Game Review

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Lost levels = lost sanity

It's a story so well known now that we'll just summarise it for you: what is now known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels was actually released in Japan as the sequel to enduring classic Super Mario Bros. Western gamers instead received the subconscious vegetable buffet that we more traditionally think of as Super Mario Bros. 2.

Various reasons have been given for the switch — brutal difficulty ranking high among them — but whatever the rationale, we're glad that we're able to play both sequels to the original classic, as they're fantastic in their own ways.

The Lost Levels, of course, is best known for its controller-smashing challenge. Even with the restore points on the 3DS Virtual Console, you'll be in for some serious difficulty.

While this game doesn't innovate the franchise nearly as much as its Western cousin did, it does take some interesting liberties with the formula set down by its predecessor. For instance, Luigi has distinct jumping and running physics from Mario, a sort-of tradition that would reappear in several other games to come. For fans who knew the original game inside and out, this alteration was both a serious curve-ball and an impressive new way to experience the Mushroom Kingdom.

Speaking of the Mushroom Kingdom, The Lost Levels obviously takes place in an even more vicious region than the original game did. Here you'll find all manner of traps to take you down in the most ingenious — and sometimes hilarious — ways. Everything from springs, to invisible coin blocks and even warp zones will conspire to work against you, and it's unlikely that anyone other than the most expert players will find their life counter reaching double digits.

Visually there's not much new here. Nearly everything has been carried over wholesale from the first game, though there are a few notable exceptions, such as the notorious poison mushroom. Otherwise sprites are identical to the originals, even if they behave in new and interesting ways, such as the increased lift you'll get from a stomped enemy, and a surprising overworld appearance from an enemy you'll only have previously encountered under water.

The Lost Levels are — this cannot be said enough — relentless. Expect to die, and expect to die often. In fact, the entire release feels like a ruthless ROM-hack more than it does a proper title. It's another pack of levels designed explicitly to break your spirit and frustrate you endlessly, packed with pixel-perfect leaps, blind jumps, and sadistic castle mazes. But one thing's worth noting: regardless of how difficult the game gets, you can never fault its physics.

Yes, much like the original, The Lost Levels controls brilliantly. The game is responsive and reacts immediately to every press of a button; it's not its fault if you decided to leap into that pit, after all.

The music is also carried over from the first game, again making The Lost Levels feel like a bit of a retread. When measured against the significant changes introduced by the Western sequel, The Lost Levels feels like it lacks innovation. What it does do, however, is build upon the innovation of the first game, and re-employ enemies and gimmicks in extremely creative — and punishing — ways.

If you enjoyed the first Super Mario Bros. game (and really now, who didn't?) then this is an expansion worth experiencing. Don't expect to finish it, though; it's not an experience many people will complete, but it's one everybody will remember.

Conclusion

Anyone who feels that Mario's 2D adventures have softened over the years owes it to themselves to experience Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. With a difficulty curve that'll have you pulling your hair out by the second world, game-loving masochists are in for a genuine treat. Be warned, however: the challenge here is unquestionably excessive, and it's not an experience for everybody. Those willing to invest the time — and who aren't afraid of shouting a few cursewords — will find a clever and creative palette of charming frustrations here to greet them. And, frankly, we think it's worth a little grey hair.

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User Comments (85)

Klimbatize

#1

Klimbatize said:

I just beat this about half an hour ago. It's been the main game I've played over the last week since it was released on the eShop. So difficult, but so gratifying to beat.

I had never played this before, so I did laugh out loud at a few of the trollish moments that I didn't expect. Most notably, the springboard that took me waaaaay over the flagpole to a backward warp zone. I went from "Wow, awesome! I've finally managed to jump over a flagpole" to "Oh #$@% you".

Lalivero

#2

Lalivero said:

It definitely is worth the hair pulling, haha; a nice challenge for a change. Never finished it before so maybe I'll get around to that since I've bought it from the eshop.

ReindeerDasher

#4

ReindeerDasher said:

I'm considering getting this, but I have some games I need to get right now, and got more games in the past 2 weeks than I ever have in probably any chain of a few months, so maybe I'll save this one for a while. Good review.

