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Super Mario Bros. Review Rewind


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On 05/18/2015 at 12:00 PM by Jamie Alston

The Italian Stallion.....and Luigi.
RECOMMENDATION:

A good game for anyone with a soul.

It’s no secret that some of the best ideas started in Japan. This was certainly true of Nintendo back in the early 80’s.  One of their creations was a simple arcade game, Mario Bros., featuring sibling plumbers Mario and Luigi on a quest to rid the screen of pests in the sewer pipes. Due to its success, Nintendo decided to create a bigger adventure based on the two characters for their new cartridge-based home console. Thus, Super Mario Brothers was born on September 13, 1985 in Japan and 1986 in the US, making Mario a household name along with the company that created him.

Just about anyone even loosely familiar with the Super Mario series can summarize the game’s story in their sleep: The Mushroom Kingdom is invaded by Bowser. He kidnaps Princess Toadstool (or Peach if you prefer) for the first of many times. It’s Mario to the rescue. Go forth and conquer.

The success of the Super Mario Bros. series has been due in part to the fact that it's simple enough to pick up and play it, yet complex enough to keep your interest through to the final stage. The level designs were spectacular, especially when compared to the simplistic nature of the Atari and ColecoVision games that came before it. In such games, variety was usually limited to a different colored background, or an occasional new enemy to fight after defeating the previous wave. There wasn’t much change in the scenery or in how you got from point A to B.
 

In Super Mario Bros., the levels came alive with bricks you could break or use to reach higher areas. You could enter pipes, climb beanstalks into the sky, and swim, among other things.  The simple act of jumping on enemies to defeat them was a big no-no if you didn’t have a weapon of some sort in most games prior to this one. You could even kick an enemy’s shell clear across the screen and take out other baddies with it for extra points! It was a welcome leap in interactivity from what we were used to.

Of all the power ups the Mario series has received over the years, the original Super Mushroom and Fire Flower are among some of the most memorable in gaming history. They not only made the player feel more powerful, but they also significantly altered the way you could interact with the environment.  When you touched that mushroom and saw Mario grow to twice his size with the ability to break bricks, it filled you with a sense of wonder and you wanted to see what else he could do.

I’ll always love the Fire Flower because, as a kid, I felt like a god when I discovered how to lob fireballs at enemies.  The only thing that could make me feel any more drunk with power was the invincibility-granting Starman and the 1Up mushroom found by hitting certain bricks and “?” boxes littered throughout the game.  It goes without saying the game excelled at giving an incredible sense of power with only a few simple items.
 

There are 8 worlds, all of which have a well-established sense of difficulty progression.  World 1 starts you off pretty easy with just having to run and jump on the Goombas and Koopa Troopas.  But by the time you reach world 8, you'll be dodging Bullet Bills, Piranha Plants, Spiny-throwing Lakitus, flying Cheep-Cheeps, and a host of other hazards.  Each world is divided into 4 levels, introducing new enemies and strategies along the way. Even the battles with Bowser are different in some way with each encounter.  His attack patterns range from just breathing fire, to chucking a slew of hammers at you while you're trying to reach the axe on the other end of the bridge.  That being said, the game never becomes punishingly difficult, provided you take the time to learn the patterns of your enemies and how to use platforms to your advantage.

The controls are highly responsive for the most part. The act of running and jumping through various obstacles are performed with the fluidity you'd expect in a platformer that requires precise movements. Mario has just the right momentum when coming to a stop or changing directions on foot. The only aspect that hasn't aged so well is attempting to reverse direction in mid-jump. Mario and Luigi don't actually change direction; they just hook slowly in the opposite direction as they lose momentum. This can be a real pain if you were in the middle of jumping over a chasm and wanted to double back to avoid an enemy or hazard. It's a small blemish, but one that might turn off newcomers accustomed to tighter mid-air physics.

 

The graphics are simple, but well drawn.  It’s quite obvious that Nintendo was going for a style unlike anything previously seen on home consoles.  All characters and objects are easily distinguishable. The graphics are bright and colorful.  Little things like spotted hills and clouds in the background added to the enjoyment of the game.

