Monday, May 6, 2013

My Gaming Audio History: Super Mario Bros (1985)

This blog project has already been completely worthwhile and I'm still in the early stages of it.  I've learned some things about American folk music, classical music, history, technology, and of course game music.  Incredible!

I wish I could say that I played Super Mario Bros first, but actually, now that I've done some research, I realize my family bought a Nintendo a little later than I thought we did.  The first NES game we played was Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt, which came with the purchase of the NES, and that combo with the NES Zapper was released in 1988.  Before I played it on a Nintendo, I've got vivid memories of playing Super Mario Bros at the local Pizza Hut in Burlington, NC where I was born.  I don't even think that Pizza Hut location exists anymore-- it's a parking lot now.  It was a sit down arcade over in the corner of the store.  Once my family ordered pizza, I'd run over to the game and play it.  And now I'm craving Pizza Hut....  

Apparently, the arcade version was called VS Super Mario Bros, was slightly different from the NES game, and came out in 1986.  This means the earliest I could've played it would've been age four, or even five before we owned it.  Although it's impossible for me to remember, it's likely the first video game I ever played.  Wow!  Playing a game in an arcade setting is really different from playing it at home, where the atmosphere was usually more quiet than a restaurant; I'm sure, though, that I heard the music clearly.  

Sorry the audio here is a little glitchy, but this is practically the only gameplay footage I can find of VS Super Mario Bros.  Here's a longplay of the NES version so you can have the complete experience.  

What can I say about this game?  I've already blogged about its music, blogged about the sheet music to the game at and reblogged some video of Koji Kondo playing its themes on the piano.  It's obviously one of the most famous games of all time.  Compared with the other games I've looked at in My Gaming Audio History, SMB is hugely different in that it has continuous music.  Some of the most memorable game music of all time.  

Who created the audio experience?  Koji Kondo.  Thank you Koji Kondo!  

What is the audio experience?  Distinctive musical themes for the normal ground areas, water worlds, underground areas, and the castle theme, as well as sound effects that are equally memorable for invincibility, power-ups, fireballs, jumping, running low on time, death, etc.  Unlike many of the Atari games I played which went on indefinitely, this game had a definite ending and thus an ending theme!  Oh yes, and hearing the sound effects cause certain voices of the music to drop out... classic NES.  I used to jump and hit expired question blocks just to hear the music more clearly when the voices drop out as a kid.  What a dork....  I mean, nerd, I was!  

How does the audio experience draw the player more deeply into the game?  Obviously, the sound effects help to convey what's happening in the game and add realism.  The continuous music was likely created for the NES, since it was a home console, and the home TV thus would've been occupied with the gameplay.  The game music simply extended the game environment into your home even more completely.  It's such a change from the Atari games I played that only had occasional music.  I think we only had two TVs for much of my young life, so playing this would've been a living room, multi-person present affair.  

My nostalgia with this game is huge.  Up next, the other half of my Super Mario Bros cartridge, Duck Hunt.  

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