Monday, July 8, 2024

The 8-Bit Nintendo Years (Burnzo Cast Podcast Episode #8)

Enjoy this new podcast episode of mine: "The 8-Bit Nintendo Years." Listen below or read the full episode transcript (also below).

Burnzo Cast Episode #8 “The 8-Bit Nintendo Years” – Transcript

Air Date: 7/1/2024




Welcome everybody to Episode #8 of THE BURNZO CAST. I am your host Matt Burns speaking. So, the last two episodes of THE BURNZO CAST have been video-game-related, the first one was about the Nintendo 64 and the second one was about a favorite video arcade from my childhood called THE DREAM MACHINE. In this episode, we’re going to stick to this video game theme, make a trilogy if you will, and talk about the very first video game system my family ever owned, which was the 8-bit Nintendo.


But before we get into that, yep, you guessed it, we’re going to take a quick break so we can hear a word from our sponsor. Don’t worry, it’ll be quick. Promise. Psyyyyyyche.




Ok, welcome back to THE BURNZO CAST. Again, this is Episode #8: The 8-bit Nintendo Years, and let’s doo-doo-doo-doo do this. Doo-doo-doo-doo do this. Doo-doo-doo-doo- doo doo doo…Ok, I’ll stop.


So, before I talk about the 8-bit Nintendo, I want to take you back a little bit, to the early-to-late 1980s, and talk about my earlier video gaming years, pre-Nintendo. In the early 1980s, my family had this strange computer, I don’t even know what it was called, but it was basically a keyboard that you plugged into a television set and I think there was a joystick you could use as well. The keyboard functioned as a small hardrive and there were two or three games that you could play on this thing. The first game was a rip-off of Space Invaders and I remember the aliens were made out of square pixels but they somehow managed to scare the crap out of me. The second game was a rip-off of Pac-Man and consisted of a mouse-like icon running through a maze eating cheese. There may have been other games on this poor-excuse-for-a-computer, but the Aliens game and mouse game are the only ones I remember. Again, I was probably about three or four years old at this time, but I do remember my siblings playing these games a lot. I probably watched more than I played. But we would plug this computer into a small black and white television set that we had. This wasn’t the main TV of the house, but more like the back-up TV that was usually in my parents’ bedroom but was small enough to be carried into other rooms if need be.


At some point, maybe around 1985 or 1986, I remember going over to my cousins’ house and they had an Atari, not sure which version of Atari—possibly the 7800, but I remember them showing my siblings and I the game Joust, which to me, basically looked like this guy riding an ostrich, going around killing other ostriches. The sound effects in that game gave me the willies, especially the sounds of the ostriches or whatever those things were that got born out of those pits. Yeah, I was definitely creeped out by that game in the same way I was creeped out by the Space Invaders type-game we had. Again, I was very young so it doesn’t take much to scare a three or four-year-old. I mean, I was scared of Maria on Sesame Street when she dressed up as Charlie Chaplin. Something about that square mustache. Maybe I was in a Concentration Camp in my past life and the square mustache reminded me of Hitler.




My cousins also showed us the game Breakout. And for that game you would switch from the joystick Atari controllers to the paddle controllers, those were the controllers that had the dial on them that could turn clockwise and counterclockwise. Breakout, if you don’t know, was the game where you essentially bounced a ball back and forth against a wall of bricks with a small bar that moved back and forth with the paddle controller. You would clear a level as soon as you broke a hole through the wall and got the ball to go through to the other side. It was basically like playing tennis with the wall.


Now, I should mention that, at one point, I did own an Atari myself, but this came later, after I already had a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was maybe 10 years old or so at the time and there was a yard sale in my neighborhood. At the yard sale I saw that they were selling an Atari that was in great condition, multiple joysticks included, both the actual joysticks and the paddle controllers, and, even better, 50 Atari Games were included, and all of this was being sold for 20 dollars. But even 20 dollars at the time was too expensive for me, or maybe my parents thought it was too expensive for me. Either way, I think the person running the yard sale agreed that if nobody came and bought the Atari by the end of the day, they would sell the console and games to me, along with the controllers, all for only ten bucks. Fortunately, at the end of the day, nobody had purchased the Atari, so I did end up getting everything for ten bucks. The only slight disappointment was that somebody had come and bought a few of the 50 games earlier in the day and the game I had my eye on the most (which was Pitfall) was gone. I couldn’t complain, though. Getting an Atari and tons of games, maybe 40-plus games, controllers etc. for only ten bucks was certainly nothing to complain about. I really got a good deal there.