The sound and music is, in short, iconic. There are only about 4 main tunes in the game- all of which are catchy and never wears thin on your ears. Composed by Koji Kondo, the chipper overworld theme is easily recognizable even to people who have never played a video game. It’s been remixed endlessly, played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and even danced to on this past season of Dancing with the Stars. The underground, underwater, and castle themes in the game are also memorable compositions that have never grown wearisome to hear. Each sound effect pairs well with the action. It adds to the fun of stomping a Goomba or getting the mushroom or fire flower and watching Mario change accordingly. I consider the audio quality to be the glue that combines all the elements into a classic game that deserves the respect and love it’s garnered over the years.

 

While the game was challenging, it was also designed with a winnable end in mind.  In years prior, home console games were all about achieving a high score.  Eventually, you’d just play until you died or lost interest. But Super Mario Bros. gave you some semblance of a conclusion (brief as it may be) to your adventure once you defeated Bowser for the last time. The sense of accomplishment in beating a video game lives on in those who first played it 30 years ago, but, arguably, in every game made since then.

This game was nothing short of a golden goose for Nintendo, spawning numerous successful sequels and spin-offs. Aside from the minor issue of not being able to quickly reverse direction in mid-air, there isn’t much fault to be found.  If Donkey Kong kicked off the platformer genre, this game defined it.  We were introduced to a world of things we never expected to see in gaming back then.  Most importantly, all of its parts were given care and attention and worked together to leave a lasting impression on a lot of people’s childhood memories.  If your experience started with later titles such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and beyond, then the improved gameplay formula featured in them may make this first game seem quite dated by comparison.  Overall though, Super Mario Brothers is still fun and worth every bit of your time.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

05/18/2015 at 07:29 PM

I never got into Super Mario Bros. as much as everyone else did.  I played it in an arcade long before I saw it on the NES.  And while I thought it was cool, I was perfectly happy playing Pengo on my Atari 5200 so I didn't get a NES until Zelda was out.  Don't get me wrong, i do like Mario games a lot.  It's just that my memorable NES games were more of the Capcom variety, such as Mega Man, DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, and Little Nemo. 

Totally unrelated, but you might be interested in this Galaga/Tekken mash up:

http://www.gamerdad.com/blog/2015/05/18/galaga-tekken-20th-anniversary-edition-ipad/

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/19/2015 at 09:53 AM

Pengo, eh?  I must have missed that one back in teh day.  Probably because we had the Atari 7800, which I don't believe was backward compatible with 5200 games...yet is could 2600 games...strange.  Anyway, the cool thing about the NES was that Super Mario Bros. wasn't always the game that drew people to the system.

I can definitely see how other games like Zelda and Mega Man might attract a person to it more than Mario.  I wish I still had Little Nemo. Also, I'm checking out the link you shared.  Wow!  I've got to ge tthis on my iPad!

Coolsetzer

05/20/2015 at 09:12 AM

This game was my childhood. I loved it. It was certainly A tier. Nice review. It's worth noting that the game had a remake with SMB DX. It was a fun version with plenty of extras. I'm really looking forward to Mario Maker as well.

Have you tried SMB Crossover? It is really good. It's on explodingrabbit.com

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/20/2015 at 11:22 AM

Thanks for reading!  I'm glad you enjoyed the review. Much like you, SMB was a huge part of the equation for me.  Also had SMB Deluxe on the Game Boy Color.  Pretty good remake.  I wish I still had that game.

I just checked out video clips of Super Mario Bros. Crossover...wow what a game!  I gotta play it!

The Last Ninja

05/21/2015 at 01:31 AM

This game does look dated, but it looked that way when SMB3 came out and gave the graphics an amazing overhaul. Still fun to play though. This makes me very excited for Mario Maker in September!

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

05/21/2015 at 08:31 AM

I need to read up on Mario Maker.  I rmemeber hearing about it a few months ago, but I forgot the specifics.

jgusw

05/26/2015 at 11:26 AM

I played the hell out of this game during the 80s.  SMB3 may be my favorite NES game, but I played SMB1 the most by far.  I have a lot of great memories playing it with my family and friends.

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