It may be seem to be a cop out to review something like the classic Super Mario Bros, but in truth is, it is more difficult than it seems. There is little to say about this classic series that has never been said before.
Super Mario Bros 1
Super Mario Bros was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and released on the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan and as a Pack-in/Stand Alone title launched with the NES in the US in 1985. It still is the best selling game of all time (this point is argued by Wii Sports, but Wii sports is exclusively a pack in title, never a standalone title), and did its part in revamping the American video game industry after the crash two years prior. The game is actually a sequel to a game released to the arcades in 1983 simply called Mario Bros, but the success of this one title allowed it to branch off and form its own series and continuity, much like how Metal Gear Solid started off as a sequel to Metal Gear, but branched off in the same manor. There are many variations of this game in both the US and Japan that it would take forever to cover them all in any detail.
Being a classic 2D plat-former, there is not much of a story. It is basically your basic hero; he goes on a quest to save the princess of a kingdom who was kidnapped by an evil lord. Not even the instruction manual gives anything in the way of a story.
“One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa,
a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving
Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-
hair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.
The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom People and return them to their normal selves is the Princess Toadstool, the daughter of the
Mushroom King. Unfortunately, she is presently in the hands of the great
Koopa turtle king.
Mario, the hero of this story (maybe) hears about the Mushroom People’s
plight and sets out on a quest to free the Mushroom Princess from the evil
Koopa and restore the fallen kingdom of the Mushroom People.
You are Mario! It’s up to you to save the Mushroom People from the black
magic of the Koopa!”
GAMEPLAY and CONTROLS
The Game controls like this. The D-pad moves Mario left and right on any platform he is standing on. Pressing down on the D-pad allows Mario to crouch, and up does nothing. Holding down B allows Mario to run instead of walk, and A jumps. When you have the fire flower power, pressing B fires a fireball. Start pauses the game, and select navigates the menu.
The object of the game is to run from the left, jump on platforms, jump on enemies, and leaping over pitfalls. In an essence, Super Mario Brothers feels akin to Pitfall on the Atari 2600, but the similarities end there with the power up system. Mario has three power ups he can collect; A Mushroom which allows him to grow bigger and gives him an extra hit against enemies it allows Mario to also break hard blocks, a fire flower which lets Mario shoot fireballs at enemies, and he has the Star-man which gives him invincibility for a brief time.
The levels follow the same progression, go right till you get to a flag pole, jump on top for maximum points. Yet there are many different kinds of level types Mario will come across. Mario will travel the over-world, the underground, underwater, and even the tree tops, in each one collecting coins for points and the eventual free guy. Every 4th level is a castle world where at the end where you fight a minion of Bowser who shoots fire at you.
Mario also brought a companion with him on his journey, his little brother Luigi who is controlled by the second player, aka the little brother controller. The game alternates between players whenever a player dies, meaning it is entirely possible for Player one to complete the game before player two has a go.
Being the first game of the series, it is the simplest game of them all, as well as it is the most abundant. In any stack of NES games, you are guaranteed to see at least one copy of one variation of the game, either Stand Alone, with duck hunt, or with duck hunt and track meet. If you don’t have this yet, I really suggest picking it up. If you are tight on space, and you have a Nintendo Wii, naturally this game would make its appearance on the Virtual Console, its only 500 points.
Super Mario Bros 2 JP
Super Mario Bros 2 was released on the Famicom Disk System a few months after the release of the first game in 1986. This game is virtually identical to the original game, with minor variations, so there is little point in going into as much detail as before.
The game is substantially harder, so hard it even feels cheap. One of the additions that make it harder is the addition of the poison mushroom, which kills Mario and it looks incredibly similar to a regular mushroom, just darker and more deadly.
Multiplayer was also removed from this game, meaning you have a choice of playing with either Mario or Luigi. Mario controls the same as he did in the first game, but Luigi has some benefits to using him. For one; he can jump higher which helps in many cases, but it is hind sighted by the fact he slips around like he doesn’t have tread on his shoes.
The game was made for people in mind that had already mastered Super Mario Bros and was looking for a new challenge. It’s because of this challenge that Super Mario Bros 2 was not released in the United States until the Super Nintendo in the “Super Mario Bros: All Stars” pack which called the game “the lost levels” with minor alterations to make it easier, like the retooling of poison mushrooms to purple. It is insulting to think that Nintendo felt the game was too hard for American audiences because in my opinion, Ghouls n’ Ghosts was much, much harder.
Again, this game is also on the Wii virtual console, titled “Lost Levels.” Give it a shot if you want a harder Mario game, its only 500 points again.
Super Mario Bros 2 US
The second game in the series released in the US takes a huge departure from the original game, in fact if Mario wasn’t on the cover, you might think you are playing a different game. Well the truth is, you are. After Super Mario Bros 2 was canned for release in the United States, Nintendo scrambled to release a sequel to their hit game in the US. They set their eyes on another game made by Shigeru Miyamoto; Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panniku, aka Doki Doki Panic, which was made as a promotion for Fuji TV and its Yume Kojo 87 event.