Xiao_Pai

#6

Xiao_Pai said:

...I think I stopped at World 2...lol.
Haven't touched the game ever since then. xD (have it on my Wii VC)

Reala

#7

Reala said:

World 2 is normally the point I'd quit and play Mario 2 or 3 instead on my allstars cart, that was some mad difficulty in lost levels.

Doge

#8

Doge said:

BEAT IT! it is a grand improvement to da series, at least for me, because its got much more challenge and more ideas and orginality

Bulbousaur

#11

Bulbousaur said:

I remember watching my friend play this in All Stars for the first time once, it was pretty funny :)

Furealz

#13

Furealz said:

Don't bash me for this...I don't have a copy of Super Mario Bros.3 on Wii because of the collection...gladly can't wait for it on 3DS Japanese Gamers get it tomorrow >.< I normally will never buy anything twice! Don't have OOT either because I own the 3DS cart and played the N64 Version to hell and back XD

Marakuto

#14

Marakuto said:

I tried this on my brother's SNES years ago when he got Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World, such a hard game to play through.

Guitardude7

#15

Guitardude7 said:

I'm proud to see I actually managed to beat the entire game all the way to D-4 and I will say this game will KICK. YOUR... I died literally thousands of times. But this review is right, if you die it's always your fault, not the games. It's a challenge for the ages so if you think you're a master Mario player, TRY IT. The easiness of Marios recent games will baffle you when you try this one.

Birthday_Boy

#16

Birthday_Boy said:

I've already got my head wrapped around the NSMB2 Impossible DLC. I spent over 7 Hours on it, and I still can't get passed the second level.

catsrnice

#17

catsrnice said:

Beat it 8 times w/o using warp zones and beat the special worlds too. (Though this was a year or 2 ago)

chiefeagle02

#18

chiefeagle02 said:

I remember this on Super Mario Bros Deluxe for the GBC. I agree, frustratingly difficult, but all the more gratifying when it's over.

soracloud28

#19

soracloud28 said:

Beaten this game with my brother and friends many times. Had it in allstars on snes and downloaded on the wii. May have to get it on 3ds

soracloud28

#20

soracloud28 said:

Beaten this game with my brother and friends many times. Had it in allstars on snes and downloaded on the wii. May have to get it on 3ds

KnightRider666

#22

KnightRider666 said:

I love this game, and I'm glad to have its perfectly ported 8-bit form. My only gripe(for every NES 3DS VC title) is that you can't map the buttons to your liking. Heck, you can on the all the Game Gear games, so why not on Nintendo's own titles from their own systems onto their own system? It would be so much easier to have the Y button as the run/fireball button, and the B button as the jump button. I can't be the only person w/ this gripe. Who else on here feels my pain?:)

RaylaxStaff

#23

Raylax said:

This is one of the few super-hard NES games I actually enjoy, and even more so to have it in portable format. Great way to while away a train journey. Presuming you don't end up punching the conductor in the face on your eleventieth death.

GeminiSaint

#24

GeminiSaint said:

A few tips:
1) Aerial bloopers are stompable.
2) If you have XX coins and touch the flagpole when the last number in your timer is X, you get a 1-UP. Example: 44 coins and 124 seconds in the timer.
3) If you beat the whole game without ever using a warp zone, you get to play the secret World 9, but you'll only have one life.
4) Beat the game 8 times or more, and you can press A+Start on the title screen to play the bonus worlds A, B, C and D.

Sun

#25

Sun said:

I played this on Super Mario All Stars (SNES) for the first time. It allowed to save after each phase and I managed to finish it. I found it very difficult but the graphics of SMAS are so cute that the challenge was worth it. Now I downloaded this from the eShop, let's see if I find a reason to try to complete it. Also, I feel I was a better player as a child than as an adult, talk about frustration.

MegaWattsAdmin

#26

MegaWatts said:

A brutal game, but a cracking one at that. I struggle enough with the first SMB (which says a lot about my overall skill), so you can imagine that this game was overkill.

