The 60s were good to these game designers

One of the games that came with the lad’s Wii video gaming console was Mario Bros. Wii, one of many Mario Bros. games Nintendo has produced during the past three decades. During all those years – even when playing the original version on the Nintendo Entertainment System – I never paused to reflect on the imagery of these games, most of which involve rescuing a princess from a magic castle, where she is imprisoned by a giant turtle and his walking mushroom minions.

Watching my son play the game as a disinterested third party this week, it struck me that the 60s were very good to the team that performed the concepting for this game. Not that there is anything wrong with the game – it has its own internal logic, it’s easy enough for a child to play with some success, and it’s graphically fun to watch – it’s just that many of the game elements appear to have been designed by people who were using marijuana or LSD on company time.

To give readers an idea of what I’m talking about, here is a YouTube video displaying the first three levels of play in the Mario Wii (it starts after a 30-second advertisement):

Mario Wii: first three levels of play

Thus, we see that the princess is abducted in a giant birthday cake by a turtle who walks upright, who throws the princess into a helicopter pirate ship and whisks her away to a magic castle. Mario, then, is forced to pursue them on foot across hazardous terrain crawling with the enemy’s walking mushroom and turtle minions. Fortunately, Mario has learned that punching bricks is beneficial, as all manner of power-ups emerge from hitting them. These include mushrooms that grow Mario to triple his starting size, helicopter suits that enable limited flight from a propeller on top of his head, flashing stars that grant invulnerability, flowers that grant the ability to throw fire or ice balls at enemies and a penguin suit that grants ice ball power, traction on ice and superior swimming ability. It is even possible to extract a Yoshi – a dinosaur that Mario can ride – from a brick. Mario can also get new leases on life by collecting magic coins that are suspended in midair – for every 100 coins he collects, the player earns an extra life for Mario.

R&D or LSD? I’ll leave that for you to decide. either way, it’s still a fun game.

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