Classic NES Review – Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. Classic NES Series for Game Boy AdvanceNintendo struck gold in mid-1980s when their newest console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, launched. Packed-in with your brand new NES was a copy of Super Mario Bros. And thus the world was set ablaze.

Super Mario Bros. is single-handedly credited with reviving the video game industry after the classic crash of the 80’s where Atari and many other companies went down. Mario would take power and lead Nintendo into the Promised Land. Even today the power of Mario cannot be denied, and he is still just as much of a juggernaut now as he ever was.

His initial game is amazingly just as fun now as it was when we were kids. It holds up remarkably well. Read my full review below for more and remember that, come Wii launch next month, the game will easily be available again for generations of new kids and old kids alike. Keep a look out on the site for more reviews in the coming days as I get back into gear and review the entire NES Mario series.

Full Super Mario Bros. review . . .


System: NES
Also On: Game Boy Advance (NES Classics Series), Game Boy Color (Super Mario Bros. Deluxe [DX]), SNES (Super Mario All-Stars)
Originally Released: October 1985
Genre: Side-scrolling platformer, 2D
Players: 2 alternating
Save: NES: None. All-Stars: 4 Files
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Creator: Shigeru Miyamoto
Origin: Japan

Released in 1985 by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super Mario Bros. has become a timeless classic and literally a pop-culture icon that an entire generation of kids grew-up on (similar to how Pokemon will be in 20 years no doubt). Super Mario Bros. is the one game, with exception to possibly Pong or Pac-Man, that nearly everyone and their momma knows about, gamer or not. One poll taken years ago showed that Mario was literally right up there with Mickey Mouse in terms of, not only popularity, but recogniton. And I’m sure that there are many kids that know Mario more than they know Mickey Mouse.

Super Mario Bros. Anime Movie – Part 1 (No subtitles)

Super Mario Bros. made Nintendo, a Japanese company, into an American household name. And the Japanese character Mario, of whom is an “Italian plumber”, became as seemingly American as Disney, Looney Tunes or comic books. Mario’s popularity soared to the point where Mario had his own cereal, Saturday morning cartoon show and happy meals. Mario, and subsequently Nintendo, became so embedded into the culture of American kids in the 80’s that it’s effect can still be felt on normal people today.

While in the 80’s kids were so entranched to the point that news stations were reporting on NES “lock-out” chips, meant for parents with Nintendo-obsessed kids to be able to lock the NES so it couldn’t be played (the lock would slide into the cartridge port, preventing kids from putting a game in . . . . we’ll pretend that the parents couldn’t just take it away), today many of those same parents still refer to any video-game system as a “Nintendo” (despite any inroads the Playstation brand has made). And while they may never be able to identify Crash Bandicoot, Sonic the Hedgehog or Master Chief, they still can no doubt identify the famous mustachioed plumber.

Mario Jumps

So why all the obsession? How could one game become such a pop-culture phenomena?

Well, after playing the game now, all these years later (I haven’t touched it a LOOONG time) it is very easy to see why. Even today, in this world of super high-end, nearly photo-realistic graphics, and next-gen systems with insane processing capabilities, the original Super Mario Bros. still impresses. Why? The game is simply FUN.

Super Mario Bros. is the game that kicked-off Nintendo’s nearly decade long video-game industry vice-gripe, although Mario didn’t do it alone since he was joined by the likes of The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong (where Mario made his debut as “Jumpman“) and Metroid. But the first Mario game (full blown Mario game that is, there was a 2-player single-screen arcade game previous to “SUPER Mario Bros.” called simply “Mario Bros.“, where Mario’s official name debuted) was the title that really set the industry ablaze by proving what video games were capible of. And it’s mastermind, Shigeru Miyamoto, reached legend status for his achievements herein.

Super Mario Bros. set many standards that would guide the industry for years in all areas including: gameplay, graphics, music, sound-effects, level-design, secrets/easter-eggs, marketing and, possibly most importantly, character/enemy-design and mass-market appeal, something Nintendo became master’s at with Super Mario Bros., even though Donkey Kong itself was also a big hit. And as seen by the likes of the Pokemon series and more recent titles like Nintendogs & Brain Age for the DS, Animal Crossing, and not to mention the Wii console itself, Nintendo has lost none of that mass-market appeal in the decades since Super Mario Bros. debut.

Green Platforms

It is a platformer in it’s purest form, which makes total sense given that Super Mario Bros. is largely credited with perfecting the genre. A platformer being any game that requires lots of jumping . . . from platform to platform. The success of Super Mario Bros. would mark the era of the genre as games similar to Mario flooded the marketplace.

