That one time Super Mario gave me Stockholm Syndrome


You’ll get hooked on the Brothers

[Have you ever felt as though you were held captive by a game? A Luigi Fan has. Join him as he comes to be imprisoned by his one true love – beating overly-difficult games – and experiences the mixed emotions that go along with his self-diagnosed Stockholm Syndrome. Wanna see your work on Dtoid’s Front Page? It’s easy: Write a blog! – Wes]

Gather ’round my dudes, it’s time for Bootleg Luigi [now A Luigi Fan] to tell y’all a story from his childhood.

It was September of 2011, and a young, naive me had just started the 5th grade. Back then, I had only one primary goal to seek out: Beat as manyMarioandZeldagames as I possibly could. Of particular interest to me at the time was the original quartet of NESMariogames. Despite owning the superior remakes of them on my copy ofSuper Mario All-Starsfor the Wii, I was still determined to play the NES originals, instead, because the remakes weren’t authentic enough to please me (10-year old me was a fucking snob). It took a lot of time, effort, hard work, and bitching, but I eventually got my mother to buy me a Wii Points Card so I could buy those games off the Virtual Console. I was ready to prove I was aMariomaster, so I immediantly rushed off to beat the firstSuper Mario Bros.

It was pretty tough.Despite being by far the simplest of theMariogames nowadays, the originalSuper Mario Bros.still managed to catch me a bit off-guard with how difficult it got at times. Mario’s moveset was nowhere near as versatile as it was intheNew Super Mario Brosgames I was so accustomed to; there were barely any powerups, the lives counter just completely stopped making sense once I broke 10 lives (what the fuck is crown-blue square supposed to mean), and there was no save feature whatsoever, so if that Lakitu in World 6-1 wiped you out, it was back to square one.

But I was a big boy. I had already conquered the likes ofSuper Mario Advance 2‘s Special World andSuper Mario Galaxy 2‘s Grandmaster Galaxy, so after enough time and patience, I was able to save the day and rescue Peach. I was satisfied with my work, so I waited about a month until the start of November to begin my next project:Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. I was well-aware of this game and its infamous difficulty, and if I had the wisdom I do now, I would’ve never even bothered to play it. But I was a cocky little shit. “I beat the Grandmaster Galaxy,” I thought, “How bad could this game possibly be?”

Oh, if only I had any idea of the horrors that awaited me.

The first sign that the game I was about to play was evil incarnate came literally the second I booted it up, with a deadly enemy visible on the very first screen of the game. Nonetheless, I selected my boy Luigi as my playable character, and got ready to play. I managed to avoid the infamous Poison Mushroom in the game’s third?

Block, so at least I managed to survive longer than most people did on their first playthroughs – but that victory was short-lived. Between the noticeably more difficult level design and the rewarding, but noticeable learning curve that came with Luigi’s controls, I died on the first level, the only time that’s ever happened to me in aMariogame. “This is no ordinary Mario game”, I soon came to realize. Much like eating a super spicy jalepeno, or when I discoveredPokemonhentai for the first time, my senses got severely heightened.There were giant bottomless pits in 1-2,floating sky Bloopersin 1-3…this game did not hesitate to bend the rules just to make my playthrough hell. I lasted until World 2-1 before my plucky green plumber finally met the Game Over screen.

It was at this moment that I noticed an odd feeling. I knew that what I had just played was trash, not fun in the slightest, and a complete disgrace to theMarioname. But I was still compelled to beat it. Be it my stubborn sense of completion-ism or pure foolishness, I did not delete the game from my Wii’s memory. Instead, I swore to myself that, one way or another, I was going to finish this game in its entirety. And so my journey began.

And my goodness what a journey it was. The entire game felt like a shoddily-built fan hack that some bored developer at Nintendo developed for his friends to laugh at during a social gathering. But it’s not; it’s a legit, licensed,you can buy this shit on the Virtual Console with real moneyvideo game that Nintendo created. It was mind-boggling. There were hidden blocks all over the place. The helpful ones that spawned 1-UP Mushrooms seemed to only work 50% of the time, but the evil ones that fucked over one of your precise jumpsneverfailed to show up.

There were levels with extremely strict time limits that looped indefinitely unless you found some obscure hidden shortcut. There were many moments that required you to leap from a high ledge down to a tiny hole in the bottom, but whether or not the game registered you holding down the control stick to the right was completely up to RNGsus. Instead of fixing the occasionally janky hit detection from the original game, it’s now a built-in part of the experience, with several levelsrequiringyou to abuse it in order to progress.

If you ever got tired of all that crap and tried to abuse Warp Zones, you’d better pick the right one, because certain Warp Zones sent you back to earlier worlds. And the cherry on top of all of that? There was still no save feature. You had to beat the entire game, bullshit and all, in one go.

I was obsessed with conquering the game and finally proving my worth as aMariopro. I studied maps of the levels online until I had memorized their level design and secrets down to a tee. I watched YouTube videos of theMariogods themselves absolutely dominating these levels, studying the strategies they used.

When I wasn’t playingMajora’s Maskor eating spaghetti or something that wasn’t totally awful and bad, I was perfecting my skills in this game. Until eventually, one cold January night, I finally did it. It took almost two months and more studying than I did for my sophomore finals, but I had finally beaten Bowser and rescued Peach yet again. I thought I was the baddest dude around, and I was more than ready to jump intoSuper Mario Bros 2, to continue my NES Mario journey.

And then I remembered the Bonus Worlds.

I was confused when I first beat the game, as I thought for sure that the four Bonus Worlds in the post-game would show up as soon as World 9 was completed. And so I did a quick reading of the Super Mario Wiki to find out what I was doing wrong. It turns out, unlocking the Bonus Worlds after beating World 9 only applied to the SNES remake; in the original NES release, you unlocked them by beating the gameeight times.

My heart sunk faster than the quality of theMario Partyfranchise. It took me two months to beat the game once, now you want me to do all that shit sevenmore times? At this point, I was pissed. I wasgoingto fully finish this game, damn it! And so I devoted the entire rest of that week to beating the main eight worlds again and againand again. I’ll admit, this time I didn’t hesitate to use the Warp Zones. I don’t care if that makes me a loser or whatever, I just wanted the experience to be over.

After all that was done, I finally gained access to the super secret Bonus Worlds. Thankfully, since you accessed them from the start screen by entering a secret code, I didn’t have to worry about doing the original eight worlds again just to get a shot at these (trust me, I’m never touching those levels again under any capacity). All I had to worry about were the sixteen final levels in my way. And they were difficult for sure, the game never truly lost sight of how evil it is, but I had experience. And after a few final nights of Game Overs, bad hit detection, and anger, I beat the true, final level of the game and rescued Peach. Again.

As soon as I finally finishedThe Lost Levels, I just sat down and questioned myself. “Why did I just spend the greater part of three months on the worst game I’d ever played?” To this day I still don’t have a good answer to that. All I know is thatThe Lost Levelschanged me. I came intoLost Levelsa weak, foolishbeginner, and left a grizzled war veteran, trained extensively in the arts ofMario.

From that day onward, noMariogame posed much of a threat to me at all.Super Mario Bros 2and3were absolutely pathetic by comparison, and by extension every otherMarioplatformer. Not evenSuper Mario Sunshine‘s notorious melons fazed me. Spending the near-100 hours I did onThe Lost Levelsmay have been completely fucking stupid, but it made me stronger.

Is that the lesson for today? Stupid shit makes you stronger?

Eh, who cares.