With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we often find ourselves becoming more introspective, reflecting on the people and things for which we are thankful. As we at Fanbase Press celebrate fandoms, this year, the Fanbase Press staff and contributors have chosen to honor their favorite fandoms, characters, or other elements of geekdom for which they are thankful, and how those areas of geekiness have shaped their lives and values.
I am thankful for the Mario Bros., The Mario Bros. Universe, and their creator Shigeru Miyamoto. It is tied to memories of my own personal growth, my relationship with my family, and friends, and my need to escape during a difficult time as an adult. Mario has been there since my childhood as a constant reminder to be a kid and to explore – that it’s okay to disappear into a fantasy adventure every now and again, just like I would into a book or going on a hike.
The Nintendo Entertainment System launched when I was seven-years-old. I had not a mature bone in my body. I was living in a day-to-day fantasy in which whatever pain or trouble was caused to me tended to be someone else’s problem to deal with. That is, of course, until I decided to buy a NES and I needed to fit in.
All of my friends owned one already, and while I had an Intellivision, that wouldn’t be enough going forward. For the first time in my life, I had agency. I made something my problem, my responsibility. I saved up $99 and bought it myself. In doing so, I started a lifelong love affair with The Mario Bros. Universe!
I initially lied about beating Mario Bros. and saving the Princess. All of my friends had already done so, or at least they claimed to have. Well, I also claimed to have. I was so desperate to fit in with my new Nintendo. I was living in Mississippi at a time when life was still a healthy mix of playing in the flooded woods while being told to avoid very real water moccasins and spending fewer of those hours indoors playing video games, but I eventually I beat Mario Bros. For little eight-bit characters, my imagination soared. These were the dungeons, monsters, and heroes I had been told about as a youth.
Within a year or two, we were back in Minnesota and I found that my dad and I spent a lot of time at the local mall’s arcade. One game we played endlessly, trying to destroy each other’s high score was Mario Bros.: the two brothers as wrench-wielding warriors. Yes, we worked as a team. You had to, but we were also very competitive. Paperboy and Burger Time were close seconds in who could control the boards.
And while at the time Super Mario Bros. 2 was not a fan favorite, it was one of my favorites. I was a weird boy, I’m a weird adult, and the fantastical elements tickled me to no end. It was such a fully realized world that looked and felt different from anything I’d seen, and it was especially decidedly different than many games due to its general absurdity, which was pretty bold for a burgeoning franchise. Then, when Super Mario Bros. 3 came out, I was living in Montana. My cousin Kory and I stayed awake all night, playing on the basement television, making our way through an even bigger world. It was mind boggling to my younger brain; it was an epic adventure. And Mario could fly! To this day when I play it, my feet get sweaty from the intensity!
I didn’t play the first Mario Kart, but like many my age when the Nintendo 64 Mario Kart came out, it carried me into my first years of college, and I would call in sick from work to find more stars in Super Mario World 64. Every time, Mario led the pack as far as video game experiences were concerned; everyone else followed in his footsteps.
At about this time, or some time earlier, I made a song that went along with the original Super Mario Bros. theme. It’s stupid and not worth repeating here, but something I will remember and sing to myself until the day I die.
And then, video games disappeared from my life for a spell … I found myself only dipping my toe in the Mario universe from time to time. Luigi’s Mansion was fun, but I didn’t finish it. Yoshi’s Island was enjoyable, but I didn’t stick around too long. I even missed Mario Galaxy and Mario Sunshine upon their releases, and still haven’t played them which will be rectified this year.
It was by mere chance that in my fourth year living in Los Angeles, I saw a post on social media about a cat needing a home. A tiny black cat with deep green eyes. I decided to go take a look. Upon arriving, I discovered that the gal who had brought the black kitty in was the voice actress who voiced Princess Peach in Mario 64. I likewise named the black cat Mario, and when a decade later I decided to bring in a younger brother for him, I named the little monster … Bowser. I have lived with Mario and Bowser together now for 6 years.
It wasn’t until the Switch came out that I found myself playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Bros. 3 again that I remembered how much joy these games brought me. I soon borrowed Mario Odyssey during a big, life-altering transitional period and found myself lost for several months as I collected literally every moon and every outfit that I could. During the lockdown, I played the new Luigi’s Mansion 3 Deluxe and was enamored by the Three Stooges-like simplicity and animations of the game.
And I expect that I will die playing these games or as long as they make them. Mario will always have a place on my gaming shelf. And don’t get me started on Zelda and Pikmin. Thank you, Mr. Miyamoto.