Game Review

Super Mario Bros. Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Forever running to the right

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. It's come to the Wii and 3DS Virtual Consoles before, and now jumps onto the Wii U Virtual Console; 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 Wii U Virtual Console release adds restore point functionality and a Miiverse community, both of which can be helpful in their own ways; it's important to note, however, 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 is intact and fully functional here. It's a simple case of alternating players and, ultimately, has never been a particularly vital part of the experience.


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.

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User Comments (56)



HugoSmits said:

Personally my favorite version of this game is still Super Mario Deluxe for the GBC. Since I never got a NES from my parents, I always had to play this game at a friend. Finally for xmas 99 I got a GBC with Mario Deluxe!

It seemed to have included the best of later Mario games; like the world map from Mario 3, and my favorite character Yoshi (although not playable).



Nintenjoe64 said:

I wonder what Nintendo would try to charge for an HD remake of this. They'd want at least £40 for a Mario All Stars HD



LoZ4life98 said:

Wait, fair and square as in not using the warp zones!? Man, I have grown up in a different time in the difficulty of gaming. I always have died at around 8-1 when using warp zones.



Samurai_Goroh said:

My first videogame ever, an epic masterpiece that could gather mum, dad, and the distant relatives around the NES with the kids. I have repurchased it on Wii Virtual Console and still feel tempted to buy it once again for 3DS and Wii U.



RainbowGazelle said:

The was great for the NES, but I'm afraid it does not "hold up as well today as it did almost 30 years ago".



Humphries90 said:

I respectfully disagree. Compared to the majority of NES games I'd say Super Mario Bros holds up remarkably well. If the graphics were completely revamped to meet todays standards and released today, I don't think you'd be able to tell it was a game made in '85.



TeeJay said:

It's great but the physics feel completely wonky in comparison to today's Mario games, and I definitely feel the pain of not being able to backtrack. So no, I don't think this holds up nearly as well as the review claims.



deusy said:

I've never actually finished this one. I'll have to sit down and do it one of these days.



DualWielding said:

I understand wanting to release the original but I'll prefer they released the 16 bit version or the GBC version if a superior version of a game exists that's the one you should offer, you can always offer the original as a bonus, for what they are charging for a game this old offering both versions would be fair



Zeldalover said:

It never gets old. Unlike The Legend of Zelda for the NES. This game has aged much better and it should rank at least 1 spot higher in all charts. Why it doesn't? Because of it's simplistic nature when compared to a game like Zelda.



KeithTheGeek said:

I wouldn't call the sprites "gorgeous." Functional? Yes, entirely so. Everything's crisp enough so you can tell what exactly you are jumping on. It is, however, poor even by NES standards, and I feel part of the reason people avoid criticizing the visuals too much is because of years and years of these familiar sprites being pounded into our heads. See...pretty much any Mario reference in the later years, including in the Paper Mario games, some sports games, Smash Bros. I do admit I find the sprites charming, though.

I do think the game holds up remarkably well in terms of the game feel, though. The only thing that holds me back from absolutely adoring it is the lack of a save feature. You can have a game that's more difficult than the original Super Mario Bros. but be more tolerable to play because you can save the game and return to it later if a particular level is giving you trouble. I suppose the save states can let you do that, but it feels kind of cheap.



TreesenHauser said:

Well, it looks like I'll be upgrading from the Wii Virtual Console version when this comes to the US.



GustavoMaciel said:

I bought Lost Levels on the 3DS and it's been testing my skills to the limit. I know it is harder than the original, but how much harder is it? I feel that I could enjoy Super Mario Bros. a lot after the hardcore training in Lost Levels. Unless it's similarly hard...



QBertFarnsworth said:

@KeithTheGeek Your issue with the graphics is why I love playing Virtual Console games on the Wii U Game Pad. Playing games that were made to be played on the TVs of the 80s (with their 240i or whatever their resolution was) on huge modern 1080p TVs makes the graphical flaws stand out. Playing on the game pad helps soften the flaws a bit.



HugoSmits said:

@brokenpixel The GBC version let’s you move just as much as the NES version. But since the GBC screen is smaller than the NES screen, you can walk left a little bit (so you can reach the same area as in the NES version).



element187 said:

My only complaint is the score is too low for this masterpiece.

Remember that this was the first game to ever feature very LARGE side scrolling levels... previously games were only 1 scene at a time. It pretty much redined gaming all together. All games of today share a feature that was invented by Shigeru, mainly large sprawling areas. it deserves a 10/10



UnseatingKDawg said:

I would've updated my Wii Virtual Console version... but NOA insisted we got Zelda II instead... morons.

Anywho, this is one of the best games I've ever played - the first version I had was the Classic NES series version on Game Boy Advance. Took me two years to beat it. But man, once I did - I felt like I could tackle anything.



Darknyht said:

The only thing I never figured out how to do was access the Zero worlds on the NES version. Sadly when I tried playing it a few years ago, I discovered that I had forgotten how to get through Browser's castle for the final battle.



NintyMan said:

Must I really write much about this game? It's Super Mario Bros., the revolutionary video game that saved the gaming industry in the West.

Unfortunately, it's a little embarrassing to admit that I've never beat this game, but I know I'm not the only one. Maybe one of these days I'll finally achieve that.

The story in this game is really strange. Bowser (whose name I prefer over Koopa personally because it sounds more menacing, just as Dr. Robotnik is more menacing than Dr. Eggman) invades the Mushroom Kingdom and turns the Toads into bricks and blocks with his magic. Yes, the same bricks and blocks that Mario hits with his fist to get power-ups. Bowser rarely shows off his magical abilities. Bowser also kidnaps the daughter of the king (who has never been shown), Princess Toadstool, whose name probably makes more sense than Princess Peach considering she rules over a kingdom of mushroom people, but it really doesn't matter either way. Bowser kidnaps her for her magical powers, and so a heroic plumber named Mario must save the princess and the kingdom. The story sounds like nonsense, but it works, and it works well.



