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Super Mario Bros. 1

Boot up any current-generation title. As you begin to play, examine the screen.

Do you see a time limit? Of course not….

Sure, many younger players won’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but I am certain most others do. What ever happened to the time-limit scheme that plagued so many Nintendo Entertainment System titles back in the '80s and early '90s?

Perhaps it was a gimmick. Developers were extremely limited with 8-bit processors. Or it could have happened because every title was a Mario copycat fighting for the same amount of fame.

Whatever the reason, time limits surely worked for elevating the challenge in games along with raising the intensity when going for perfect playthroughs.

They made me want to get better. More important, they kept me playing.


If you own a Game Boy Color, I highly recommend picking up Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. The Challenge mode is superb. It’s still addicting to this day. Heck, it’s a somewhat different way to look at the Mario series.

Turns out this simplistic limit idea adds replay value.

Oh yeah, Super Mario Bros. was annoying at times — especially in my young-lion days. What a pain it was just approaching the flag while the clock ticked to single digits. That tone would beep, and suddenly the music would speed up. “Move,” I screamed as my eyes gazed two inches away from the screen.

Come on now, I know I wasn’t the only one.

Why am I sucking up to Mario and giving him all the credit?

Yes, some games today feature time-limit scenarios in which you have to escape (Halo 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare), yet it seems like everything is just about running through a level and blowing shit up. Yeah, it’s a joy. Back in the day, however, the clock was always there watching you.

Simply put, it made you work your ass off.

Tetris Attack (and of course, the original Tetris) is another game that featured this mechanism. And man, I never bit my teeth so hard in my life. Games with such restraints increased my commitment. Mega Man 9 (and Mega Man 10) resurrected the now-infamous feature, and it gave gamers across the world a chance to show their skills and display their names on leaderboards.

Tetris Attack 1

Ticking numbers add longevity to a venture. Developers today should recognize that this once-upon-a-time gameplay element still works. 

It's a small complaint. I could be the only one who misses an overlooked feature that's absent nowadays (for the most part).

Just give Deluxe a try. I bet you'd have a blast.

The clock is ticking….