Aside from Pokemon, of course, I never really felt like handheld games were worth serious chunks of my free time, and always treated them as something I would pick and play for brief moments in time, put them down and not worry or think about them until the next situation I was in that called for something to kill time and boredom.
I always appreciated the fact that Mario was prevalent on Nintendo's handheld systems, I just never got into them. I played them, and they were fine for what they were, but I never loved them. For me, they always seemed to be missing something, almost as if there were shells of the full Mario experience. They just weren't Mario as I had come to expect, and for that reason, I don't remember ever obsessing over them as much as I did the more commonly well-known and recognized consoles Mario games.
Apparently, my overwhelming sense of apathy towards handheld Mario games was greater than I thought, as New Super Mario Bros. was released for the Nintendo DS, and I had no clue of its existence at the time. To be fair, however, I didn't even own a DS personally, and if I'm not mistaken, this might have been the only legit Mario game that slipped past my radar while on my gaming hiatus, as it came out as I was slowly crawling out of that dark hole in my life. It wasn't until I got my oldest son a DS Lite and this game for Christmas one year did I really know anything about it, and man, I couldn't have been more impressed by what I played.
How could I have neglected this fantastic Mario game for so long? Finally, a good handheld Mario game that could hold its own with some of the best console Mario games, and here I was, in dark for the longest time about it? I actually felt like I had let the entire company, brand and game franchise down as a fan and customer, and questioned my loyalty to the company I so deeply loved. Was I really becoming that jaded as a gamer? Was I finally growing up and past liking Mario games? Was the apathy I held on to for so long finally too strong to overcome and move past?
I had no answers at the time, and looking back, I can't really pinpoint anything to be true or false. In the grand scheme of things, however, I did play New Super Mario Bros. with my boy, and later on, my second oldest kid when he was old enough to get his own DSi, so whether or not I knew about or liked the game when it first came out is irrelevant. It's not the journey as much as it is the destination, sometimes.
Anyway, going back and playing this game again made me rehash all those weird memories. More importantly, though, is the fact that this game still holds up after all these years. Another thing I noticed was that while the giant and mini mushrooms have been used several times in games since this game, it was still fun going back and experiencing the roots of these cool power-ups. Despite it's critical success, I can't imagine too many people predicted that this format of Mario game - you know, the updated, new age 2D stylized platformer - would go on to be the foundation for many more Mario games to come.
Then again, who really could have predicted where Mario's next adventure would take place anyway?