Growing up as a video game fan, I often found myself frustrated by the games of the NES era, which were made back when designers saw impossible difficulty as giving players their money's worth. I can vividly remember wishing games were more like comics, existing in a shared universe where Mega Man could just drop by the Mushroom Kingdom to blow Koopa Troopas away with his arm cannon, or that Mario could grab the Spread Gun from "Contra" to make things a little easier on himself.

The idea of a video game crossover eventually happened in the "Super Smash Bros." series, but it wasn't quite the same. Now, however, the Exploding Rabbit company has made my childhood dreams a reality with "Super Mario Bros. Crossover."

The flash game--which can be played for free at Played Online--might as well be called Crisis On Infinite NESes, as it recreates the entirety of "Super Mario Bros.," but with the added bonus that at the beginning of every stage, you can choose to play as Samus Aran from "Metroid," Link from "The Legend of Zelda," Mega Man, Simon Belmont from "Castlevania", Bill Rizer from "Contra," and, of course, Mario.

Each character works exactly like they do in their own game--Link has his sword and boomerang, Simon throws axes, Bill has a friggin' machinegun, and so on--and as an added bonus, each one comes with their own background music. It's truly amazing (and with a third-party program, playable with a gamepad for the authentic experience), and has brought a tear to my eye for finally letting me have what I've wanted since 1988: