As far as starting points in gaming, there’s few that have been such a wildly successful phenomenon as 1985’s Super Mario Bros. While it wasn’t the first game to introduce us to the fungi-loving plumber, Super Mario Bros was undeniably the absolute game changing experience that shot Nintendo’s popularity into the stratosphere, heavily inspiring pretty much every platformer ever since.
It was also one of my earliest gaming memories too, so this week’s Top 5 Levels takes a look at my favourite stages from the original game…
World 1 – 2
Super Mario Bros‘ second level sees our moustachioed hero venture fully underground, encountering some spooky blue Goombas, Koopas and Piranha Plants along the way. Coupled with the incredibly simple “denim denim denim” music (say it out loud, it’ll make sense), this is one of the most iconic levels in the entire game and it’s mainly thanks to a rather excellent feature.
If a player has Super Mario or Fire Mario handy, they are able to break through the top layer of bricks and simply run across the level, avoiding most of the enemies and obstacles. Continuing past the pipe that takes you back to the surface takes players to the first Warp Zone in the game, allowing them to skip to either the second, third or fourth world instantly.
Learning how to do this when I played the game as a kid blew my mind, as I’d never thought to try breaking through the seemingly indestructible outside boundaries of the level screen, and is burned into my memory permanently.
World 4 – 1
Our introduction to the fourth world of Super Mario Bros introduces a reoccurring character in the Mario series; Lakitu. Before he became a more supportive figure in later games (such as refereeing races and taking on the role of cameraman), Lakitu made his debut here, dropping spiny eggs on the ground in an effort to stop Mario from progressing.
While seasoned players won’t find hatched Spiny enemies too much of a problem, getting cocky in this level can quickly knock Mario back a few steps and drain whatever lives that have been collected up to this point. I hated these enemies when I first played the game, and I still have a dislike for them to this day, but this made me pay more attention to what I was doing in playthroughs, so this level makes it into the top 5!
World 2 – 2
I’ve always found underwater levels in the Mario series fascinating (see my top 5 Super Mario Sunshine levels!), and that fascination stems from this simple little swim. World 2-2 introduces us to Bloopers and Cheep Cheeps, two of my favourite character designs in the whole series.
There’s not a whole lot going on in this level, and it is one of the easiest to get through, but the great music, interesting enemies and change-up to the normal flow of the rest of the game makes this a standout moment. While World 7-2 takes us back to this underwater zone later in the game, this initial dip sticks with me much more effectively.
World 5 – 1
Mario’s arrival in the fifth world of the game sees some subtle changes in the scenery. The greenery returns to the snowy white branches that we were introduced to in World 3, but there’s a new threat here; Bullet Bill. Bullet Bills (fired from Bill Blasters, of course) fire across the level, putting a Super-sized Mario at risk at any given time.
I’ve always loved the Bullet Bill enemies, as they add an element of danger that requires players to keep an eye out at all times (plus their design is simply awesome!). Chuck in some annoying Koopa Paratroopas and Piranha Plants into the mix, and you’re left with a level that gives you a small sense of victory when you finally pull that flag down at the end of the stage.
World 1 – 4
Finally, we have my favourite level in the entire game; The first of Bowser’s castles. It’s not a difficult level by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it have as many features as the castles later on in the game, but World 1-4 holds a special place in my love of gaming for a couple of reasons.
The first of these reasons is the boss battle. I remember reaching this point when I was younger with a mix of excitement and confusion. I’ve finished the game already? Bowser’s not that difficult to defeat? Why is there an axe?! All questions that were running through my mind as I saw what I thought was Bowser falling into the pit of lava.
The second reason? The realisation that everything wasn’t as it seemed. The fake Bowser had me completely fooled, and the legendary “OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!” quote ensured that I was totally invested in the rest of the game.
Super Mario Bros is one of the greatest games ever made (especially the remastered version found in Super Mario All Stars!), and it captured my attention so far as to keep me on team Nintendo for many years. I’m not sure what my taste in video games would be like today (in addition to, ya know, the entire landscape of gaming!) had this game not existed, so revisiting the levels for this article was a heartwarming dose of nostalgia, and is a testament to just how timeless the game is.
Which levels are your favourites from the first Super Mario Bros. game? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!