I did end up playing the Atari quite a bit, but as the years went by, the console got more and more difficult to hook up to the more modern 1990s-era televisions. I remember the Atari had this coaxial hook-up thing that looked like crab claws. I probably could have gotten an adapter at Radio Shack that would have made it easier to hook up the Atari to the more modern televisions, but I never made this effort. As the 1990s went forward, I played the Atari less and less and eventually I think it ended up in my attic. In 2006, I sold the Atari and all the games to this place called “Play N Trade” in the Walpole Mall and oh man, I got so ripped off. I think the games sold for 30 cents each and the actual Atari console sold for only a few dollars. I think selling my Sega Game Gear to “Play N Trade” was my biggest regret in life, but selling the Atari is up there as well. Oof. I cringe just thinking about it now.


Anyway, going back to the 1980s again…


Eventually, in 1986, the Nintendo Entertainment System was officially released in America. I remember seeing a demo of the NES in the Lechmere store located in Dedham, MA. which no longer exists, God rest its soul (if you want to learn a bit about Lechmere, check out episode #2 of my podcast “A Love Letter to the Emerald Square Mall”). I specifically remember that the demo showed World 1-2 in Super Mario Bros., the first underground level in the game. I was still very young, about four years old, so I don’t remember my exact emotions when seeing this, but I do know I was somewhat entranced. I knew that what I was looking at was really new, different and cool.


But the NES was too expensive at this point, probably around $200. We needed to wait for the price to go down before we – we mainly meaning my brother and I – even began a conversation with our parents about buying one.




By the Spring of 1987, the Nintendo Entertainment System had dropped in price. I think the console alone was about 100 bucks by this point. I’m not sure if I played any part in convincing my dad to purchase the Nintendo because I was still only about five years old at this time. So I’ll give all the credit to my brother here and say that he convinced my dad to finally buy a Nintendo Entertainment System at Lechmere, and I think this was sometime around the Spring of 1987 and I’m pretty sure it was around this time because we bought the Game Rush N Attack as our first game and I know Rush N Attack was a new game around this time and when you look up the release date for Rush N Attack, it’s April of 1987. Also, I should probably put on the record that (I think) my brother paid for at least half of the Nintendo or maybe even all of it, using money he had made as a Patriot Ledger and Boston Globe paperboy. So, at the most, I think my dad only paid about 50 bucks, maybe that was the deal they made with each other, although it’s possible this was all purchased by my brother.


But, again, the catch was that, yes, the console was only about one hundred dollars, but it didn’t come with Super Mario Bros or Duck Hunt, nor did it come with the Zapper gun. In other words, it wasn’t the Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set. It was just the console, no games.


I’m not sure if I was present when the NES was purchased, but I do have this vague memory of being in Lechmere browsing through games that were hanging from one of those pegged walls or maybe they were in a display case. I could be making this memory up, but I seem to remember seeing the box art for Rush N Attack and thinking it looked really cool and then my brother and I mutually decided that this should be the first game we own for the NES. Again, I could be making all that up, but, either way, I do know that the very first game we owned for the Nintendo was Rush N Attack, released by Konami in 1987.


Now, I always assumed that “Rush N Attack” was really “Russian Attack” and not “Rush and Attack.” It wasn’t until recently that I looked closely at the title and realized the game was never specifically about Russians attacking. Instead, the game description was vague. You play as an American special operations soldier and try to destroy a “secret enemy weapon” being developed on an “enemy” base. The game’s description is not specific about who this “enemy” is, but, I mean, come on, obviously the “enemy” is the Russians. You start out the game armed with nothing but a knife and start killing as many Russ…er, I mean, as many “enemies” as possible. Later in the game, you can get a missile launcher, a pistol and grenades. 


