Happy Birthday Mario Bros.!

In case you haven’t heard, Super Mario Bros. turned 35 this week.

This past Thursday, Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. 35, which allows 35 gamers to play simultaneously, each competing to be the last Mario standing. Apparently, the success of Fortnite and The Hunger Games isn’t lost on the people at Nintendo. Because I no longer play video games, I’m not too conversant to all of the iterations of Super Mario Bros. In fact, Mario Kart is the only one I can think of, probably because I played it a lot!

Like many of you, Mario and I go back 39 years, introduced through Nintendo’s wildly popular Donkey Kong in the summer of ‘81.

When my friends and I couldn’t hitch a ride to Chuck E. Cheese’s, there were three popular spots within walking distance from our homes to play arcade games: Klondike’s Pizza, which had Sprint, and Galaxian; 7-Eleven, which had Pac-Man and Space Invaders; and Pizza Hut, which is where my buddy and I first laid eyes on Mario.

Pizza Hut was a popular spot to visit after Little League games, so it was never unusual to run into a bunch of kids from the neighborhood, especially on the weekends. I still recall some of the antics that took place in there, but I’ll save those stories for another time.

During those days, I could play Pac-Man for over 20 minutes on one quarter. To that end, I would usually have money left over for candy. But trying out new games for the first time was always expensive! Twenty-five cents may not seem like a lot, but when you have no job, no budget, no allowance, and haven’t figured out the nuances of a new game, quarters add up!

The day my buddy and I played Donkey Kong for the first time, we got Mario killed faster than you can say, “It’s-a go time!” In short of ten-minutes, we were both dead and broke.

And while I don’t remember if either of us even saved the damsel that day, we definitely went back to try again. And again. And again.

Some interesting facts about Mario:

1) Before being named “Mario,” he was referred to as “Jumpman”; 2) his brother, Luigi, is more outgoing, but also a worrier (perhaps you knew this); 3) his first- and last-names are Mario, hence, Mario Bros.; 4) Mario is a carpenter in Donkey Kong, but is recognized as a plumber in subsequent games. And nowadays, he assumes a few other professions.

When I think back to all of the arcade games I’ve enjoyed, Donkey Kong sits atop them all. That said, prior to that, I enjoyed Skee-Ball (honing my skills at Kingdom of Oz at San Jose’s Eastridge Mall), next came Sprint, Galaxian, Space Invaders, Frogger, and Pac-Man. And although Centipede, Asteroids, and Ms. Pac-Man were super popular, I never got into those.

Out of all of the video game character costumes people buy or assemble at home, none — to me — is better than Super Mario Bros. We’ve even had the pleasure of hosting Mario and Luigi at one of our own Halloween parties. Out of costume, they’re the Escobar Bros.

With Halloween approaching, and Spirit Stores popping-up, I think we all realize that this year just won’t be the same. “Mama Mia!”

The good news is, Mario turns 40 next year, and hopefully, we can all celebrate with a big: “Wa-hoo!”

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