(Review archived from March 18, 2023)
I mean … it’s Super Mario Bros. for the NES. On one hand it’s hard to understate the extent to which this game almost single handedly kicked off a revolution in console gaming. This is the bedrock upon which a decade or more of 2D gaming was built upon. On the other hand though …. it’s easy to take this game for granted as a seasoned retro-gamer. It’s not an arcane or obscure hidden gem, and as a result at a certain point it no longer really seems that ‘interesting’ anymore precisely because of the reasons I mentioned above. This is the history of retro-gaming writ large. Practically everyone in our community knows this game inside and out, and likely has long held opinions regarding it’s quality and/or legacy.
So is there really anything left to say about Super Mario Bros? Well, contrary to my typically long winded diatribes … I might surprise everyone by saying … no. Or at least by my reckoning, there’s probably not much interesting left to say about Super Mario Bros that hasn’t already been said elsewhere (and more eloquently to boot!). But here’s the crux of my point. This is absolutely a game that’s worth revisiting from time to time. I don’t want to get too grandiose here (but of course I will, because it’s me), but replaying this game has the same sort of feeling as a religious pilgrimage, insofar as it requires one to shed the complications and static of our modern lives in order to return to some principle fountainhead. And that’s not to say that this is even the best 2D platformer of its generation. It’s not. Other games would successfully build upon and modify this formula in interesting ways. Graphics, music, mechanics; all of these would be incrementally albeit steadily improved upon over the course of this gaming generation. But … this is the archetypal 8-bit platformer, and thus there’s some real value in revisiting the foundations of the era.
A number of years back I declared that the Super Mario Allstars version of this game on SNES could safely be considered the ‘definitive version’ of Super Mario Bros. There’s still an argument to be made for that sentiment of course, particularly for modern gamers experiencing the game for the first time, but after this most recent play though of the NES version … I’m not so sure anymore. The original version of Super Mario Bros. on the NES not only remains one of the best titles on the system, but one of the absolute quintessential titles on the system, something that can’t really be said about the Allstars version with regards to the SNES. As if it wasn’t already obvious, Super Mario Bros. comes highly recommended to all retro-gamers but really … you already knew that.