Maybe this explains why my hairline is receding...

Geonjaha

#27

Geonjaha said:

There's a difference between boringly easy (NSMB series) and frustratingly difficult (Lost Levels). Challenging but enjoyable games are the ones that win, which is why SMB3, SMW and SMW2 are among the best games of all time.

Sun

#28

Sun said:

@KnightRider666 you are right and same for the Wii VC games, it's a shame.
@GeminiSaint I don't think I managed to beat World 9. I am not sure that I did the right thing downloading this, I'll try but I don't know how far will I get. Not so good and patient player anymore and the recent NSMB2 was like playing a game for subnormal people (the offence is to the creators not to that people, please) so I might be even worse after that.
When the next, SMB2?

Sun

#29

Sun said:

@Geonjaha You are totally right. Super Mario World cannot be better. I am still waiting for a game as perfect as that!

Chobi

#30

Chobi said:

I couldn't agree more with this review. The game does seem like it's design to break your spirit. Well put Philip..Well put..

Retro_on_theGo

#31

Retro_on_theGo said:

This game is exactly what was said in the review at one point. A glorified rom hack. I'll akip this game and play just about any other Mario game. I love challenge but this is just dumb.

Lalivero

#32

Lalivero said:

@KnightRider666 That's the exact thing I started doing when I started the game up; I was holding Y and B to run/jump respectively and then realized that that's not how it worked here, haha.

TheDreamingHawk

#33

TheDreamingHawk said:

I like to call this the second best classic mario game. But world 8 is a NIGHTMARE. It's worse than ninja gaiden! But I still had fun with it.

My rankings of classic mario games:

1: SMB3
2 SMB 2 (This game)
3 SMB USA
4SMB 1
5 SMW

And no, the list isn't backwards. I personally can't stand the SNES SMW Due to the broken fact of that they mapped B as jump instead of the Y button. It's even impossible to get a good running jump (Or worse, running SPIN JUMPS), so I prefer the GBA version way more, (Which is one of my favorite games ever). In the SNES version, I just walk, which makes the game boring (At least the game itself has tons of content, so it isn't bad)

Klimbatize

#34

Klimbatize said:

@GeminiSaint "4) Beat the game 8 times or more, and you can press A+Start on the title screen to play the bonus worlds A, B, C and D."

Do you have to beat it 8 times without using the warp zones? I've beaten it once without using warp zones to get World 9, but I'm hoping subsequent playthroughs to unlock A, B, C, and D can be faster by using warps.

ouroborous

#35

ouroborous said:

I hope it controls better on the 3DS than it did on the SNES release, the SNES release of it never felt right to me. If it has nice tight control like the original SMB1 on NES I think that would help.
Always wanted to play it though, but either way it is still insanely difficult.

grumblebuzzz

#36

grumblebuzzz said:

Save states on the 3DS make it beatable for the first time ever to those who are not of the most absolutely skilled at platformers. I recommend it to any Mario fan.

Kid_A

#37

Kid_A said:

Great review. I love how hilariously evil this game is. You can almost hear the level designers laughing to themselves saying, "Oh THIS is going to really piss them off!"

colortvgame

#39

colortvgame said:

The first time I played The Lost Levels was on Super Mario All-Stars on SNES, and it was definitely tough. Being able to save after every level helped quite a bit.

Several years back, I bought (on eBay?) the Famicom Mini GBA version of Super Mario Bros. 2 Japan, and I like it more than the SNES version-- the original 8-bit graphics feel much more natural for me. Plus, that version can save after every world (and has sleep mode!), so that's the only reason why I'm not downloading this for 3DS. Now to beat it 6 or so more times... :)

soracloud28

#40

soracloud28 said:

I've heard shigeru miyamoto was going through depression whilst this game was in development and that transferred over into the difficult gameplay. He wanted us to be as upset as he was

skjia

#41

skjia said:

I love this game. It took me about a month to beat on the wii vc. Lol.

