Mario Bros. (NES)

Game Review

Mario Bros. Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

Subpar Mario

Mario and Luigi’s adventures have been nothing short of fantastical over the years, to the point where you could be forgiven for questioning their occupations as plumbers. But despite the brothers’ incredibly varied employment history as doctors, sportsmen and racing drivers — in which they’ve rarely called upon their supposed plumbing skills, let alone proved that they’re qualified enough to do all the other stuff — the story of their origins checks out; 1983’s Mario Bros. is evidence of this.

Originally developed as an arcade game and later ported to NES, Mario Bros. sees everyone’s two favourite plumbers actually living up to their job titles. The whimsical and vibrant sights of the Mushroom Kingdom are nowhere to be found and, instead, the game takes place in a rather mundane sewer that’s in need of a fair bit of plumbing. However, the issue at hand is thankfully not as revolting as it tends to be in real life, with a number of nasty little critters replacing the foul-smelling blockages you would expect.

At the same time, conventional drain cleaner isn't up to the task, which is why it’s up to Mario and Luigi to physically remove the pests themselves. Enemies emerge from pipes at the top of the screen and work their way downwards, only to then enter a pipe at the bottom and re-appear at the top. It’s a never-ending cycle which only our favourite plumbers can break. However, for those that haven’t played Mario Bros. before, it’s worth noting that this isn't done by jumping on them. In fact, this staple of the Super Mario franchise didn't arrive until two years later in the NES instant classic, Super Mario Bros.

Without Mario and Luigi’s trademark move to hand, the only other option is to hit them from underneath. Doing so causes the enemy to flip over, presenting you with the opportunity to then run into them and give them a mighty boot off the screen. Every time you manage this, there’s an undeniable sense of satisfaction, although that’s more to do with the fact that this is actually quite difficult to achieve.

You see, Mario Bros. plays quite differently from the games that followed it, with Mario and Luigi’s movements being — oddly enough — more realistic. For example, if you want to move in mid-air, then you actually have to get a run-up first. While it does inevitably increase the challenge, it also feels clunky and outdated, even when compared to Super Mario Bros. Moreover, you play on exactly the same stage throughout the game, albeit with a different combination of enemies each time.

While the severe lack of scenery is disappointing, there is at least a reasonable amount of variety in the enemy design. Shellcreepers — which bear a striking resemblance to Koopa Troopas — are your standard bad guys, who move at a steady pace and only require one bash from underneath to flip over. As you progress, tougher creatures and other hazards appear which behave differently.

But the difficulty curve alone just isn't enough to hold your attention, and the game’s arcade origins are likely to blame for this. This was originally designed to provide a simplistic experience that was free of complex controls and gameplay, and one which provided a short burst of entertainment in exchange for your pocket money. Playing with a second player is possible thanks to Download Play, and provides a competitive element in which you compete for the highest score, but it's doubtful it'll hold your attention for long. Furthermore, there are other economically sensible versions of this very game, namely the Battle Mode that appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario All-Stars multiplayer — in that case as part of an altogether better gaming experience. You can even try a Luigi-fied version of the game within Super Mario 3D World on Wii U, which will probably be enough to satiate your curiosity before you grow bored of it.


Without a doubt, Mario Bros. is an important part of Nintendo history. It’s a relic of a bygone age, and one which serves as a prime example of how the Mario Bros. series has evolved over time, particularly with the introduction of Super in the titles. This downloadable title is affordable enough to warrant a look-in if you’re really curious, although it is possible to find other, more cost-effective versions, some of which are embedded in more popular Super Mario titles. It’s worth taking this approach, if only because unlike the famous plumbers’ far more successful adventures, Mario Bros. simply doesn’t hold the same level of depth, precision or replay value. It’s better as a competitive multiplayer game, but this is nevertheless a very basic and outdated experience.

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User Comments (45)



RupeeClock said:

Although it's on the Wii U, it's worth a mention that if you have New Super Luigi U data on your system, and you have Super Mario 3D World, you already have this in the form of "Luigi Bros."



Haxonberik said:

@RupeeClock So that's why I had that game unlocked when I started playing 3D World... It seemed wierd as it looked like the kind of bonus they'd give you after getting all stars or something like that.



