News Article

Intrepid Programmer Brings Super Mario Bros. to Atari 2600

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Harder than it sounds

While many of us enjoy indulging in retro classics on a regular basis, whether experiencing them for the first time or starting a 20th playthrough, there are those with a passion for past generations of systems and games that take the hobby further. Case in point is user Sprybug from, who has reproduced World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. to run on the Atari 2600 engine.

While this may seem simple, it should be noted that the 8-bit NES had a very different set of capabilities to the Atari 2600, which was a much older machine. Seeing the iconic first stage with Atari graphics and sound effects is rather fun, even if there are some necessary changes and amendments to deal with limitations of the engine. It may not provide classic, refined controls or smooth gameplay, but it's an achievement nevertheless.

Check out the AtariAge links to follow the project, while the video below will give you a taste of how it's shaping up.

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User Comments (55)



Gridatttack said:

Looks...weird. Also there is another clone of mario bros for the atari computer.
The game was called BROS. and it seems better than this one.



rayword45 said:

@GN0LAUM Dude, the 2600 predates the NES by more then half a decade. Don't compare the 2. The 2600 is a classic.

You don't say "The Nintendo 64 is a piece of crap. Long live the PS3"



MeloMan said:

Amazing... this makes me want to see if this can be done in BASIC, or Petit Computer in particular.



StarBoy91 said:

Wow, that was rather interesting; but damn, if that wasn't quite a neat achievement



GOM1 said:

Aside from Mario and the Goombas, this doesn't really look like Mario.



Philip_J_Reed said:

The music actually sounds pretty fantastic, all things considered. This is definitely cool!

>the 2600 sucks




a_binfahad said:

@GN0LAUM Dude, the 2600 does'nt suck, it was a pretty revolutionary game console for it's time! the NES came at least 8 years later. the 2600 had many memorable classics like "Pitfall!" and other games



sykotek said:

The music is pretty good actually, the stage, not even close. One improvement can scroll left!!



Firejonie said:

It's impressive, especially since barely any 2600 game had a full music track. It doesn't sound that bad either.



aaronsullivan said:

Amazing to think a game like this theoretically could have been made way before its time on the Atari 2600. Fun to see young people try to talk about things they know close to nothing about.



atariman said:

I love the Atari 2600! I programed a game for the Atari 2600. it's called, "Tree-o" so I should post that on youtube.



Kafei2006 said:

Pretty impressive, although fitting all that on a cartridge must have filled up all the space available even on the largest Atari carts, which I believe were maxed out at 4, or maybe 8KB (needs to be verified).

EDIT: OK most games were limited to 4KB, but bank switching allows for more than that, but it must have been costly at the time when the Atari 2600 was still relevant.



ajcismo said:

Hows Mario jumping and shooting fireballs at the same time? The 2600 controller only had the one red button.... with probably a whole lot of soda spilled on it.



shinpichu said:

Yeah, while I admit it's technically impressive, this really doesn't look playable. At all.

edit: If I had to hazard a guess, maybe he's pressing up to jump and tapping the button to shoot fire. But who knows.



Madotsuki said:

>Atari 2600 games can't have a good soundtrack

I see your claim and raise you a Pitfall 2.
The music here's really really out of tune, for some reason.



Ras said:

Ahh yeah. I can still hear Pitfall 2 in my head after all these years. That was a pretty revolutionary game--kind of Pitroidvania, with backtracking and an end goal. LOL.



grimbldoo said:

@rayword45 #4
Two years makes a big difference and you could have just said eight years instead of "more than half a decade."
Also, it would be "long live sony!" not "long live the PS3!" GN0LAUM said, "Long live Nintendo!"



Jukilum said:

It's pretty cool looking, but it doesn't look like the game would hold up once the novelty of "Hey! It's Mario on my 2600!" wore off.



Windy said:

Very neat! Its not going to make me pull the old atari 2600 from the buried box in the garage. But what a fun idea. I wish I could program and that petit computer was easier to use cause it would be fun to do projects such as this and it doesnt have toMario just anything cudos to the people doing this on 2600



Wheels2050 said:

I really like the idea of programming for the old systems, needing to pay strict attention to their limitations. These days there's so much computing power available that it's fairly trivial to make decent graphics (although the really fancy engines obviously require detailed knowledge).

I really like the stories of people figuring out really obscure methods of increasing rendering speeds by playing tricks with memory usage and stuff like that. Back in the day, it pretty much took a genius to figure out the ins and outs of a system and develop amazing tricks to squeeze as much as possible out of a system. These days even I can program a game that runs great!



FluttershyGuy said:

Can they put E.T. in there? That way, Mario can mistake him for a weird-looking goomba and squash him into oblivion as retribution for the Great Video Game Crash of the early '80s.



