Life is Super Mario Bros. 3
The first time I ever played Super Mario 3 was at my grandmother’s house in Miami. My cousins from D.C. were staying there for the summer, as was I, and they had brought their console and games. I had played Super Mario Bros. on Super Nintendo back home, but Super Mario 3 was different. The graphics were better, the levels were more complex, and it was so much fun! It quickly became one of my favorite games, and has remained one of the best video games I’ve ever played.
Last week, I realized that the life I live, in 2017, is eerily similar to Super Mario 3. Bear with me.
As I briefly mentioned, there were several aspects of SM3 that distinguish it from previous versions of Mario Series games. The graphics had improved and the gameplay had advanced to allow Mario to slide, climb and throw. He had way more tricks up his sleeve than previous Marios had. SM3 was the first game where the flying and floating power-ups via Super Leaf and Tanooki suit were unveiled. We had come a long way from simply eating mushrooms and stomping on turtles. Anything was possible.
We live in a time defined by technological advancements. Change is embedded in the fabric of our generation, and we expect that there will always be something forthcoming that can make life easier for us. We are able to see, do, and experience more from the comfort of our homes than any generation has ever been able to. We can fly, float, slide, throw and anything else we choose to do, multiple ways, and broadcast it to the world via our smartphone simultaneously. Anything is possible.
Another interesting point about SM3 is that it features a multiplayer option where Mario and Luigi can collaborate together to conquer each kingdom. Super Mario Bros. 2 was a single player game with no such capability for collaboration (although the original Super Mario Bros. offers a multi-player feature). It was cool to play along with my cousins, one of them in the red suit, me in the green, bouncing through levels. It was neat to have someone to rely on, someone to partner with to work toward these goals.
I’m reminded of what I like to call the deceleration of maturity for millennials. The fact that due to economic and other challenges during our lifetime, we aren’t moving out of our parents’ homes until our late twenties on average. We live in a time where 80% of jobs are secured through some aspect of networking, and the prevalence of social media keeps us connected to hundreds, if not thousands of other people every day. We need connections. We need support. It’s the collaboration of this generation that helps us achieve. Life has proven to us that it is very hard to navigate these levels without a partner. Unlike Mario in SM3 though, we need dozens of Luigis. And we need some of them to be financially stable with homes we can live in and food we can eat.
One of the last, most significant, things that struck me about SM3 was the levels. There were eight kingdoms, each with multiple levels within. Well over 50 levels of gameplay by the time it was all said and done. Many more than previous versions of the game. As a child, I saw the expanse of levels, and noticed the diversity. I noticed levels in deserts, jungles, in the sky, underwater. There were so many different landscapes and creatures within the levels. And they went on, and on, and on. I felt like I would never beat the game. In fact, after playing for hours on-end and conquering what felt like dozens of levels, I would sit back and think to myself:
What the hell am I doing?
Okay, maybe I didn’t say it like that. But the feeling was there. I was literally jumping through hoops, and I couldn’t tell you why to save my life. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the premise of the game was for Mario and Luigi to defeat seven evil kings sent by Bowser, and then Bowser himself, to win back Princess Toadstool’s wand that had been stolen. I read this and I felt cheated. I’m like, who is Princess Toadstool? That’s not even my girl! What does that wand have to do with me?!
Life gets hard some days. And young people in this generation are up against a lot of challenges that are unique to our time. Sometimes it feels like we’re fighting through dozens of levels with no apparent end in sight, alarmingly unsure of what exactly we’re fighting towards. I wonder if I would have fully understood that I was squashing turtles and kickboxing with dragons twice my size to save a wand, if I would have believed it was worth it. I’m not quite sure.
But I guess that’s what makes life different that Super Mario 3. You don’t know what’s at the end of the eight levels. You can’t know. And what sucks is, there’s no guarantee it’s a magic wand either. But you play each level the best way you know how. SM3 was before the age of memory cards. There was no “picking up where you left off,” after a hard day’s work. So you had to make every level count. We have to make every level count. We’ve got to fly and float in our flyest suits while we can. Anything is possible.