Game Review

Super Mario Bros. Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Yet another way to experience a masterpiece

Mario. Say it loud and there's music playing. Say it soft, and it's almost like praying. Super Mario Bros. was, is, and will always be one of gaming's great masterpieces, and its availability on any additional format is a good thing. Now it's come to the 3DS Virtual Console, and we couldn't be happier.

For many gamers, probably including a large portion of you, Super Mario Bros. was an introduction to the vast and exciting worlds that video games had to offer. Its scope might seem rather quaint by today's standards, but on release in 1985 it opened eyes all over the world to what video games could do. Its sprawling levels, hidden secrets, optional sub-routes, legendary soundtrack and gorgeous spritework set standards by which all games, particularly platformers, continue to be judged.

That's for good reason. Super Mario Bros. holds up as well today as it did almost 30 years ago. Gamers are still discovering its secrets, and its endless charm has yet to be exhausted. However many times you might stomp the same Goomba, uncover the same 1-up or expertly dodge the same Hammer Bro., the experience remains fresh and timeless.

By this point, the story is well known. The evil Bowser — at this point still known as King Koopa — has kidnapped Peach — here Princess Toadstool — and hidden her away in one of eight trap-laden dungeons. Italian plumbers Mario and Luigi are dead-set on getting her back, even if their very bad luck means they clear out all seven of the wrong castles before they stumble upon the right one.

Along the way they stomp enemies, navigate dangerous obstacles and grab helpful power-ups. A time limit ensures a brisk pace for the brothers, but exploration is always rewarded, particularly in the case of underground coin rooms, sky-bound bonus areas and level-skipping warp zones. Your main task is to navigate treacherous platforms, a series staple that is every bit as devious here at the outset as it would ever be.

With as much evolution as we've seen in the series since, newcomers might expect Super Mario Bros. to feel a little limited. At first, it might. Spend a little bit of time, however, and you'll see that every hallmark of the later games' quality is present and accounted for: the brilliant level design, the varied locations, the clever enemy placement, the superb physics and the heart-pounding sense of danger that increases with every level you clear. There might be fewer items and villains than in later offerings, but by no means is there less creativity.

Finding fault with the game is difficult. It was such an enormous success upon its original release for a reason, and all of those reasons are valid today. It gets rather difficult in its later levels, but it ramps up at the perfect rate, and even young gamers will have a blast with the early levels. The 3DS Virtual Console release adds restore point functionality, which can be helpful for struggling gamers, but it's important to note that you didn't really beat Super Mario Bros. unless you beat it fair and square.

It is worth mentioning that the two-player mode (unlike many 3DS Virtual Console games we've seen) is intact and fully functional here. It does, however, require an awkward button combination to switch between the two players (L + R + Y), which seems like somewhat of a redundant step since the two players alternate anyway. That's the smallest of small issues in an all-time great, though.


Super Mario Bros. is one of those rare games that has never really gone away. It's been reissued and remastered so many times that we never really seem to be too far away from a chance to experience it all over again, yet it still hasn't worn out its welcome. There's always more to discover, and always one more reason to return to the Mushroom Kingdom.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (55)



pixelman said:

I still like the All-Stars version of this best.
mostly because I'm better at it, haha.



Terave said:

It is a masterpiece and a great game. And that's about what I had to say for now.



Shworange said:

I miss challenging games like this. When I first played it in the second grade, it was relentlessly unforgiving. Getting a 1up meant something. While I love super Mario 3D land, I currently have 189 lives. A game like this pushed you to continually get better at gaming. If you died (and didnt properly execute the "a + start" method) you stayed dead and had to repeat the whole thing. 189 lives doesn't seem right.



SLiM said:

This game only serves to remind me how old I am. Great game back in the day



brandonbwii said:

I don't like the idea of Nintendo's NESploitation of the classics. It also leaves me a bit confused as to what NES games in the near future will receive the 3D Classics treatment (I was certain Punch-Out would but now I'm not too sure).

Ranting aside there is something to be said about playing my old NES favorites on the go, especially with the suspend features. Super Mario Bros. is a true classic. Thank goodness I'm an ambassador.



