Mario Bros.
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Nintendo (Arcade/NES)
    • Atari (2600/5200/AppleII/7800)
    • Hudson (PC88/FM7/X1)
    • Ocean Software (C64/CPC)
    • Sculptured Software (8-bit family)
  • Publishers:
    • Nintendo (Arcade/NES)
    • Atari (2600/5200/AppleII/7800/8-bit family)
    • Hudson (PC88/FM7/X1)
    • Ocean Software (C64/CPC)
  • Released:
    Arcade
    • JP 07/14/1983
    • US 07/20/1983
    NES
    • JP 09/09/1983
    • US 06/20/1986
    • UK 09/01/1986
    2600/5200
    • US 1983
    PC88
    • JP February 1984
    AppleII
    • US 1984
    FM7/X1
    • JP 1984
    C64
    • US 1986
    • UK 1986
    CPC/ZX
    • UK 1987
    7800
    • US 1988
    Atari 8-bit family
    • US 1989
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/09/2017.

Mario Bros. is a platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the arcade and Nintendo Entertainment System. The original arcade version was released in Japan on July 14, 1983, and North America on July 20, 1983. It was then released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan on September 9, 1983, North America on June 20, 1986, and Europe on September 1, 1986. Atari published and developed ports of the game in North America for the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 in 1983, Apple II in 1984, and Atari 7800 in 1988. In 1989, Atari also published a port of the game in North America for the Atari 8-bit line of computers, but this version was developed by Sculptured Software. Hudson Soft published and developed two slightly different versions of the game in Japan for the PC-8801, FM-7, and Sharp X1 in 1984. Additionally, Ocean Software published and developed a version for the game in North America and Europe for the Commodore 64 in 1986. In 1987, Ocean Software also published and developed a port of the game in Europe for the Amstrad CPC. There was also a ZX Spectrum version of the game released in Europe in 1987. This isn't even including all the remakes on newer platforms.

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In 1981 and 1982, Nintendo revolutionized the arcade gaming scene, and gaming in general, with the release of Donkey Kong and its sequel, Donkey Kong Jr. Donkey Kong was one of the first platform games ever created, and also the first game to feature Mario as the protagonist, who was originally known as Jumpman. On top of that, Donkey Kong was the first game legendary developer Shigeru Miyamoto ever worked on, who did so under the management of Gunpei Yokoi, the man who later became responsible for the revolutionary Game Boy. Following the success of these two titles, Miyamoto and Yokoi worked together again to create Mario Bros. The game did modestly well in Japan, but wasn't hugely successful in North America, mostly due to the video game crash of 1983. It's a shame, because this game is not only pretty decent, but it was also rather innovative for its time. That's okay, though, because Nintendo later dominated the North American console gaming market with the NES.

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Donkey Kong began Mario's career as a carpenter, but Mario Bros. had him change jobs to a plumber. According to Miyamoto, the decision for this change was partly due to his appearance, as he had a cap, overalls, and a bushy mustache. However, the main reason for this occupation change was due to this game primarily taking place near pipes. The presence of pipes also prompted Miyamoto to shift the setting from a construction site to a sewer. Specifically, Miyamoto felt the perfect setting would be New York City, due to its "labyrinthine subterranean network of sewage pipes." As the title implies, this game is also the birth of Mario's brother, Luigi. Luigi was created for the game's two player mode so that the second player could control a different character. He's merely a palette swap of Mario in this game, but became more distinct in future titles. As a result of all this, the premise for the game's story became that two Italian-American plumbers, Mario and Luigi, had to investigate the sewers of New York City after strange creatures began appearing out of there.

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Like most arcade games of the time, everything takes place in a single screen with no scrolling whatsoever. Action is viewed from a side perspective as you control either Mario or Luigi, depending on whether you're playing as either player one or player two. Both brothers are capable of only two actions: running and jumping. Unlike the original Donkey Kong, you don't die if you fall too far in this game, and there are no bottomless pits. During the game's development, Yokoi suggested to Miyamoto that Mario should be able to fall from any height, but Miyamoto was initially unsure of this idea, stating that this would make it "not much of a game." Miyamoto eventually came around, as he felt it'd be okay for Mario to have some superhuman abilities. He put together a prototype based on this concept which had Mario "jumping and bouncing around," and he was quite pleased with the results.

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The objective of each stage, or "phase" as this game calls it, is to defeat all the enemies. Unlike future Mario games, you can't defeat enemies by stomping on them. Instead, you jump into the underside of the platform the enemy is standing on to flip them over, then gently touch them to get the kill. The idea of flipping enemies over to defeat them was also suggested by Yokoi, which he felt would work due to there being multiple floors. However, they initially had it so that enemies were immediately vanquished by being flipped over, which felt too easy, so they fixed it by requiring players to touch the enemies after they've been flipped over. The whole flipping over thing is what gave birth to the turtle as an enemy, as they felt this foe could only be attacked from below. This mechanic proved to be pretty fun. There's also the POW block, which flips over all enemies on the screen at the same time, but has limited uses.

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Enemies will come out of the pipes from the top of the screen and then make their way down towards the bottom, where they enter the pipes near the ground to get back to the top of the screen again. Miyamoto came up with the idea of pipes as a way to prevent the bottom of the screen from piling up with enemies. There's also wraparound, which means anything that goes off one side of the screen will appear on the opposite side. While the arrangement of platforms is the same for all phases, the enemies are different. You've got the basic turtles, crabs that require two hits from below to be flipped over instead of one, flies that jump around, and sliding icicles that'll coat a platform in slippery ice. Fireballs also sometimes appear, but they can't be destroyed. Every few phases there'll be a bonus where you collect coins under a time limit to get extra points. As with most arcade titles of the era, the game essentially goes on forever, or until both brothers lose all their lives. Mario and Luigi lose a life each time they touch an enemy that hasn't been flipped, so that shouldn't take long.

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Unlike Donkey Kong, where both players had to take turns playing the game, Mario Bros. allows the two players to play simultaneously. This is far more enjoyable, as it's a lot more interactive. The game can either be played competitively or cooperatively. In addition to collecting coins, killing enemies gives points, allowing players to compete in getting high scores. To further heat up the competition, players are able to hinder one another by bumping into or pushing each other around. Players are unable to directly harm each other, but they can push each other into enemies to indirectly kill each other. However, if players choose to team up, they must avoid getting into each other's way. They can then work together to defeat enemies, with one aiming to flip them over and another focusing on knocking them out. Regardless of how you play, Mario Bros. is best enjoyed with a pal.

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Even though it abandons the multiple stage structure of Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. manages to avoid becoming repetitive too quickly by having a decent cast of enemies and a fun two player mode that can either be played competitively or cooperatively. When played with a friend, this game's appeal will likely last a long time, much longer than Donkey Kong.

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