This post was previously featured on Questicle.net. In honor of Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary, the Archive is republishing it for your reading pleasure.
One too many mushrooms.
With the second world, Nintendo tweaks an important ground rule established in World 1. Want a mushroom or fire flower? Check every block, not just the “?” blocks. Later levels will beat you into submission and force you to do this in order to survive; you may as well check every block anyway. Towards the middle of the level, the first heaven-ascending vine is punched out of a block. Climb up the vine, do a jig, jump on the cloud, collect your coins, descend. Don’t jump too high or too far on the trampoline at the end. The Mushroom Kingdom is indeed a strange universe.
Mario regrets eating three bowls of pasta before swimming.
Mario takes diving lessons, though from the looks of it, he’s already quite the graceful swimmer. The animation of his feet while he’s swimming is both hilarious and impressive. Bloopers and Cheep-Cheeps make their initial appearance here. Bloopers are the more obnoxious of the two, due to their jerky movements, but the Cheeps’ slow, steady progression incites irritation as well. If you see a large hole, it will try to suck you down. Those coins aren’t worth it anyway.
Mario always knew that it would come to this.
Run, Mario, run. Yes, you will want to run and make precision jumps over the bridge-like platforms. Thank goodness Mario’s running and jumping skills do, in fact, pay the bills. The Flying Cheeps, try as they might, can’t keep up. And suddenly, he’s at another castle. Another imposter is just around the corner.
Mario is torn between greed and his duty.
The lava was enough of a threat in the first castle. This go-round, fireballs shoot sporadically out of the lava. The rotating fireball pillars make a triumphant return, as they will in every castle after this. Tiny pulley-driven platforms emerge just as “Bowser” starts to breathe fire. In the single trickiest part of the game thus far, SMB asks you to jump from the platform over a fireball pillar and Bowser’s fire breath at precisely the right moment. Sure, you could just take the hit, but don’t you want to save your fire flower to see which of Bowser’s minions is pretending to be him? Spoiler: it’s a Koopa.
Once… twice… three times a block!
The pace at which SMB introduces new enemies and concepts is just right. This is the first night stage, and it’s – dare we write – evocative. That a simple background color change can produce an entirely different feel for an otherwise basic level is a testament to Nintendo’s genius. Oh, and please welcome the Hammer Brothers to the game. Their barrage of hammers are sure to annoy, especially when the Brothers are removed from their typical vantage points. Also, find the vine leading to the bonus area in the sky. It is here where you learn you’re able to run across gaps by holding down the ‘B’ button. So soulful, don’t you agree.
Oh, it’s on now.
The night motif lingers. Here, there’s a bunch of Koopas and Goombas that need taking out. There’s very little else other than these enemies. That being said, SMB does give you options on how to kill them. Will you level the playing field with fire, a Star, or use a koopa shell to plow through the enemy line? Why not all three.
Mario regrets eating five spaghetti dinners before his evening forest romp.
Night time in the forest. Mario weaves through the treetops, encountering the typical foes and a new series of platforms. One pulley-platform sinks the moment Mario puts his generous frame atop it, while the other pulley raises up, according to where Mario stands. Accurate physics in an 8-bit game? Here’s the proof. Mario is fat, y’all.
Not Mario’s cup of espresso.
Castle Von Faken Bowser the 3rd is loaded with the rotating fireball pillars. In one section, three sets of pillars are installed both above and below Mario at the least convenient angle: with the fireballs eventually meeting in the middle. Wait until the pillars aren’t aligned and put your bounce to the ounce. Then, before you encounter Not Bowser, you’ll have to leap over more pillars and his fire spikes. A snarky Toad is your reward. Please Mario, don’t hurt ’em.
Mario wonders how strong Lakitu’s glasses are.
Lakitu is a bespectacled buttface. He throws out Spinies like tomatoes at a bad speech. Sure, you could leap atop some blocks, wait until he comes close to Mario, and step on him. He’ll be gone for awhile, but he’ll just come back; he always comes back. Run through the level and take the second pipe. It’ll warp you towards the end. Lakitu will be pissed, but Mario will be alive, and hopefully, not shrunken.
Lead us not into temptation.
Hard to believe this is only the second underground stage so far. Right away you’re asked to make a difficult jump from a sliver of ground. If you’re not good at controlling Mario after the three previous worlds, you soon will be – or die trying. Around the halfway point, you’ll encounter a vine that takes you to a Mushroom Wonderland in the sky. After Mario cavorts on the mushrooms, he’ll find warp zones to worlds 6, 7, and 8. Most people love this secret, and it is cool if you don’t have time to play through the entire game. If you really want to experience all that Super Mario Bros. has to offer, forgo the warps, like our grandfathers before us.
Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere, so let’s all go insane.
If you chose not to take the warp zone in world 4-2, here is your chance to experience the joys of a Mushroom Wonderland. It’s the same as running through the trees: lots of koopas, platforms and perfectly timed jumps. One thought of note: SMB finds the right balance of forcing Mario to barrel through a level, while also allowing discerning players to appreciate thoughtful level design.
So very tired.
After this castle, Mario’s at the halfway point, baby. Another trip through some fire-infested corridors? Not quite. This castle presents you with multiple routes to take, but only one of these routes is correct. You’ll have to find the correct route through trial and error. Taking the wrong path prevents you from moving forward. All the while the timer shoots down like it doesn’t want you to live anymore. Be hasty.