By Jose Anguiano – Cinematic Bandicoot
March 5th, 2023
With Illumination’s “Super Mario Brothers Movie” releasing in Apr., it’s time to review as many of the main games from the past 40 years.
Before “Super Mario Bros”, the American video game industry nearly collapsed.
Companies were jealous of Atari’s success in the home market and wanted a slice of the growing profits.
Unfortunately, brands like Purina and Quaker Oats launched their own games disguised as commercials to advertise their products.
Additionally, Atari shot itself in the foot when they released both consoles and computers on the market confusing customers on the better product.
Even worse, Atari refused a distribution deal with Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Games like “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” and “Pac Man”, were so bad that customers demanded refunds while Atari buried returned copies of the former in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Consumer trust was broken as gamers stopped buying consoles while retailers took a stand against companies whose products did not sell.
Despite all the negativity, Nintendo released the NES in American toy stores instead of electronic stores, though they removed any mentions of video games.
While some toy stores saw through the disguise, Nintendo persisted and bundled “Super Mario Bros.” and “Duck Hunt” with the console as part of a trifecta of must have toys like Teddy Ruxpin and Laser Tag.
With the history out of the way, how does it hold up today with automatic save states, realistic graphics and deep stories given as much attention as gameplay?
There is no point going over the story as it set the standard of the damsel in distress video game trope. However, for those who lived under a rock for the past 40 years, Princess Toadstool is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario must travel through eight worlds to save her.
To modern gamers, that is not enough motivation to get behind the Mario brothers, especially when Toad dishes out the infamous “Our princess is in another castle” quote.
Back then, narrative was a tool to support the gameplay, but today this would be considered a lazy extension: some of which gets repetitive after several castles.
Maybe this comes from stories in games evolving overtime while Mario games relied on this unchanged plot for decades, but it gets a pass since it serves a greater purpose than originally intended.
Looking over the graphics, it’s amazing how well they’ve held up, even if the bushes are just recolored clouds.
All the worlds are colorful whether in blue or dark skies while the castles are foreboding with grey bricks and the red lava instilling fear into those who confront Bowser on a bridge.
Enemies like goombas, koopas, bloopers, bullet bills, piranha plants, and the formidable hammer brothers litter the screen, offering a thrilling challenge on the mushroom road.
And though the hardware limitations show the repetition in the presentation, the simplistic foundation is charming enough on its own with areas to improve upon in future games.
The music is classic among the vast 8-bit library as the scenery changes from the bright overworld to the underground pipes to the vast water worlds, though the limited hardware makes the repetitive loops monotonous for anyone who wants more musical variety.
Despite the fungus in the story and presentation, the gameplay holds everything together.
Between the jumps, coins, powerups, and enemies, Mario’s controls are tight, and the platforming remains consistently challenging.
The learning curve is fair as it gradually increases after world one with less coins to fall back on.
The powerups like mushrooms, fire flowers and stars play with advantage when enemies swarm you from top to bottom.
Platformers are usually seen as one note, but this shows how strategic level design can make a difference in how to proceed.
The gameplay may go in one direction, but the journey is nothing like anything that came before it, though the minus world is not all it’s cracked up to be.
“Super Mario Bros.” remains a classic nearly 40 years later even with the advancements in gaming. While the story is nothing to boast about given the simplicity of the damsel in distress plot, the colorful graphics, catchy music and tight gameplay elevate this to a necessary experience. Admittedly, it has been upstaged by the sequels that built upon the foundation in every aspect, but to play its humble beginnings is still a must for anyone seasoned or new to gaming.
Pros: Colorful graphics, tight gameplay, memorable music
Cons: Monotonous worlds, looping tunes, weak story
Super Mario All-Stars Edition
When talking about ports of “Super Mario Bros”, several of them landed on future Nintendo hardware.
One of them is a Super Nintendo remake in “Super Mario All Stars”: a collection of revamped ports of the original games.
The worlds are even more detailed with a larger background variety and additional colors in the SNES hardware.
The physics run on the “Super Mario World” engine where the plumber’s jumps are weightier compared his floaty leaps from the original.
Aside from that, I recommend this over the NES original for going above and beyond the remake status as well as being as accessible as the original on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
When the Gameboy Color released in 1989, “Super Mario Bros Dexluxe” built upon the hardware capabilities in 1999 by adding extra options like a save feature, new animations, additional cutscenes, challenge modes, and a remake of “Super Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels”.
This might be the definitive handheld edition because every port since this is just the original untouched.
Though if you want this version, you better buy it on the 3DS before Nintendo shuts down the eshop on Mar. 27th, 2023.
“Super Mario Bros.” broke through the video game crash of 1983 and became the best-selling game that restored faith in players looking for new worlds.
The many imitators that soon followed were sent cease and desist orders from Nintendo.
While it enforced video game quality, it ensured that Nintendo held a monopoly over the gaming market while Sega scrambled for studios to develop their own games.
Any developer that wanted to make games for the NES needed to sign an exclusivity contract so they could not make games for other systems.
It also birthed the Nintendo Seal of Quality so gamers could distinguish the good games from the bad
Several sequels released over the years while references were sprinkled throughout future titles like “Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars”.
Tons of merchandise spawned from this series like toys, cereal, clothes, and
Several adaptations like “The Super Mario Brothers Super Show” brought the siblings to television.
Even Illumination referenced it in a super bowl ad for their upcoming movie.
Two movies adapted the series in 1986 and 1993. The first was the animated “Super Mario Brothers: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!” and the second was a live action adaptation starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in 1993, which birthed the video game movie curse that lasted for over two decades (more on that later).
In Oct. 2020, “Super Mario Bros. 35” released as a multiplayer battle royale akin to “Tetris 99”, until Nintendo pulled the plug on Apr. 2021.
The game itself received several ports on the Gameboy Advance, the Gamecube via “Animal Crossing” and most recently the Nintendo Switch’s online subscription service, ensuring that even after gamers craved better graphics that no one would ever forget Mario’s humble roots.
Leave a Reply