I’ll never forget those summers in the 90s. A child in the early years of life, I’d wake up as soon as the summer light streamed through my windows, sneaking downstairs to turn on my Super Nintendo and play some Super Mario World. I’d been a Nintendo kid since the beginning, but the SNES launch title rocked my world. Super Mario World delighted at every turn: hidden levels, secret bonus areas, dinosaurs to rescue—and Mario had a cape! I’d play for hours, beginning and ending my day with the Italian plumber, taking afternoons to enjoy the summer air and imagining my own Mario courses outdoors.
The game was a masterpiece and set the tone for what was possible for the SNES. And of course, its Star World and Special World provided endless replay value. I’ll never forget that moment when I manage to conquer the Special World, only to find that the seasons had changed, and the overworld map had transformed its colors. Even today, it’s a game I replay once a year, and one that will likely remain atop my “Best Mario Ever” list.
When considering which games activate nostalgia, for most for us the obvious answer is whichever games you played during key moments of your life. Those games you played during your childhood, that still bring you back, even today. The games that got you through that loss of a loved one, a divorce, a mental health crisis. Video games give us the chance to escape, a shot at adventure, the possibility of walking in someone else’s shoes. For all those reasons and more, video games are the pinnacle of human artistic expression; not simply the chance to observe an experience, but to join in, to shape it, and for a brief moment to be transported to another world.
As you think back over the games that have most impacted your life, which games raise that nostalgic longing for you? Are there any games you play on an annual basis? Share your reactions in the comments below or join the conversation on our Boss Rush Discord.