Nintendo released Mario's first starring role back in 1983; a couple years before his NES debut. Although he had previously faced Donkey Kong, this retro classic is a completely different experience so bring a handful of quarters and let's head to the arcade.
For the uninitiated, Mario Bros. has you and a friend play as Mario and Luigi as you work together to "kick off all the pests". You do so by jumping to punch overhead platforms. If an enemy is bumped in the process then it'll fall on its back and you can then kick it off the stage to receive some points and have a coin spawn from the pipes near the top of the screen. Defeating enemies and collecting coins will increase your score and once it's high enough, you get an extra life. The screen wraps horizontally and enemies perpetually move forward so calculating when and where to bump them is your key to victory. If you're ever in a sticky situation then you can always use the POW block to harm all onscreen enemies who are currently grounded. It's simple and enjoyable stuff that's still fun in this day and age, especially when you have a friend join you.
The variety of enemies is one of the best aspects of Mario Bros. From the easily recognizable Shellcreepers to the crabby Sidesteppers and the pesky Fighterflies to the cold-hearted Slipices, you'll have to change your strategy throughout if you want to take care of all the onscreen foes. If you take too long, they'll wake up and dastardly fireballs may chase you so being efficient is a necessity.
Another aspect that Mario Bros. excels at is its catchy little musical ditties that make playing it much more addictive. That being said, the audio in this release sounds extremely muffled. I tried messing around with the options but couldn't get it to sound as clear as I remember it being back in the day. I'm curious if it's supposed to be this muffled or if they did a poor job porting the audio.
This release of Mario Bros. includes Hi Score Mode and Caravan Mode which should be familiar to you if you've played any recent Arcade Archives game. Basically, the former tests how high of a score you can get while the latter is the same except it has a time limit. Although playing through the original arcade mode offers plenty of fun for one or two players, these additional modes are great for gamers who want to truly test their skills via climbing the online leaderboards.
All of this being said, Mario Bros. certainly doesn't have as much staying power as other classic arcade games due to the fact that you'll play for about 10 to 20 minutes, bite the dust, then have to start all over from the beginning again. Nothing really changes and there are no secrets to discover so its replay value pales in comparison to arcade classics such as Mappy and Bubble Bobble.
Finally, the controls in Mario Bros. are quite tricky to master. Even after playing it many times in the past, I still had to adjust by playing a few practice rounds before I felt comfortable. Therefore, I'm sure many modern gamers will be initially put off by this. However, if you are then keep at it and you'll eventually adjust to Mario's stiff jumps and slippery shoes.
As the first Nintendo Arcade Archives release, Mario Bros. is a solid game that's still fun to play. Here's hoping we get to see the classic Donkey Kong games and more obscure titles like Popeye sometime soon.
- + Enjoyable retro arcade gameplay that you can play cooperatively with a pal
- + Delightful ditties will make you smile
- + High score modes add some value
- - Not much replay value when compared to other classic arcade games
- - Audio sounds very muffled
- - Controls take a lot of getting used to