Super Mario Bros. (NES) Second Opinion Review

By Athanasios 11.08.2020 2

Review for Super Mario Bros. on NES

Is there anything left to say about something like Super Mario Bros.? Is there anyone left on the solar system that hasn't tried this out, or at least heard about it? Moreover, was it really the perfect game that everybody was talking about? No, but it proved to be a product of outmost importance for the medium, and is regarded as one of its actual saviors, since it helped the industry recover after the video game crash of 1983. Going back to the original question, however, is there really anything left to say about Super Mario Bros.? Well, here are a few words from an '80s-born nerd…

Videogame concepts in the early '80s: shoot aliens, help a frog cross the street, run through a jungle, and other "boring" stuff. Similarly, and as shown in Mario Bros., the job of the titular New York plumber was to simply clear the city sewers from annoying pests - but then things started getting more… far out, as Super Mario Bros. had the jolly Italian protagonist running through a weird fantasy kingdom, trying to save Princess Toadstool from the hands of the evil dragon/demon/Korean dish/whatever king Koopa, with flowers giving him the ability to hurl fireballs, mushrooms doubling his size, and, generally, all sorts of weirdness. Oh, sure, that kind of wacky concepts have been the norm for decades, but it's important to note that things weren't the same back in that time.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. on NES

Why all this is mentioned? Because this is part of Super Mario Bros.'s charm, with all these "crazy" (yet subtle) elements actually giving life and character to this, otherwise, standard tale of a handyman trying to save the princess-in-distress from a nation of evil turtles (…) Anyway, unlike, well, everything after Super Mario Bros. 3, the world on offer feels less like a theme park, and more like an actual world, despite its simplicity. Sure, that's probably nostalgia speaking, but the franchise could still learn a thing or two from its first instalment.

Zany premise put aside, this looks really, really good, mainly because, instead of opting for a more "realistic" look like many other NES titles, it went for the visual style the system excels at: vibrantly colourful, cartoony, with an emphasis in contrast, and minimalist yet distinctive sprites. As for the music... well, how can one hope to write something that perfectly sums up what Koji Kondo has done here? The number of the available tunes isn't that big, with the main two being a happy overworld theme, and a slow-rock underground one. However, all are some of the catchiest, and, in all honesty, excellently orchestrated ones in the history of video games.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. on NES

Why spend your time with something so old, though? This is just a basic platformer, right? You run, jump on platforms or over bottomless pits, stomp on enemies, and, generally, try to avoid all sorts of hazards, before reaching the end of each stage, and then repeating the whole process all over again. So, why spend any time with something so... archaic? The answer is that, while Super Mario Bros. definitely doesn't have lots of resources, it uses them surprisingly well, with the best example being the magnificent level design.

For starters, the very first, iconic, "1-1" stage, is nothing more than a masterfully crafted, unobtrusive tutorial that teaches you pretty much all you need to know about what's on offer. As for the rest of the experience, almost every single level has its own unique concept, meaning that, while the mechanics aren't exactly that varied, things never get repetitive. Also, due to the overall design, Super Mario Bros. proves to be an excellent choice for those who love speedrunning; as evident by its long history in regards to that, with time-breaking records that are out of this world.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. on NES

Here's the deal with this, though. Super Mario Bros. isn't a perfect ten - far from it. Historical significance put aside, it's "just" a great platformer. Why do people still praise it, though? While nostalgia is partly the one to blame, it's mostly because this is one of the finest examples of how important it is for a piece of software... to work! Does that sound silly? Well, think of how many videogames had the potential to be something truly fantastic, yet threw their potential out of the window by simply being badly made.

One more time: this isn't perfect. Far better platformers have seen the light of day, with some in the very system this was on. No, Super Mario Bros. isn't perfect... but it feels so good to play. Forget about Donkey Kong's and Mario Bros.'s Mario. The plumber is really 'Super' in here, and, everything, from the way he jumps, to how he handles momentum, controls really, really good. Long story short: if on the lookout for the best ever platformer, this isn't it. If looking for an ageless classic that still holds up to this day, it's hard to go wrong with this pioneering classic.

P.S. The best ever platformer is Bubsy 3D.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. on NES

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Super Mario Bros. doesn't belong in the top-10 list of the best videogames ever made. It doesn't even belong in the all-time top-10 list of platformers... but it doesn't matter. Sure, it's a simple game (although flawless design-wise) from a simple era, but that's the thing with Super Mario Bros., it's beautiful in its simplicity.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (18 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


It's amazing how well this stands up today, actually, and like you say, shows just how well made it was in the first place. I was never a fan of Sonic because I felt it just didn't have the same level of expertise in how it was put together. I know it's like comparing carrots and potatoes, in a way, but there was just something so 'neat' about how SMB was crafted, and it stands the test of time.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

"didn't have the same level of expertise in how it was put together" not only sums it up for me, but it's also the reason why 25 years later, I still love Doom, and yet I never enjoyed Duke Nukem 3D

A real classic endures.

Can't a fella drink in peace?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie, jgeist

There are 2 members online at the moment.