GeminiSaint

#42

GeminiSaint said:

@Krimbatize To unlock worlds A through D you have to beat stage 8-4 eight times (so you get 8 stars in the title screen). How you get to stage 8-4 doesn't matter. The "no warps" thing is only for world 9.
The shortest route to 8-4 is:
1-1, 1-2 >warp> 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 5-1, 5-2 >warp> 8-1, 8-2, 8-3, 8-4.

gundam00

#43

gundam00 said:

@GeminiSaint So World 9 and Worlds A-D are separate worlds? World 9 is like Star World, then World A-D is like Special World? To put it in Super Mario World terms.

Gridatttack

#45

Gridatttack said:

I figured id give some tips too:
-To get to world 9, you must beat the game warpless.
-To get to worlds A-D, beat the game 8 times, and then press B (or was it A?) when pushing start on the title screen.
-In the first level, 1-1, in the beginning with the part with the red koopa where the first mushroom is, you can do the infinite lives trick there. If someone is interested, ill wil explain it detailed^^
(so people who says its too hard and always get a game over wont complain this time :P )

GeminiSaint

#46

GeminiSaint said:

@gundam00 Yeah, I guess. World 9 loops endlessly until you die (clearing 9-4 sends you back to 9-1). World A can be accessed from the title screen, but only if you have 8 or more stars (which you get by beating the game).

Tasuki

#47

Tasuki said:

I love this game yet hate it at the same time. I have tried so many times to finish this game mainly on the SMA cartridge for the SNES and the SMA disc on the Wii but I either get frustrated cause of the high difficultly or bored cause of the similarity of SMB that I stop playing it.

SirQuincealot

#49

SirQuincealot said:

made it to world 3 found a warp pipe that took me to world one, needless to say i was not pleased

Iceninja

#50

Iceninja said:

I Couldn't say it any other way Phillip this game is hard hitting! and yet Satisfying to beat, but its worth all the hair pulling.

SonataAndante

#51

SonataAndante said:

Just finished it myself last night. Well, up through World 9 anyways. Good game, very solid in most places and by and large a fair challenge. Some spots, however, I felt were a bit too unfair. I'd have to replay it to name more than one specifically so perhaps most weren't too bad really. One, however, I feel is just poor design. It's a spot in either World 2-2 or World 2-1, I forget which currently. Easy to spot though, as it's the part where you need to hit 2 hidden blocks to reach a floating pipe high up. This part is a constant hangup for me when I play as Mario. As Luigi it's complete and total non-issue. The problem lies with the height of the blocks, as the first requires a good running start to reach as Mario. Except the thing is, you can't scroll the screen back to the left so there's a good chance you'll have very little room to get the needed speed going. Heck if it's your first time through you might scroll too far and have no room at all for running. If you're Luigi or if you could move back to the left it'd be perfectly fine, but as is for Mario that spot alone haunts me. Having to beat the game 8 times to reach the lettered worlds is kinda crap but oh well, with warp zones it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

grumblegrumble

#54

grumblegrumble said:

I've been pulling my hair out since last Thursday (haha) only have a few strands left now lol.. Actually, it's so difficult I have to suspend it and go back to it a few days later, I get so frustrated! I especially hate how when you emerge from a green pipe (coin room) and you are trapped as mini mario behind a wall of bricks. WTF! lol. Great challenge, tho!

grumblegrumble

#57

grumblegrumble said:

"Sub-conscious vegetable buffet" lol. You know, you're so right on with that. If anyone here beat SMB2 (the American version) you know what he's talking about ;) Very cute ending too! I would love to see that world re-visited someday. That last level is one of my all time favorites and as a kid I figured out how to beat the entire game in about an hour. ;)

Sun

#60

Sun said:

@CowLaunch Then I shouldn't have downloaded the original version. I won't be able to be successful.

When are they are going to release a digital version of Super Mario All Starts? I think it's super cute.

