1. Super Mario Bros. 2 – I don’t think I’ve ever known anticipation like the kind I had for Super Mario Bros. 2. I was a subscriber to the Nintendo Fun Club, a newsletter that Nintendo sent out every now and then which would contain codes and news about upcoming games. Nintendo stopped publishing the newsletter in 1988, opting instead to release a monthly magazine that was much more robust. The first issue of Nintendo Power arrived at my house, and the unthinkable graced the cover:
From that moment on, Super Mario 2 was all I could think about. I read the magazine to shreds and left reminders all over the house of what my #1 Christmas wish was. I talked about the game non-stop with my friends at school. Christmas day rolled around and Santa didn’t let me down. I got a call from a friend that morning, and when I picked up the phone I heard three simple words: “I got it.” I spent the rest of the day, month, year playing Mario 2, learning the ins and outs of using each character. Mario was a good all-around guy (lame), Luigi could jump really high (he was my go-to), Toad could move quickly no matter what he was carrying (cool?), and Peach could float for extended periods of time (not as useful as it sounds). I played the dickens out of Mario 2, and while most people will point to just about every other Mario game as the “best”, this one wins it for me.
Turns out that Super Mario Bros. 2 began its life as another game, Doki Doki Panic. Originally started as Mario prototype, Doki Doki Panic was ultimately developed for the Famicom system to fit the mascots of the Fuji company. There was a formal followup to Super Mario Bros, called Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels, that was punishingly difficult, so Nintendo instead re-engineered Doki Doki Panic to once again use the Mario characters for the game’s US release.
The game was so well-received that Nintendo released it in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2 as well. Slightly different marketing approach.
2. The Missing Piece – One of my favorite Shel Silverstein books. A really simple story with simple artwork, and somehow that simplicity is just so elegant.
3. Vegetable Soup – I was not aware of this PBS kid’s show growing up, but looking at clips of it on the internet makes me realize I missed something special.
Running from 1975 to 1978 and produced by the New York State Education Department, Vegetable Soup was aimed at promoting diversity in a time of racial tension. Regular voices on the show included James Earl Jones, Bette Midler, and Daniel Stern. Also, there was a regularly occurring sci-fi segment called Outerscope that featured marionette puppets. It is both creepy and amazing at the same time. Bear with it in the first few seconds as the video tracking catches (video tracking!):
4. The Bloodhound Gang – No, not the short-lived 90s music phenomenon. The Bloodhound Gang was a recurring segment on 3-2-1 Contact that featured kids solving mysteries. The intro song is pretty awesome:
5. The Temptations: 1990 – I had no idea that the Temptations went in this direction! This is the last album that Norman Whitfield, a stellar Motown songwriter and producer, produced for the Temptations, and I was completely unaware that it existed! Warning: there’s a little bit of offensive language in this one.