Rush N Attack was a rather difficult game, especially for a five-year-old like myself. It probably would have been better if I started out my NES experience playing Super Mario Bros. or something a little more easy, but then again, now that I think of it, Super Mario Bros. isn’t that easy, either. In fact, most Nintendo games were hard and I think this was because Nintendo and other video game developers in the mid-to-late 1980s were new to making games for home consoles and, instead, were still in video-arcade-game-mode where you needed to make games hard so that gamers didn’t make it far off one quarter alone and had to cough up more quarters in order to reach new levels and especially to beat a game. In short, hard games meant more profits for the game makers. Also, most Nintendo games were “ported” arcade games—that is, they originated as arcade games—and although they may have been watered down a liiiitle bit in terms of their difficulty, they still were often as difficult as their arcade versions. Rush N Attack, after all, WAS initially an arcade game before it was a home NES console game.


But, yes, despite Rush N Attack’s difficulty and despite the fact that I rarely even made it beyond the first level, I still fell in love with Rush N Attack and the NES in general. I mean, it was my very first Nintendo game after all and really my very first video game altogether … that is, if you don’t count those Alien Invader and PacMan rip-offs we had. How could you not fall in love with your first video game ever?


My memory might be hazy, but I don’t think we officially owned a second video game for several months after getting the NES and the Rush N Attack cart (‘cart’ is a fancy and pretentious way of saying game). I’m sure we rented several games from the local Video Paradise video store. And probably borrowed a lot of games from friends and kids around the neighborhood. But I don’t think it was until that next Christmas of 1987 that we owned a second video game and if my memory serves me correctly I think this game was a little game called…Ghosts and Goblins, released by Capcom in November of 1986.


Like Rush N AttackGhosts and Goblins was also originally an arcade game and (also like Rush N Attack) it was hard but actually even harder than Rush N Attack. I mean, we’re talking SUPER hard.


In Ghosts N Goblins, you are some kind of knight, I believe, and I’m saying this without even looking up the game on Wikipedia because I think my memory of the game is probably more interesting than the reality of the game itself. But I’m pretty sure you’re a knight in medieval times and you start the game naked in a graveyard hanging out with a princess or you’re at least in your boxer shorts, I guess not completely naked. I don’t know if the implication is that you just did the dirty things with the princess or what. But then a demon comes flying down from the skies, kidnaps the princess, you the knight is pissed off, you put on some armor and then you start your quest to save the princess. In this quest, there are many Ghosts and Goblins, demons and ghouls and such. Maybe I was just a big wuss, but this game creeped me out just like fake Alien Invaders did and how Joust for the Atari did. I was maybe six years old by the time I started playing Ghosts and Goblins, but it was kind of creepy in a 8-bit pixels kind of way. The music and sound effects alone game me the heebie jeebies.


But, yeah the game was so hard. The controls were so…what’s the word…unflexible or blocky or something, especially if you were used to playing a game like Super Mario Bros. I just remember that you had to be a lot more precise about jumping over a cliff, much more so than in Super Mario Bros. You had to jump right at the last minute in order to make it over the cliff. Up was up and down was down but it was harder to move in a 45-degree angle if you know what I mean. And the game was very unforgiving. I think if you got hit by an enemy once, you lost your armor and were naked but were still in the game. Get hit twice, though, and game over. Maybe you could start back at the beginning of the level, but I feel like you only had a couple continues. There wasn’t much grace.


In fact, the game was so hard that for a while I actually thought there was something wrong with it … that, you know, it was flawed and had glitches and bugs in it. I soon learned this wasn’t the case, though, when I was on the bus one day and this kid named Dan told me he not only beat the game but beat it with not much of a problem. I had great respect for this Dan. He was a few years older than me and sat in the special one-seater (or was it a two-seater?) way in the back of the bus by the emergency exit. For whatever reason, that seat was basically reserved for the coolest kid on the bus and Dan was the coolest kid on the bus so that’s where he sat, no questions asked. I mean, nobody dared sit in this seat ever until Dan moved on to high school.


But, yeah, Dan claimed to have beaten Ghosts and Goblins, pretty much with not much of a big problem, and I remember being in such disbelief when I heard this. Again, I literally thought the game was defective and that it was impossible to beat. Guess not, though. Many years later, I would learn that Ghosts and Goblinswas not only NOT defective and carelessly thrown together but it’s actually considered to be one of the best games for Nintendo, despite its tough controls and overall level of difficulty.