WingedSnagret said:

Ah, I remember playing this at my older cousin's house when I was little. Until finally several years later I got it myself on the Wii councle. Memories...



retro_player_22 said:

So with this game on 3DS VC, will we ever see the Game Boy Color version of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on 3DS VC?



Pete_Stooge said:

I think the special worlds in 3D land are pretty difficult...if you wanna get all the starcoins that is. Btw Super Mario Bros. is awesome.



GTWarrior77 said:

This game was the first cartridge that I ever loaded into my NES back in the day. Good times:)



BulbasaurusRex said:

Do these games really need new reviews, and even if you think they do, why didn't you mention the occasional sprite flicker in this version of the game?



theblackdragon said:

@BulbasaurusRex: Is it different than the flicker from the NES/Wii VC version? I find the Wii VC version to be incredibly accurate to my memories of playing SMB as a kid in terms of screen/sprite flickering and other graphical oddities, lol.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I experienced no more flicker here than I ever have with the game, which is why I didn't find it to be worthy of remark. Sorry to disappoint!



Play_It_Loud said:

My dad bought us the deluxe model...so even though we owned a NES the whole cycle I never really owned this game. Mario 3 check Mario 1 not so much...doesn't matter though my uncle had it, and he babysat me alot. so I played the out of this game. Memory's this game is one of the best.



CapedGodot said:

2 USA and 3 are so much better. And the All-Stars version of each of them is better than the original version.



Sneaker13 said:

I don't really understand the multiplayer aspect. How does that work? Is it on the same handheld?



Odnetnin said:

Thank you for withholding the 10. Great game to be sure, but it hasn't aged perfectly and has since been surpassed.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I don't really understand the multiplayer aspect. How does that work? Is it on the same handheld?

Yep, same handheld. Think of the 3DS as a console, rather than a controller.



Sapo said:

I love this game and this is my very core childhood memory..
I don't know why but well, all this remastering stuff, I think make the game to lose its magic.
On Wii I was so happy to see it, on 3DS I don't get the sense.
GB/GBC/GBA is very good to me, like HomeConsoleVC on a home console, HomeConsoleVC on a handheld is not.



Tasuki said:

I still get flashbacks of being six years old and my dad hooking up the NES to our TV for the first time whenever someone mentions SMB. Each time I play it no matter which version I still get the goosebumps and awe feeling I got the first time I put the cartridge in the NES and turned it on and saw the SMB title screen for the first time.



Kid_A said:

This is just a wonderful review. Having it with me on the go, I'm starting to appreciate how truly endless it's replay value is. It's one of those rare games that's just always exciting, and after playing it for most of my life, I still haven't found all of its secrets. I was reminded of Roger Ebert's essay on Citizen Kane when I read this, and as I played the game immediately afterward. I'll switch around the movie terms with gaming terms, but the message is the same.

"Its surface is as much fun as any game ever made. Its depths surpass understanding. I have analyzed it a frame at a time with more than 30 groups, and together we have seen, I believe, pretty much everything that is there on the screen. The more clearly I can see its physical manifestation, the more I am stirred by its mystery."



PixelatedPixie said:

Yeah, I have to agree with BulbasaurusRex. Reviewing the original Super Mario Bros. is like reviewing 'Dark Side of the Moon'.



Odnetnin said:

@Kid_A Only Super Mario Bros. is a lot better than Citizen Kane.
yes I've watched it and it's not that great



rafaelluik said:

Less than 10 is unacceptable!!
And more: think about Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and you will find a game that deserves more than 10!



RR529 said:

I remember playing it when I was about 3, and could barely get past world 1-1 (I also remember my dad cussing it out, lol). That being said, this game introduced me to games, so I've downloaded it on Wii VC, and now 3DS VC, it never gets old. Great review!



Kid_A said:

First off, comparing films to games is pointless. Doesn't make any sense. Second of all, Citizen Kane IS that great
But that is ENTIRELY off topic! Carry on.



sc100 said:

This game is as timeless as you get. I enjoy it just as much today as I did when it first came out over 25 years ago.



Nintendawg said:

yup, this game's still as much fun as it was back then

"...but it's important to note that you didn't really beat Super Mario Bros. unless you beat it fair and square"

aaaand that goes for pretty much any other game out there, doesn't it.