WindWakerLink

#62

WindWakerLink said:

Lost Levels is one of the meanest Mario games EVER!!! But it's FUNNY how many times I 'died, how I died, and the deception in several of the stages!!! XD I have this game on the "Super Mario AllStars + Super Mario World" from the 90s. Took me years to beat it. It's SO hard and unforgiving! It's funny how they trick you in this game...like one of my favorite "tricks" is when u get to World 3 and you find that Warp... you think it's to world 4, 5 or 6 but it's a Wapr to 1-1!! XD XD I love how in 1-2, the WARPs are scattered through out the stage vs having them in one place. XD I love how secretly stage 8-2 set up was with the exit which links to you 8-3... Stage 8-3 is REALLY MEAN!!! XD And...those letters worlds...."WOW!! SO MEAN!!" XD Particularly world D-1 was CRAZY DIFFICULT from the get-go! I like the game overall but man! It's really is hard! "Heed the warning in the article because Philip is SPOT on with EVERYTHING he said. I totally concur!!!!"
Side Note:"If anyone is looking for another Crazy Mario game challenge...then I highly recommend '#10 Impossible Pack' in 'Coin Rush Mode' from 'New Super Mario Bros 2' for the 3DS! I'm still having problems beating just the 1st stage! XD There R no power-ups of ANY KIND and the placement of enemies is so NOT fair!" XD XD

WindWakerLink

#63

WindWakerLink said:

@Sun
They probably won't release the digital version of Mario All Stars because they already release the game on the Wii for the Mario 25th anniversary two years ago. Plus, they would make more money selling the games individual than together. At least that's how I'm seeing it....

WolfyWardark

#65

WolfyWardark said:

Ooh, I'll have to get this sometime! I've played The Lost Levels on All-Stars, but never this version.. should be a challenge! :)

Collinhall

#67

Collinhall said:

"The music is also carried over from the first game, again making The Lost Levels feel like a bit of a retread."

Hmm... We haven't seen this before in Ninty games as of late have we?

UnseatingKDawg

#69

UnseatingKDawg said:

Let's see, this is a third time over I have this game, as I downloaded the VC version on the Wii and have the Wii version of All-Stars. I made it to about World 6 on the Wii versions. This one, thanks to those restore points, I'm currently in World 7. This is only one of three Mario platformers I have not finished (the other 2 being Super Mario Sunshine, and New Super Mario Bros. U). This will change... eventually. And I will clear World 9 and Worlds A-D. Eventually. Sheesh, I thought Kid Icarus was a hard game! I think the only games I have more trouble with are Mega Man, Ghosts N' Goblins, and Metroid. Which is why I'm thankful for the Restore Points.

spamineggs

#70

spamineggs said:

I have this on the GBC in the form of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, and I still haven't beaten it. Maybe with the help of restore points I'll finally be able to end it!

PixelRobin

#71

PixelRobin said:

never played it but crap does it look HARD. This reminds me of touch battle tank 3d except the fact that the difficulty of enemy tanks is "randomized" Might pick this up along with smb sometime later. :)

JuanitoShet

#72

JuanitoShet said:

Reading through all the comments, and for a couple of years now all I've read is that The Lost Levels are hard as s**t, that they're damn near unbeatable and that people only get to World 2 before they quit.

And here I've beaten them over and over my entire life. I have them once again in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for the Game Boy Color, and I honestly don't see where the "brutality" in this game is. I've never found it!

Or maybe it's just the fact that I've gotten to play them since I was a toddler, I don't knoe. But I just personally think people exaggerate the difficulty way too much.

All in all though, The Lost Levels are still a blast to play today, for sure. :)

Mordresh

#73

Mordresh said:

@JuanitoShet Difficult remains subjective. The spotlight here is how The Lost Levels compares to the other Mario games, one cannot simply deny the increased difficulty in that regard.

berenlazarus

#74

berenlazarus said:

Personally love "The Lost Levels". Got the game back in the mid 1990s with the All-Stars cart and played them excessively. Then I Played through them on Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. Beat the game on the VC (my Wii game has twenty stars on the title screen of "Lost Levels", with each star representing a completion). Bought the All-Stars for the Wii and beat them there.

Throughout my life I've completed the game fully so many times over so many years I've lost count. Of the four NES Marios, I've probably spent more time playing and completing this than the other three. I get a lot more enjoyment from this one than I do the original.

