Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: Super Mario Bros. for the NES!

     The readers have demanded I write it, my friends have demanded I write it, and even I have demanded that I sit down to write this. Today I sit down and write a review for the game that put a dying industry on it's shoulders and carried it to new heights, today I write a review of Super Mario Bros. for the NES.
     As many who are fans of the industry know, in late 1983 and early 1984 the video game industry was suffering it's legendary “crash” and many stores that once proudly sold video games had either heavily discounted them or stopped carrying them as a whole. The entire landscape of home video games was in shambles and it looked as if this “fad” was about to finally come to an end after a rash of titles with poor quality began infesting shelves across the country. Something was desperately needed to put some spark into the video game industry, something was horribly needed to take this floundering entity and give it a boost, and Nintendo has just the medicine that was needed to put it back on track. That medicine came in the form of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System and home gaming as we knew it was once again very much alive.
     The game was sold as a pack in title with a new home video game machine marketed by Nintendo in 1985, but Nintendo didn't want you to think you were buying video games and demanded that the console be sold and marketed as an “entertainment system”. They tried to hide the fact that the NES was a gaming console by originally adding the zapper gun and a toy robot known as “R.O.B”, but consumers quickly saw past the gimmick and R.O.B was quickly abandoned. Nintendo was just scared that marketing a video game machine after the big crash was a risky move and wanted to find a new way to sell an old product. Any which way, they didn't have anything to worry about thanks to the console selling well in test markets before it's national launch and the well received pack in game having a huge factor in it's success.
     Super Mario Bros. is a side scrolling action game that stars the world renowned Mario and his brother Luigi and follows their adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom while, depending upon which player you were, searched for Princess Toadstool who was captive in a secret castle. For it's time the game sported graphics that were head and shoulders better than any home video game before it and had a musical score that was more advanced than anything the Atari 2600, 5200, Colecovision, or Intellivision could achieve. Everybody knows the Mario theme, it's been etched in the minds of almost anyone who grew up in the 80's or spent significant time with the NES during it's heyday and has been used in everything from commercials, movies, and even the recording industry. It's a staple in American culture.
     I've actually played the arcade version of this game back in 1988 at a pizza shop that used to exist in a small town near the big city I grew up in. They only had two arcade games, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not part II) and Super Mario Bros. and whenever we would order a pizza there and go visit my grandfather my mom would give me some change to play those games. Man, the memories I have of that will live on in me forever. I'm just glad I can say I've played the original Super Mario on an arcade cabinet, knowing that kind of gives me goosebumps.
     Anyhow, I'm sure you all have played this game at least once in your lives so I won't go into great detail about it, instead I'd like to discuss some of the memories I have of SMB and share some thoughts on the game as a whole. I remember bringing my NES home and watching my mom set it up as I held my
Mario/Duck Hunt cartridge in my hands, eager with excitement to begin playing and experiencing what many were raving about. I didn't get my NES until a few years after it's release because I had an Atari 2600 at the time and I was still having a blast with it in the late 80's and both my parents and I felt I didn't really need to take the next step. But let me tell you, when I finally did I was so happy because games on the NES were light years advanced when compared to the ol' 2600 and I was having a blast playing the system morning, noon, and night.
     I remember my neighbor (who was about my age) came upstairs and played the game with me the night I got it, I didn't know he already had a Nintendo and when I watched him pull off some of the tricks and things that were hidden within SMB I nearly flipped out. It was awesome and I made sure I remembered them all and did them myself after he had left to go back downstairs. I felt like the king of the world as I uncovered secret 1up's, went down pipes, collected hidden coins, and traveled through warp zones. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It's rare when you get these kinds of feelings while playing video games these days, I can only think of maybe 10 times in my entire life when I felt this way while playing video games but this moment was definitely up there as the top dog of “awe” worthy excitement.
     Super Mario 2 (my personal favorite), and Super Mario 3 would later come out on the NES and continue to grow the Mario brand beyond belief, but this is the game that started it all and because of my fond memories of SMB it will always have a small section of my heart all it's own. With that said, it's my 3rd favorite Mario game on the NES behind 2 and 3 as odd as that sounds. I just loved SMB 2 and 3 to death and both games are solidly within my top 10 list while the original is just outside it, but that doesn't mean I don't love the game. How can you not?
   Along with it's legendary score that I mentioned earlier, the game is an absolute dream to control thanks to it's simplistic style of gameplay and the wonderful NES controller being so perfect for side scrolling platform games such as this. Mario stops on a dime, jumps in cohesion with you pressing the buttons, and the game just feels amazingly responsive which adds to the game being so fun. Don't you hate games that have laggy controls or are just clunky to move around in? I know I do and SMB is NOT that game. It's just a fun experience all around, especially if you're playing it for the first time and are discovering all of the hidden easter eggs located within the game. But what are the chances of someone who's reading this never having played Super Mario Bros. before?
     It's true when I say this, for it's time this game was absolutely above and beyond anything video games had ever seen with long and drawn out stages to pretty graphics, this game just had it all. A musical score that everyone knows and loves, hidden underwater worlds, secrets and glitches, and other little nooks and crannies that people will never forget as long as they live. Super Mario Bros. is a timeless classic that will never be forgotten as long as a controller is in the hands of someone who knows where it all began.

Graphics/Visuals – 8.0
Sound/Music – 9.25
Control/Handling – 9.25
Fun/Enjoyment – 9.0


© 2013 Bill Mulligan


  1. I Got to say this is the best Mario review ever!

  2. You mentioned playing the arcade version of Super Mario Bros., did you notice it was harder? Not only do some of the levels have extra pits, some of the levels have been replaced with levels from SMB2J (The Lost Levels). I remember always being frustrated playing arcade versions of games that I had already played on my NES (Punch Out, Contra, Rolling Thunder, SMB). I always assumed it was simply the different controls and the fact that there were often graphical variations. It wasn't until I got older that I discovered the arcade versions usually varied greatly from their NES counterparts. Even Donkey Kong, which predated the NES/Famicom hardware by two years, wasn't an arcade perfect port.

  3. I didn't notice that since I played the arcade version only a few times and it was prior to playing the NES version. I did enjoy the time I spent with the arcade machine though and wish I could find one locally to play.

  4. Make one for mario2 and 3 my favorite

  5. Oh the memories, Me , my mom and my older brother used to play this game all day. I kid you not, my mom was the first one to beat it, and she was the one in our household to discover the 100 lives trick using a turtle shell in the world 3. lol, she actually let me play hooky from school a couple of times so I could stay home and play this game with her.

    Fantastic memories indeed.

  6. Man, I love Mario! While my favorite in the series (and my favorite game of all time) is Mario 3, there's no denying the influence and staying power of the original. This was a great review.

  7. Its nice that someone also gives Mario 2 some credit! I'm more used to playing this now on Mario All Stars on the SNES but still have a fondness for it on the NES - as that was my first ever console. Its amazing how clever the first moments are. You see a Gomba, you jump to avoid it, you hit a ? block, a mushroom comes out you get that and become super powered. Everything you need to learn about the majority of the game in seconds. Genius