What set this game apart from the games before it was the fact that it was one of the first side-scrolling games of this nature, and easily the best. That means that it wasn’t contained on a single-screen (like Pac-Man) allowing for a playfield that was much larger than anything previously seen in the console world. And it introduced and popularized the idea of different “levels”, making the overall game seem very large and diverse. The graphics were much more detailed as well (in comparison to something like Pitfall, a side-scrolling platformer that came before Mario on the Atari systems) offering a really unique looking world.

Super Mario Bros. Anime Movie Pt. 2

The story is pretty non-existent, basically King Bowser has kidnapped the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom (Princess Toadstool, who’s name was later changed to “Peach” in Super Mario 64) and taken over the land, turning it’s humble citizens into blocks, mushrooms and hideous looking Goomba creatures as Bowser’s minions flood the place. And, naturally, it’s up to Mario (and his brother Luigi) to save the Princess and restore the land.

The gameplay in Super Mario Bros. is as simple as can be, yet remains extremely challenging. It’s simple to pick up and play, yet easy to not succeed if you have little experience and/or no skill. Though as with anything, the more you play the game the better you will get.

The classic underground stage

You use the A Button to make Mario jump, and hold the B Button to make Mario run (else he walks). Pressing the back button while running will make Mario “brake” in which he’ll slide for a bit before he stops. Pressing down with Super Mario will make him duck, and pressing the A Button while underwater will make Mario swim.

The gameplay has Mario running through a variety of worlds, each world broken down into 4 levels (with the 4th being a “Bowser’s Castle” stage). Mario completes a stage by grabbing the flag-pole at the end. Every world is scattered with coins and breakable bricks, not to mention enemies. Most enemies can be defeated by jumping on their heads (Mario’s main form of attack) or hitting the block under them and collecting one hundred coins earns Mario an extra life (or “1-Up” as coined by Nintendo).

If a second controller is plugged in (or you link-up with a second player in the portable versions) then two-players can alternate play (meaning one person goes through a stage until they beat it or die, then it’s the other player’s turn) with the second player controlling Luigi, Mario’s brother. There is no gameplay difference between the two characters, they only differ in name and outfit, with Luigi wearing green (both have blue-colored overalls) instead of red.

Gameplay Footage – Opening Levels

Mario has a lot of mechanics that come together to make the game what it is. Mario starts out as small Mario, where one hit will kill him and take a life away (you start the game out with three lives). Mario can grow into Super Mario though if you collect a brown Mushroom. Super Mario is increased in size and will give you one more hit before you turn back into small Mario. But his greatest asset is the ability to break blocks. Every level in Super Mario Bros. (outside the water levels) have many blocks suspended in the air. Small Mario cannot break these blocks, but Super Mario can. Simply jump up while under the blocks and they will bust, giving you points in the process. You will also find “Question Mark” boxes. These boxes will give you one of three power-ups, a Mushroom, a Fire Flower or a Starman.

Bowser wants to eat you

Power-ups were a unique thing back in the days of 8-bit before the release of Super Mario Bros., and Mario really popularized the idea of items that help the player by giving him new abilities. These power-ups include the Fire Flower, which when collected will grow Mario (if small) and give him the ability to hurl fireballs by pressing the B Button. Fireballs can kill most un-armored enemies like Goombas, Piranha Plants, Koopas and even Hammer Bros. in one hit. They can even kill the boss, Bowser, if you can hit him enough times. Fire Flowers are one of the greatest Power-ups in any game ever, and in Super Mario Bros. you will want to grab them and keep them as long as possible since they are extremely handy and make the game much easier.

The last power-up that appears in the game is the Starman. Collecting this will make Mario invincible for a short-period, where-in ANY enemy, even armored ones (which aren’t hurt by fireballs) will be killed if touched by Mario. Another item is the 1-Up Mushroom, which gives you an extra life when collected.

Super Mario Bros. Anime Movie Pt. 3

The levels in Super Mario Bros. were also very unique and complex for the time. And they contained cool elements that no one had seen before, such as pipes. I know that sounds funny, but the way the levels were designed made it feel like you were truly in another world.

Scattered around the levels are long green pipes that you can jump on top of. Pressing the down button on certain pipes allows them to be entered. Inside will be some bonus coins, power-ups or coin blocks (which look like regular blocks but if you keep jumping and hitting them they will release coins). And the design of the levels is interesting as well. While enemies are the main hindrance to Mario, you’ll also face levels that have jumping fish, fireballs connected to blocks that circle around, levels with big mushroom looking platforms, requiring you to jump from higher distances, levels that feature longer gaps or shorter gaps, requiring some skill to traverse, and red bars that when jumped on will start falling. And that’s only the beginning.