Gashole said:

OUCH. First a 6 on Wii Virtual Console, then a 5 on Wii U, now a 4. It's a pretty basic, dated game, but still excellent for pick-up-and-play gaming on the go. I feel the reviewers should've kept this in mind when doing this version, and given it a 5 or a 6, instead.
We in N.A. don't have it yet, but that's an insect compared to the elephant in the room... I think you all know what I'm talking about.



SavoirFaire said:

They need a Virtual Arcade as another side-business when the Virtual Console falls short, as it often does with arcade ports. It seems almost useless to port over console titles of arcade classics when what people wanted back then (and still now) is a legit copy of the arcade title. I wonder if there is a behind the scenes answer to why this just isn't done. Loved this game in the arcade, and hated every port of it. Same goes for a lot of classics.



mystman12 said:

I'm pretty fond of this game, but I just remembered I have an improved version on Yoshi's Island! I think a five would be a better score.



Minotaurgamer said:

Just because it's old and simply doesn't make it bad. This game is still solid and addictive and does its job of entertaining and having a good time. Not all games have to be artsy-movie-like HD graphics or creative garbage to be "good".



sinalefa said:


If you don't have a Super Luigi U save file on your system, then you need to beat 3D World first to access Luigi Bros.



ACK said:

I soooo wanted Super Luigi Bros. to be a legit remake with the SM3DW engine. Even if they do it as an eShop download, it'd be unbelievably cool.

A new arcade-style Mario Bros. with silky smooth controls, improved mechanics, many more levels, multiple characters, 4-player, leaderboards, online play, etc... And a custom level editor... Yeah, I can only dream...



lckulczak said:

The best version of this game is the one that comes with any Super Mario Advance game!



Yoshi said:

@minotaurgamer I think the reviewer is quite aware of this. But remember that scores are awarded for how the game is now, not how it was when it was released. That explains the decreasing score from 6, to 5, to now 4 over the years. The game hasn't aged well. It was a good game at the time, but would you rather play this game or another game around that time period, like Super Mario Bros. or Pac-Man?



Jazzer94 said:

At this point this version of the game should just be free like in SM3DW.



FJOJR said:

If you've played the versions form the Mario Advance games (Yoshi's Island for the Ambassadors out there) then you already have the best version of this game albeit without the multiplayer function on 3DS.



TheN64Dude said:

Bull****! This game was great, certainly deserves a better rating then the one you gave to Sonic Lost World.



sleepinglion said:

I wonder why Nintendo never ports the arcade versions of its oldies.
That at least would mix things up a bit.



SecondServing said:

lol at all these butthurt comments. Let's be honest, MB gets boring after the first 3 stages. It was great then, but now it could be boring and tad bit too repetitive. Don't waste your money on this game. Go buy NSMBU or SMB3, heck go buy the original Super Mario Bros. Totally agree with the review. Good job Martin for telling it like it is! I don't want biased reviews just to appease me, no sir!



ThomasBW84 said:

Different reviewers can sometimes mean different scores, that's just the way it is!

Personally, I heartily agree with Martin's views on this. It may be an important part of gaming history, but I think it's really showing its age; I just don't find it fun to play, and the controls feel awkward.

Some NES games are as playable now as they ever were, I just don't think this is one of them.



ReigningSemtex said:

I'm pretty sure I get this as a free download for registering something on club nintendo so it's all good.



Tasuki said:

I have to agree with Martin as well on this one. While its fun it short bursts it gets old pretty fast. However as a 3DS VC game this would be perfect since you can play it in short bursts.

I still play this game from time to time on the NES but 30 minutes or so is enough to cure my craving for this game for awhile.



Gold_Ranger said:

I love this game!
It's so much fun!
It's a lot more fun than a lot of present day games!
Multiplayer with this game is so addictive and competitive....
This game deserves at least an 8.5...



RogueBologna said:

I used to play this a ton on gameboy. Sadly, after recently trying it again, I cannot believe I could ever deal with those controls.



WiiLovePeace said:

I already have this in Super Mario 3D World so I'm good for it.

