A large part of why I started to like video games as a child stems from the strange features that these Japanese-created pieces of software sometimes presented. Often, the simple eight-bit graphics presented visual ambiguities that my little mind couldn’t comprehend. For example, at the end of a level in the original Super Mario Bros., what was that design on the flag supposed to be? A mushroom? A peace sign? A skull? I never knew. But I’d notice these little things and my curiosity would suck me into the world of these games — however pixilated their presentation — and I’d be hooked.
A prime example of this was the Minus World. For the uninitiated, the Minus World is a glitch in the original Super Mario Bros that, with some finesse, could sneak Mario into a glitch level. (Level in this game are named “1-1,” “1-2,” “3-3,” “3-4,” etc., all the way to the final level, “8-4.” The so-called Minus World, however, didn’t display the first digit. Instead, the level name was displayed “-1,” which looked like “negative one,” hence the term “Minus World.”) Once there, the level didn’t really present anything all that spectacular: only an endless underwater stage that players could send poor Mario through over and over again, until the timer ran out and he died. At the time, however, I had no reason to suspect anything other than that the Minus World was a deliberate secret that developers put in the game, and that there was some important meaning behind it.
There wasn’t, of course, but the idea intrigued me nonetheless.
Today, the gaming blog Kotaku posted this video of an alternate version of the Minus World, from the Japanese Famicom Disk System version of Super Mario Bros. As Kotaku notes, it’s all the more surreal. Seeing this today made me feel once again like the awestruck little kid that first stumbled into the Minus World so many years ago.