These types of environments have to be somewhat carefully navigated and they really add to the challenge of the game and were extremely impressive back in the day. The levels also range from underground stages, with much cooler, unique music (complete with echo sounds!), to swimming stages where Mario can swim with the A Button, and will encounter fish and squid (called Bloopers and Cheep Cheeps respectively) instead of Goombas and Koopas. These swimming stages even include underground gaps (or holes) that will suck Mario down to his death if you aren’t careful! Remember to jam on that A Button!

Underwater Stage

Of course, populating all these worlds are all kinds of strange and unique creatures. And it’s in the enemy design department where Mario really shines. The enemies are all very unique and many of them became Nintendo icons themselves as the years passed, primarily the Koopa Troopa, Bullet Bill and Goomba‘s.

Take a look below at some of the most famous Mario enemies that made their debut in the original Super Mario Bros. Many of these enemies continue to appear in Mario games today, and sometimes even make guest appearences in other Nintendo titles.

GoombaGoomba‘s are at once one of the strangest yet one of the greatest Mario enemies ever created. You almost want to call them cute . . . yet not quite. They have a very menacing look about them even though they are simple creatures that are very easily defeated. Goomba’s will be the first enemy you see on the first level and they will appear throughout the game. Blue Goomba

Goombas slowly walk and don’t have any attack but will damage you if you touch them from the sides. To kill them you simply stomp on their mushroom shaped heads and flatten them into pancakes. Stomping will bounce you a bit and sometimes they appear in groups, making it possible for you to accidently go in between the small gaps of Goomba, damaging you in the process as you hit their sides.

Gray Goomba!Thankfully Goomba’s are so easy to destroy that they are rarely dangerous, and part of the Mario fun is simply stomping on some Goomba’s! (and yes I know that I’m mixing up the plural “Goomba” . . . hey this isn’t English class! It’s Mario!)

Koopa Troopa
Koopa TroopaThese turtle like creatures walk around and come in green and red varieties. Stomping on a koopa will make them go into their shell, at which point you can kick their shell and it will slide across the floor at a quick pace (A great weapon), destroying any enemies in the process. Destroy enough enemies to recieve an extra life.

Koopa Paratroopa

ParatroopaThese special Koopas flap their wings to fly, or float/glide/jump, in the air. Stomping on them will destroy their wings and make them come crashing down to earth. Although a wingless Paratroopa is a regular Koopa Troopa (say that ten times fast), and they can still harm you.

Piranha Plant
Piranha PlantThese Mario-eating plants are very dangerous since they hide inside pipes. When they come up from inside a pipe, they will stay for a few seconds before going back down. They cannot be destroyed unless you have a Fire Flower, so pipes with Piranha Plants can be extremely dangerous, making pipe-traversing much more difficult. You can avoid getting hit if you stand at edges of the pipe.

LakituWho doesn’t love Lakitu?! Well in recent times he’s become more friendly (He’s a cameraman in Super Mario 64), but back in the day he was an extremely hated cloud-floating bastard. This guy floats around in a cloud and will drop Spiny enemies at you.

Lakitu in CloudHe will keep dropping them unless destroyed, making life harder for our hero. Thankfully, all it takes to kill Lakitu is the normal bonk on the head. Be careful of him throwing Spiny’s though, if you aren’t careful you will be hit in the process of his dropping the Spiny while you are trying to attack him. If he’s killed he won’t come back for a while. Take advantage of his absence!

Spiny EggSpiny’s are the little fiends dropped by their cloud-floating master, Lakitu. These creatures are spiked on their backs and drop as Spiny Eggs. The eggs will damage you as much as the Spiny’s themselves. But once the eggs have hit the ground they will start walking around.

SpinyAvoid Spiny’s at all costs. The easiest way to kill them is with a Fire Flower as they are impervious to stomping from above. If they are on a block then hit them below to kill them. Destroy Lakitu to keep more of these little beasts from dropping.

BlooperThese squid-like creatures are encountered underwater. They will swim in a diagnol motion in whichever direction Mario is facing. It can be tough when there are more than one Blooper on-screen. Unless you have a Fire Flower then try to avoid these guys. They have no attack other than you touching them.

Cheep Cheep
Cheep CheepFISH! These guys come in red or grey and swim around. That is all. Avoid.

Bullet Bill
Bullet BillBullet Bills don’t come into the Mario scene until the later levels of the game. Shot out of launchers (which come in both tall and small varieties) these bullets with arms will fly across the screen. Bullet Bill CanonSome levels even contain Bullet Bills without launchers, where they will just randomly shoot from the sides of the level. They can be somewhat hard to avoid, although they can be destroyed if you jump ontop of them.

