back to article Hats off to Nintendo’s platform supremo Super Mario Bros at 30

Super Mario Bros – the iconic game for Nintendo’s Famicom, or NES to those of us outside Japan – was released 30 years ago. Nintendo has been celebrating the build up to its anniversary, which takes place on Sunday, 13 September, by offering a competition to see who can make the best Mario-themed video – with a zillion and one …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    Mythical but not for all

    I used to enjoy watching other people play, especially in the later rounds, but personally, I never got the bug.. The one thing that Mario never had, at least in my opinion, was a sense of adventure..

    To be perfectly honest I never understood the attraction to platform games, although I did complete Manic Miner (which was more of a puzzle game than a thumb basher)....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mythical but not for all

      I was always more of a Sonic fan than Mario, especially the later ones ( Sonic 2, 3 and Sonic & Knuckles ).

      It's a shame that when Sonic went 3d the game was all about speed, which meant it was mostly just watching as the computer took over control all the time.

      1. Bleu

        Re: Mythical but not for all

        Sonic was always about speed and timing.

        Sonic Adventure was brilliant and terribly under-rated. The sub-game with the Chaos and VM, also great. The second, OK, but not as good. The seaside stage of the first one, breathtakingly beautiful.

        I gather that the overseas one had more bugs, but some of them sound interesting.

        Sonic Rush on the DS was much fun.too short, but yes, it is all about speed *and* timing.

        Also liked the ones on GBA (except unplayable bonus stages) and Neogeo Pocket (like the originals, only better, and the bonus stages were playable).

    2. Richard Taylor 2

      Re: Mythical but not for all

      I fondly remember Mario 64 (in fact our N64 is still connected to the TV and I played a few rounds last weekend). At the time it arrived we had three children aged about 4,6 and 8. I became a hero when I finished the final Bowser - they still remember it. Within a very short time they had far outstripped me on their ability to play (I like to think it was nothing to do with reactions and everything to do with their dedication to that and other games - even when they were time limited by their Mum and I)

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mythical but not for all

      I'm afraid the only 2D one that hooked me was Wario Land on the GameBoy, which was more of an adventure with weaponsised hats and a game save.

      Wasn't until 3D with Mario 64 and then the amazing Mario Galaxy that I really got playing.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Original NES wasn't that big over here, it was the GameBoy that really broke Nintendo

      "although I did complete Manic Miner"

      A Spectrum game- and one that brings me on to something that bugs me about "Nintendo nostalgia" articles in general- although not this one so much. It's the adoption of the US-centric 80s NES nostalgia narrative. It's obvious that the NES was huge over there- I remember reading something like one in three households had them at their peak(?) However, while it definitely sold a reasonable level here, it didn't even begin to approach its US level of market share or cultural dominance.

      In fact, it was outsold by Sega's Master System (#), and even *that* was relative- neither 8-bit console came close to replacing the home computers as the dominant games format here as the NES did to the C64 in the US. (##)

      As I remember, the point at which Nintendo started *really* becoming a big deal over here was with the launch of the GameBoy in the early 1990s, followed a couple of years later by the SNES. (And even the latter came out in the slipstream of the Genesi... sorry *Mega Drive's* massive success). The 16-bit consoles at the lower end and the increasing popularity (and falling price) of PC clones at the high end effectively ended that home computer driven era.

      I'm not denying that the NES was important worldwide, or that the US market was bigger than the UK- it just annoys me when UK publications buy into the US-driven narrative of Late 80s=NES when it wasn't so much over here.

      (#) I'm assuming this was a combination of Mastertronic (the UK distributor of the Master System) doing a good job and Nintendo's focus on Japan and North America at the expense of European markets.

      (##) Come to think of it, I could probably make the same point about the Atari VCS. That was mostly before my time, but I get the impression that while it sold here- I knew people who had one- it was much bigger in the console-driven US. The Spectrum, on the other hand- nowhere in the States, one of the staples of the era in the UK.

    5. Bleu

      Re: Mythical but not for all

      Don't understand the attraction of platformers yet you finished Manic Miner?

      I never played that, but gather it was inspired by or a copy of Miner 2049er, on the C 64 and Atari 400 and 800. ... and yes, finished that.

      Anybody who doesn't love a good platformer has no heart as a gamer. I thought that famicom games were too easy compared to western home-computer ones, sufami, they were more interesting, still, much of the time, too easy.

  2. SolidSquid

    It's worth mentioning that Doki Doki Panic was actually built on a prototype Mario engine which was intended for Mario 2, but Nintendo wanted to get another game out for the Japanese market faster than they could build it and released Mario 2/Lost Levels. They might have decided to hold off on releasing it over here because of concerns over difficulty, but the Mario 2 we got was originally intended to be a Mario game anyway

  3. eJ2095


    Its a me 'Mario'

  4. PaulyV


    The graphical jump between 1985 and 1996 is quite stunning...since then not so much. Such rapid development of hardware in that period.

  5. Little Mouse Silver badge

    Other platforms

    My mate had a Mario Bros hand-held LCD game featuring both Brothers. I'm not sure exactly where in the timeline it sits, but my time-addled brain assures me it must have been 1982 or earlier.

