In honor of Super Mario Bros.’ 35th anniversary, the Archive is playing every single release, re-release, port, and remake of the original Super Mario Bros.
RELEASE DATE: 07/14/1993 – (JP), 08/11/93 – (US), 12/16/93 – (EU)
ALSO ON: Wii, Switch Online
The original Super Mario Bros. on the Famicom/NES has a singular visual language. In a word? Crude. This crudeness gives the game its identity. Mario, Bowser, Princess Toadstool, the enemies and the backgrounds are chunky, blocky, pixelated works of art. The characters don’t resemble their modern counterparts in the slightest. Mario has never looked more like a blue-collar workhorse. Bowser (or King Koopa) resembles a kabuki demon lizard from hell. And Toadstool… poor Toadstool. Soulless Goombas and Koopa Troopas move rigidly along the rough brick and grass. The clouds, bushes, and green mountains look like they belong in a kindergarten diorama. They’re all so wretchedly beautiful. They have soul. No NES game – not even the million Mario clones out there – pulled off this particular aesthetic like the original Super Mario Bros.
Mario high fives the Bullet Bill!
We all know the rest of the story. Super Mario Bros. and the franchise it birthed became some of the most popular games of all time. Millions of young gamers loved the worlds that Nintendo created, crude though they were. Then in 1993, something happened. Nintendo released Super Mario All-Stars, a visual reimagining of the NES trilogy, along with the previously unreleased-in-America, Super Mario Bros. 2 or Lost Levels. Nintendo pulled a Lucas with their beloved Mario games. Except instead of the typical backlash that happens when Lucas pulls a Lucas, gamers loved it. The gaming press loved it. Super Mario All-Stars was hailed as a great value, a collection that reinvigorated Nintendo’s older Mario games. Even recently, when Nintendo released the compilation on the SNES Switch Online platform, Mario fans both young and old took to social media to sing Nintendo’s praises.
The Bloopers are pink now…
Super Mario All-Stars is a great value – four Mario games in one cartridge, c’mon – and Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 do benefit from additional colors and fleshed-out landscapes. Super Mario Bros. does not. The game’s graphics have been polished to a smooth, shiny sheen. As a result, the Mushroom Kingdom lacks all of the grit and edge of the original. Despite each stage having the same enemies and obstacles as before, the stages feel safer, brighter, and happier with little threat of danger. Mario somehow controls heavier and more slippery than he does in the NES version. Every element – Mario, Bowser, Toadstool, the enemies, bricks, power-ups, etc – is where it should be, and yet, the game never feels quite right. Like you’re playing a Super Mario Bros. impostor instead of the real deal.
Let’s face it, Mario ’85 would kick Mario ’93’s well-rounded buttocks.
SPECIFIC VISUAL GRIEVANCES
The twinkling colorful stars in the night stages. The pitch-black backgrounds from the NES are far more immersive.
Bowser’s goofy self-portraits in the background of his castles. Is this the beginning of Nintendo making Bowser more of a silly character?
Mario’s sprite looks more like the befuddled mascot he became, rather than the rough-and-tumble Brooklyn plumber he once was. We understand this change, but that doesn’t mean we like it.
Mario smiling and making the peace sign at you every time you enter a bonus pipe. The new absurdly chipper music is grating as well.
World 6-3 is now just a night time forest stage instead of the eerie white forest found in the NES.
Not even Mario is safe from Ted Turner’s colorization tactics!
We admit: we’re down on this 16-bit upgrade. That said, not all of the visual changes are garbage.
VISUAL DIFFERENCES THAT ACTUALLY WORK
The bizarre Goomba statues in the background of the bridge stages. Finally, Goombas are getting their due!
Worlds 3-1 and 3-2 are covered in snow. The white snow contrasts well with the (relatively) dark backgrounds.
The Toads emerging from the sack after the end of every castle. You never know what those little guys are gonna do!
Goomba statues! Toads being silly!
Nintendo has re-released the original Super Mario Bros. more times than just about any other game in their back catalog. You can play the game on the NES, the SNES (in All-Stars), the Game Boy Color (as a standalone cart), Game Boy Advance (as a standalone cart), the Gamecube (via the Game Boy Player, but you can also hack Animal Crossing), the Wii, the 3DS, the Wii U, and the Switch.
We’re more afraid of Bowser’s mullet than we are of him.
You know how many times Nintendo has re-released 16-bit Super Mario Bros. outside of Super Mario All-Stars? Zero. Nintendo knows. The original Super Mario Bros. for the NES is the better version of the two. Like the original “Star Wars,” its visual style is iconic and timeless, ancient and otherworldly. No games look like Super Mario Bros. today. None would even dare. The SNES version, on the other hand, looks like a myriad of other SNES games. It’s clean, sterile, and dare we write, pretty. Like the “Star Wars” Special Edition, it completely misses the point.