Super Mario Bros. was introduced in 1985, and it made a lot of people happy by providing excellent platforming action and selling a lot of NES systems in the process. Numerous successors followed, but the original game has stayed available on many machines throughout the years, with some improvements such as updated visuals (SNES) and additional modes (Game Boy Color). The Game Boy Advance, GameCube (with Action Replay enabled), and all three Virtual Console services have all released the original NES version. Arcade Archives VS. Super Mario Bros. is now available on Switch, but it's a little different from what's come before.
- Super Mario Bros, which arrived in arcades a year after the home console release, appears to be identical to ordinary Super Mario Bros, with the same tight controls, visual appearance, and Koji Kondo's fantastic music playing in the background. As an arcade release, certain alterations were made to create a more difficult task and to collect more money from players - though credits are simply added at the click of a button for this eShop edition. However, having unlimited continues does not make the game easy, as using one returns you to the first level of the current world.
Continues worked the same way in the original game (albeit concealed behind some button holding), but VS. Super Mario Bros. had more frustrating times due to its increased difficulty. While beginning from 6-1 is preferable to starting from 1-1, it's disappointing to be thrown back a few levels after making it to 6-4 and then being trampled on by Bowser.
With a few new adversaries, fewer powerups, and, in some cases, smaller platforms to land on, there are some minor tweaks that add to the complexity. The Koopa Troopas on the staircase have been changed with Goombas near the end of 3-1, making the famed 1-up trick impossible. Another change is that above the exit pipe in 1-2, several bricks have been removed, making the negative World inaccessible and the warp zone significantly difficult to reach; overestimate your landing and your momentum will carry you off the ceiling and toward the conventional way out. When you go to the later warp zone that used to give you access to Worlds 6–8, your inner speedrunner will be dismayed to see that only the sixth World is available.
Other alterations include World 2, where levels 2–4 are the more difficult versions of the levels that first debuted in Worlds 6 and 7. Other levels have altered as well, such as the castles in Worlds 4 and 5, which have now swapped places. A more important alteration is the replacement of the first castle with a new, more difficult level, which includes more lava pits to jump over and firebars to avoid. In reality, the game includes six new levels with difficult platforming difficulties, one of which demands you to bounce off a Koopa Paratroopa at precisely the perfect moment to reach the platform. Oh, and when you start your run-up, you can't see the Paratroopa.
These additional levels would later appear in The Lost Levels, a game that, despite having only been released in Japan at the time, has since received several western versions, and thus are no longer the fresh challenges they once were. These new levels and other modifications can be confusing, especially when an expected level turns out to be something different, or when a jump requires a different strategy than in previous versions of the game.
If you want to make things simpler for yourself, all you have to do is raise the number of lives you get when you continue from three to four. Reduce your beginning lives to two, require up to 250 coins for an extra life, and speed up the timer using the other choices in the settings menu. There are also the normal HAMSTER options for remapping buttons and adding scanlines to the image if desired.
The two-player version works as expected (players switch once a life is lost, and player 2 is Luigi), but the Hi Score and Caravan modes are fun alternate ways to play. These are a typical feature of HAMSTER's retro releases, giving you one credit to try and beat your previous high score, with the Caravan mode limiting you to five minutes of playtime. There are internet leaderboards for you to strive to climb, and trying to better your score adds a new dimension to the game.
If you just want to finish the game, the fireworks are a pleasant way to celebrate, but if you're chasing a highscore, you'll be disappointed when you hit the flagpole a second too late and miss out on the scoring bonus. Do you strive to grab everything and stomp every adversary for the rest of the level? Do you race through, gathering as much as you can in the hopes of earning a greater time bonus? Then there are the additional rooms to consider. You can slide down the pipe to earn a lot of cash, but does it make up for the fact that you're skipping a section of the level? There's a lot to think about as you try to figure out how to improve your score.
It's not surprising that Super Mario Bros. will be playable on a Nintendo device, but the fact that it will debut on Switch in its VS. iteration is a nice bonus. The superb gameplay, engaging music, and a big portion of the levels remain, but the new stages give the game a new feel that muscle memory won't be able to overcome. Those levels may have since appeared in The Lost Levels, but their inclusion here, along with changes to existing levels (such as a new solution to a multi-path puzzle), creates a still enjoyable but more difficult alternative way of playing, with highscore chasing thanks to the online leaderboards adding to the fun. VS. Super Mario Bros. is a wonderful - and tough - alternative for platforming aficionados, even if you can play the ordinary version of the game in your sleep.