    The Bros had to bounce people to safety from a burning building with their fireman's trampoline.

    Blimey - I haven't thought about that in years. I've certainly never seen it mentioned in articles like this one, in all the years since.

    1. RNixon

      Re: Other platforms

      Those usually get lumped in with the other Nintendo LCD games and just called 'Game and Watch'.

      The game you're thinking of is called "Fire", and actually just has two random firemen, not Mario & Luigi. (There is a version for the Game Boy in a "Game and Watch Collection" that has Marioverse themes.)

      There are some Mario games in the series; Donkey Kong/Jr/2/III, Mario Bros., Mario's Bombs Away, Mario's Cement Factory, Mario the Juggler, Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Circus, and Donkey Kong Hockey.

      There are also a few non-Nintendo-console Mario games; edutainment for the PC, and shovelware crap for the CD-i. (Hotel Mario is best forgotten. Really.)

      1. Little Mouse Silver badge

        Re: Other platforms

        +1 And cheers for the info. I'll look it up and see how it compares with my 30+ year old memories. I've no idea how they got polluted by the Mario brand - I've never really been a fan.

      2. paulf

        Re: Other platforms

        I remember the Game and Watch devices. I had two, Mario Bros and Balloon Fight:

        Both were still in working order last time I checked. Fairly simple game play but still addictive and fun. I hadn't realised quite how many there were until I checked.

        Unfortunately I never owned a console until I bought someone else's unwanted Gamecube so Game and Watch was my only experience of Mario Bros for some years.

  6. gregthecanuck

    Great retrospective article - thanks!

    We have a Wii U at home and it gets a lot of use. It is a lot of fun for all ages. The gamepad is pretty cool - wife can play her favourite game (Super Mario 3D World) on the gamepad while others use the TV to watch a particular show.

  7. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Ah the nostalgia

    In addition, it also span-off a cartoon series and a movie, although the latter was a bit odd (although inspired casting of Bob Hoskins as Mario and another fun fact is it was narrated by Dan Castellaneta, aka Homer Simpson). I can remember the series on a Saturday morning, along with similar ones for PacMan and Sonic.

    Happy memories of simpler times...

  8. DaneB

    Bob Hoskins RIP

    The bit where they were pursued down water chutes by dinosaurs was a bit weird though.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I never played Super Mario Bros. But I did own the Great Giana Sisters rip off for the C64 and play the Amiga version before Nintendo sued and it was withdrawn.

    1. Valeyard

      I still have the great giana sisters for the c64 :D

    2. John Sanders

      Great Giana Sisters rip off

      I do not think that it is fair to say "rip off", Great Gianna Sisters was an amazing game, more "inspired by" than a plain copy of S.M. Bross, lots of undeniable similarities, true but not just a clone.

      The developers of the game made the mistake of making the first level look too much like the first level of S.M. Bross and Nintendo told them to drop it or else.

      1. Valeyard

        Re: Great Giana Sisters rip off

        every game had a million clones back then too, i have some old copies of your sinclair etc and the back pages adverts are just a list of ripped off games.

        they just picked the wrong one to be inspired by

        1. Bleu

          Re: Great Giana Sisters rip off

          Nintendo was building on so many great platformers in the European (and to a lesser extent, the US, for software, mainly on arcade machines) home-computer market, it is a crime that stupid legal people pulled the plug on the Great Gianna Sisters.

          On the same kind of principle, they could well have pulled the plug on Mario.

          By the way, the Reg's redesign is, at time of writing, a total fuck-up on a phone.

  10. elaar

    Amazing game (assuming you were of the right age and owned a NES).

    Back when game design was both extremely difficult and creative, with only 64KB for direct rom/ram, bank switching, and every bit counted.

    Nintendo got it right where so many other companies failed.

  11. ThomH

    There's no save in Super Mario 3

    Some pedantic ass had to say it. Warp whistles, etc: reward the player's dedication by having them eventually learn how to skip ahead.

    1. Kanhef

      Re: There's no save in Super Mario 3

      There's a save feature in the Virtual Console version on the Wii/3DS, but definitely not in the original.

  12. BenBell

    Well there goes my weekend

    ...Mario and Zelda on the SNES - There's a very well spent childhood :)

    Beer because I can feel a "Friday BBQ, drink and play-old-video-games-that-my-wife-thinks-are-stupid" session coming on

  13. A. Coatsworth

    What's "infamous" about the Super Mario tune? I'm sure it's one of the most *famous* pieces of gaming music, but it's reputation is spotless...

    Also, if my memory serves well, Luigi was actually clad in white, not green, in Super Mario Bros for NES.

    1. DaneB

      Think the "ear-worm annoying as hell I can't get to sleep because of it" might make it infamous?

  14. John Sanders

    S.M. Bros was a masterpiece, the rest... not so much.

    I was a massive fan of the first Super Mario Bros, it was simply amazing at the time, it brought so many new things, mechanics, gameplay, game elements, etc to the genre and video games in general that it is impossible to explain to someone who did not live on the 80's.

