This may sound a little crazy, but my absolute favorite video game movie is, The Wizard (1989) starring Fred Savage, Luke Edwards and Jenny Lewis. Of course, lets not forget that Beau Bridges and Christian Slater were both in it and we got the first peak at Tobey Maguire as well!
If you’re not familiar with The Wizard, the main story is about Jimmy Woods who has had emotional problems, some say possibly autism, exacerbated by his sisters death at a young age. Jimmy takes off for California with his brother Corey for an undetermined reason. During their journey, Corey learns that Jimmy is a “video game wizard” and enters him in to Video Game Armageddon, a video game championship. With basically no money and a tag along (Jenny Lewis), they must get to California, avoiding their parents along the way.
The Wizard pulls at the heart strings 31 years later with all of these, now, retro games. Old school Nintendo classics like Zelda II, Contra, Rad Racer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros. 2 and many more are shown throughout the movie. Nintendo’s Power Glove also makes a stunning appearance, despite the video game footage not matching the controls. They all bring back fond memories, but there was one that really takes the cake: Super Mario Bros. 3.
Super Mario Bros. 3 was the final game in the video game championships. The gameplay, of course previously recorded, may not have been the first time that the US got to see in game footage, but it was mine.
During the nearly 6 minutes of game play, we were teased with shots of notable locations including World 1-1, World 1-3, the World 1 Fortress, World 4-1, and the Slot Game. Surprisingly, The Wizard also showed us where one of the Warp Whistles was located. It was not nearly enough, but for a 10-year old, it was practically Christmas! (Well, I guess it was since the movie did come out 10 days before Christmas, but anyway….)
Unfortunately, it would be 2 months before I could get my hands on a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3, as it was released February 12th, 1990. We went store to the store, only to come up short as it was sold out everywhere. Ultimately, we did end up finding a copy, and I have distinct and fond memories of seeing the box for SMB3 hanging on the display wall …it was the last copy!
I remember both excitement and fear as I couldn’t wait to own it, but also afraid to hear that it was “on hold of someone else.” Good fortune smiled upon me, and luckily, despite my fears, that last copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 went home with me. I remember taking it out of the yellow box, pulling the cartridge out of it’s black protective sleeve, and flipping through the manual for the first time, anticipating the exact moment that I would be home so I could play.
In the decades since, I have not had that same level of anticipation for a game like I did for SMB3. Rarely has the experience of and around a game been more definitive to me. Maybe that’s the reason that my memory of this video game is so fondly stuck in my head. It is one of the reasons why I recently repaired a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and play it in its original form. In all of the hundreds of games I’ve played, on the wide assortment of game systems and platforms played on over the last 30-ish years, I can truly say this game and that moment was one of the defining moments of my formative gaming years.
When you look back on your own gaming experiences and coming-up in the video-game generation, do you have a favorite video game, movie, or memory that sticks out as definitive for you? Let us know the comments below!