Review: Super Mario Bros. (NES)

By Drew Wilson

One of the most classic side scrolling adventure games ever released is the game Super Mario Bros. Although not technically the first in the series, this game would be the game that not only starts one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, but sets a trend for future game console releases.

It’s the game that came with the purchase of every NES game console. Super Mario Bros. for the NES was released in 1985. The game was designed to show off the initial capabilities of the NES, but more importantly, introduced early gamers to what it’s like to play with a video game console. The success of this game was certainly not the last hugely successful iterations and would be the game franchise that demonstrates what each successive video game consoles is capable of doing.

The premise is quite simple. Super Mario, along with his brother Luigi, would be the Italian plumbers that is tasked to rescue Princess Toadstool from the clutches of Bowser, an evil spike-shelled turtle.

Along the way, players can jump up and smash brick blocks for a few extra points. In addition, there are also countless question mark boxes than can reveal coins, mushrooms (enables you to grow), flowers (enables you to shoot fire), special different coloured mushrooms (gives the player an extra life), and flashy bouncy stars (enables temporary invulnerability from everything except pits and the clock running out).

Item boxes can be found hidden amongst the brick blocks from time to time, so busting up the brick blocks and reveal hidden items.

In addition, there are coins the player can collect. Obtaining 100 coins will reward the player with an extra free life, so collecting as many as possible can be a very good idea under most circumstances.

Along the way, players encounter a number of different monsters. There are goombas, regular turtles, swimming/jumping fish, octopuses, bomb billies (that fire out of fixed turrets), hammer bros, Bowser bosses (can be defeated by collecting the axe), and columns of fire that swing round and round to name several.

There are several obstacles that get in the way. Sometimes, it’s just swimming area’s that add a certain challenge to the player. Other times, it’s one of the numerous pits that dot the ground, moving platforms, and platforms tied to rope. Sometimes, players can get lucky enough to find a block that opens up a growing vine. These can reveal certain bonuses.

Perhaps the biggest bonus a player can encounter, however, are the warp pipe’s. These pipe’s are well hidden (though typically found when the player jumps up to the top of the screen and runs to the very end of certain underground levels). When found, going down a warp pipe can allow a player to jump up to the next world, bi-passing many treacherous levels in the process.

Normal pipes are found throughout the game. While many do little more than house plants that have no problem chomping down on you, some pipes can allow you to slide in to a small hidden area which can contain numerous coins and/or items. They can also advance you to a later portion of the level.

One of the enemies that the player has isn’t really on screen to attack you, but is always a threat. This is the time limit. In each level, the player is allotted a limited amount of time to complete the level. This seems to be to prevent players from lingering in each episode for too long, but in some levels, this forces the player to have to find a quick way to complete the level.

The graphics were simple enough. You have to give some slack to the game in this department because it’s the first game released for the console. The colours were pretty flat and the clouds were simply a re-colouring of the grass. Still, the graphics did what they were supposed to do. They nicely depict the kinds of worlds the player was running through. There was little in terms of a quality standard for a console game at the time, so I’ll just say that the graphics were good.

The music was a huge highlight. It was simple, yet very well sequenced. The theme song for the first level is often redone and remixed. In many future iterations of Super Mario Bros., this is the theme song that gets the most recycled. Yet, in spite of the many recycling’s this song goes through, it still somehow remains fresh and listenable. The song for temporary invulnerability is also often re-used as well. It’s simple, yet effective. Other music was also very well done. The underground theme song, the music for castle’s was great. The music for underwater area’s was also nicely done. The sound effects were nicely done as well. It often depicts unrealistic things, yet still somehow manages to be very effective in giving that extra edge that makes this game a great game. Can’t say anything bad about the audio department here.

Overall, this was a great and fun game to play. It feels a little stiff to play these days given the added manoeuvrability Super Mario Bros. got in future iterations, but it was still a fun game nevertheless. I didn’t really like the fact that you couldn’t run backwards in levels. This infrequently irritated me whenever I wanted to run back just a few pixels to get an item. What I did like was the fact that this game is so easy to figure out, an instruction manual isn’t really necessary for most gamers. One could simply plug in the game and figure it all out on their own. So few games are able to accomplish that to this day and the few games that don’t require an instruction manual are filled with big long descriptions on how to play either weaved into the storyline or placed inside some sort of training area. This game doesn’t even require that in any way. It’s simple enough to understand, yet requires a large amount of practice to really fully master. Really nicely done in that regard. In general, this is a good game to go back on and look at. Whether it’s looking for a unique experience or simply looking at gaming history, this game is certainly worthy of attention.


Furthest point in game: Burned through most of my lives and used the last two trying to solve the last dungeon’s puzzle, running out of time both times before I could fully solve it.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 80%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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