Sprybug said:

@GN0LAUM Nice. That's like comparing a PS3 to the N64.

Nope. I've seen videos on "Bros". Bros doesn't scroll, and the controls are a little stiff. This scrolls, is fluid, and has game physics.

You'd be correct. It's not supposed to be an exact copy of SMB, it's inspired from, so it takes creative liberties.

32K of ROM space max and with that, the graphics, and the code, I think I can get 16 full levels in it. I have 4 right now as we speak.

Funny being that I used the Mario sprites from SMB3 as my reference material. Sprites on the Atari 2600 can only be 8 pixels wide, and the ones on SMB3 were a tad wider than that, so I had to shrink him in just a smidge when he was big mario.

It wasn't supposed to match the original (and with the limitations I had, it couldn't anyhow), but thanks anyway.

It is and still is. I plan on getting 16 levels, Bowser Jr. boss stages at the end of 1-4,2-4,and 3-4, with the King himself on 4-4. I just got the Thwomp to work the other night on the x-4 levels. And as a li'l surprise I plan on using flickering on the boss sprites to get more colors out of them! i'm maxing out this 32k I have to work with.

The layout is this. Fire button = Jump. Up=Run/shoot. We all hate up as jump, so I made sure it wasn't laid out that way.

Believe me, it is very playable. Don't know it until you try it.

The point wasn't really to make "another" mario game, but to more prove that a game like it can be made for the Atari 2600. I would love to see others try and do this, because I'd love to play them!

Thanks for all the nice comments! And for you "Negative Nancies"...don't knock it until you try it.



ecco6t9 said:

It looks like something that Atari themselves would of put out, secondly I'm always impressed more when something is done within limitations like the GBA Dooms.

Of course the PC versions are better and have more frames per second, but it's the limitations that I love.



WarioPower said:

The music actually sounds quite impressive for Atari standards. But other than that it looks like junk. I guess 2d platformers just aren't meant for the 2600.



OorWullie said:

@Sprybug Well done mate and respect to you.Most of the "negative Nancies" are probably too young to admire the work you've done with this or just negative about life in general.I remember my 2600 well,it was my first console and what got me into gaming.My favourite game was Pele soccer which was actually terrible even for its time haha.Keep up the good work mate,some of us do appreciate it.



Omega said:

Programming on old systems is so cool. I'm working on the Commodore 64 version of Super Mario Galaxy. But I'm not quite satisfied yet. I think I need to connect a few more Gamecubes to the expansion port.



StarDust4Ever said:

This is absolutely epic. Somebody previously tried to do a hack of Smurfs to loookk like Super Mario Brothers. It didn't work well. I'm going over to AtariAge right now. Hopefully, if they do a cart release, I'll be able to nab one, LOL...



MAB said:

Impressive work Sprybug I can actually appreciate the games devs created back in the day on the good old 2600 and I would like to see todays devs try creating a masterpiece with only 32k or less. I reckon they would curl up in a corner and cry

The best Atari music award goes to 'Skateboardin' I still can't get that annoying but catching beat out of my crazy head



Araknie said:

Not bad for being on atari, i notice so many thing never done on that system. Nice.
Makes you think they never pushed it hard at it's max.



Philip_J_Reed said:

have you played the Atari 2600? because you can't judge a game, or a game system without playing it.

Erm, yeah, I have. I owned one when it was new and it was great. That's why I was questioning the commenter who said it sucks. You may want to re-read my comment?



KAHN said:

personally, the 2600 is a little TOO old school for me (despite my username, it's true). SNES is my favorite console, even compared to today's consoles.



Sprybug said:

That was a fun game (Pele's Soccer). My friend had that and we'd play it a lot. I had about a dozen Atari games growing up and my firend had about as many. My fave at that time were Pitfall, Pitfall II, Firefighter, Dragonfire, Surround, Millipede ( I once got about 150,000 on that at an Atari 2600 competition several years ago), and Super Breakout.



Sprybug said:

I agree it forces you to get back to the basics of what makes a game fun and challenges you to get the most out of the limitations. With that it also makes you be really creative.



Sprybug said:

I used to drive my mom nuts with the "music" from Congo Bongo. It'd play over and over in her head at work. XD I hope that I inspire others to try and do stuff like this on the system. I'd love to play them!



Sprybug said:

Maybe in the near future, but not at the moment. I only have 3 completed levels and I'm working on the programming for the boss battle on the 4th right as I type this. Maybe I can get it finished sometime in the later fall and maybe if things go the right way, do a cart release.



atariman said:

Pele's Soccer is a good Atari 2600 game, I really like it I hope you're reading this because I know that your new here!



StarDust4Ever said:

@Sprybug Kudos to you. I replied to your thread and gave you some feedback on Atariage. It's a great little game and plays great on real hardware. I can't wait to see it completed!

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