Up until this most recent holiday season, I would have said that of the 3 people living in our home that I was the only gamer. So, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was that my girlfriend took an interest in my Wii U purchase. New Super Mario Bros. U has hooked her and will not let go. This has also created the interesting side effect of her 4 year-old daughter becoming even more curious about video games. While the Wii U’s GamePad should get a bit of the credit for setting up welcoming play sessions for the little one, it’s the face of Nintendo that has kept her completely captivated. I had written off Mario’s appeal as something that dates me as an older gamer and I have to say that her adoration for his adventures is fascinating to witness. I couldn’t be more proud of the plumber.
Our Mustachioed Friend
I first took notice that her interest in Mario games may be more than just a “favorite thing of the day” when she curled up next to her mom and immediately recognized Mario in NSMBU, a game that she had never seen before. The only explanation I had for this was that her cousins had played quite a bit of New Super Mario Bros. Wii in front of her about a year ago when she was a little over 3 years-old. However, for something like that to stick in the memory of a young toddler meant that it had had quite an impact.
Throughout the remainder of our holiday break, she would climb up on the couch next to whomever she saw pick up the GamePad and (if we weren’t already playing it) she’d ask us to “play the Mario game.” At first she’d sit quietly and just take in all of the action. This led to my favorite moment of having her next to me when I discovered Yoshi is in New Super Mario Bros U. I exclaimed, “Yosh!” and she became an instant fan. (Personal note: She occasionally still refers to him as Yosh rather than Yoshi. That makes me pretty happy.)
Of course, any one who has been around toddlers knows that once they ask the first question, your interrogation has just begun. Let’s just say that this little girl wanted to know everything there is to know about the Mushroom Kingdom, from why the dragon wants to steal the princess all the way to why the ghosts are scared of Mario. The questions went on for days and were pretty repetitious at first, but as the repeat questions started to slow down we began to see that she was learning the rules of the game itself. Stars are good, lava is bad, and those big coins are a big deal.
I can take it from here
As a result of our successful and intense Q&A sessions, her confidence began to grow and all of the sudden, we had a back seat gamer on our hands. She let us know whenever we missed a coin, a pipe, or a power-up. She’s also an explorer who made sure that we ventured to every corner of the screen if something looked interesting. She isn’t afraid to tell you that you aren’t good at the game, either, if you die more than she thinks you should.
Naturally, she grew tired of sitting on the sidelines and finally asked to play Mario for herself (probably after we failed to check out a pipe that she was positive we could go down). This little gamer could play the mushroom house games or just run around the minimap trying to find all of her friends (baby Yoshis) all day if we let her. She doesn’t really have an interest in the primary levels of the game just yet and will ask for our help if she accidentally starts one. I know she’s just working her way up to the real thing though.
Now normally, once a game or a show is over, she will just move on to whatever else catches her attention. Mario is on her mind though. If we are away from the Wii U she wants to tell Mario stories, or even watch Mario videos on any streaming device she can find. She’ll watch playthroughs of any Mario game, which led me to my most heartwarming moment yet when I heard her quoting, “Here we go!” right along with Super Mario 64 and me subsequently blowing her mind when I showed her that we could play that game for real. Since then we’ve also played Yoshi’s Island and Super Mario Galaxy, but I have a feeling the New Super Mario Bros. franchise will be her all-time favorite.
In good hands
It was that realization about New Super Mario Bros. that probably saved my brain from overanalyzing games during our recent games of the year discussions on this site. None of our criticisms of Nintendo, Mario, or the NSMB franchise mattered in that moment and it helped me remember that video games are fun above all else. This is her first Mario experience and it will stick with her as one of her first and favorite gaming memories, and I’m thrilled by it. It’s easy to forget just how timeless Mario actually is until you see it make someone as happy as you were the first time you made that plumber jump.
Kid and Play – Gaming with the next generation opens up entirely new experiences for all ages.
Giant Bomb (images)