Part of the reason why Ghosts and Goblins was so frustrating was that there weren’t any codes you could use for the game, or at least I don’t think there were any. I liked Konami games the best because they, of course, had that famous up-up-down-down code that would give you about 30 lives or so.


One of these games that you could use the code for was Contra.


Although I never officially owned Contra, I vividly remember being introduced to the game, probably somewhere in the area of the summer of 1988. I had this neighbor named Lee and I remember going over his house where he and some other neighborhood kids would be playing the game. I don’t even know if I played the game at all, I may have tried it out here and there, but this was one game that I remember being totally content to just watch it being played. In fact, I think I enjoyed watching others playing the game more than I did playing it myself.


In the game, you play as an American special-operations soldier, but you’re not fighting the Russians in this one; you’re fighting an evil army known as the “Red Falcon Organization” … so, yeah, basically a bunch of “red” commies and wait, yeah, basically the Russians. The year is 2633, though, and the Red Falcon Organization is under the influence of an evil alien entity. Your mission is to destroy the Russians…er, I mean, the Red Falcons. And also destroy that pesky alien entity.


Contra was a super-fun game, hard to play without the code, but if you had that code, it was a ton of fun and you could usually beat the game. The only problem, though, was that I usually had a lot of trouble doing the code. A year or two after seeing the game be played at Lee’s house, I somehow acquired a copy of Contra (I think I borrowed it from a friend and never returned it—this happened a lot), but I remember having a hell of a time typing in the code. The timing had to be perfect. There was this brief intro with four notes of music and then an explosion sound. You had to type the code in during this intro and, I think, you had to finish it before the explosion sound? Maybe? Not sure. All I know is I had a lot of trouble pulling that code off unless I had some help from Lee or another neighborhood friend who knew what they were doing.


I had better luck, however, with another Konami game, one that was very similar to Contra. That game was called Life Force.


Life Force was a lot like Contra except, instead of you being a special-ops soldier, you were a spaceship flying through a giant alien’s body. And instead of battling members of the “Red Falcon Army”, you were battling, well, various smaller alien lifeforms within the larger alien. The aliens, of course, were basically symbolic of the Russians, but that goes without saying, right?


It was a lot easier, for whatever reason, to pull off the code in Life Force. This game I did actually own at some point. With the code, I was able to beat the game and had a ton of fun doing so. On a random note, I remember one alien life form in the game looked like beets. You know, like the vegetable beets. Just thought I would mention that.


I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Life Force wasn’t a game I owned until later, maybe even close to the 1990 area. 


I think my third Nintendo game that I officially owned after Ghosts and Goblins was RC Pro Am and this may have been a Christmas gift as well, sometime around the 1988 area. RC Pro Am was one of two main racing games that were available for the Nintendo, the other being Rad RacerRad Racer had the behind-the-car third person view but RC Pro Am had the overhead view and the cars in the game weren’t race cars but they were actually remote-control cars. Rad Racer was a fun game, but I think I definitely liked RC Pro Am better. I remember there were a lot of levels in RC Pro Am, but at one point in the game, if you were playing against the computer, the orange car would go absolutely berserk, go three times as fast as normal and absolutely destroy you—I mean, there was no beating it at that point. I always thought this was a glitch in the game but I don’t think it was. I basically just learned to accept the fact that, at around level 12 or so, the orange car would eat a can of turbo spinach and go absolutely berserk, drive around the track three times as fast, and leave everyone in the dust. In fact, the orange car going berserk was usually an indication that I had been playing the game too long, it was time to shut it off and go do my homework.


Oh, but one other thing I should mention about RC Pro Am is that around the same time that I got this game we also got an NES Advantage Joystick, which was this really cool-looking arcade-like controller you could use in place of your normal NES controller. It had a joystick instead of a D pad and bigger A and B buttons. It also had these “turbo” buttons but as far as I can remember I don’t think those buttons ever did anything. The controller wasn’t that practical for games like Super Mario Bros. and Rush N Attack, but it worked great for RC Pro Am. The NES Advantage joystick truly did give you an Advantage over everyone else when it came to RC Pro Am.


