Tag Archives: Mario

Player two, start

When I was a little kid I always wanted to play Super Mario Bros. as Luigi, but unless you’re playing two-player, that’s never an option, and two-player regular Mario is terrible, each person taking a turn on the same level. It was impossible, trying to sit still, having to wait around for my brother, everything taking forever, just jumping over that hole in the ground such a challenge.


But as the oldest brother, I couldn’t let anybody else be player one. And so we’d start the game up, I’d be Mario in his classic red and brown and I’d have to watch my little brother get to start up as Luigi, classic Luigi, white overalls on top of a green shirt. Was there any difference? Aside from the colors, could Luigi do anything different than Mario?

I guess because they were identical, I always assumed they were twins, the Super Mario twin brothers. But then in subsequent games, Luigi developed his own distinct personality, character traits that set him apart from Mario. He was taller, I could definitely identify with that, because I was always the tall one in my family. He could jump really high, I guess to go along with the whole tall thing. He seemed like a natural older brother, and thanks to Super Mario World 2, I was given the option to start as Luigi.

Unfortunately he’s way too slow, and that high jump, it takes forever to land back on the ground. Not that Mario’s any better. He’s just regular, as regular as he was in regular Mario One. But I hesitate to draw any significant conclusions based on that sequel, because it was a really terrible game, and everyone always wound up opting to play as Princess Peach, whatever, not for any stylistic reason, none that I’m aware of anyway. No, the Princess could fly, or float, it was a huge in-game advantage.

Mario 3, Mario 4, it’s back to basics, the focus squarely on Mario, Luigi never mentioned, not featured on the box artwork at all. He’s merely a placeholder, “Player two, start!” I’d go through the whole Super Mario Land alternating between player-one and player-two just so I could have a chance to beat King Koopa as Luigi. When I finally did it, I was disappointed to see the game scroll through the victory credits as if Luigi didn’t even exist.

“Thanks Mario! You’ve saved the Princess!” even though Luigi would be standing right there, holding the Princess. I think it was Luigi anyway. But it was probably just Mario, no height difference at all, just a Mario twin, a clone, I don’t know, maybe they were short on cash for those third and forth games and they were like, all right Mario, you’ve got to play Mario and Luigi’s parts for this one. Here, put on this green cap and overalls, it’s almost player-two’s turn.

Mario 64, Luigi doesn’t exist. Jesus, even Yoshi gets a cameo at the very end. Spare no expense for Mario’s trusty dinosaur sidekick, but what about his brother? His own sometimes-identical-twin brother, absolutely no respect. And then they’d release Mario Kart or Mario Tennis and fine, Luigi would be there, but strictly as a filler character. They don’t even give Luigi a proper villain. Where Mario has Wario, which is cool, they play on the whole upside-down M for Wario, when it came time to give Luigi his own doppelganger, they created Waluigi, like it was just, whatever, through Wa in front of Luigi and turn the L upside-down on his hat, nobody cares, nobody’s going to pick him, make him really slow and useless so that nobody wants anything to do with him.

He just gets a bad rap, Luigi, I always feel bad for him, like he’s the more relatable of the Mario Brothers. They give him his own game, finally, for the Game Cube, and it’s like purposely unplayable. He can’t jump, he can’t do anything, he’s stuck in a haunted mansion and his avatar is onscreen trembling every time he has to do anything.

I remember when I was a little kid we’d go to the skating rink or bowling alley and there’d always be a small arcade section set up somewhere by the lockers. A few places had this Superman arcade game, a pretty standard side-scrolling beat-‘em-up single player. But this being a big arcade machine, there was a second joystick, and if you somehow successfully begged your mom for a quarter, and someone else also happened to procure twenty-five cents at the same time, you’d both deposit your money and Superman would be joined by a second player.

Who was it, Batman? Green Lantern? No, it was another Superman, the exact same graphic as player-one, but they just filled in the entire costume red so as to differentiate from the original. It’s a pretty basic arcade game, you’d fly to the right and zap a bad guy, eventually the computer would be too much to outsmart, and your mom refused to give you another coin for an extra life or two.

red superman

That second Superman wasn’t meant to be anything, it was just a way to accommodate two quarters in the machine at the same time. But I always thought, man, who is this guy? Does he ever get pissed that red-and-blue Superman gets all the fame, the publicity, comic books, movies, everything, and here he is, this guy decked out in solid red spandex, he’s apparently got all the same powers and abilities as regular Superman, but that’s it. That’s all he gets, this maybe cameo on some shitty arcade stand. Is he from Krypton? Does he have his own secret identity? Doesn’t matter. He gets nothing. Not even a name. He just nominally exists. Wouldn’t that drive you crazy? Doesn’t he deserve at least a little backstory?

