The Wizards

I take it back. I take it all back.

I had my reservations about the Nintendo World Championships. I felt like it was a vapid grab at nostalgia. I said it was crapping on my childhood. I thought it was going to be a disaster. I was so, so wrong.

I didn't start watching from the beginning, so I missed the Splatoon matches and the new weird robot soccer game that Nintendo debuted. When people on Twitter started talking about the competition turning to Super Metroid, I gave in and started up the stream. Watching five people battle against Mother Brain simultaneously was definitely worth watching.

Nothing prepared me for the final round, though, which had Nintendo's Treehouse team craft four of the most devious Mario levels I've ever seen, courtesy of the upcoming Super Mario Maker. The two finalists had to traverse these levels, having no way to prepare for them beyond the natural skill at platforming that they brought with them. This was an absolute sight to behold, both in terms of the downright evil contraptions the Treehouse team was able to dream up, as well as the amazing skill that the two finalists demonstrated by completing them on a time limit in front of a live audience.

Seriously, if you have any warm feelings for a 2D Mario game in your heart, you need to take the time to watch the final round. Not only was this immensely entertaining, but it made me a fan of Super Mario Maker when I was lukewarm at best about it before last night.

E3 is always an exciting time, but the trend has been for a lot of the games to be gritty, and violent, and dark. The Nintendo World Championships was a reminder that games can be fun. They should be fun. And for a few hours, they were incredibly fun. I don't think I've been that invested in watching something other than the Super Bowl in a long time. For 45 minutes, it felt like the Internet came together to watch something completely unexpected, and it was a blast.

I've been fairly skeptical of eSports up to now, but seeing that exhibition of mastery of skill at least partially converted me; it was on the level of any exciting football game I've ever watched. It might even be more impressive to me because I know what's involved in clearing a really difficult level in a platform game, and I know that what I just saw was well outside of my abilities. I have no idea what it takes to really catch a 30 yard forward pass or hit a 90 MPH fastball because I've never done it. I've played a hell of a lot of Mario though, so when I see a chain of five jumps across short platforms with buzzsaws above each one, I know exactly how difficult it is to execute even with hours of practice, let alone sight unseen. I cheered out loud the way I do when my football team scores a long touchdown, and I legitimately rooted for these people I'd never heard of an hour before.

In a year when it seems like so many announcements are being leaked ahead of time that it's hard to get too excited about the keynotes, Nintendo gave us something that we could get legitimately excited about. We got to see two people be exceptional with a controller against a team of people who were exceptional with a set of tools to build the most ridiculous challenges they could dream up. It was entertaining, and completely unexpected, and I desperately want more of it. I may or may not remember any of the games announced this week years from now, but I know I'll remember watching that final round for a really long time.