Ok, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that also around this time when I was playing RC Pro AmRush N Attack, Contra etc. I was also introduced to the game The Legend of Zelda. I never owned this game until about 1992 when I was in the fifth grade but I’ll get to that in a second. My first exposure to the game was definitely at my cousins’ house and these were the same cousins who had first exposed me to the Atari. I remember playing the game at their house but I also think they would bring the game over to our house when they came over for dinner or for a Christmas party or something and then we would all play as a group. One person would man the controls (it was never me) but everyone in the group would offer their input as to where they think Link should go, what bush to burn, what rock to bomb, what stone to push etc. I’m pretty sure I mainly watched them play over anything else, but I remember thinking it was such a fun game. That being said, however, I should mention that I of course thought this game was spooky as well. Yeah, I was a wuss, apparently scared by many video games. Each labyrinth in the game gave me the willies, mainly because of the mysterious-sounding music that was featured in these levels. I also got scared when you were one room over from the labyrinth boss and you would start hearing his dragon-like noises. You know what I mean: it kind of sounded like a digital-like sneeze. This let you know you were close to the boss. Other things that scared me in the game were the old man and woman who would give you clues, letters, medicine and such. They were comprised of just a few 8-bit pixels but for some reason those old men and women who lived like hermits in the caves gave me the major creeps.


But, yeah, I never actually owned The Legend of Zelda until much later. I think I already had a Super Nintendo at this point, but during the summer between fifth and sixth grade, I went to Kay Bee Toys in the local mall and bought The Legend of Zelda, probably for a really good price at that point since NES was old news and Super Nintendo was all the rage. My mission for that summer was to beat the game, but I didn’t end up beating it, probably only got to level 6 or something.


Many years later, and I’m talking MANY years later, like only a few years ago in 2021, I got a Nintendo 3DS, which had the virtual console where you could download old-school NES games. I decided to download and beat The Legend of Zelda once and for all. Well, not only did I beat it once but I beat it twice, guys. Hm? Are you impressed? Do you want my autograph? It was super-fun. Definitely got hard towards the last few levels, but I really had a fun time beating it.


But, yeah, for the most part, we only owned a handful of games for the NES. Most of these games were either given to me or my brother for birthdays or Christmas. 


There, is however, one exception.


And that would be a game called Rampage, which stands out in my memory as the only game I ever got for no reason, no birthday, no Christmas or anything like that. Here’s the story behind Rampage. I was at this mall called the Braintree Mall (now called the South Shore Plaza), right outside Boston one Saturday with my dad. I’m not sure what we were after that day. There was a sports store called Hermann’s there that I know we went to a lot, so that may have been the reason we went to the mall (to get some baseball mitts or something). But I remember going into Kay Bee Toys in the Braintree Mall and seeing this brand-new game called Rampage hanging on the wall behind the front counter. I think there was a lot of buzz surrounding the game or maybe the Kay Bee toys clerk was raving about how popular the game was—whatever it was, I thought I needed to have the game. My dad didn’t like the looks of the price, it was about 60 or maybe even 80 dollars, something crazy like that. He said he would think about it and we went off to do some other shopping.


Well, for the next hour or so, I think I pulled out every subtle manipulation tactic I had in my arsenal. “Dad, I’ll never ask you for anything ever again. Dad, did you know playing video games help boost brain cells? Dad, my teacher at school wants me to play Rampage for extra credit.” Ok, I didn’t say that latter part, but I know I kept bothering him about Rampage. Eventually, he did cave and he bought the game on the condition that I would never tell my mom about this extremely frivolous purchase. I told him that I love him so much. I literally thought that I would be happy for the rest of my days. I went home, popped the game into my NES and…


The game wasn’t that great. The “plot” basically involved you playing as either a Godzilla-like monster or King-Kong-like monster and you destroyed city buildings while the military shot at you in tanks. You literally just climbed buildings, punched at them, ate an occasional person or snack, and you did this until the building was so weak it crumbled to the ground. Then you proceeded to the next level and did the same thing to another group of buildings. You kept on doing this in level after level upon level … after level. There were about 100 levels in the game. By about level 20, the game got old and pretty soon you would just want to quit and shut it off. I don’t think you could even save your progress in the game. If you quit, you would have to start at level-one the next time.