    I played it so much at the arcades I could have bought my own arcade machine, If I close my eyes any time to this day I can still listen the tune of stages 1-1 and 1-2 playing in my head.

    By the time the 2nd and 3rd S.M Bros came it felt nothing like the original and no sequel ever captured back my attention.

    Some games are just "Good enough" and should be left alone, another example coming to mind is Minecraft, it was much more engaging when it was simpler around v1.5 - v1.7

    1. DaneB

      Re: S.M. Bros was a masterpiece, the rest... not so much.

      Ha, I couldn't disagree more!

      Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo was pure and utter genius. I'd rate that as the best of the lot, even later 3D Marios.

      Horses for courses, I suppose.

  15. WibbleMe

  16. P.B. Lecavalier


    And I'm the oddball who wasn't too much into Mario and friends: my hero was Commander Keen! (especially Keen5)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Keen

      The PC platform games always seemed lacking compared to Mario and Sonic - and Wonderboy et al - on the consoles. Keen was EGA ugliness, Jilll of the Jungle was merely alright, Gods was a sort of 'run and gun' game.... Flashback wasn't as good as the Amiga version.

      Still, a few years later my console and Amiga-owning friends would come round to mine for X-Wing, and later Doom

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Super Mario 3 Characters

    The Frog and the Raccoon suit actually come from Japanese mythology. I'm sure I've heard Japanese referring to the Racoon suit as a Tanuki suit.

    The way Mario or Luigi hold the leaf over their head is a sign that they are changing into a Tanuki suit. A Tanuki is a racoon-like person that loves to drink. They are often portrayed with a jug of Saki (rice whiskey), a hat and two large prominent testicles. Those things are used as a multitool for them, because they are stretchable. They can make drums, capes, and anything else they need. Given the right circumstances they can even fly. So, if you wondering where that cape comes from in Super Mario World when Mario gets the feather? Yup, he just stretches out a bit. Also, legend has it they can turn into humans if they put a leaf (or something) over their heads - typically to borrow booze. They are extremely fertile, and can be found anywhere people gather, and are often pulling harmless pranks on their human companions. They can also turn into statues (among other items) to avoid detection.

    The Frog suit represents Kappa, a frog like being that lives in the Japanese waterways. These beings are infertile. They reproduce by kidnapping children and young adults from deep waterways. They are most active at night. They are often portrayed with frog like features, and typically have water in some container over their heads. Like the Tanuki, Tengu and Fox, they also shapeshift, typically into water related items or young children to entice more children to come into the water.

    All done to bring a small piece of Japanese culture to the rest of the world, while expanding Mario's capabilities with limited flight and swimming.

    1. DaneB

      Re: Super Mario 3 Characters

      Not to bring this down to base level but isn't there some other weird Japanese game where a boy turns into a flying nut sack?

      Seem to remember a flying nut sack on a flying bicycle, but maybe I've muddled ET in there as well.


      1. The lone lurker

        Re: Super Mario 3 Characters

        Alex Kidd in Miracle world?

        He had a flying bike and the rock paper scissors boss fights had a guy that looked like he had a cock for a head.

  18. Bladeforce

    It wasn't until Super Mario World that i realised..

    .. the feat of amazing programming and playability that Nintendo crammed into 1MB that games of today cant match in playbiility with 10+GB

  19. DaneB

    Sonic, for all his speedy glitz, still got beaten by Mario's complexity. Truth!

  20. CaptainBanjax

    NES not big in the UK?

    Are you people sure...almost everyone I knew had one. I wanted one sooo badly.

    I used to play Mario before school at my neighbours house every day.

    I didnt have a NES...but I remember the Christmas I got a SNES with Mario World and Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Epic.

    Best chrimbo pressie I ever got...until Quake. Never had a console since.

  21. Stevie


    Until the NES console gaming was dead in the US. Atari had self-destructed in a welter of lousy unfit-for-purpose games (a mistake team NES were rabid about not repeating) Sega had yet to be born and Coleco was shuffling towards the wings, taking it's 70s-style pixelated graphics with it.

    I'm convinced that without NES there would be no console gaming industry. Popular corporate wisdom in the US was that console gaming was a dead-end technology that had run its course. NES basically won the day by the owners taking their own road (no-one wanted a license deal at first as I understand it).

    I don't know why people are down on NES these days. The games were a mixed bunch, and I didn't "get" some of them. Others turned out to be too simplistic when ported from the arcade version (Spy Hunter for one). The only buggy cartridge I owned was the earliest version of Pacman that was rendered unplayable by a joystick status bug that meant Pacman was prone to not obeying the stick.

    That was an Atari game though, and Atari didn't seem to get the quality control required of NES games. Some of the games put out by them for the NES were appalling. If the graphics were good, gameplay was terrible. If gameplay was great, graphics sucked.

    Top game experiences on the NES for me:

    1) Super Mario Bros. 3

    2) Super Mario Bros.

    3) Legend of Zelda (massive timesuck)

    4) Metroid

    5) Gauntlet

    6) Arkanoid (still have mine in the box with the special paddle controller)

    7) Burger Time

    8) Spy vs Spy

    9) Spyhunter

    10) Legend of the Five Kingdoms

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like