Buzzy Beetle

Buzzy BeetleThese armored little pests are similar to Goombas or Koopa Troopas. You will encounter the black variety on later levels, and also encounter the blue variety underground and grey ones inside castles. Like Koopa Troopa’s, stomping on Buzzy Beetles will send them inside their armor, at which point you can kick them to send them sliding along the level, destroying anything in their path.

Buzzy Beetle Armor ShellSince they are armored you cannot kill them with Fireballs. In fact, the only way to destroy these little tanks is to grab a Starman. Playing the game on Hard will send many more of these guys your way.

Hammer Bros.

Hammer Bros.Ahhh Hammer Bros. These brothers are some of the worst enemies in the game, and most definitely the hardest to pass. Hammer Bros. do what you’d expect, throw hammers! They throw them at rapid pace and being hit by either the hammers or the thrower himself will damage you.

The best strategy is to wait until the hammer brothers jump, then, with perfect timing, run past them. If they are on blocks then you can try to knock them off by hitting the block they are standing on. As a last resort, you can actually time your jump to go in between his hammer throwing, this takes skill though. Your best bet at defeating them is, of course, a Fire Flower. An experienced player can actually jump on their heads in between throws, which will kill them.

Bowser StandingYou will face King Koopa himself at the end of each castle stage (the fourth level in a world). Bowser will shoot fireballsat you (which start appearing before you reach him) and jump, and in later levels he’ll even throw hammers! To get passed bowser either jump over him or go under him. Hit the ax to destroy his bridge and thus conquer the dragon beast. Or you can kill him by shooting him up with fireballs.

Bowser FireballIt’s extremely funny to see what the original Bowser looked-like. In forethought, it’s hard to imagine a world without the cool looking Bowser from Super Mario Bros. 3, or the various (with different art-styles) Bowser’s that we’ve come to know from Super Mario 64, the Mario Kart series and Super Smash Bros. Melee and other Nintendo games. Bowser

Bowser is extremely laughable looking when you see him in the original Super Mario Bros. in this day and age, with his almost turtle-like dino look and strange-shaped head, but back in the day this was as threatening as it got!

It’s interesting to note that several of the most popular Mario enemies, such as Bob-Omb‘s, the ghost’s known as Boo, and Shy Guy‘s, did not in fact appear in the original Super Mario Bros.

The castle levels, where you will face off with Bowser at the end, are another aspect of Super Mario Bros. though that was very unique for the time. These stages feature ominous music and are full of hazards, from twirling fireballs that are connected to blocks, to pits of lava that you can fall into, to fireballs that shoot out of the lava (officially called Podoboo‘s) and damage you as you try to jump across the lava filled gaps.

The Princess Is In Another Castle

Some Bowser levels even have a puzzle of sorts. You will be required to run through a section in a certain order, either upper, middle or lower level, and you will only pass the section if you go through it in the right order (in sets of threes. So one section might require you to go high, low, then high and the section directly after might be low, low then high). Once you defeat Bowser you will come to find . . . as virtually everyone in the world knows by now, that “Thank you Mario! But our Princess is in another castle!” as relayed to you by your little buddy Toad, who will be there to give you the same message until the end of the game. Once a castle stage is beaten then it’s onto the next World.

Crazy Mario Commercial Compilation

Super Mario Bros. also contains many very cool secrets. Hidden in some levels of Super Mario Bros. are vines, which will come out of certain blocks if you can manage to get up there and hit them, which is sometimes difficult to do. Often a requirement is to run on a block at top speed and jump off once you reach the very end to reach a further away block that’s unreachable unless you do the above. Hitting that block will send out a vine. Climb the vine to reach a bonus stage filled with coins, where Mario rides a moving cloud and jumps to the clouds above to collect the booty.

Bonus Stage
Some levels also contain hidden blocks, which will reveal a 1-up Mushroom inside. And on top of all that, there were other cool tricks that advanced players could figure out, like the 1-Up Koopa Shell trick, shown in the animation to the right. If you hit the koop at the right time, Mario would continually bounce up and down off of it as it hit the edge of the platform, giving you endless extra lives!Super Mario Bros unlimited 1UP trick in level 3-1

But by far the greatest secrets in Super Mario Bros. are the Warp Pipes. Certain levels contain hidden “Warp Zones“, where-in you will find three special pipes that will teleport you to certain worlds, therefore by-passing all the levels in-between! The Warp Zones were a huge part of the Mario mythos that kept people talking about the game for years to come.