So, yeah, unfortunately, the game didn’t live up to its hype, but I never dared tell my dad that the game was not as great as I thought it would be. It would have broken his heart because, again, I think he spent about 80 dollars on it.


Nevertheless, Rampage will forever go down as the one game I got randomly at the mall one day, NOT for a birthday present. NOT for a Christmas present and NOT for an Easter present.


Wait, Easter present? That’s right, you heard me correctly. I remember one year for Easter I was pleasantly surprised to find a Nintendo game in my Easter basket. This was a one-time-deal. I don’t think I ever got such a big-ticket item in my Easter basket ever again, but I did get one that year for whatever reason (maybe I was getting good grades in school?). What game was it, you may be asking??


It was this game called Jackal.


Jackal was another Konami game, originally an arcade game (no surprise there) and released for the Nintendo in October of 1988. This was an overhead angle game, much like RC Pro Am. You are in a special-forces Army jeep that gets dropped off in “enemy territory” (code for Russia, of course). Your mission is to pick up POWS and ultimately destroy a “secret enemy weapon.” Boy, we were really conditioned to hate the Russians in the 1980s, weren’t we? This was military industrial complex propaganda in action, man. 


Wait, I don’t think there’s much more to say about Jackal except that I loved it and it was a really fun game to play. I don’t think there was an up-up-down-down code you could use on this, but I’m not sure. I just know that Konami always made awesome games and Jackal was no exception.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 was no exception, either. That’s right, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: THE ARCADE GAME probably was my favorite Nintendo game of all time. My first exposure to the game was not on the NES but in a random outlet mall right by the Bourne Bridge on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My family was at Old Silver Beach in Falmouth for the day, maybe even with my aforementioned cousins, and on the way home we went to this outlet mall for something to eat and also to do a little shopping at the Bass shoe outlet (Bass shoes were popular in the 1990s for whatever reason but that’s not important right now). I remember there was some small food court in the mall and in this food court was a video arcade game that absolutely blew me away: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. In the game, you play as one of the four ninja turtles and try to save both April and Splinter after they’ve been kidnapped by the evil Shredder. In your (New York City) travels, you battle foot soldiers, robots, Bebop and even Rocksteady!


At the time, I was already a huge fan of both the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series and especially the 1990 live action movie and I really want to emphasize that I was a huge fan of the movie; in fact, I could probably do a whole ‘nother podcast episode on my love for that movie. But, yeah, the video game was like taking the cartoon and turning it into a video game. In fact, that’s what it felt like: that you were playing the cartoon and interactively engaging with the cartoon.


The arcade game was eventually ported to the Nintendo in December of 1990 and I think I may have gotten it for my birthday just a few weeks later in January of 1991. It quickly turned into my favorite video game to play, I’m pretty sure you could do the Konami code for it or maybe it was just easier to play than other games because I know that I did eventually end up beating the entire game and I don’t remember it being an overly difficult feat to accomplish. My favorite level in the game was by far the one where you skateboarded and now that I think of it there may have even been more than one level that you skateboarded in. Oh man I had so much fun playing that game. I think I played as Raphael a lot and maybe Donatello, but, come to think of it, I don’t think there was necessarily a turtle I liked more than the others. I think I played with them almost in equal amounts. Little Michelangelo, little Leonardo etc.


Also, on a side note, I remember that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 game came with a coupon for a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. I never ended up using that coupon, mainly because I never went to Pizza Hut as a child. I was more of a Papa Gino’s kind of a kid. Went there all the time. Never once went to Pizza Hut, actually. I wonder if I still have that coupon somewhere. Would they still honor it? Haha, ya know? How cuuuurazy would that be, if I went to Pizza Hut and tried to get a free personal pan pizza with a coupon from 1991. So insane! Nuts!


Around the time that I was playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 in the early 1990s, there were also three other games that were in pretty heavy rotation within my Nintendo Entertainment System. One of these games was definitely…


Mega Man 2, which was released by Capcom in December of 1991, about a full year after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 was released. This game is considered one of the best 8-bit Nintendo games ever made and I think I agree with that. Although I definitely like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 better, Mega Man 2 was a super-fun game to play. 


