Super Mario 3D Land can train you how to read the Bible

When I read the Bible, I look for things I missed: the hidden connections, the historical context, the secrets — the just-off-the-page paths that most folks miss. It’s largely Mario’s fault for the way he trained me throughout the years, and it’s most-evident in Super Mario 3D Land. You can really see it in the search for three Secret Star Coins per level. Finding these secrets in 3D Land requires diverging from the main path as much as possible.

That elusive middle coin star...

That elusive middle coin star…

I scoured every corner of world 1-1, looking for a missing third star coin. I spotted Toad through the periscope, tail-whipped my way through a crank-driven tunnel, and found way more hidden 1-ups than I expected. But no third star coin. Finally, I found that if I jumped into a particular tree, the camera panned over to reveal a secret warp pipe. My diligent searching was rewarded.

I noticed the secret-seeking found in Mario games seemed shockingly similar to the “seek and you will find” Jesus talked about. 

The Bible shocked me the whole way through my first-time reading, especially because the core stories seemed so different from the Sunday School and “Christian culture” retelling of the Text. I expected Jesus to be the kind of religious teacher who tells people to behave or something. I loved it every time I saw Him calling religious leaders Sons of Hell, and having His hometown folk try to kill Him for preaching about Gentiles becoming insiders. It felt like the Wild West. The Bible seemed familiar on my second and third read, yet I noticed paths and connections I never noticed at first. In fact, what I was discovering felt like a giant pool of revelatory secrets!

Now several reads later, I’m still surprised. In fact, the Bible feels like it has more and more secrets than I could ever unearth.

super-mario-3d-land-screenshot-star-collection

Git’ it!

Collecting star coins in Mario 3D Land seems unimportant up front, but it’s essential for getting to the the final Special levels. Similarly, replaying tricky spots gets easier upon each re-reading. So it is with your Bible practices. The first time you read Leviticus, it sounds like madness, but when you understand its place in relationship to the rest of the Bible (and Jesus in-particular), it can come alive with clarity.

That’s the key to secret-searching as a Biblical practice: God grows your ability to see clearly. 

Soon you understand exactly how to pull-off the wall-jumps required to grasp the just-out-of-reach Biblical star coins.

About M. Joshua Cauller

M. Joshua is a missionary to his basement — where he leads a videogames-and-spiritaul-formation group called GameCell. He makes indie game trailers by day, which you can see at mjoshua.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.