Not to mention the “other” secrets. Secrets that were actually programmer glitches, but one in particular would lead the player to a hidden “negative”-numbered underwater world, which would come to be known as the “Minus-World”. Read this to learn all about the trick and see videos of more minus worlds from the Japanese version of the game here.

The “Minus-World” Trick – More Gameplay Shown

Graphically, Super Mario Bros. is severely outdated, but that should be expected. The normal NES version of the game lacks lots of details and features very plain graphics.

Musically, of course, Super Mario Bros. contains some of the most classic and well known tunes in the video game universe, composed by the great Koji Kondo. While very simple they still hold up well today and are just as catchy as they have ever been. Same for the sound effects and other little ditties that you will encounter in the game.

To remedy the graphical and musical quality of the game, consider picking up the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Nintendo (SNES). That version features much better graphics. Everything in the game graphically and animation-wise has been completely re-done, from the castles to the backgrounds to Bowser himself (who is the awesome looking Bowser taken from Super Mario Bros. 3). Mario looks completely different. In All-Stars he is saturated with color and doesn’t look so plain and drab. (looking similar to his Super Mario World counterpart, though with a rougher look. He looks much cooler as small Mario as well). His animation is different and he know gives a “peace sign” all over the place, while entering the castle or going into a pipe for example. The bonus stages even feature backgrounds (and completely different new “bonus” music) with a pic of Mario giving the peace sign and the words “bonus” in gold.

Every environment now has FULL backgrounds (instead of simply a hill or cloud or two) and the different world’s have more of a theme (world six is generally set a night with stars in the background, etc.) and the music and sound-effects have even been re-done or remixed (the original has sound-effects with more “punch” though IMO). The font is very cool as well and even the title screen has been re-done. The in-between level screens also show a preview of the level and Luigi now jumps further and is harder to stop than Mario, giving him more of a distinct feel. You can also save your game to one of four save files, which is very nice.

Girl Playing Mario Theme On Flute

Super Mario Bros. doesn’t contain any other modes outside of the alternating two-player, although once the game is beaten you can play a harder version which features armored enemies (the aforementioned Buzzy Beetles). All the enemies also move faster than normal. If you play the Super Mario DX (Deluxe) version of the game for Game Boy Color several new modes are also introduced, giving the game lots more replay value.

Overall, Super Mario Bros. is an iconic masterpiece which still manages to impress even now, if only because you realize how innovative and superbly designed it is once you start playing the game. And unlike a lot of games from the 8-bit era, Super Mario Bros. is still really fun and surprisingly challenging. It truely is a game for the ages and one that will always be remembered and beloved.

Should I Buy and Download Super Mario Bros. for the Wii
Wii System & ControllerWhy wouldn’t you? The ability to buy and download Super Mario Bros. on Wii’s Virtual Console is great for those who have never played the game or haven’t revisited it in a long time, even though you can find the NES game on GBA in the NES Classics Series without too much trouble.

The older SNES and GBC versions can be somewhat harder to find, therefore downloading it on the Wii will make it a lot easier to play the game (even though those versions are superior, unless they offer Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii as well). I actually had a hard time getting the original NES version to play on my NES as well, so if you do want to play Super Mario Bros. and actually have access to an NES and the original cartridge, you may still have troubles playing it. So your best bet (outside of emulation) is to download the game for the Wii on Nov. 19th, when the Wii hits stores in the US. It will no doubt be one of the 30 launch titles and it will only cost you about $5. Which is well worth the money for the classic goodness within.

: 8.5
As basic as it is, Super Mario Bros. still manages to be a fun game. It takes some skill and is a bit difficult, and it may even be frustrating for some players, but that is simply testiment to how well designed the game as. Basic yet it requires some experience to master. A classic that every gamer deserves to own!

Graphics: 5.0
GREAT for the time, now? . . . . Seriously, if you are playing Mario for the graphics then just . . . go to sleep. Do it. Sleep. Please.

Music & Sound: 8.0
Classic tunes and classic sound-effects. Sounds classic and it should fill you with memories of good times.

Presentation: 7.5
The level you are on is displayed before each “round”, as well as how many lives you have, the intro actually plays the level if you don’t press start, and the music and sound effects after you grab the flagpole are great. Overall, nice presentation.

Ingenuity: 9.0
As one of the first platformers and first side-scrollers, Super Mario Bros. immediatly comes out on top when it comes to ingenuity. Today of course the game is simply a basic platformer, but regardless it’s impact on the industry cannot be denyed.

Replay Value: 7.5
There are no unlockables but there are lots of secrets and a hard mode once you beat the game. Therefore, it’s easy to play more than once. And it’s fun so why not?