Today is my birthday. Another year older... my goodness, has it really been twenty years since I first picked up a video game controller? Time flies, that's for sure. I've been given my fair share of games as birthday gifts over the years, but today I find myself thinking back to one of my favorite game-related birthday memories to the time when, for the first time, I absolutely craved a sequel to a beloved video game. When I tell you that this story leads up to March of 1990 I'm sure you can figure out where this is all headed...
Super Mario Bros. 3 was coming. Nintendo Power had hyped it, Toys 'R Us had a promotional box card on display, and that little cameo of game footage in The Wizard had sparked my imagination. After being introduced to Super Mario Bros. at a friend's birthday party in 1987, I became a lifelong fan of the Mushroom Kingdom. In 1988 a cousin showed off his prowess at Super Mario Bros. 2, a game that completely surprised me. Not only had the style of Super Mario Bros. evolved, but for the first time I realized that games could have additional installments. Mario's adventures didn't have to stop at the end of World 8-4.
It was late 1989 when I found out that a third installment of the series was on the way. The first issue of GamePro magazine revealed the news with a two-page article about the game sprinkled with what were, at the time, amazing screenshots of Mario back in action. The article itself was scant on meaty details; for the most part it went on about how King Kuppa [sic] had returned and kidnapped the princess yet again, and that this time Mario would be able to fly. Fly! To a kid such as myself this news was the greatest thing since Saturday morning cartoons.
This was the era before solid game release dates were spread far and wide. Magazines such as GamePro and Nintendo Power would only go so far as to say the game would be released in "early" 1990. As a child of soon-to-be-nine my savings didn't cover the cost of the game. After all, just eight months earlier I'd spent it all on Super Mario Bros. 2. My birthday was coming though and my parents asked what I wanted for that special day. The answer was simple enough. I only wanted Super Mario Bros. 3.
The big day came and sure enough when I tore the wrapping paper apart from my parents' present I found everyone's favorite plumber smiling back at me from a yellow box. I've had better birthdays than when I turned nine years old in 1990: some years had parties with friends, others had great family moments, some had larger presents. I think back on this particular birthday because Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first video game that, for a while, was the complete center of my world. Mario was back, he was with me now, thank you very much, and I'll take my cake in my room, please. We had a princess to save.