I began writing this article as a top ten list of the best first levels. I made my list (and checked it twice) making sure I didn’t leave anything out; the dam from Goldeneye? Check! The jungle from Contra? Double check!
I typed out my bare list and started at number 1 filling out the article under each heading. The thing is, I just kept writing about the #1 first level on my list, and writing, and writing; about the level, and then about the game as a whole, and about it’s impact not only on me personally but all of video gaming.
Before I knew it, it was an article in itself. The other nine first levels will have to wait for another day. Today is reserved for the best of the best.
Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. What else is there to say about the most iconic level in video game history that hasn’t been said? It has become almost forgettable in it’s familiarity; eternally ingrained in the retinas and brains of kids who grew up in the 80’s, 90’s, and those of later generations who retroactively discovered the NES. So familiar is World 1-1 that it’s easy to forget the enormous impact that Super Mario Bros. as a whole had on the video game industry.
SMB challenged the standard for video game design by making the high score a secondary achievement. Shigeru Miyamoto’s visionary approach to game design gave the player a goal; a simple flag pole, sure, but in doing so altered the course of the medium’s young history.
You are introduced to everything that makes Super Mario Bros., well… a Super Mario game in that first level; the question-mark block, the mushroom, the (hidden) 1up, the star, the fire flower, the hidden coin block, the warp pipe (and by extension the always excellently scored underworld), the koopa, the goomba, the Mario theme, the spot-on controllers- all in this, the most influential, iconic, and greatest first level in all of video game history.
The influence of Super Mario Bros. and by extension World 1-1 goes far beyond just the gamers who piled onto couches passing around a Nintendo controller at preteen birthday parties and Saturday night sleepovers; Many of the elements first seen in World 1-1 still play an integral part in all platforming Mario games to date, and there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to be a rich source of inspiration for all foreseeable series installments.
With today’s announcement of the North American release of the 25th Anniversary Mario package for the Wii, it goes without saying that future generations will have the ability to access and experience the most important console video game of all time, and hopefully understand just why World 1-1 is the greatest first level in all of gaming.