@RupeeClock Ah! So that's why. I thought it must have been included with SM3DW but you actually have to own NSLU too? Interesting!



ajcismo said:

Here you go Nintendo: Put Mario Bros. on smartphones, charge 99 cents for a level or 2 and watch as a nice stream of revenue starts flowing in. And all it cost you was to hire someone to write a few lines of code from a 31 year old game into a smartphone app.
Its suited for short burst play. 1 or 2 levels is all a lot of people would play anyways. They wet their whistle, you get a buck, pretty fair deal.
Then offer the full version for $4.99, which is fair to everyone who bought it on the Wii U/3DS. For everyone who did already buy it on console, give them a free copy for their phones as a goodwill gesture.



unrandomsam said:

@ajcismo Fair doesn't usually factor into it. Take Capcom who offer HD updated versions of the first three Ace Attourneys on iOS for less than just Dual Destines. (Which almost certainly will have a superior version for less sooner or later). Fair would be cross play of some type something Nintendo isn't interested in.



MegaWatts said:

@minotaurgamer As the site's N64 fanatic, I can assure you that "artsy-movie-like HD graphics" are the least of my concerns; give me good gameplay any day of week! Sadly, I just don't think that Mario Bros. is a very playable or entertaining experience today, that's all.



andreoni79 said:

Finally, this is what I was looking for!
Now I have a reason to spend € 5 because I want more of the same: I can play it on my GBA via Yoshi's Island (free extra), on my 3ds via VC Yoshi's Island (free extra in an Ambassador game), on my WiiU via SM3DW (free extra) and I'm sure there are other options I'm missing...
There are many good indie games out there for € 2. Wake up, Ninty!



allav866 said:

I gotta say that Nintendo's pricing for NES games is a heap of dung. For Game Boy games, the price depends on the quality of the game. But Nintendo wants to make sure NES games cost the same as they did on the Wii, so every game is $5, no matter how good/bad it is. Mario Bros. is worth $1.99, no more.



Bass_X0 said:

Just because it's old and simply doesn't make it bad.

If it was an Ambassador title I would have some fun with it, plus as others had said we did get a superior remake with Yoshi's Island. Its not bad, its just overpriced for what it is. And that should be reflected in the score.



Kirk said:

Yeah, this is one of the very very few Mario games that isn't particularly magical or enjoyable to be honest.

I mean it all works fine but it's just very very simplistic and not worth more than a dollar on any platform imo.

Basically; if this were a brand new game released on any other digital services these days it would get no notice whatsoever.



ACK said:

@nathanbjohnson Totally forgot about the Virtual Boy game (along with most of that "era"). Thanks for bringing it up. I would be all over that on 3DS.



Obito_Sigma said:

I would buy this if it came to the USA... it's only a shame that it costs $5 like most games. This game costs just as much as the Pilotwings Resort at my local Gamestop. In fact, this games costs more than Steel Diver at my local Gamestop. Why can't it be at most $2 like it should be?



Gashole said:

It's also about time Nintendo gave any reference to an NES game coming out before its release.
Now for that other game....



Burning_Spear said:

My favorite arcade game of all time. There was a time when every machine had the Spear's initials at the top of the leaderboard. Crowds would gather when I played.
Oh how I wish Nintendo would port the arcade version with the icicles and the higher difficulty level.



Minotaurgamer said:

To each it own, ok. But that's why I dont trust reviews. They are too biased about what should be and not what it is. It's dated why? It's not that different from other games of the era. You are just attacking it because it's not Super mario or a Mega man game or another overrated "gem" like a dumn RPG game.

That's just show how spoiled and childish Nintendo gamers are. they cannot appreciate a good game because "it's dated".



Gashole said:

I'll admit it, this is one of the worst reviews I've ever seen on this site. I used to think they would be right-on most of the time, but not now.



Joygame51 said:

Not sure why this is such a "Bad" game its fun and easy to learn to play ...can be addictive if one is in the mood. I like this ! Don't enjoy old school don't down load it ....easy !



FireHorsePrime said:

Lol! In many ways I'm glad this one got a 4, as it's just one more virtual console game I don't have to buy. I have been collecting the classics but when it comes to the arcade ports and 8-bit groundlings, I'm seriously putting a cap on my spending. I think I will give SMB2 and 3 (when it's released) my last bit of virtual cash, but these games from the early days have worn out their welcome for me.



Agent721 said:

This game is about nostalgia and classic old school gaming. If you enjoyed it as a kid, you'll enjoy it now. The score is simply too low for such a classic game.



james_squared said:

I think it's still a great game. I enjoy playing it with my daughter here and there for a few minutes.

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