Super Mario Bros.

Didn't expect this one to be on the list, did you?

Rest assured reader, I have indeed played Super Mario Bros. before. A good few times in fact, though not so much the NES version that really kicked the whole Mario thing off. Yes, yes, there was Mario Bros. in the arcade and on the Atari and what have you, but it was the Super Mario line that made an impression on millions upon millions of gamers worldwide.

Super Mario Bros. saw an arcade release, but it was in its element on the Nintendo Entertainment System. That was before my time though, and I was first introduced to Super Mario Bros. in the form of Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES. My cousins only had a handful of games for their SNES, but they consistently kicked my arse at every one of them.

All-Stars contained an improved and graphically updated version of Super Mario Bros. and while I find myself having a little more success with that version, we really ought to go back to where it all began.

Fun Times

I'd say it's amazing how playing Super Mario Bros. comes back to you after not playing it for a long while, but that would perhaps take away the fact that it's often championed as an example of great game design.

You can't have not seen that opening screen somewhere. Those colours scream 'Mario', and the music... don't lie to me and say that's never been stuck in your head. There is no other game that can lay claim to being so recognisable, and we haven't even got to the first obstacle.

It absolutely doesn't matter if you fall to the first Goomba, because you're learning and you're having fun, aren't you? Bit by bit you discover what Mario can and can't do, how he does and doesn't move, as the levels drip feed new enemies and obstacles your way.

A Goomba disappears in one hit, but a turtle in two, a winged flying turtle in three. You can jump on their heads or shoot fireballs that a magic flower gave you. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to delight. It ought to be challenging too, of course, but not so frustrating as to put players off. Tight jumps, moving platforms - timing is everything. Well, not everything, but it helps.

You bounce off blocks as little Mario, but eat a mushroom and you grow twice as big and can smash those blocks. This doesn't need to be read in a manual, because those first few blocks of World 1-1 pretty much funnel you into finding this out. Once you know what that Question block contains, you can decide whether to use it on your next run. It's a tutorial without people even knowing that it's a tutorial.

The scenery is varied across 8 worlds that have you avoiding bottomless pits, squatting over every pipe just to find the ones that lead to secrets, dodging fireballs and fish, all in an effort to rescue the Princess - who will seemingly always be in another castle.

Super Mario Bros. is all about that 'just one more go' feeling. You see someone do well and you want to do better. You see how close you got and you want to try harder. It can get tricky and will require you to step up as you make progress, but it's not demanding or demeaning.

It's fun. What a novel idea that is.


If you're familiar with any of the numerous sequels and spin offs of Super Mario Bros., adapting to the change of pace may catch you out from time to time. What should have been an easy to avoid enemy will probably be your demise at some point, either because you didn't quite judge a jump, or simply weren't yet tuned into how Mario jumps here.

I had Super Mario Land on my Game Boy, and would play until the batteries ran dry. I was on it far too often but I was enjoying my time playing. When I was setting up my Raspberry Pi for some retro gaming, I jumped into Super Mario Land and relieved memories of decades gone by, the way Mario controlled just clicking - I knew his pace, I knew his jumping ability, I was in the zone in moments. I then jumped into Super Mario Bros. and was just a step or two up from blithering idiot. The techniques I'd need to use were the same and both games are Super Mario through and through, but the control just wouldn't come to me quickly for Super Mario Bros.

This isn't a slight on the game by any means. I'm struggling to find slights. The Hammer bros can be annoying? The point is, even if a Super Mario title is 'just like the Super Mario of old', it likely isn't, and you will need to find those skills again.

Final Word

Those skills will come back though. Look, I even remembered how to get to the first set of warp pipes! Do you know how goddamn amazed I was when my cousin first showed me this? I'm running where the scores are shown. That shouldn't be possible, at yet it is, and it is awesome.

Super Mario Bros. is still awesome because of the incredibly talented bunch of people who continue to play it 30 years on. The game can be sped through in mere minutes, which isn't to say that the challenge has been reduced to nothing. Quite the opposite, you might argue, as speed runners still have to decide between risky strategies in the name of shaving seconds off their time.

The amazing players don't stop at humans, as there are computers that have either brute forced or else actually learnt their way through Super Mario Bros. - a computer has probably beaten more of Super Mario Bros. than many people have, and can use game bugs to its advantage while doing so. What other game can lay claim to that? Probably a few. But there aren't many, are there?

You have most likely played Super Mario Bros. in some form. Often. On multiple platforms. You don't need me to tell you to go and play another 'quick' game of it sometime.

Fun Times

40 million copies sold in some form or other? Must be doing something right...

Super Mario Bros. developed by Nintendo, first released in 1985.
Version played: NES, 1985 (via emulation)
SNES, 1993 (via emulation)