I love the fact that you can save anywhere now because there are games like Metroid and Zelda II I could never get very far in that I will be able to beat thanks to the saves. As for Super Mario Bros. it became super easy for me to beat the game this time around thanks to the saves. Now, I can load my game up and choose to play any world I want to.



Bass_X0 said:

Not 10/10????? It's one of the greatest games off all time!

But then Super Mario Bros. 3 would have to get 11/10 at least to be on the same scale. As good as Super Mario Bros. is, Super Mario Bros. 3 is much better.



Mahe said:

The 3DS button setup hurts this game. It's not as good as on NES, SNES or Wii.



k8sMum said:

i love it BUT i keep hitting the 'b' button to jump and it's killing poor mario.



Rococoman said:

@ retro_player_22 I'm a touch dissappointed that Nintendo continues to ignore Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for GameBoy Color. What a game! Small screen size aside, it gave the game an overworld map, a quick way to play the 'extra' mode, all of the lost levels, achievements, hidden level coins - the works. Anyone else like this one?

I would prefer that, if they ever DID bring back this one, that they would take advantage of the 3DS's beefier resolution.



flatspikes said:

A cynical cash in (£4.50!) or a great way to enjoy the classic? Like others I'm confused why the NES is a featured system, surely handheld VC on a handheld? The 3D remakes however I have no issue with, just shame this isn't likely to be one of those 'classics'.



1takauchiha said:

I used to have this game on the original console. I wonder what happened to it...
Really want it <3



GrooseMarioFan said:

"The 3DS Virtual Console release adds restore point functionality, which can be helpful for struggling gamers, but it's important to note that you didn't really beat Super Mario Bros. unless you beat it fair and square."
Uhhh, I- cough, cough- have never been- cough- able to, uhh, get past world 4... I always use the warp pipe on 1-2 to get to World 4. I beat it for the first time yesterday, using the- the- the save points.
Ohhhhhhh, sob!



Dreadjaws said:

She? Hahahahahahaha! So naive...

I bought this game on VC on release day. You simply must have it. It hasn't lost its charm nor its challenge. The game every great platformer is based on, and still one of the best.

Now, all I have to wait for are SMB3 and Contra. Two of my favorite NES games ever.



Beau_Skunk said:

I honestly prefer the 8-bit version over the "All-Stars" 16-bit one personally. That may just be the "nostalgia" talking, but I felt the more simplistic graphics were neater, and unique, while the 16-bit version just looked alot like SMW to me, and didn't have as much neat stuff sprinkled through the backgrounds.
I also prefered the Mario's walk, and stance animations in the original 8-bit one, as well. (While the 16-bit animations just mimic'd SMB3 & SMW to me.)

While it would've been nice to get the "SMB DX" Gameboy Color game, (with it's added features) the smaller cramped screen did kinda bug me.
It's nice to finally see a pixel-perfect portable version of the game after all these years. (The one on GBA's graphics were squashed a bit to fit on the GBA's resolution, and the GBColor one had to use a zoomed-in screen.)

One thing I will critique is, it would've been nice if they offered an option to change the control scheme from B-run, A-jump to the Y-run, B-jump scheme like the All-Stars, and New SMB games. (Sometimes using B & A hurts my thumb) I don't know why Nintendo won't go through the trouble to give their VC games features like that, considering they went through the trouble to implement a suspend/save feature. It just seems lazy on their part. Still it's a minor complaint, considering I heard once you "update" the game to the current EShop version you can use the X & A buttons instead if you wish. Wich is nice, as well.



Gridatttack said:

The all stars version doesn't deserve to exist at all due to a fatal bug. They broke the physics when mario breaks a brick.
I always prefer the original 8bit version of mario games than to the new versions (except for SMB2)



RoryJames said:

Rediscovering this via the eShop has been a complete joy. Packed in with Duck Hunt, it was this game that introduced me to video games in general. It might be nostalgia talking, but I loved playing this again. I'd completely forgotten about the harder second game, which thanks to the restore point, I can now access whenever I want. Well worth the money!



unrandomsam said:

I prefer the 8 bit versions of lost levels and the original. Not bothered either way with 3 think they play the same. (Obviously only interested in 60hz versions of any).

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...