Like my most children, I remember the day when one of my classmates bought an NES with Super Mario Bros. in tow. It’s a pop culture milestone, but Frank Cifaldi opens up a rabbit hole that I didn’t even know existed. We know the dates of many historical events, but do we know exactly when Super Mario Bros. hit American stores for the first time? It turns out the answer is far more elusive that you might expect:
And yet, we don’t know exactly when the game came out. In fact, talk to enough people and you’ll come to find out that we can’t even agree on theyear the game came out, at least in the United States (in Japan, we know exactly when it shipped: September 13, 1985).
This isn’t Amelia Earhart or the Bermuda Triangle we’re talking about here: this is one of the highest grossing consumer entertainment products in history, introduced less than 30 years ago, and we can’t seem to get the date right.
I decided recently to try to set this right. I wanted to prove, once and for all, exactly when Super Mario Bros. invaded North America. I wanted to put this whole embarrassing mess behind us so that the history books of the future could be properly informed, and so that places like Wikipedia would have a definitive source to cite.
Hunting down FAO Schwarz clerks, Nintendo employees, and reporters who covered the event, Frank’s quest marches on with his dogged pursuit of someone who can give him a definitive answer. The entire piece is worth a read and represents a great piece of sleuthing, but Cifaldi points out something chilling in closing. If one of the biggest events in videogame history or 20th century history for that matter is so obfuscated (and the company that created the game can’t help), what does that say about the legacy we’re leaving for future generations? They say history is written by the victors and as far as I can tell, videogames are winning. How then could we be missing something as notable as our birthday?