Wrecking Crew's a bit of an oddball. Despite starring Mario, it flies under many peoples' radars, partly because it launched simultaneous with the legendary Super Mario Bros. and several other titles, thus meaning it was quickly overshadowed.
Wrecking Crew's genre is hard to nail down, but is essentially a mix of a platformer and puzzler. You must make your way up platforms and past obstacles in a level that's one screen wide but two high, destroying all walls and breakable ladders through 100 stages. There's a bonus round after every fourth one, too.
Some of the mechanics are quite interesting. As in Mario Bros., it's possible to walk off the edge of the screen and emerge on the other side. If you hit bombs, a chain reaction damages all walls next to them and can also open doors to send enemies to the background of the stage, where they can't do any harm until they return through another door.
Making your life miserable in later stages is Foreman Spike. This Wario-esque character stays in the background, but can break down walls from the other side. If you happen to be in front of them when he does, you'll be knocked down to the lowest floor.
Other enemies include Gotcha-Wrenches, which simply hunt you down, and Eggplant Men, which follow a specific, predictable walking pattern. Both will kill you on contact, but they — and Foreman Spike — can be trapped forever by knocking down oil drums when they walk underneath them.
While the early stages are more action-oriented, the game really shows its clever puzzle side in later stages. You'll really need to plan stuff out before doing anything — hitting one wrong object can cause others to become inaccessible, forcing you to restart.
Even if you complete all 100 stages — a very hard task — the game’s not over. Like Excitebike and Mach Rider, Wrecking Crew includes a level editor to design and play your own levels. The original NES version could not save these — it only worked on the Famicom Disk System in Japan — but the Virtual Console now allows you to do this!
The music is the same throughout, but is it ever addictive. A different tune accompanies the Golden Hammer power up that lets you swing your hammer twice as fast and, if timed well enough, knock down enemies. If you're a pro you can even use it to walk on air, but you lose it when you die. A few levels also feature hidden lives and bonus points, obtained by destroying blocks in a certain secret order.
Wrecking Crew actually got a sequel on the SNES, Wrecking Crew '98. It's pretty much completely different and plays more like a crazy form of Puyo Puyo, but it's still fairly fun. Sadly it's not available on Virtual Console, but the original is still a very fun little game. It's a shame that it was overshadowed by bigger titles like Super Mario Bros. — hopefully now it will receive the attention it deserves.