In our version of the game, the game stars Mario is dreaming that he is in a magical world, I guess the Mushroom Kingdom isn’t enough for him anymore. In that dream world he encounters a voice that calls him to help them.
The game play of Super Mario Bros 2 is what sets it apart from the rest of the series. For one, you have the ability to select 4 different characters; Mario who is average, Luigi who can jump higher, Toad, who can barely jump at all, and Peach who can float in the air for a period of time. To destroy enemies in this one, you don’t just jump on them to crush them like before, this time you must jump on your enemies, pull them from under your feet, and chuck them at one of their allies. Or you can pull vegetables from the ground, and throw them at enemies. Other stuff can be pulled from the ground like bombs for blowing up certain walls, power blocks, free guys, and even rockets to propel the character to their next destination. You can also pull up a bottle which creates a door to a negative realm where you can find a mushroom, and get coins for the end of stage bonus game by pulling up the vegetables in that realm. Other than that, it’s th
e same level progression as the first game. Every level ends with a boss, usually a form of Birdo who shoots eggs at the character, or mouser who throws eggs at the character.
In the way of power ups, this game is lacking. The only real power ups are; the mushroom which gives the character an extra block of life, and there is the star-man which gives the character invincibility after you collect 6 cherries. Certain characters are more adept to completing certain levels, but it is still possible to beat the entire game with one character.
The D-pad performs the same actions as before, left and right move you left and right, down makes you crouch. A makes you jump, and B pulls stuff over your head and B again throws it. Start pauses, and select does nothing.
Despite not originating as a Mario game, the game has become a staple in the series in its own right, and it can stand on its own. Just the fact that many Mario characters originated in this game like the Shy Guy, and Birdo. The game is also quite common in the US, and can be picked up for under $5, or 500 wii points. I suggest picking it up, it’s a fun game and the variation on the series game play keeps it from getting stale.
Super Mario Bros 3
The third and final incarnation of the series on the Famicom in 1988, and on the NES in 1990 and by far, it is the best of the three on the NES. The hype surrounding the game was immense, to the point requiring a feature length Hollywood movie to build up to its revelation. This game was the reward for the gamers who did not jump on the boat with the Sega Genesis or the SNES, and it made people who supported Sega Consoles jealous as all hell. The game even spawned a whole TV series on its own, that’s how big this game became. Gameplay elements and designs introduced here would become a staple of future Mario games, all the way up to Super Mario Galaxy on the Nintendo Wii.
The Gameplay is just like the first game, but increased 10 fold. More power-ups, better graphics, bigger worlds. It does what a sequel is supposed to do, expand on the previous game and make it better instead of just cashing in on the previous games success. One of the most notable power ups is the raccoon tail which allows Mario and Luigi to fly for short amounts of time, it also gives Mario and Luigi a second attack, swinging the tail lets you kill enemies you couldn’t kill by jumping on them in previous games, like Spineys. Another feature introduced is the ability to hoard power ups and save them for when you would need them, this allows you to be fully powered up when you enter a level, which helps in the harder levels. Each level is separated by a larger map screen, where you can choose a level to conquer giving a non-linear sense of game play, within each world. There are 8 worlds to conquer, in each world there is an Airship commanded by one of the offspring of Bowser (Who is the mother? Is it peach? Is that why he keeps on kidnapping her?). On each ship, one of Bowser’s offspring has the King of each world held hostage, and it’s up to Mario to save them, till you get to the 8th world where you finally defeat browser and saving the princess.
The controls are the same as before. Left and right moves, B attacks, holding B runs, and A jumps. But if you have the Raccoon Tail, if you press B when standing, Mario swings his tail and this can be used as an attack. If you hold B and run with the Raccoon Tail or the Tanooki suit, Mario will build up momentum and be allowed to fly when he fills up his “power” bar on the bottom of the screen. The power ups tend to control similarly to these two main power ups. Select does nothing, and Start Pauses.
On the Map Screen, the D pad moves Mario or Luigi around the map, and A selects an item, Select opens up the inventory. The D pad moves the cursor, and the A button selects an item. Its pretty standard.
If you are my age, and you never played this game you had no childhood, but there is still a chance. This is available on MANY MANY Nintendo playforms including the NES, The Super NES, GBA, and The Wii through the Virtual Console and the 25th Anniversary Disc. There is no excuse for you not to play this now, even with emulation (which I do not condone in the long term), you owe it to yourself to play this game, for good health and longevity.
Conclusion of Conclusion
The Super Mario Bros Series was the epitome of gaming on Nintendo, everyone had the games if you had an NES. The series is so big that it revived the North American Game industry, and showed everyone that gaming could be better than just arcade ports for play in the home. As a result, Mario is one of most recognizable video game character, even to those who don’t play games, along the same lines as the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. There is not a reason for you to have never played any of these games, they can be found on the cheap, and they give you a fine bang for your Buck.