We’ve all had difficult decisions to make. Life-changing decisions even. The choice between Costa or Starbucks. To eat cereal or toast. Do I use the toilet and be late for work or arrive on time, but experience some of the worst discomfort known to man?
There is one particular decision that sticks with me. I was the tender age of four. It was leading up to Christmas 1992. My family wasn’t very well-off at the time, so presents were normally simple. However, this Christmas was different. My mum had tirelessly worked in a factory, saving up to buy me a big present. I was even told I’d be getting a big present.
Now, at four-years-old, I’m not sure I knew what a big present constituted. I hadn’t asked for anything other than some WWF spinning tops. I knew there was something different about being told I had a big surprise for Christmas.
My mum and dad took me into Woolworths in Wellingborough. It was about the only decent shop in that town, so this wasn’t unusual. We walked straight to the entertainment section and I was ushered by my mum to look in the direction of a very prominent shelf. There, staring down at me was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
I’d seen the adverts on television, but I didn’t really know what it was. I hadn’t encountered a games console before. All I knew is it looked amazing.
In 1992, Nintendo had various bundles available. I had to choose from the Starwing bundle or the Mario All Stars bundle. Again, I had no idea what these were. One box was black, the other yellow. As a boy, I was probably leaning towards black. That’s the one my dad wanted me to pick. Not in the interests of me though, not because he loved me and wanted me to have the best, but to serve his own interests; that’s the one he wanted to play. Selfish git. It must have been his idea to buy me a SNES because there was no way Mum would let him have one.
“Go on son, pick this one. It has spaceships and lasers and a… a fox.”
Pressure was mounting as my dad remained decidedly bias, while my mum was doing her best to be neutral. Dad even resorted to picking up the box and waving it in my face. I was about to pick Starwing, when Mum shot Dad down with a simple “This one has four games on it.” Sold!
There was no way Dad could recover from that and he knew it. I almost took pleasure in picking the other bundle. To a child, four equals better than one regardless of what it is.
Mario All Stars brought me countless hours of happiness as well as laughter at my dad’s frustration and anger over his inability to complete the “big fish level”. He still hasn’t done it 20 years later.
I didn’t play Super Mario Bros 2 much. It scared the living daylights out of me. I hated those weird spheres protecting the key. If you dare take the key out the jar, they’d be after you, swooping down as you immediately drop the key to shake them off. Then pick it up again and peg it. However, Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3 were always the best of the bunch anyway.
I still have my SNES and play it regularly. As fun as a lot of modern games can be, joy is very rarely the reward. Mario All Stars had it in abundance.