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Ah, the era of Nintendo 64. While the technology was far below that of current standards in video games, many an hour was spent arguing over the boomerang-on-acid shaped controllers of this historical console. While the graphics seemed more like a pixellated hell than any kind of reality, the fun and fights our generation had over those countless cartridges won’t soon be forgotten. When you think about it though, these games were much more than just idle time wasters that threatened to transform our brains into a useless mush. There were some deep life lessons to be found within those 64-bits of glory. Don’t believe me? Maybe these examples will help to change your mind.
1. Your Character Is Important
If I were a gambling man, I would freely wager my life savings that the original Super Smash Bros. both caused and solved more arguments than any other video game in history. While thousands of fighting games have come and gone, this was the first chance we had to don the abilities of our favorite Nintendo characters and to quite literally beat the crap out of one another.
Ever want to see what Link’s legendary Master Sword would look like shoved into the smug little face of an Italian plumber? Okie dokie! Ever wanted to fry Jigglypuff with a thunderbolt so fierce that the little puffball disappeared over the horizon? You got it. Super Smash Bros. was truly innovative, and my 9-year-old self was all about it.
But what can we really learn from a game that’s so fantastically simple in concept? You read the headline on this section, so I’ll assume you have at least a slight idea. Just like in Smash, in real life your character counts. Not all of us were blessed with the same abilities, but what you do with the hand you’re dealt is what truly sets you apart. Are you going to wake up every week and Falcon Punch the shit out of your Monday, or are you going to just fall off the edge of the map, where no one will ever chant your name again? You might be born as useless as Luigi, or as generally badass as Starfox, but in the right circumstances, anyone can succeed.
2. Some Things Are Way Harder Than They Should Be
Often hailed as one of the greatest games ever created, if you haven’t played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, chances are I have no respect for you. With its open world and endless hours of exploration, this game is still renowned for it’s storytelling and endless replayability. One thing that’s often forgotten about this gem is if you didn’t have the $20 guidebook to carry you forward, this game was harder than justifying your internet browsing habits to your supervisor.
In particular, one dungeon seemed to elude even the brightest minds of my third grade classroom (the kids who bragged about knowing what “x” meant in a math equation): the infamous Water Temple. With its confusing assortment of puzzles and bosses, the Water Temple is known even today as one of the most difficult challenges a video gamer can face.
Did it need to be this tough? Of course not. This is a game catered to pre-teens who are just now learning how their genitals work. However, I think Nintendo was just attempting to prepare us for the harsh realities of the grown up world. Sometimes life is going to be significantly harder than it should be. Your hours might suck, and that promotion might seem as distant as the heart piece at the end of the dungeon. But through (significant amounts of) trial and error, eventually you can succeed.
3. There’s Always Someone Behind You
If there’s one game that could rival Smash Bros. in sheer argumentative potential, it would have to be Mario Kart 64. Disguised as a simple kart racing game, Mario Kart actually had some built-in complexities that served as both an infuriating force and brutal teacher of the world’s harsh realities. One particularly brutal gameplay mechanic serves as the perfect example of how exactly Mario Kart is like real life.
If you don’t remember, the multiple tracks of Mario Kart were littered with question mark adorned boxes that granted you a supposedly random item to help you in your racing endeavors. What they didn’t tell you was that your current position in the race had a major impact on the type of item you received. In first place? Enjoy that nearly worthless green shell or banana peel. When you were in last place, however, the possibilities opened up significantly.
The dreaded blue shell would almost exclusively show up for the last place player, and it’s purpose was both sinister and the ultimate symbol of douchebaggery. This shell would fly through the entire course, targeting only the player in the lead. Sure, the guy who fired it has no chance of actually winning the event, but if he can shit on your near-victory, you better believe he’s going to. If you think this philosophy is limited to the pixelated world of Mario Karting then you are sadly mistaken. As brutal as this fact may seem, no matter how far behind you a peer may be, there is always the potential that they will fuck you over for their own benefit.
4. Nerds Are Helpful
Starfox 64 was the pinnacle of third-person spaceship-blowing-shit-up simulators back in the era of its 1997 debut. You took the role of hotshot pilot Fox McCloud, and with your band of multi-species companions you eventually saved the galaxy or something admittedly generic like that. In a game that was as simple as doing a few barrel rolls at the right moments, there couldn’t possibly be a greater life lesson to be found, right? That’s where you are wrong my friend.
One character in Starfox shines as a perfect example of these parallels with reality: Slippy the motherfucking toad. Sure, he was an annoying little squealer who was about as useful as Kanye West’s psychiatrist, but the nerdy little green guy had his moments. Whenever you faced a boss, Slippy was able to analyze his shields in order to help you overcome the otherwise unknown challenge.
Throughout the game, you’d have to bust your ass to save Slippy’s little green one, but the end result in each level made your efforts more than worth it. Sure, the nerds of the world might need a little help here and there (particularly in social situations), but when servers come crashing down, you better believe there’s an IT guy coming to the rescue. We aren’t in high school anymore, and chances are a nerd will save your ass in the years to come.