Classic NES Series: Super Mario Bros.
If there is one game on Nintendo’s memorable 8-bit system that is an unconditional shoe-in for the GBA’s Classic NES Series, it’s the original Super Mario Bros. This brilliant little side-scrolling title not only launched Mario and Luigi’s superstar careers, set up Nintendo as a commanding player in the gaming industry and created gameplay elements that would be imitated by thousands of games over several decades, but also single-handedly sent a revitalizing shock through a US videogame industry that was one shovel-full of dirt away from receiving its final burial rites. Who really knows what the industry would look like today if Nintendo’s now-legendary developer, Shigeru Miyamoto, never created such an enrapturing and, for the time, completely sprawling game world for us explore? Could it be that kids would actually be spending significant amounts of time (gasp!) READING!? Only kidding, only kidding…
Why did Bowser leave that axe sitting behind him…
Everyone and their grandmother should be familiar with the various gameplay elements of Super Mario Bros., so I won’t waste time detailing them here. In summary, you take control of Mario (or his green palette-swapped brother, Luigi) and hop through 32 lush Mushroom Kingdom levels filled with angry Goombas, Koopas, Lakitus and various other Bowser cronies. The game’s duo of plumbing protagonists are fairly un-charismatic here, with not a single sound bite or line of text dedicated to help flesh out their personalities, but the Mushroom Kingdom itself is a magical place, full of more character and charm than any videogame hero ever dreamt of having back in the mid-eighties. From massive toadstool forests, subterranean caverns and underwater worlds, to the sweltering magma-spewing bowels of Bowser’s imposing fortresses, the brilliant levels in Super Mario Bros. were largely responsible for the game’s widespread adulation over the decades.
Purists will be happy to know that every nuance of gameplay has been arduously preserved in this GameBoy Advance port. Stomping multiple Goombas in a row, sliding underneath low spaces as big Mario and even performing the famous turtle shell 1-UP trick all feel identical to the NES version, indicating that this truly is the original game’s code emulated on the GBA’s hardware (which is a good thing). Of course, all of the game’s several secrets are still there to be found, such as the hidden beanstalk and coin blocks, warp zones and pipes and even the never-ending, underwater “minus” world.
Angry Goombas – you’ve gotta love ‘em
Audio, too, has been lifted with perfection from the original version, which isn’t surprising considering the enhanced audio capabilities of the GBA when compared to the NES. If the sound of Mario emphatically bursting through destructible blocks, descending down a pipe or squishing Goombas doesn’t cause you to drift off into a dreamy, nostalgia-induced state of euphoria, then hearing the game’s uber-famous theme song certainly will. In fact, the only aspect of the game that seems to have been altered in any way from the original NES version is a slight “smooshing” of the visuals. This is due to the resolution discrepancy between a television screen and the GBA’s display and isn’t terribly noticeable, but, being the self-proclaimed hardcore old school gamer that I am, I did immediately detect the difference.
See what Mario had to put up with back in 1985?
Super Mario Bros. was, is, and always will be a gaming masterpiece. Its oft imitated, yet rarely equaled combination of gameplay responsiveness, superb level design and visual flourish, combined with that special loving touch that only Miyamoto seems able to wield, makes it one of those rare games that seems to transcend time. When watching my seven-year-old nephew sit glued in front of a TV, completely enraptured with the exact same game that delighted me 20 years ago, I can only smile and shake my head in wonder. Amazing. Truly amazing.
Ten out of ten