The Italian job
And so it was that all came together well for Super Mario Bros' exceptional 1985 success. The game brought scrolling platform action to the masses, but it was the sophisticated, well-considered game mechanics that granted the game its innovative, ultimately classic status.
Hit the flagpole, or jump over it if you can. The too hot to handle fireball upgrade. Mario and the beanstalk. Click for a larger image
Super Mario Bros fully established the talent of head-butting blocks to gain prizes. On their journey, Mario in red (Luigi in green) could score coins, stars, flowers or mushrooms – not specifically magic ones, but then again these would double Mario’s size or grant him extra lives, which is more than most hallucinogens ever achieve.
Each level was navigated through a number of different pipes, continuing the unlikely plumbing theme. Yet it was the well-crafted depths contained within this wacky madness that kept addiction levels high.
Mario breaks through to the warp zone. Later night-time level. Swimming was a new skill for Mario. Click for a larger image
Send turtle-shells ricocheting off to defeat upcoming baddies; head-butt through a ceiling and run towards a secret warp zone; find invincibility power-ups disguised in hidden blocks; time a running leap precisely to score maximum points at the final flag-pole.
Check out Mario’s full uncut glory here:
The endless flow
With Super Mario Bros single-handedly selling millions of NES consoles, Nintendo was in no way about to start producing the title for other platforms. Indeed this ‘killer app’ strategy became a key determinant for the global domination that followed. However, having turned first to a straightforward release of Super Mario Bros 2 for the Japanese market, Nintendo’s next move was a little bizarre.
The sequel, now featuring slightly adjusted characteristics for our red and green protagonists (Mario handled a bit better, while Luigi could jump a little higher) was also far harder than the original. For Western markets, Nintendo had a mild panic attack – thinking that the increased difficulty level might turn-off those softie Europeans and Yanks.
Super Mario Bros 2: Japanese version with enhanced graphics (left). US version playing as Toad (right)
Instead, they doctored a game Miyamoto had designed for the Japanese (rough translation: Dream Factory: Heart-pounding Panic) and replaced characters with those from Mario’s universe.
This rather different Super Mario Bros 2 played very well itself, though it’s still considered a bit of an oddball in the Mario gaming spectrum.