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NES Super Mario Bros. Games

4 titles that brought gaming back

Alex Legard

Written by for Retrospectives on

The NES Super Mario games are an important part of gaming history so if you never played them, give them a go and you'll be impressed.

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Photo of all 3 Super Mario Bros. NES cartridges
If it weren't for these cartridges, gaming wouldn't be the same

Super Mario Bros. 1985

Super Mario Bros. came out 1985, many years before I was born. It might not look impressive on the surface today but remember that there was a video game crash in 1983 for a reason. Specifically, companies were rushing out bad games; most famously, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man, and there was even Chase the Chuck Wagon, a game made by the pet food company Purina. Those games weren't the only ones responsible for the crash but consumers were seeing more bad games than you could imagine. v1d30chumz 3-239-112-140

A couple years later, the NES was an instant success thanks to Super Mario Bros. but also, companies needed authorization from Nintendo if they wanted to make NES games. Anyway, Super Mario Bros. is strikingly similar to modern Super Mario games which is impressive for such an old game. If you're reading this and haven't played it yet, I highly recommend that you pick up a Nintendo console and start playing any Mario game now. This article isn't sponsored in any way; I'm just saying this because you definitely won't regret it. 😊

Compared to other Mario games, Super Mario Bros. has a few peculiarities. For starters, Mario doesn't adjust his momentum in mid-air very easily so if you want to make it over a large gap, you must have Mario accelerate to his maximum speed before jumping. Also, Super Mario Bros. and The Lost Levels are the only Mario games where Mario cannot backtrack as the camera is only able to move forward. Oh, and Super Mario Bros. has a super-catchy soundtrack that's guaranteed to get stuck in your head immediately. 🎵

Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. Review
Super Mario Bros. screenshot
Mario visits the very first secret area in world 1-1

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels 1986

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels was released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2. The Lost Levels was designed for players who had already beaten the original Super Mario Bros. which itself isn't exactly an easy game yet The Lost Levels is quite a lot harder so Nintendo of America deemed it too difficult and never released it in North America. That was probably a good idea, by the way, but it later initially saw the light of day overseas in 1993's Super Mario All-Stars for Super Nintendo.

This is the only game featured in this article that I didn't get the feeling that I wanted to complete. The Lost Levels (Famicom version) uses exactly the same music, assets, and characters as the original Super Mario Bros. and there are still 4 levels per world with the 4th level in each world being a castle. At the end of each castle is a Toad who politely informs you that the princess is in another castle. However, there are 13 worlds instead of 8 and many stages in The Lost Levels contain very precise jumps where Mario has to jump on a single tile from a distance or very far so that you can just barely land when Mario is running at max speed. 😅

There are also many more secret area levels that can only be beaten after finding a hidden block or entering a pipe. No level should require a player to find a hidden block; that's just bad level design. I can't imagine anyone would want to jump everywhere in the level while hoping to find a hidden block but I guess Nintendo was still learning how to make great games at this point in their history.

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe Review
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels screenshot
You have to spring-jump onto this one tile while there's wind blowing you forward; fun stuff!

Super Mario Bros. 2 1988

Nintendo of America needed a sequel to Super Mario Bros. since The Lost Levels was unsuitable. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a fun game in its own right but it's actually a reskin of a Famicom game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic with added Mario characters. Truly, these were strange times for video games when an official Super Mario game is just a reskin of a game that was already released in Japan. Funnily enough, Shy Guys, Bob-ombs, Pokeys, and Birdos first appeared in Doki Doki Panic. 🤯

Obviously, Super Mario Bros. 2 was a very different game. There are 4 characters, each with different abilities: Mario is the most well-rounded, Luigi has the highest jump, Peach is able to float in mid-air, and Toad has the best speed and attack power. There's also a gimmick where you pull up grass in order to find loot such as coins, bombs, and turnips that you can throw at enemies.

The level design in Super Mario Bros. 2 is a lot less about moving from left to right; there's some of that, sure, but you also go into doors, complete dungeons, and even find keys then backtrack to find the door to put it in. Every time you pick up a key, there's an extremely annoying mask that chases you around the level. At the end of most levels, you fight Birdo but there's also a special boss in every 3rd level. For example, Mouser is in level 1-3 who throws bombs at you but you defeat him by throwing the bombs right back at it.

Super Mario Advance Review
Super Mario Bros. 2 screenshot
Mario's in an epic battle with Wart... wait; where's Mario?!

Super Mario Bros. 3 1988

Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best video games of all time. It took Super Mario Bros. which is already a great game and improved on it in every possible way. Now, each of the 8 worlds has a map that lets you decide the order in which to play the levels in. Every world is littered with Toad Houses where you can play fun mini-games to earn useful items and at the end of each world is a unique airship level where you have to find a magic wand from one of the Koopalings to save the world's king who was transformed into an animal.

There are also brand new power-ups like the Frog Suit and Tanooki Suit! If you get hit with one of these power-ups on, you revert to big Mario instead of small Mario so you can essentially take 2 hits before losing a life instead of 1. You can also build P-speed if you want to run really fast but it's not so easy to maintain P-speed because you can't stop running at all. This is a fun option for speedrunners or for anyone who wants to beat Super Mario Bros. 3 fast. The biggest improvement over Super Mario Bros. is simply the jumping physics as Super Mario Bros. 3 feels a lot more like a modern Mario game because you can easily change your momentum in mid-air. 😄

Quiz: Super Mario Bros. 3 Trivia
Super Mario Bros. 3 screenshot
This is an extremely memorable tank level from world 8
Gameplay video for Nintendo Switch Online: Super Mario Bros. thumbnail
Gameplay video for Nintendo Switch Online: Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 3 Trivia

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