In the game, you play as a heroic robot named Mega-Man and your mission is to defeat the evil Dr. Wily who has made eight evil robots you must battle first. This means there are eight levels to beat, one for each robot. When you start the game, there is a menu where you actually get to choose which level and which robot you want to take on first. There is Metal Man, Air Man, Bubble Man, Quick Man, Crash Man, Flash Man, Heat Man, and Wood Man. I think Wind Man and Heat Man were my favorites. Wood Man was a fun one as well if I remember correctly.


Another game I played a lot around this time was Tetris, which was released in 1989 by Nintendo but developed by a Russian named Alexey Pajitnov. Tetris was seemingly such a simple game, but also addicting and you could play it for hours and hours. There was something about the music that would almost put you into a trance and, as soon as you knew it, you could be sitting on your living room rug for hours playing the game when it only seemed like minutes. Seriously, it was like entering some sort of time warp.


The other strange phenomenon about Tetris was that, if you played the game a lot, you could never get your mind off of it. You would literally be lying in your bed, trying to go to sleep, but you would still be seeing Tetris pieces in your mind’s eye and still be trying to fit all the puzzle pieces together. Not a great thing if you already suffered from anxiety or insomnia.


During the early 1990s, I also spent a lot of time playing Super Mario Bros. 3, but if I’m going to talk about Super Mario Bros. 3, I have to first talk about the movie The Wizard.


The Wizard features a boy named Corey played by Fred Savage and his little gaming-wizard brother Jimmy (played by Luke Edwards), the latter of whom is suffering from PTSD and he may even be borderline autistic. The two boys hitch their way across America so Jimmy can play in a world video game championship in California. Well, the real reason why Jimmy wants to go to California is because he has this pleasant memory of being there with his twin sister who died tragically when she was young, hence why Jimmy has PTSD. But, along the way to California, Corey discovers Jimmy is a video gaming wizard and he coaxes his little brother into entering the video game championship so they can win money and also prove Jimmy is smart and doesn’t belong in an institution. In their travels, they meet a runaway girl named Haley (played by Jenny Lewis) who tags along with them and she too likes the idea of winning some money to solve her own personal problems. The movie also stars Beau Bridges as the father of Corey and Jimmy and a lot of people forget Christian Slater was in this, too. He plays the older brother of both Corey and Jimmy.


The movie is filled with all sorts of product placement by Nintendo. It features games like Double DragonNinja GaidanRad Racer and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Power Glove also makes an appearance, worn by Jimmy’s main video gamer rival named Lucas. Lucas has this famous line where he says, “I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad.”


More importantly, however, at the end of the movie, during the big climactic third act where Jimmy plays in the big video game competition at Universal Studios California, the not-yet-released Super Mario Bros. 3 is unveiled. This was literally the world premiere of the game and it got people super excited about it. It was going to essentially be a bigger, better, faster version of the first Super Mario Bros. with all sorts of new levels, basically pretending that Super Mario Bros. 2 never existed. Not that Super Mario 2 was bad, at least not in my opinion. It was just strange and different. This was mainly because it was a modified version of another Japanese game called Yume kojo: Doki Doki Panic. They basically took that game, deleted the characters in it, added Mario characters and, voila, you got Super Mario Bros. 2. This was why you didn’t have any Koopas or Bowsers in the game. Instead, you had Birdos, Mousers and a Frog named Wart.


Super Mario 3, however, was a completely original game (that is, not a modified version of a pre-existing Japanese game like Doki Doki Panic). The game definitely felt like the actual sequel to the first Super Mario Bros. where Super Mario 2 felt more like … an experiment. But, again, I like Super Mario Bros. 2 and a lot of other people do as well.


Anyway, you have to understand how big of a deal it was when The Wizard unveiled Super Mario Bros. 3. Everyone was shocked. I, for one, thought it was fake, that they made the game up for the movie’s sake. Of course, there was no Internet back then so you couldn’t look anything up to see what was real or what was fake. You just went by rumors and word of mouth. I guess I eventually realized it was a real game because it was officially released in February of 1990, just a few months after The Wizard had come out. Although I never bought the game, this was another cart that I borrowed from a friend and I never returned. Sorry about that, Tim.


