While some video games don't age well, playing through Nintendo's back catalogue is like drinking a fine, aged wine. Super Mario Advance is rather unique in that it's a re-release of a collection of remade NES games. Super Mario Advance's brightly coloured remakes of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Mario Bros. shine on the Wii U GamePad — their tried-and-true gameplay is as fun as always — but they've both been released on so many platforms over the years that gamers should decide beforehand whether or not the new paint job (and occasional extra features) are enough to justify the premium Virtual Console price.
Super Mario Bros. 2 is the main attraction in Super Mario Advance, which is a curious choice given the game's odd place in the Mario canon. Following the Japanese release of the original Super Mario Bros. 2 — later released as The Lost Levels — Nintendo executives feared it would be too difficult for western audiences and decided to re-skin a different game, Doki Doki Panic, with Mario characters. A slower, more puzzle-oriented adventure, Super Mario Bros. 2 features large levels with hidden doors and secret areas.
Players can choose to play as Mario, Luigi, Toad, or Princess Peach (renamed from Princess Toadstool, her NES name), and characters have the same basic move set of jumping, picking up enemies and throwing items; yet each control slightly differently. Mario is the easiest character to play with, Luigi can jump slightly higher, Peach can jump the farthest and Toad is the most lightweight. These features should be familiar to anyone who's played a Mario game in recent years — Super Mario 3D World uses the same principles — but it's interesting to see the origins of these distinct strengths per character. Players will also witness the first appearance of recurring Mario enemies, such as Shy Guy and Birdo.
The game did undergo some modern updates for the GBA release. Nintendo added a point system, as well as several collectibles to find throughout each stage. Super Mario Bros. 2 is not a particularly difficult game, and with the Virtual Console's save state system players should have no trouble completing it in a short amount of time. There are a few secrets to uncover, extending the experience, and playing through with each character feels slightly different.
The other included game in Super Mario Advance is a remake of the original Mario Bros. This simple game sees Mario tasked with eliminating all enemies in a vertical stage. To do so, he first needs to knock the enemy out of commission by hitting the platform they're on, knocking them onto their back, then run into them. The intentionally floaty controls make this quite a challenge; Mario's jump is quite different than in subsequent follow-ups. There are also POW blocks that knock several enemies onto their backs at once, while each stage adds more enemy types, as well as hazards such as fireballs. Mario Bros. is a tough game, but fans of the NES Remix series should have no trouble jumping in.
Nintendo designed Super Mario Advance with a singular art style. Sprites are large and colourful in both games, and iconic tunes are remixed. There are also a few modern Mario sound effects sprinkled in. The game is nice to look at and listen to, but it's standard Nintendo fare and won't wow anyone.
Super Mario Advance contains two historic games at a reasonable price. The downside is that many Nintendo fans have played these games already. The few additions don't do enough to make it a "new" experience, but the titles on offer are decent and stand on their own; this is best recommended to gamers who aren't already schooled in classic Mario.