nemesis? Which games, upon completing them, really showed you that you had improved? Please let me know in the comments!
I’m Even Getting Better at Being a Duck
Screenshot from Flickr User: Kruo Profanx