Six kids and one Nintendo

Growing up it was always this battle to play video games, to get some quality time with the Nintendo without one of my brothers or sisters spoiling my fun. I’m the oldest of six, we’re all really close in age, it wasn’t like I was in charge of the Nintendo, and so everybody wanted to play. We had one TV, one console, and they were shared property.


There was really only one rule that governed our video game play, and that was the principle of mutually assured destruction. Regardless of who happened to be using the Nintendo, if one of us started complaining to my mom or dad, the result was always as swift as it was consistent: “That’s it. Turn off the TV. Turn off the Nintendo.”

And if I was playing, I’d maybe start in on a defense, like, “But mom! Come on! I was playing first! I had the controller! I was playing a one-player game! Come on mom! That’s not fair! Mo-om! Come on!”

I’m talking here as if I was the victim. More than likely I was the one who got bored, decided to see what was going on in the living room, I’d find one of my brothers playing some video game, and just because of the fact that I was a huge asshole, I’d start being a jerk. “Move over, we’re playing two player.”

It was a cheap move, yeah, but that was the system by which we self-governed our Nintendo use. The rule was, as laid down by our parents, if you want to play Nintendo, and someone else wants to play Nintendo, then move over and play something that’s two-player, because it’s not your Nintendo, and if you resist, if you have to get mom and dad involved, that’s going to be the end of it.

My mom would be like, “Look, if you kids are going to fight about the Nintendo, nobody’s going to play. You want to keep fighting? I’ll throw that Nintendo in the trash. You want to try me?”

That always shut any of us up. Because even though I kind of doubted my parents’ willingness to trash something that they bought, a piece of electronics that they spent over a hundred dollars for, I never wanted to take the chance. There was always this story that my dad told about how when he was a little kid, one time he and his brothers and sisters, had so annoyed my grandmother that she cut the chord to the TV with a pair of scissors.

I mean, no, I was never really afraid that the TV would get trashed. Take away the Nintendo, maybe, but no TV? That would have been hell for my mom, having us all cooped up inside the house, no Saved By the Bell to keep us somewhat quiet.

Because that’s what we did, we watched TV and played Nintendo. We had several games, we’d get them for Christmas or, sometimes at the end of the school year we’d be surprised with a new one. I remember when I convinced my mom to buy us The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was awesome. For months I had read in Nintendo Power magazine about all of the different dungeons that I’d have to explore, all of the various weaponry at my disposal.

This Zelda game though, it was a double-edged sword. As a one-player game, one that I really, really wanted to play, like all of the time, it meant that the rest of my brothers and sisters now wielded an inordinate amount of power over me. Any time I sat there playing Zelda, all one of them had to do was open his or her mouth and say loud enough for my mom to hear, “Hey Robbie, can I play?”

To make matters worse, this game came with only three save files. Granted, only three of us barely had the hand-eye coordination necessary to actually play this game, but try being a ten year old kid and attempting to explain this argument to your mom and dad. Halfway through the first sentence, I can already imagine my parents shaking their heads, saying to themselves, I knew we shouldn’t have bought that Zelda. Maybe there’s still time to return it for one of those baby educational Fisher-Price two-player games. We actually had one of those for regular Nintendo. It was the equivalent of Barney & Friends for video games.

And so yeah, I complain about never really getting much quality time alone with the Nintendo, but if I really take a look in the mirror, I know that it was mostly my own fault. I’m the oldest, and I had a hand in crafting the tactic of mutually assured destruction. I’d be doing something else, I’d get bored, and I’d walk into the TV room to find one of my brothers minding his own business playing a video game.

“All right,” I’d say with a shit-eating smile, “Let’s play two-player.” And if my brother started to object, I’d say in a really low voice, “Moo-oom.” Then we’d both be sitting there playing two-player Tetris, neither one of us really interested in falling bricks, but both of us too stubborn to leave the TV alone. So we’d sit like that for hours, every time I scored a line I’d do this overblown celebration, “Yes!” just to rub it in his face.

Man, I was such an asshole.