Super Mario Bros exact launch date is unsolvable mystery

In a perfect example of just how fresh and new video games were just a couple decades ago, no one has a perfectly documented account of when the first copy of Super Mario Bros was sold.

The game held the record of being the best-selling video game for more than 20 years, reaching unit sales of more than 40 million (it was later eclipsed by Wii Sports, which of course came packaged with every Wii console).

But the exact origin of the game, which came out right alongside the original Nintendo Entertainment System console, is muddled. Gamasutra has published an expose that tried to uncover an undeniable date for when the very first copy of the game was sold.

According to Nintendo’s officially published record, it was October 18, 1985. But Gamasutra’s report shows there is some conflict with that date among employees who were around at that time.

Employee Gail Tilden recalled that it couldn’t have been October 18 since that was a Friday, and Tilden said he remembered having a celebratory drink, which he wouldn’t have done on a Friday. In addition, the report found an excerpt from the newspaper the Milwaukee Journal that teased the NES launch as being on a Tuesday, which would point to an October 15 launch.

And then, Tilden said, there was a launch party on October 10 in New York City, a date he remembers with precise clarity since it was the same day as the death of Broadway legend Yul Brynner (a news event that hampered media promotion of the NES).

Meanwhile, wire service United Press International released a story on October 14 announcing the launch of the system.

We’re talking about the birth of “modern” gaming, 27 years ago, when the precise scheduling and unified launch dates were not quite in place just yet.

So when was the first copy of Super Mario Bros, and thus the first NES system, actually sold? Just like figuring out how to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.