In this series of not-quite-daily articles celebrating the upcoming 30th Anniversary of Super Mario, various members of the Nintendo Life extended family will share their memories and thoughts on the iconic franchise. This time we have reviewer and contributor Conor McMahon.
SEGA's dominance over the UK and Irish market meant that I was left out of the Nintendo loop for quite some time. I actually grew up with a Mega Drive, so my first Mario game didn't take me anywhere near The Mushroom Kingdom at all. Like Damien, I side-stepped World 1-1 and journeyed straight to Super Mario Land, where Koopas explode on the sandy plains of Egypt and invincibility stars play can-can music. This utterly bizarre, charming and robust platformer blew my mind as a kid, so I knew I needed more.
The original Game Boy was my saving grace, and provided an alternate way to get my kicks with solid representation from some major franchises. It was a slow conversion - with strong competition from SEGA titles like Ristar and Rocket Knight Adventures - but eventually that little handheld became my go-to outlet for platforming fun. Whether I was being dragged to the shops or on some impossibly long car-journey, a steady supply of AA batteries and some choice Nintendo titles were all I needed.
I can still picture my family driving along, humming in (and out of) tune with the music from that barmy Egypt level, or showing my brother how to beat the forest world in Donkey Kong. Sharing these experiences became easier and easier, so my anticipation for the next one grew exponentially. I'd been utterly converted, and suddenly my ears would prick up at the mention of a new Mario game, or the rumours surrounding a new Nintendo console.
My new-found interest couldn't have piqued at a better time, as the Nintendo 64 brought a whole new dimension to platforming with the iconic Super Mario 64. It was incredible for me, finally owning the latest Mario game and becoming completely immersed in that world. As the end credits rolled, my mind turned towards fleeting glimpses I'd caught from magazines or at a friend's house - that weird raccoon Mario, or the lizard that gorged itself on fruit. I was old enough to realise what I'd been missing out on, and I had to make up for lost time.
In 1999, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe took me right back to the beginning, where I sharpened my skills and learned a little more about the series history. I was gradually becoming more familiar with the characters; growing accustomed to Princess Peach instead of Daisy, and replacing Tatanga with the boorish Bowser. It was all-too fitting that my history lesson took place on a Game Boy Colour, but it didn't stop there.
My journey through Nintendo's back catalogue continued with Super Mario Advance, the first in a series of excellent GBA ports that really opened my eyes to what the Mario franchise was all about. The music, the bright graphics, the wealth of imaginative power-ups - it was pure magic. I remember them releasing in such rapid succession that I found it difficult to keep up. I was reliving years of gaming history and loving each title more than the last, so I wanted to play each and every game to completion. My favourite classic title to this day is where it all ended, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3.
I'd spent a couple years catching up on a decade's worth of adventure, and it's a little strange to think it was entirely done through handheld consoles. Of course, now thanks to the Virtual Console we have more options to play the classics than ever, but Nintendo always found a way to introduce new fans to that most famous of plumbers. I should know, I was one of them!