Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros.

Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. Review

The NES classic: extra spicy edition

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a Switch on

ESRB Everyone rating

Over the decades since its original release, very few 2D platformers have managed to top the fun of the original Super Mario Bros. This hard to come by arcade version is a more challenging take on the classic so gobble up some 'shrooms and let's save the princess!

Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. screenshot 1
It may be tougher but at least there are still warps!

Nintendo hit the nail on the head when they made Super Mario Bros. The super-tight gameplay defined 2D platformers and gamers to this day still have a blast whenever they boot it up. Unlike a lot of modern indie games that try to emulate it, Super Mario Bros. isn't just mindless running and jumping. The inertia of Mario as he runs and his ability to leap to varying heights makes controlling him require a great deal of precision, finesse, and skill. When you factor in the ability to shoot fireballs whenever you collect a Fire Flower, you're looking at a gameplay formula that actually rewards you for playing skillfully. Speaking of which, is there anything more satisfying than earning enough coins for an extra life? Overall, Super Mario Bros. is one of those rare retro games that's still a ton of fun to play decades later and its fun factor is often imitated yet never duplicated.

After all that being said, just what the heck is Vs. Super Mario Bros. and why would you want to download it on Switch? It's basically a combination of the NES Super Mario Bros. and the Famicom Super Mario Bros. 2 (AKA The Lost Levels) with plenty of alterations. Therefore, if you've memorized the layout of every single stage in the NES original then you'll frequently be thrown for a loop while playing this. Some platforms are missing, enemies may show up in unexpected locations, and you won't find 1-Up Mushrooms as easily. In fact, I don't think I came across a single one throughout my playthrough. Anyway, these changes add an extra layer of challenge yet the overall campaign thankfully still isn't nearly as difficult and frustrating as The Lost Levels.

Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. screenshot 2
If Mario was a good plumber then maybe this stage wouldn't be flooded

Of course, you're probably wondering why this is called Vs. Super Mario Bros. Unfortunately, I have no idea. The multiplayer component is the same as the NES version where you take turns with a friend as you alternate between Mario and Luigi. I'm pretty sure Nintendo just liked putting "Vs." in front of their arcade ports to make them sound exciting. For example, Vs. Excitebike sounds pretty rad... right? Anyway, this Switch version features the standard Arcade Archives modes Hi Score (no time limit) and Caravan (time limit) complete with leaderboards which is a fantastic way to get more replay value out of it. Good luck reaching the max score of 9999950!

Although Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. is an undeniably fantastic game, it's still an extremely familiar experience. If you've played the original NES game countless times and don't care much about varying stage designs and block placement then you probably won't fall in love with this version. Also, I wish there were some extra modes such as a gallery. I'd love to read up on the game's history, watch developer interviews, see original arcade flyers and materials yet none of that kind of content is available. You'd think that if you're paying a premium price for a piece of nostalgia with a lot of history attached, you'd get some sort of interesting extra content.

Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. screenshot 3
You can't stay sheltered under that block forever, Mario!

Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. is a fantastic way to experience Nintendo's defining 2D platformer in a slightly different light. In the end, if you're a hardcore fan then buying this long-lost gem is a no-brainer.

  • + The original Super Mario Bros. still provides top-notch 2D platforming fun
  • + More challenging stage designs
  • + Leaderboards add replay value
  • - Very similar to the NES classic that everyone already knows and loves
  • - Could use some extras (like a gallery)
7.6 out of 10
Gameplay video for Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. 4:27
Super Mario Odyssey Trivia

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