Monday 6 August 2012

Super Mario Bros. - NES - 1985

I’ve played a lot of platform games so far for this blog.  Of these I’ve added my favourites.  Super Mario Bros. is the first one I’ve come across that still looks and feels ‘modern’.  Most of the platform games I’ve tried until now are flick screen affairs with plain backgrounds and simple sprites.  Super Mario Bros. was a breath of fresh air gave the genre a much needed kick up the jacksie.  

Jet Set Willy II vs Super Mario Bros.  Both 1985.

In this game you take control of Mario (or Luigi in two-player mode) and have to make your way through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Toadstool from the evil Bowser (justified or not, I can where Nintendo got their ‘kiddy games’ tag from).  Mushroom Kingdom is made up of 8 worlds with each split into 4 stages.  You have to complete each stage within a set time limit, avoiding or defeating Bowser’s minions on your way. Mario’s main form of dispatching the enemies is by jumping on top of them.  If there are enemies on a platform he can jump into it from below and knock them off their perch.

Jumping from below into blocks marked ‘?’ will reveal coins or occasional power ups.  Collecting 100 coins provides you with an extra life.  Power ups include the Magic Mushroom which makes Mario grow to twice his size and allows him to break bricks above him.  If he is hit by an enemy he reverts to his normal size. When Mario picks up the Fire Flower he can shoot fireballs to make short work of the enemies.  Picking up the Starman makes Mario invincible for a short while enabling him to run into enemies with impunity.

Picking up Star Man bestows invincibility.

As mentioned there are 8 levels split into 4 stages.  The last stage of each level is always set underground and leads to Bowser who must be passed to complete the level.  Some of these stages can be quite infuriating as unless you take the correct route the stage can go on indefinitely which does take some of the shine off the game.  On checking a walkthrough stage 8-4 involves a pipe maze which looked very confusing.  Players who completed this game without a guide must have been almost superhuman.

Bowser appears at the end of each world - get to the axe and he falls into the lava.

Controlling Mario can take a little getting used to.  You control how fast he runs and how high or far he jumps.  You can also make slight adjustments to his jumping mid air.  The difficulty comes with his inertia which can make it tricky landing on single blocks. It’s not a major point – it just takes a bit of practice.

Super Mario Bros. is a prime example of 2D platform gaming and helped set the template from that point on.  The scrolling and animation are smooth.  The graphics and sprites are bold and bright.  The music and sound effects are good. The learning curve is just about perfect.  And, after a little practice, the controls are spot on.  Overall it’s a highly polished game and difficult to criticise without being picky.  The only criticisms I can make is that the tunes get a bit repetitive after a while and, in my opinion, the underwater levels didn’t quite gel with the rest of the game.  

For me, the underwater levels felt out of place.


  1. What's not to say or love about SMBs? I spent so much time perfecting my level runs back then. The ability to control yourself while jumping midair instead of being fixed to a landing point once you took off... amazing.

    1. It certainly is special. It is one of a handful of games I knew would appear on my blog before I'd even played them.

    2. The basic mechanics still hold up so well today, but beyond that its influence on gaming is just amazing. Understandable that it would show up positively. :)

  2. Almost superhuman, you say? The mazes weren‘t all that bad, really. They‘re only in 4-4 and 8-4 and the first one is really simple. Also, you see when you‘re right because you progress before looping back to the beginning so you can memorise them quite easily. I liked the write-up. It‘s not easy to write about such an incredibly well-known game, I reckon.