So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I’ve made March “Mario Month” and am spending each Wednesday talking about everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber.
Released: 21 October 2010
Originally Released: 14 July 1993
Original Developer: Nintendo EAD
Also Available For: Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console), Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console), Nintendo Switch (Online), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
A Brief Background:
After debuting in Donkey Kong (Nintendo R&D2/Ikegami Tsushinki, 1983) and receiving his own arcade title (alongside his brother, Luigi), Shigeru Miyamoto’s overalls-clad plumber Mario was all set to star in a new game exclusively for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that would be everything Mario Bros. (Nintendo R&D1, 1983) was not: where Mario Bros. was limited and sparse and lacking in colour and variety, Super Mario Bros. would be colourful, with bigger characters and more dynamic gameplay mechanics.
Perhaps the most famous platformer in videogame history, Super Mario Bros. taught players everything they needed to know in its first iconic World, allowed for two players to play together (in turns, of course, given the nature of the title), and introduced pretty much every single popular mechanic and feature that the series is still known for today and set the standard for 2D platformers for an entire generation. Having sold over 40 million copies worldwide, the game was later given a 16-bit makeover for the SNES compilation title Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) that brought the graphics, sound, and gameplay up to the standards set by Super Mario World (ibid, 1990). To commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario All-Stars was re-released on the Nintendo Wii on 21 October 2010. Although a bare-bones release that didn’t even include Super Mario World, the special anniversary edition of this game sold out extremely quickly and, even now, the base version of the game can set you back a high price on eBay and Amazon (though it is, thankfully, available through Nintendo Switch Online if you pay their surprisingly reasonable subscription fees).
I’ve played Super Mario Bros. before, both the NES original and the 16-bit remake for the SNES. However, since I grew up with the Mega Drive and ploughing through robot-infested landscapes with their supersonic mascot, I am by no means a competent Mario player. I played a lot of the Game Boy titles and a couple for the Nintendo DS but I didn’t really sit down and play a Mario game from start to finish until a bought a Nintendo 64.
As a result, my opinion on Super Mario Bros. is one that is likely to cause some amount of controversy because…I hate this game. The music is great, don’t get me wrong; it’s peppy and full of life and the Worlds are bright and colourful and full of unique enemies and iconic characters and items but Goddamn is this a bitch to play! Seriously, Mario slips and slides all over the place and controls like he’s constantly running on ice; it’s ironic to me that Yuji Naka was inspired to make Sonic move so fast due to him constantly trying to beat World 1-1 faster and faster as Super Mario Bros. feels far more faster and out of control than Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) thanks to its slippery and awkward controls.
Mario (or Luigi, if you prefer) will jog along at a snail’s pace until you hold down the B button, which breaks him out into a run. Running builds momentum which, in combination with holding down the jump button, allows you to jump higher and faster but while Mario’s jumping abilities have been vastly improved over those in Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. (there’s no fall damage/death and it’s much easier to jump to where you intend without gravity weighing you down), it’s stupidly easy to run face-first into enemies (and no, not the first Goomba you encounter) or fall head-first down one of the game’s many (many) bottomless pits (seriously, this game alone has more bottomless pits than Sonic has ever seen!).
The good news is, though, that you no longer die in one hit…as long as you grab a Super Mushroom or a Fire Flower. Either one will allow you to take one hit but the Fire Flower is recommended as it allows you to be a little more proactive at dispatching enemies other than just jumping on their heads. Sadly, though, Super Mushrooms and 1-Up Mushrooms often appear out of nowhere and you may find yourself careening down one of those pits trying to grab it, killing yourself in a desperate attempt to stave off death.
The game’s World’s are divided up nicely, though, and have a lot of variety to them; one minute you’ll be hopping through the Mushroom Kingdom, the next descending through a pipe to the underground or desperately trying to navigate Blooper-infested waters, before you finally make it to one of Bowser’s castles and are faced with a gruelling test of your skills as you dodge fireballs, jump over pits of lava, and finally send the King of the Koopas to a fiery end…only to be told that the Princess is in another castle!
Okay, this is going to sound really bad but just remember that I flat-out admitted up top that I am not a consummate Mario player…
I couldn’t even beat World 1-1.
But, in my defence, I was rushing quite a bit as I bought the game as a gift and was just trying it out for size. Still, imagine my shame when I couldn’t even get through the first World when I know that I have beaten it at least once before and I’ve beaten far harder games (some of them even Mario titles) in the past.
Still, I did discover the secret Warp Zone, which allowed me to skip ahead to World 4 and…I couldn’t beat that World, either. I then found another Warp Zone that took me to World 8 and I promptly exhausted my remaining lives before I even got within sniffing distance of Bowser’s Castle. It’s at that point that I shut the game off, wrapped it up for my friend, and promptly decided to wallow in indescribable self-pity and shame.
I don’t even want to beat Super Mario Bros. anyway. I don’t have to. Why should I? I don’t have to prove anything…Oh God, I suck so hard! I am so ashamed that I couldn’t do better; I wanted to and I am sure I will revisit the title some day in some way, shape, or form but, as of right now, I am too ashamed and too unimpressed with the game’s slippery, alien controls and physics to want to continue. It’s a classic, addictive, and entertaining title that is well deserving of its reputation but I just struggle to get to grips with Mario’s 2D offerings even after all these years.
Have you ever beaten Super Mario Bros.? How highly do you rate it in the pantheon of all-time greatest videogames? Do you, perhaps, agree with my thoughts and experiences and find it to be a difficult game to get the hang of or do you think I just suck at Mario, Nintendo, and life in general? Perhaps you’d like to insult my inability to clear even the first damn World, let alone the entire game! If so, no matter what you think or have to say, do please leave a comment and pop back next Wednesday as Mario Month continues.