There isn’t a game more iconic than Super Mario Bros. Originally created by Shigeru Miyamoto, and released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Mario Bros. set the gold standard for all platformers to come. This game would take Jumpman and establish a character that will never lose his place of legacy.
The evil Bowser has captures Princess Peach of the Mushroom Kingdom, and turned all its inhabitants into bricks. The up-and-coming Super Mario, and his brother Luigi, must set out to rescue Peach and the toads from this unfair imprisonment! They’ll travel across eight worlds and fight many enemies to put a stop to the turtle-faced menace!
I figured there was no better way to honor this monumental title than reviewing all versions of it. Below, you’ll find reviews for all six versions of the original Super Mario Bros.!
Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
The Original Super Mario Bros. is far from the worst looking version of this game. It features a blocky aesthetic and specific chiptunes that remain burned into gaming culture today. I can’t think of anyone who would fail to recall “World 1-1” or recognize a Goomba. These graphics still haven’t aged well. I find them pretty harsh to look at. Especially compared to, most of, the sequels.
Super Mario Bros. doesn’t control nearly as well as people pretend it does today. Mario somehow manages to feel incredibly slippery, but also far too weighty. Sometimes you’ll jump backward and others you just won’t go anywhere in the air at all. I feel like people are too spoiled by the control of Super Mario Maker to realize just how bad this one is in hindsight.
The game does feature a two-player mode. Player 1 will be Mario and Player 2 controls Luigi! Who is playing will trade-off after every death. I don’t like it at all, but it’s not broken.
The game also features the “””hidden””” warp-zones and second quest. You can find warp-zones in plenty of different levels across the game. They’ll all send you to a future world. The second quest has become a staple of gaming as well. This second quest replaces every Goomba enemy with a Buzzy Beetle. I didn’t find anything significantly more challenging.
At the end of each world, you’ll encounter one of Bowser’s minions masquerading as the koopa king! As the game goes on, Bowser will gain the ability to do more than jump around. At the end, you’ll have to dodge fireballs and hammers. The fight is still too easy in my opinion. Especially in the second quest. Bowser sees no change.
Super Mario Bros. isn’t a terrible game by today’s standards, but I can’t find myself recommending it for fun. It should absolutely be looked at for its historical value and innovation. If you have never played a Mario game, or are looking to get into the 2D side of the series, I can’t recommend starting with the NES.
Super Mario Bros. Special (NEC PC-88, Sharp XI, 1985)
Nintendo was once rather lenient with licensing. Today you could barely imagine another company using Mario, let alone porting Mario to another system. Shortly after debuting, Nintendo let Hudson Soft, the company behind Bomberman and eventually Mario Party, port the up-and-coming plumber to the NEC PC-88 and Sharp X1 home computers.
Super Mario Bros. Special is an interesting way to not play Super Mario Bros. Almost every level is new, and there’s tons of unique content. Every enemy from Super Mario Bros. appears, but so do many from Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong. The hammer from Donkey Kong is even a rare item! Home computers were much less powerful than the NES. Graphics had to be basically destroyed, and consistent screen-scrolling was impossible. When Mario moves to a different screen, it is handled like Zelda. Super Mario Bros. Special is an insanely weird entry to the Mario series, but it’s so clunky and unpolished that I can’t think of a reason to play it. Unless history is what you’re after, stay away from this one.
Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Arcade, 1986)
While Nintendo was moving to turn home consoles into the standard, arcades remained king of gaming. Nintendo themselves found much of their success with Punch-Out!!, Mario Bros., and the Donkey Kong series. Introducing Super Mario Bros. to arcades was a no-brainer for them. Vs. Super Mario Bros. would introduce six new levels. They’d replace old levels, but would all later be used in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
Vs. Super Mario Bros is a weird foot-note in Mario’s history. It controls no differently from the NES original. Each color just feels a bit off. They turned too many of the whites into yellows. Vs. Super Mario Bros. would be re-released on the Nintendo Switch under the Arcade Archives branding. Unless you’re looking for the weird and wacky, you should stay away from this one.
All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. (Famicom Disk System, 1986)
All Night Nippon is a Japanese radio program. While working with Nintendo on Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, which the west would see as Super Mario Bros. 2, Fuji Television was given the opportunity to officially retool Super Mario Bros. This officially licensed ROM Hack was given out as a raffle prize to those who tuned in.
The game is almost an exact replica of the original. Some levels and sprites were swapped out for replacements from Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. Many sprites are replaced with Japanese celebrities. There’s something extremely funny about rescuing artist Noritake Kinashi instead of Toad. Princess Peach also saw a major design change. There isn’t any reason to play this version over the others, but you could get quite the kick from researching it.
Super Mario All-Stars (SNES, 1993)
With a winning formula and no backward compatibility. Nintendo needed the original Mario trilogy on the Super Nintendo, and they needed it fast. Instead of simply porting the NES originals, Super Mario All-Stars served as a remake of all four NES Mario games in one big package!
Super Mario All-Stars looks and sounds better than any other version of Super Mario Bros! Inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3’s gameplay and World’s graphics, the All-Stars remakes of every game have given them all smoother controls and crunchier sounds.
While every other version of Super Mario Bros. feels clunky, the All-Stars port is easily the best controlling. It’s just the best version in general. Though inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3, it keeps all of the quirks unique to the original. It also has a few quality of life additions like added checkpoints, a save feature, and sound effects added to maze levels to point you in the right direction. Truly a great start for video game remakes.
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (GBC, 1999)
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is another remake of the original Super Mario Bros. Deluxe takes after the originals art but updates the controls once again. While keeping the hit-system, and moveset, of the original, Deluxe is based on World. It is easily the best controlling version of Super Mario Bros.! The game even adds a save feature and connected world map! It’s the most accessible this game could be.
Deluxe has a whole remake of The Lost Levels as an unlockable, but that’s a discussion for another day. You’ll have your hands full with a complete challenge mode, You vs. Boo, and unlockable pictures. The challenge mode hides five red coins in every level. They’re quite a bit of fun to hunt down! You vs. Boo is the star attraction of this remake. You’ll race a Boo through a few altered versions of stages. You’ll have to activate traps to keep him behind. The unlockable pictures are simple but neat rewards. You’ll acquire them for completing certain tasks.
The only thing holding Deluxe back is the Gameboy Color itself. It incorporates almost every change All-Stars introduced but doesn’t look the best, but it wasn’t on hardware that gave it an opportunity. There’s a noticeable amount of screen-crunch. Being Super Mario Bros. it’s not hard to cope with, but it’s certainly annoying to have a Goomba fall out of nowhere or hammers just pop into existence as you’re jumping.
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is easily the best package. The updated controls and You vs. Boo would put it on top, but the Gameboy Color manages to be its own undoing. The screen crunch makes the game so much harder than it has to be. Especially with the added difficulty, I can’t recommend Deluxe as the best version in good faith. If you just want to play the “best” version of Super Mario Bros., All-Stars is the go-to choice.