A friend of mine turned 20 in July, and while I was driving around the state of Wisconsin (for just under 400 miles) looking for a working copy of Yoshi's Island and Super Mario Kart for her birthday, I realized something: On August 23 (or some date roughly around then according to conflicting sources on Wikipedia), the Super Nintendo turns 20 years old, too. Quite the sobering thought if you've been a gamer for a while.
As always, countless video-game reporters and fans will post their thoughts about what the best games on Nintendo's sophomore console are and what the system means to them.
I have my own thoughts on what titles are the best on the gray-and-purple box, but then I realized something else: My friend (probably) knows what the best two games are for the system, and she could care less.
I say probably because she didn't even talk to me about this or even know the Super Nintendo was just a month younger than her. The way I know the two games she obsesses over are the two best ones for the system — and ones that everyone should play — are two-fold: She obsessively plays them but isn't a hardcore gamer, and she's better than (probably) most people on this site at them.
I'm using probably a lot, but hear me out.
She's in love with Super Mario World and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island — Yoshi's Island being a recent obsession but an obsession nonetheless. It speaks volumes that she talks about getting Yoshi in a sleeve tattoo to add to her heavily inked body after playing both.
But I digress.
So then, how can a casual gamer who excels at Super Nintendo side-scrollers but turns up her nose at people who dare play some Castlevania: Lords of Shadow instead of Donkey Kong Country Returns possibly convince a die-hard gamer like me that those two titles should be experienced? How is it that my expertise on the matter (Nintendo Power posters cover every inch of my bedroom wall) could possibly lead me astray? Surely, we hardest of the hardcore — I'm talking Geodude hard — know best.
Easy. It's the fact that she doesn't care, yet like every Angry Birds lover, she has both games as a part of her life — a life that mainly consists of your typical partying, college-level-soccer goal keeping, and never knowing what a Bitmob is…or even wanting to know.
Video-game journalists and die-hard players like me should — or at least I think we should — be the most educated or experienced people to pick out what the best Super Nintendo game is.
But the fact that this casual gamer, who probably plays her 20-year-old system more than anything else and knows the Soda Pop Islands like the back of her goalie-glove-wearing hand, leaves me with only one answer: She's right, and she should be. Even if she doesn't know it or care, that's an amazing feat. How often do you find someone who isn't necessarily into a hobby or sport latch onto a piece of it with such vigor? Not often.
I couldn't even tell you why she likes it other than that she has fun playing it. Sometimes that's enough. For others, they'd have to explain the how and why as if it were a high-school dating scene: “Well, we both like each other because we like to play soccer.”
Instead of these juvenile reasons, she displays something else: an unexplainable feeling — perhaps something akin to what lovers feel when they've found that something special that cannot be explained away so easily — as to why she loves running around with a mustached plumber and, more importantly, a green dinosaur.
She blasted through most of Yoshi's Island in two days, and she's been a master of Super Mario World for countless years — I shudder when we play co-op because of the insults and fun she has at my dying Luigi's expense.
Playing with her as a die-hard gamer will make you question your gaming skills, but one thing is for sure: If she's this absorbed in the world of Super Mario — or Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, rather — then you should be celebrating the system's birthday with these two gems.