Mario Bros. (NES)

Game Review

Mario Bros. Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Definitely not super

If you've ever been curious about Mario and Luigi's actual credibility as plumbers, you'll want to look all the way back to 1983's Mario Bros., the game which established pipe-cleaning as their true vocation and served as something of a bridge between arcade sensation Donkey Kong and early platforming masterpiece Super Mario Bros.

Mario Bros. itself is a fun enough game, but upon release it wasn't as well-regarded as either its predecessor or its successor, and it's easy to see why. It's a clunky experience without the sense of progression associated with either of those other two games, and it also hasn't aged nearly as well. Of course, as part of Mario's history — and, fittingly for this year in particular, the video game debut of Luigi — it might be worth a spin, but unless you're a die hard fan it won't stay in your rotation for long.

The concept is simple: enemies crawl or hop out from pipes, and you need to bop the platform beneath them in order to render them vulnerable to a kick. The action transpires throughout a single wrap-around screen, and a handy POW block serves as a sort of panic button, flipping over any enemies that are touching the floor when you hit it.

That may sound simple, but...actually, disregard that. This game is simple. You bop enemies from beneath, kick them over, and run around grabbing coins. Rinse, repeat.

As a relic of the early arcade era, the simplicity makes sense; sessions were competitive, gamers didn't have an opportunity to master complicated controls and concepts, and a few minutes' worth of play (or less) were all that anyone expected in exchange for their pocket change. On a home console, however, the experience rings pretty hollow, and there's little reason to keep coming back.

The simultaneous two-player mode gives Mario Bros. some potential replayability if there are two fans in the family, and it can be fun to go head to head in a frantic scramble for the highest score, but that's about it. Gamers playing alone will have even less incentive to invest their hours here, as there's not enough in the way of challenge or inventiveness to help Mario Bros. stand out today.

It's a part of Mario's history, but by now the odds are good you've played some variation on it at some point (it's been repurposed as everything from a battle mode in Super Mario Bros. 3 to an inspired room in New Super Mario Bros. 2's DLC), so it's not a landmark that particularly calls out for a special trip.

Interestingly enough it did eventually have a spiritual sequel of its own on the Virtual Boy, in the form of Mario Clash. The fact that the Virtual Boy installment is arguably the better game says a lot more about Mario Bros. than it does about Mario Clash.


Mario Bros. doesn't hold up as a particularly addictive score-attack experience, but there is still some fun to be had in its competitive multiplayer mode. The game is fun in its own way, but it doesn't quite dig its hooks into us the way Donkey Kong did before it, or Super Mario Bros. did afterward. On its own merits it might serve as a decent diversion, and we doubt many gamers today will find it to be much more than that.

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User Comments (44)



Pichuka97 said:

I love this game. The GBA version brings back memories and the NES game is still epic IMO.The multiplayer made it last longer.



naut said:

Perhaps the NES version doesn't hold up as well (I can't say as I've spent little time with it) but like @Pichuka97 I have very fond memories of spending hours trying to survive just one more round of the GBA version that came with Super Mario Advance 3&4.



Geonjaha said:

I've got the GBA version with Yoshi's Island anyway; that's enough for me. :3



Pichuka97 said:

I am so stupid. I saw the Atari cart for $5 in the box and never bought it. I constantly kick myself for that mistake.



Mickey said:

@-KwB- What this game was is irrelevant. It may have been awesome then (I freely admit I like this game too,) but it's just average now. At least, in the eyes of the reviewer.



Kaihaku said:

Please don't hate on the reviewer for giving an honest appraisal of this game's appeal for modern audiences. Chances are that those of us who have played this game are just checking this review out of curiosity, we already know what it has to offer. This review is intended for unsuspecting virtual console users who are considering purchasing a game that frankly has not aged gracefully.

I have played this game before and I gave it a pass this time around. As mentioned in other comments, there are superior versions of this game out there and, in my opinion, the only real reason to play this version is nostalgia. That's up to the buyer but the version of this that was included in Super Mario Brothers 3 is the only one that holds any nostalgic value for me. Honestly, if I were reviewing it I would have given it a lower rating with the caveat that it's simultaneous multiplayer gameplay was impressive in 1983.



retro_player_22 said:

I have had over 6 versions (including the awesome Virtual Boy version) of this game already, no need for me to waste money on this old one.



Morpheel said:

Eh I already have two versions of this (one came with superstar saga and the other with my ambassador copy of yoshi's island), and even these updated (much better) versions are average at best.