I looooooved Super Mario Bros. 3. There were better graphics, a lot smoother game play, funner levels—including a giant level where all the enemies and question boxes are enormous—and the coolest thing of all was that…you could fly. With the Super Leaf, that is, which turned you into a racoon. Not sure why it turned you into a racoon as opposed to a bird since racoons can’t fly, but let’s not ask too many questions about that. 


All I have to do is hear the music from Super Mario Bros. 3 and I’m brought back to Saturday mornings, sitting on my family room carpet in my jammies playing the game, probably before I even ate breakfast or certainly before I brushed my teeth. 


Up until the Christmas of 1992, I was playing A LOT of Super Mario Bros. 3. There was only one thing that got me to stop playing this game and really the Nintendo Entertainment System in general and that one thing was:




Duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh.


On Christmas morning of 1992, I woke up and received what-was-perhaps my favorite Christmas present of all time. The Super Nintendo. Along with two games. Mario Kart. And Final Fight. Well, really three games, since Super Mario World came with the system as well.


Although I would certainly pop in an 8-bit Nintendo game here and there, especially when it came to that aforementioned summer vacation when I tried to beat The Legend of Zelda, the years of me doing any hardcore playing of the 8-bit NES were officially over. They were so fun while they lasted, but it was time to move on to 16-bit graphics games. Games like Super Mario Kart and Final Fight, not to mention Super Mario World, and then later Star Fox and especially Donkey Kong Country, were just too good to make me want to keep playing the original NES. Although the years of me playing 8-bit Nintendo were short-lived in the great scheme of things, the memories … are forever.




All right, thank you very much for listening to that episode of THE BURNZO CAST. I hope you enjoyed that, hope it brought back some pleasant memories for you, made you feel all warm and nostalgic inside. If you did like this episode, you may like my article I USED TO BE A GAMER: THE 8-BIT NINTENDO YEARS, available on my website and also available as an eBook Kindle single on Most of what I covered in this podcast is in that article, but if you’re really interested in 8-bit Nintendo or maybe you’re doing research for a book or an article, you may want to give my eBook a read to reiterate some of the points I made in this podcast episode.


Ok, I think that’s it. Thanks again for listening. Hopefully more episodes will be on the way and can you do me a fre-fre-fre-fre flavah? Be well and also do me one more fre fre fre flavah. Take care of yourself. Until next time, BURNZO NATION!




MATT BURNS is the author of several books, including his bestselling Kindle singles I Used to be a Gamer and I Dream of Dream MachineHe’s also written several novels, including his ‘punk novel’ Supermarket Zombies! as well as Weird MonsterJohnny Cruise and The Woman and the DragonCheck out these books (and many more) on his Amazon author page HERE.

Other trending articles by Matt Burns:

A Love Letter to the Emerald Square Mall (about the death of the shopping mall age)

NEVER FORGET the Fun-O-Rama (a traveling carnival memoir)

Some Wicked Good Times: A Love Letter to Newbury Comics

Video Store Memories

I Dream of Dream Machine (a memoir of the local video arcade)

Skateboarding in the 1990s

Revisiting the Blair Witch Project

PROXOS IN THE PLEX: A Goldeneye 007 N64 Retrospective


100 DAYS of ZELDA: Revisiting Ocarina of Time


I USED TO BE A GAMER: The 8-bit Nintendo Years

WAAF Goes Off the Air

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Charlie (a story about Burns’ recurring nightmares featuring Charlie Chaplin)

Remembering That Time I Tried to Stop a Shoplifter at the Wrentham Outlets

The Strange, Surreal Moment of Being Called a DILF Inside a Panera Bread Restaurant on a Wednesday Afternoon

Weird Times en la Weirdioteca


RIP PowerBook G3

(NEW!) Getting Your Novel Done


Getting Your Screenplay Done


Making Your Good Writing Great

Writing the Sequel


Writing the Trilogy

No-No, Learn to Love the Rejection: Some Sage Advice for Writers in Search of an Agent or Publisher


The Story Behind Supermarket Zombies!

The Story Behind The Woman and the Dragon