Geez, all I’ve been doing is writing about gaming milestones and anniversaries, but like Pac-Man‘s earlier event this year, this one can’t be missed.

Today is the Japanese anniversary of the Super Mario Bros. series. I say “Super Mario”, instead of “Mario” because Mario himself has been around since 1981.

I didn’t get my NES until my 12th birthday in 1987. I remembered seeing the game in the arcades, but was amazed how finally the accurate experience was recreated at home.

Favorite memories of the series? The first time I beat the original game. I could clear everything else, but not get through World 8. My parents told me that if I couldn’t beat the game, I wouldn’t get Super Mario Bros. 2 for Christmas. I beat it that day. Super Mario Bros. 3, I waited forever for after seeing screens in that early Gamepro, and remembering those great Nintendo Power strategy guides. There was also Super Mario 64, which amazed me as Mario could run to a tree in the distance and not only climb it, but do a handstand and backflip off of it. Super Mario RPG was amazing to me as it had those sweet Donkey Kong Country-style graphics, not to mention it was made by my favorite RPG company for years, Squaresoft.

What can you say about the series that hasn’t already been said, or more importantly, does it justice? A whole world full of new and enduring characters. Music that has been universally translated wherever you go, something you can never stop humming, or finding excuses to apply to random events. It’s the secrets, and the glitches to exploit. Of minus worlds and beanstalks and infinite 1-Up loops that transform numbers into crowns. And the Princess is always in another castle.

Today, a new generation of Nintendo gamers see Wii Sports as their jumping on point, and certainly drew a lot of attention to the Wii. But it will never make the same impact as Mario. Wii Sports will never be cereal, and movies, and TV shows, toys, puzzles, bedsheets, garbage cans, spawn a silly “Do the Mario” dance, I could keep going for a long time.

But the point is, Wii Sports will eventually become a footnote in Nintendo’s history. Likely due to die off once the next system is no longer named “Wii” anything. Mario will last as long as Nintendo is around, and even longer. He’s become synonymous not only with the company, but video gaming as a whole. Even non-gamers know who Mario is.

I ended up hooking up my NES, Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 on a whim this weekend. I think I’m going to have to play a few rounds to remember where it all started. Sure, there’s the Virtual Console, but there’s nothing like blowing into a cartridge like the old days.

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