Burning_Spear said:

My favorite arcade game ever. I could tie up the machine for an hour on a single quarter. My bud Gary and I were amazing at co-op.
Why oh why will Nintendo not release the arcade version with the icicles?



KingDunsparce said:

I've already got it with Superstar Saga, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Yoshi's Island on the GBA, so I think I'll pass for now.



Tasuki said:

Its a fun game but it does show its age. I agree its alot better with multiplayer in it and I am sure the suspended play comes in handy on the Wii U version. I remember one time my brother and I got to level 54 on the NES. Man if only we had suspended play back than. What is the highest level this game has?



SheldonRandoms said:

I have the NES version already, and it's still fun to play. Nintendo should make New Mario Bros. someday.



TreesenHauser said:

I have this on the Wii Virtual Console, and while I enjoy it I don't think I enjoy it enough to spend that extra dollar on the Wii U upgrade. On the bright side, this gives me one more reason to stick around in Wii Mode next time haha



Burning_Spear said:

@Tasuki I think it goes on forever. I've made it into the 70s. The thing is, once the slip ice is introduced it just keeps playing the same four levels over and over without any increase of difficulty.



gblock said:

I could see them doing a NSMBWii-style graphically upgraded version w/ 4 player multiplayer support (Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad) and do it as a couple level minigame in a future release of Mario Party (or unlockable, or even a downloadable game or something) would be neat. That being said, I like the arcade version.



DerpSandwich said:

This game should be one dollar. Like, seriously. There are free games that are about a thousand times more awesome and interesting than this. Nintendo needs to be competitive.



Marioman64 said:

what?! 5? well, the versions put with Super Mario Advance 1-4 and Superstar Saga were better and had multiplayer involving trash cans, but still



KnightRider666 said:

The real arcade version was amazing, and much more difficult. The closest we got to getting it was on the GBA SMA games. Still not arcade perfect though, and the NES version is no where's close to it.



Sean_Aaron said:

Once again I'm not understanding why Nintendo are releasing a clearly inferior NES port rather than the arcade original. I also don't get why this isn't arcade-perfect given that Super Mario Bros. was - hell that was one of the NES selling points!



CowLaunch said:

I quite like this game, but it has been priced far too high for the eshop, considering what it is, and the fact that it has been released so many times before (effectively for free many times).



Moonhillwat said:

Love this game!

And you guys remember this being turned into a stage for Super Smash Bros. Brawl? It was chaotic fun!



JJtheTexan said:

It's not terrible or unplayable, but asking $5 for this is a travesty. It's MAYBE worth 99 cents as a digital download.



startropics3 said:

This was a ton of fun playing with my bros. on SMB3, but then just about every simultaneous multiplayer game I remember playing on the NES was spectacular (Joust, Contra, Chip and Dale's, Battletoads, Double Dragon, Bubble Bobble, Jackal, and Rampage, to name a few ) and probably more fun than Mario Bros.



chewytapeworm said:

Good review of a classic game. Might give it a spin on my copy of Yoshi's Island on my 3ds soon. It speaks volumes that I struggle to play through those Mario advance games as I usually end up having a quick go on Mario Bros first!

@Blizzaga yes mate, it's one of the best stages!



retro_player_22 said:

If you had bought any of these Mario games throughout your life, you may had this game already or likewise, a better more similar version of it:

  • Mario Bros. (NES Classic Series) - GBA
  • Super Mario Advance - GBA
  • Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World - GBA
  • Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 - GBA
  • Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 - GBA
  • Super Mario All-Stars: Anniversary Edition - Wii
  • Super Mario All-Stars - SNES
  • Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World - SNES
  • Mario Clash - Virtual Boy
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga - GBA
  • Mario Bros. - NES
  • Super Mario Bros. 3 - NES


Varia01 said:

LOL! This is probably the worst Mario game. I would be bored if I bought this.



iHailPhilly said:

I dont agree with the 5/10 score, this is gaming history. Its should score at minimum an 8/10.



Grubdog said:

I was addicted to this in the GBA days, I think I maxed out the score (or got to level 99, I forget) 3 times in all the Mario Advance games. Way better than Donkey Kong at least.



sleepinglion said:

It sure would be sweet if Nintendo started adding the arcade version as an option of some of these ports. Though simplistic I did appreciate the minor graphical boost the arcade version offered. Cute game, definitely worth the small upgrade fee if you had it on your Wii's VC =)

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