The Game: Intrepid plumbers Mario and Luigi have fallen back on Mario’s original mandate – rescuing the damsel – as they journey through the kingdom, battling Koopas and braving falls from dizzying heights, all to rescue the princess (who, as always, seems to be in another castle). In Duck Hunt things are a bit more normal – you’re just trying to nail some ducks in the wild, with the help and encouragement (and, if you let one get away, derisive laughter) from your trusty huntin’ dawg. (Nintendo, 1985)
Memories: Right up there with Atari 2600 Pac-Man in ubiquity, and almost universally loved (think about that for a moment – how many video games reach quite that level of popularity?), Super Mario Bros. was the ticket the NES needed to break into the U.S. market.
Through Nintendo’s novel strategy of adding the ROB robot to the package and marketing the NES as a toy, the machine rode the 1985 Christmas season into living rooms everywhere, but what got the word-of-mouth advertising once consumers got the machine home? It was the arcade-perfect Super Mario Bros. port.
Not to forget, Duck Hunt is a literal blast with the Zapper light gun, and it too is a pixel-perfect coin-op translation, though I’ll admit that at first I got more of a kick out of not shooting anything and watching that goofy hunting dog pop up to laugh at me.
In short, with two compelling and fun games on board, Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt was everything that a pack-in title needs to be. And to be honest, I’m not sure any machine’s pack-in has ever matched this cartridge’s “instant gratification” factor – especially not now that we live in an age where brand new consoles don’t come with a game (what are they thinking, the machines will sell as objets d’art?). But maybe they don’t do pack-ins these days because this one has proven to be such a hard act to follow.