I slept on Mario bedsheets. I ate Mario cereal. I ate out of a Mario lunchbox. I watched Mario’s cartoon. I rented Mario’s movie with my own money–that awful movie with Eddie from Roger Rabbit (Bob Hoskins) playing Mario–and I rented it twice. And no doubt, when I was waiting in line at 7-11 to pay for my Slurpee, I was also picking up a few packs of these Nintendo trading cards.
These cards were different than your run-of-the-mill ALF trading cards. These cards had a gimmick–they were a game. It’s not a completely stupid idea either–Nintendo was about playing games, and each card was a scratch off game. You scratched to reveal various symbols that meant you were winning or losing.
Each card had baffling directions on the back that you ignored and then scratched off all the spots, never to find the secret million dollars. There was a secret million dollar prize involved, right?
No? Life was so unsatifsying as a Nintendo Game Pack Player.
The packs came with 3 scratch-off cards and 2 stickers. They were wrapped in a wax pack. There is a feel and pleasure to opening a pack of these cards that isn’t like pulling open a foil pack. No mummified gum inside, but you can’t have it all kid.
The scratch off cards were organized into screens. There were 6 games featured, each game having 10 screens/cards. The amount of thought and complexity that went into designing these cards is mind-blowing. Nintendo stamped their name on a lot of half-assed products, like half their game catalog, and a film called The Wizard, but these cards weren’t skimpy.
The six games were: Super Mario Bros, Mario 2, Zelda, Zelda 2, Punch Out, and Double Dragon, the game Jimmy got 50,000 points in.
I love these Double Dragon cards–that bastard on the bridge with the bat, that bitch with the whip, those motherfucking cave rocks, and that asshole with the oil drum. No, I really do love this game.
Sadly, I tried to scratch one of these cards in last ditch effort for the secret million dollar prize, but time has chemically altered the scratch sections, making them impossible to scratch off. The silver part has bonded permanently with the cardboard. That’s my scientific explanation.
There’s my favorite game, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. For me, the game will always belong to Mike Tyson, though these cards do not feature Tyson. I like how much tougher the boxers are depicted on these cards. Even that wimpy Don Flamenco looks bulky. And Soda Popkinski is a bastard, a fucking bastard. And a drunk.
But I really love this artistic rendering of Glass Joe:
I’ve always felt a little bad for Glass Joe. He is the easiest enemy to beat in the entire history of Nintendo. But here, they managed to make him look a bit menacing. Bug-eyed, bat-shit insane, big tough guy. Joe, say it isn’t so.
Then there was the stickers that came with in each pack. I could write a thesis on the beauty of each of these stickers.
You see that sticker in the upper left corner? The one with Mario woozy on one knee that says I Heart Video Games? That’s me. Look, I’m no gamer. I don’t even know what a gamer is, but I think it involves wearing some head gear, and none of my consoles have a port for head gear. Actually, you can plug headphones into the Sega Genesis, does that count? But I love video games like Mario. I want to get down on knee and propose. I have butterflies. I am smitten. I heart them. And you. I heart you for still reading this drivel.
I heart some of these other stickers too. The Zelda Logo sticker? Makes me warm and fuzzy. That stylized Mario Madness sticker. It’s like ska font or something. It’s bad ass. Also, the Hit Me With Your Best Score? Fire Away. (My best score is 50,000 POINTS IN DOUBLE DRAGON, impressed the crap out of Fred Savage.)
On the back of the sticker cards was some top secret game tips. It would be somewhat cynical of me to make fun of these tips, as I’m nearly 30 years old. Sure the tips seem a tad obvious, but I know I struggled with some of these games when I was 10. Plus the idea of getting a “top secret tip” is just cool–you felt part of the “in group” getting a tip from a detective. Now I look at it, and I think “hey, what if that guy’s not wearing pants?” But back then, before I was traumatized by the man in the trenchcoat, I was just glad to be getting secret tips.
Alright, well I’m off in search of that secret million dollar prize. It exists, if you just believe. I need all of you out there to believe with me. Have a great weekend.