Freeon-Leon said:

Did you give it a 9/10 just to keep the same score in all the reviews?

This review got it right, this game is flawless and every time you play it it feels fresh and amazing. Its difficulty is perfect — not too easy to be boring but not too hard to get frustrated and leave it. It's just the perfect game.

And the soundtrack is one of the few that has an awesome tune for each single part of the game, you just can't find that everywhere.



Kirk said:


It actually does for most part; other than the annoying lack of ability to go backwards in the levels and a slightly more "floaty" jump compared to what we got in the later games. None of which are flaws however but just different approaches that were slightly tweaked and bettered in the sequels. What's there however is as solid now as it ever was; be it the controls, graphics, presentation, gameplay, level design, music or whatever.

You just have to think of the visuals and some design elements as being intentionally "retro", like many modern indie games are, and nothing about it actually feels wrong, broken or badly designed in any way.



unrandomsam said:

@gsmaciel First one is loads easier. No continues though.

(I have not played the secret worlds in the Lost levels yet as I haven't done world 9 and I didn't use warps which I don't think I will ever do again).



unrandomsam said:

@UnseatingKDawg Well do the lost levels then - NES version. (Annoying that Nintendo stopped just providing a harder version for when you have finished something if you still like it).



unrandomsam said:

The physics in this annoy me less than the 30fps new super mario bros 2 ones.

Or some of the more annoying choices in New Super Mario Bros Wii.

Does the extra frame of delay that has to exist due to the way the Wii U works matter or not. (Cannot see how it couldn't unless it is connected to a gaming monitor).



alLabouTandroiD said:

Definitely one of the very best NES games which do have their own unique gameplay style somehow.
Here's to hoping we'll see Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on the 3DS VC one day.



Milton_Burle said:

Super Mario Bros has appeared on:

  • NES (original version)
  • SNES (Super Mario All Stars)
  • Gameboy Color ("Deluxe" version)
  • GBA (Classic NES Series)
  • Wii (Virtual Console)
  • Wii (as part of Super Mario All Stars Limited Edition)
  • 3DS (Virtual Console)
  • Wii U (Virtual Console)

Have I missed any? How many times will this game be re-packaged/release?



Giygas_95 said:

A very good game, but personally, I'd take SMB3 or SMW any day of the week!

Are you listening, Nintendo? Hurry up and bring SMB3 to the 3DS in North America!



NintendoCat14 said:

@Milton_Burle You did miss some.

  • 1985 - Nintendo Play-Choice 10 (Arcades)
  • 1986 - Famicom Disk System Port
  • 1986 - Famicom Disk System remake (All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.)
  • 1986 - Arcade release (VS Super Mario Bros.)
  • 1988 - Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt (NES)
  • 1988 - Super Mario Bros./Tetris/Nintendo World Cup (NES)
  • 1990 - Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet (NES)
  • 1990 - Nintendo World Championships (NES)
  • 1994 - Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World (SNES)
  • 2002 - Animal Crossing (only through cheating, GCN)
  • 2008 - Super Smash Bros. Brawl demo (Wii)
  • 2010 - Red Wii VC Edition, where ? Blocks are 25 Blocks. (Wii)

I am a super nerd. :I



Bakajin said:

A classic. My second favorite 2D Mario after Super Mario World.

Yes, I like it more than 3. Heresy, I know.



Bakajin said:

Although I do feel Nintendo should offer this as a free download across all their current platforms. They've made enough money on this title; it'd be a nice gesture of goodwill. If they want to charge for it, they can release enhanced versions.



UnseatingKDawg said:

@unrandomsam: I wasn't complaining about the difficulty of the game - I was complaining because I didn't get to upgrade my version. Virtual Console releases are bad - Nintendo should release 5 a week at the minimum, and have them release worldwide simultaneously (or at least have the regions release within a week of each other).



SSBMarioFan said:

I'm disappointed that the US didn't get the Wii U VC version this week. Hopefully we shall have better luck next week,



drgfl said:

Still haven't beat this yet. I'll get a copy some day and try again! >: (
Anyway, it's classic SMB. Still great game.



Mariomast3r said:

ugh i would've taken this over zelda 2 but got zelda 2 and upgraded it from my original vc.... I can't wait to post a photo of me doing the 1up trick in 3-1



Milton_Burle said:

@NintendoCat14: Excellent, only serves to further my point! Totally agree with @Bakajin: I know that it's a great game that everyone should play, but surely they've squeezed every penny out of it by now?



JuanitoShet said:

I spent many, many hours playing this as a toddler alone, as well as with my family.

And then I go older, and I spent many, many hours playing thus alone and with family.

And now I have it for the Game Boy Color (Super Mario Bros. Deluxe), and I play it alone, but I love it every bit as much as I always have. It was one of my first few games, and I'd score it 10/10, simply because it's a Nintendo Masterpiece.

Long live Super Mario.



bezerker99 said:

Vs. Super Mario Bros. is my favorite but since arcades are extinct...this is the next best thing!!!



Zodiak13 said:

I remember being rather irritated that my sister beat the game before I was able to, even though I was just 6 years ld and she was 13. She beat it like the 2nd week we owned it, and it took me 3 months or so to finally get that monkey off my back. Great game, but it is not one I've ever felt the need to revisit. I feel the urge to play SMB 2 & 3 but never this title.



speedyboris said:

Just beat it in 40 minutes, no warping. That was fun as always. But SMB3 is unquestionably the superior game.

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