RELEASE DATE: 07/14/1983 (Arcade, JP), 07/20/83 (Arcade, WW), 09/09/83 (Famicom, JP), 06/23/1986 (NES, US), 09/01/86 (NES, EU)
ALSO ON: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, C64 (EU only), Apple II (not commercially sold), PC-88, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, e-Reader, Game Boy Advance (JP only), Virtual Console (Wii, 3DS, Wii U), Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo Switch: Arcade Archives.
FEATURED IN: Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario-All Stars, Super Mario Advance, Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World, Animal Crossing, Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, Famicom Mini, NES Classic
Mario Bros. is one of Nintendo’s most ubiquitous games. This might seem strange to younglings not weaned on Mario’s earlier adventures, but us older folks understand why. Mario Bros. introduced Mario and Luigi as we know them today. They’re brothers! They’re plumbers! They use pipes and knock turtles on their backs and out of their shells. They collect coins. Indeed, if you want to look at where our current Mario universe began, you don’t go back to Donkey Kong. You go to Mario Bros.
Mario Bros. showcases the Mario bros. (that’s Mario Mario and Luigi Mario) at their blue-collar best. In this – their first co-headlining game – they’re labeled plumbers, though neither brother plumbs anything. There are no deep toilet excavations, no using wrenches to connect one pipe to another. Rather, the bros. smash their heads into platforms to stop turtles, crabs, mutant flies, and ice shards in their tracks. Despite each brother’s robust physique, one mere touch of these sewer menaces plummets them downwards into the murky abyss. Once an area is clear, Mario and Luigi move on to the next round of skull-crackery until an abundance of concussions forces them into early retirement.
“How could-a you?!” Mario cries.
Or, perhaps, an alternate ending. 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, phase after phase after phase. It’s understandable that the boys would start hallucinating after awhile. Pipes lead to unknown realms. Luigi won’t respond to Mario’s “What’samatta yous!” The turtles form their own coalition known as the “Koopa Troopas.” One turtle in particular gets really big and mad. He carries off Mario’s girlfriend through a pipe and into a fantasy land known as the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario’s upset, sure, but the Kingdom itself isn’t so bad. Fresh air, sunshine, chipper music. Here, Mario’s a god, Luigi is second-rate, and all is as it should be. The boys never showed up to work again.
The tension is palpable.
This first-rate fan-fiction is the reason why Mario Bros. has been ported more times to more consoles than any other Nintendo game to date. It’s not that Mario Bros. is that fantastic of an arcade experience. Mario and Luigi control like they’re sliding on banana peels, and the floor-bonking gameplay gets old after a few phases, even with a second player helping you out. The arcade game wasn’t even that successful upon its 1983 release. None of that matters. Mario Bros. paved the way for Super Mario Bros. and all its sequels to exist. For whatever reason, Miyamoto and Nintendo saw greatness in these unassuming plumbers. They looked at Mario and Luigi and thought, “Yeah, these human brothers could take on mythological dinosaur creatures in surreal, fantastical landscapes. Why not?!” Without Mario Bros. and its inadvertent world-building, Nintendo would not be the juggernaut that it is today.
I mean… who would have thought?
In the 80s, Mario Bros. was released for a myriad of different consoles and computers, including the Atari consoles and 8-bit line of computers, the PC-88, the Amstrad CPC, and of course, the Famicom/NES. This was standard practice for arcade games that had a modicum of success. In 1984, Hudson Soft released Mario Bros. Special and Punch Ball Mario Bros. for the PC-8801, FM-7, and Sharp X1, Japanese computers all. Mario Bros. Special is an enhanced version of the original with new level designs and mechanics, like trampolines and elevator lifts. Punch Ball Mario Bros. also provides slightly modified level designs and a ball that can be used to stun enemies. Neither game is all that great, but the fact that they exist at all is pretty amazing.
Behold, Punch Ball Mario Bros.*
There’s also Kaettekita Mario Bros., an updated version of Mario Bros. released only for the Famicom Disk System on November 30, 1988. New levels, improved graphics, Mario and Luigi can change direction mid-air, and best of all, ads for Super Mario Bros. 3 and Japanese food giant, Nagatanien. Delicious! Europe also saw a “Classic Series” version of Mario Bros. for the NES in 1993 that was based on Kaettekita Mario Bros. According to Mario Wiki, this port “retained all the arcade features from it, while removing everything else. This version was perhaps the closest port of the arcade game, and was one of only two ports to have the original arcade intermissions (the other being the Atari XE version)” (Mario Bros., Mario Wiki).
This is one wild party.*
There’s more, of course. Virtual Console re-releases. Nintendo Switch Online. The original Mario Bros. game in the Switch’s Arcade Archives. Super Mario Bros. 3 (and subsequently Super Mario All-Stars for both the SNES and the Wii). An e-Reader card that unlocks Mario Bros. in the original Animal Crossing. Nearly forty years after its original arcade release, Mario Bros. was and is everywhere.
Bedlam! Pure bedlam!*
So when you’re questioning the existence of Mario Clash – a stereoscopic 3D remake of Mario Bros. released exclusively for Virtual Boy – or why Nintendo felt the need to include Mario Bros. as a minigame in Super Mario Bros. 3 and every single Super Mario Advance title on the GBA, just remember: Mario Bros. is more than just a simple arcade game with repetitive gameplay. Mario Bros. was the seed of Nintendo’s future greatness and overwhelming success. By bringing the game forward through ports, remakes, and re-releases, Nintendo’s not only introducing Mario and Luigi’s genesis to a younger generation of players: they’re giving the brothers’ inaugural outing the respect it deserves.
*thanks to MobyGames and StrategyWiki for these screenshots!
As with Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye, Mario Bros. ports will get their own post soon. In the meantime…