Monday, January 21, 2013

Mario Bros (Arcade, 1983)

For 1983 I'll be looking at a game that has gotten surprisingly little attention over the years. This was the arcade predecessor to Super Mario Bros, and pre-dates the NES system itself by two years. It is a one-screen game that pales in comparison to every other Mario game; I don't even consider it a true part of the Mario series as we know it. That said, it is an important part of video game history. It has seen a few re-releases over the years, most notably as an included mini-game with Super Mario Bros 3. For this post I played the original arcade version.

That's right, this game has simultaneous two-player. I wish more Mario games had this, but unfortunately it's a feature they lacked until the New Super Mario Bros games started appearing. Nintendo should re-release Super Mario Bros 1 through 3 (and World) with a simultaneous multiplayer feature. The New series is cool and all, but those old-school games are classics.

Two-player in action. Like the screen said, you can either compete or work together. Competing for a stage can be fun, but if you want to progress you'll need to work together. The game is definitely more fun to play this way.

Unlike Super Mario Bros, you can't defeat enemies by jumping on them. This will actually KILL MARIO. Instead, you hit them from below to knock them upside down, then you have to quickly run up and bop them off the screen before they recover. Do this a certain number of times to complete a stage and move on to the next one. Oh yeah, the POW block is a multi-use block that has the effect of knocking every foe onscreen down. This is useful if they're bunched up, like the Koopas are in this shot.

The entire game takes place on this one screen, and as you complete "stages" the screen undergoes minor changes that increase the challenge. As for the purple-shelled koopa, if you attack an enemy and fail to finish it off, often it'll change colors and power up. This also happens if it's the last enemy on the screen in a stage.

Defeating enemies also causes coins to fall out of the pipes; collecting these gives you points and eventually extra lives. It's interesting to play this as it is the genesis of Mario as we know it, but it's certainly lacking compared to what Mario would become. I'm not really sure what the point of this game is. There's no story, and I like to think that it's a glimpse into Mario's day job as a plumber.

Every few stages you'll get a bonus round full of coins. There's a time limit on grabbing all of them, but it isn't too difficult.

Collecting all of them gets you a point bonus, and this is pretty important for netting extra lives. Obviously, this is yet another aspect of Mario that would carry over into the future and evolve.

Whenever a new enemy is introduced, the game actually explains to you how to defeat it. This is the ONLY TIME that the game shows you any mercy; this game gets difficult around stage 5 or so. As for these flies, they're a lot more annoying than the standard koopas. They hop, and you need good timing to take them out.

When you lose a life, Mario reappears at the top of the screen and hangs out there until you move. This idea would later be used in the Super Smash Bros games.

Lots of new stuff is introduced by the time you get to stage 10. The ice cube enemies turn platforms icy (which makes you slide on them), so they need to be taken out quickly. Indestructible fireballs materialize and fly horizontally across the screen, which are probably the primary cause of deaths in this game. Winning is a matter of keeping an eye out for those damn fireballs, especially the green ones that appear on the same level of the screen as Mario and have this weird tendency (perhaps because there is so much green in the picture already) to go unnoticed until it's too late.

More foes. The crabs take two hits to flip over (and they get faster after the first hit). The falling icicles aren't technically enemies, but are more like room traps. They're probably responsible for almost as many deaths as the fireballs, and give you a vertical hazard to watch out for.

I got to level 21 on my best try. Since the game basically goes into a loop after stage 15 or so, nothing new gets introduced after that (as far as I know). Later versions of the game would add more to the game in later stages, but for the purposes of this version, stage 21 effectively means I've seen everything the game has to offer.

WOO! WOO! WOO! On to the next one.


  1. Ohhhhhh Mariooooooooooo tell me everything you know.

  2. All things considered, this game is pretty tight. Everything makes sense and they change things up a lot considering the platforms are in the exact same place every time. I can see why teamwork would help you a lot here and agree that simultaneous Mario Brothering would be a good add to the previous games. I also like the color scheme - bright colors stand out really well against the black background.
    Changing Mario's overalls from blue to red was definitely a good idea, though.
    Check out how neon Luigi's duds are. This is the hippest he's ever been!
    Good call on a lot of this being used for Smash Bros. later.

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