There are a few constants in my gaming psyche, constants that have been formed from decades of gaming across more than a dozen consoles. Those constants can be things like my belief in “Half Life 2” paving the way for modern storytelling in games, or “Grand Theft Auto III” being an eye-opening example of gaming’s bright future. My constants are based in opinion, but ones that are rooted so strongly that I’m rarely presented with a reason to change them. They are my own personal set of truths. Then, in late April of 2013, the Wii U dropped an a-bomb on one of those constants by the name of “Super Mario Bros. 3.”
My constant states that “Super Mario Bros. 3” is the very best of the “Mario Bros.” series. After playing every game in the platforming series, I had concluded that “Mario 3” trumps them all. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint one thing that makes it a bona fide gaming classic, whether it’s the various suits, stellar level design, the joy of finding a flute, or the glorious Big World found in world 4. It’s not one of those specifics that define its greatness, but rather the sum of all of them. It’s nearly perfect.
Following my days with the Nintendo Entertainment System, my family became a Sega family. Rather than adopting the NES’ successor, the logically named Super Nintendo Entertainment System, we opted for the Sega Genesis. Truth be told, I have no idea why that happened, and being a kindergartener and the youngest of three boys, I didn’t have much say in the matter. To the Genesis we went. Sonic the Hedgehog was a suitable replacement for Mario at that time. The blazing speed and bright colors were enough to bring me in as a budding Sonic fanboy.
I still remember my Genesis days fondly, but I also must accept the fact that I missed an entire Nintendo generation by not owning an SNES. Many of my friends had one, so I was able to play cartridges like “F-Zero,” “Donkey Kong Country,” or “Actraiser” in brief gaming sessions. Sure, I liked what the SNES offered, but I was a Genesis boy. That was the console I was forced to blindly defend.
Time left the 16-bit generation behind, and my gaming habit became more involved. I upgraded to the Playstation, and 32-X, then the Nintendo 64 after that. I tried to experience everything the gaming landscape had to offer, and I succeeded convincingly, digesting gaming greatness like “Panzer Dragoon” for Sega Saturn, and not so greatness like “Star Wars: Obi Wan” for Xbox. I became a student of the game, yet the hole of the Super Nintendo was left vacant.
That void couldn’t even be filled with the Wii’s Virtual Console because I never owned a Wii. I was able to dodge the Wii purchase thanks to my age at the time of its release. I was in college, and on the cusp of moving off campus with some college buddies. We were all big fans of games, and my friend Archie had the Wii. I was able to play it when I wanted, but I never crossed the line of adding a credit card for online purchases. The Virtual Console was kept out of grasp.
Besides, the Wii was a just a glorified “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” player for us. That is quite literally all it was used for. We plugged it full of Gamecube controllers and went head to head for thousands of hours. That remains the game I’ve put my most time into. Classes were missed, phone calls were ignored, controllers were thrown, and friendships were broken and then mended all thanks to the light-hearted party brawler.
But I digress. It’s far too easy for me to get caught up in the nostalgia of “Super Smash Bros.” Getting back to my Super Nintendo void, my first system that could play Super Nintendo games was the Wii U. My first purchase was “Super Mario World” when the Virtual Console went live. I had played it before and even finished it over scattered play sessions throughout months at a friend’s house. This time was different. I was able to spend quality time with the masterpiece, learn its intricacies, uncover its secrets, and really take it all in. After finishing every level, while still in the process of releasing more hidden blocks and finding alternative ways to finish levels, I found myself wondering if I preferred “Super Mario World” over “Super Mario Bros. 3.”
This doesn’t mean “Mario 3” has been demoted to video game pond scum. It’s still one of the best ever, but “Mario World” made just enough of an impression on me to consider giving it the crown as the finest “Mario” game ever created. Even as I write this, I’m not sure which one is superior.
“Mario World,” an SNES release title, makes full use out of the system’s dedicated sound card, an advantage it had over the Sega Genesis. From the map music, to the forest stages, to the haunted houses, this game lodged its music in my head for weeks. The game’s secrets are a vastly underrated part of its legend. One could play the game in a linear fashion to the end and still miss half of the levels and secrets. And I’d be remiss to not mention Yoshi. There is a lot of game in “Mario World.” Miraculously, Nintendo was able to pull it off in the SNES’ infancy. It usually takes years for developers to solve the enigma that is a new console. Go back and play the release titles for the Xbox 360. “Perfect Dark Zero” is nearly unplayable.
So that’s the current function of my Wii U: an SNES with a controller that has a touchscreen. I’m oddly okay with that. There’s a bevy of Nintendo titles that will become available that put next-gen games to shame. I’ll take “Super Metroid” over “Aliens: Colonial Marines” 365 days out of every year for the rest of my life.
You may have clicked the headline thinking I’d go into some rant about how the Wii U makes me doubt Nintendo as a company, or how this system will be their last, or how the company is doomed. Sorry to disappoint you. While the Wii U hasn’t swept me off my feet or made me a steak dinner, a good part of me is still rooting for Nintendo. If you grew up with them - and most of you have - how can you root against them? They are one of the founding fathers of this great industry that gives us countless hours of entertainment. I’m hoping they’re able to return to their former console glory. But for now, I’m content with making the Wii U the SNES that I never had. I hope they load the Virtual Console with all the great games I never played like “Earthbound” and “Link to the Past.”
Currently the Wii U Virtual Console only has eight games, which are a mix of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games. Here’s hoping Nintendo moves quickly forward by adding hundreds of classics from their library. I’m still waiting, Nintendo. My wallet is open. You can take another year to make the next “Smash Bros.” or 3D “Mario.” I’ll gladly play your SNES catalog in the meantime.