On the original Famicom version for the VC it's essential you get the dozens of 1-ups using the Koopa on 1-1. The truly difficult part is playing through Worlds A-D on the original 8-bit version, as there is no convenient place to get lots of 1-ups, so when you die you have to restart the entire world instead of just the level.

As far as difficulty, yes they are challenging, but perhaps because I've played the game so much the difficulty seems far more manegable than some other NES titles. The first four worlds (half the game) aren't really that bad. As far as castles the difficulty really steps up on 4-4, with 8-4 being truly epic. I always felt the 8-4 castle on "Super Mario Bros" was kinda somewhat dull; "Lost Levels" more than makes up for that mistake. And the bonus worlds are pretty insane.

But for all the difficulty, I still think "Lost Levels" doesn't touch "Ghost N Goblins", "Battle Toads", "Silver Surfer", "Castlevania" or "Ninja Gaiden". Especially "Ninja Gaiden". That game is almost freaking impossible

IAmSpike

#75

IAmSpike said:

I read 'retread' as something else. lol.

Anyways, this game is Just. Plain. Difficult.

Gridatttack

#76

Gridatttack said:

@Sun

The allstars version is the worst.
The broken physics with the brick block comes in mind.
Allstars modified some levels, like made some snow levels into plains and also it just took the SMB1 SMAS graphics...

This FDS version is the best of all.

Starzsixty9

#77

Starzsixty9 said:

Encountered my first invisible block challenge in 2-2 ugh no wonder I always skipped this game in mario all stars when I was a kid :p

StarDust4Ever

#78

StarDust4Ever said:

Super Mario Lost Levels kicks you in the pants so many times, but I can't get enough...

I own numerous versions of this title, mainly because I collect EVERYTHING MARIO...

*SMB Deluxe (GBC)
*Super Mario All-Stars + World (SNES)
*Famicom Mini Series 21 SMB2 (GBA Japanese import - this version also has an Easter Egg where you can access the FDS disk loader screen by holding A+B when powering on the game)
*Wii Virtual Console (I also downloaded a 24-star save from the Internet in order to access World A-1)
*Wii SMAS (SNES rerelease)
*SMB2j NES repro cart with level select, from retrousb.com

and finally, *3DS Virtual Console

Thank you Nintendo for providing us with save states!!!

FYI, there are actually two places in World 1-1 where you can earn infinite 1UPs, but you won't need them if you utilize save states properly. Youtube is your friend.

BTW, why do people always complain about the placement of A and B? When given the option through in-game menus, I always use "B+A" rather than "Y+B". It feels more natural to me with the buttons side-by-side like they are on an official rectangular NES controller, or even the Dog Bone.

Big_A2

#79

Big_A2 said:

@StarDust: B+A is annoying because you can't lie your finger across both buttons like you can with Y+B, or on the original NES controller. This way you can easily hold down the run button and then push the rest of your finger down when you want to jump. With B+A, instead you have to stick your finger in between both buttons and rock it back and forth when running and jumping. I find it uncomfortable.

@TheDreamingHawk, Y as jump? Are you crazy? No Mario game has the jump button on the left.

KnightRider666

#80

KnightRider666 said:

@Big_A2: Thank you! Y+B all the way!!! It just FEELS right. I'm stuck using X to run, and A to jump. It takes so much away from any enjoyment of any NES game on the 3DS VC.

TheDreamingHawk

#82

TheDreamingHawk said:

@Big_A2

Holding B to Run feels more comfortable, as you can just push forward and tap the Y button to jump. Besides, MANY other games use the Y button to jump, and it feels better that way. (If it's a game where you attack or shoot, then B to jump is better)

MarioKenny1992

#83

MarioKenny1992 said:

I'm happy with the Super Mario All-Stars version and I also already have Lost Levels on SMB Deluxe and on the Wii, so I'll pass. I think the All-Stars version is the best since you can save your progress at any stage, and you can just beat world 8 and proceed to the special worlds, and world 9 if you beat world 8 without warping

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