Review: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe

Running & Jumping through the Mushroom Kingdom on the go.

Console: Nintendo 3DS (Virtual Console)

I’ve got a small confession to make. Even though I’ve been a Nintendo ever since I was eight years old, I’ve never really been into Mario. Yeah, I played Mario Kart and played through New Super Mario Bros. a little on a now-dead R4 card but that’s was it. Mario just never really spoke to me. It was Pokémon that hogged almost all of my game time back then. It wasn’t until Super Mario Odyssey that I started to develop a taste for the red plumber. I enjoyed that game and over the next three years, my appreciation for Mario started to grow. After re-discovering the Wii, I picked up Super Mario Galaxy, started to look into more of Mario’s history. Side-games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which I had a lot of fun with playing with my friends, helped as well. 

With Super Mario 3D All-Stars now setting on the shelf behind me and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury in my sights, I came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that I’m finally on the Mario train. What I also did during this time was start playing Super Mario Bros Deluxe. I had gotten the virtual console version on the Nintendo 3DS from Nintendo years ago like many others. Since I now consider myself a Mario fan and to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary, I feel like talking about the game and what better way to do that then in a review? Is this handheld version of the original Super Mario Bros. game the definitive way to play it or is it better to stick with the original? In my opinion, the deluxe package is more than worth it.

Let´s dive in. 


I’m pretty sure that every game knows the basic setup and gameplay for a Mario game but, for the record, here it is once more. In Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario must now rescue her. You do this by making your way through the Mushroom Kingdom, running and jumping across platforms and enemies alike with some nifty power-ups to help you along with the job. Scattered across each stage, either just floating in the air or contained in blocks, are coins. Collect 100 of them and you’re rewarded with an extra life. There’s also a nifty score meter at the left top corner of the screen. Every action you take, from defeating enemies to collecting coins to getting a power-up gives you a certain amount of points. After finishing a level by touching the flag-pole, your total score will be summed up with the time you still had left. After a game-over, how far you got into the game and your score is recorded so you can use it to show off to others if you wanted to.

To get my thoughts on Super Mario Bros. itself out of the way first, I think it’s quite good especially for its time. The game is easy to understand and thus play and the gameplay loop is both fun and addictive making you come back to the game often. I think it doesn’t quite hold up these days, the limited amount of assets can only make the levels feel that different from each other, but that’s only a minor complaint really. The developers managed to differentiate each world and level much better then I thought they would. Water levels might look very similar to each other, but the enemy placement and types of enemies do enough in making the levels feel different. It ramps up the difficulty later in the game quite nicely as well. The screen-crunch admittedly is a problem. To fit the entire game on the much smaller screen of the Gameboy Color, the borders of the screen are cut off. You can adjust the view of the screen by pressing the D-pad and while it works, it’s not ideal.

Super Mario Deluxe. doesn’t just make the original Super Mario Bros portable, but it adds in a slew of new features. The biggest one is definitely the save feature. Unlike in the original game, you can save the game at any time without losing most of your progress. This turns the game from an arcade-style ‘do it all in one sitting’ to one that is a perfect ‘pick up and play’ title. You do lose all of your coins and your score-meter is reset every time you come back to the game but its an understandable trade-off. The game, and by that I specifically mean the scoring system, would’ve been pretty broken if you could just carry over your score. It also means that if you want to unlock the games ‘bonus’ you need to be a genuinely good player.

Still from the game, so you can see the screen-crunch for yourself. Btw, did you know that when you press the 'select' button the 3DS when booting up a virtual console game you get a border like this? I sure didn't until recently!

What is this bonus? Well, technically speaking, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is a port of not one but two games. If you manage to score over 300.000 points in the game after defeating Bowser, you’ll unlock Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels under the name ‘Super Mario Bros. for super players’. For those of you who don’t know, The Lost Levels is the original Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan. This game was deemed too difficult for Western players so a different Super Mario game was created for us, our Super Mario Bros. 2. Be aware though: the difficulty of the Lost Levels must not be understated. The levels in that game truly are very hard so if you go into them unprepared by ready to get your ass kicked something fierce. A nice bonus, but not for everybody.

Aside from the bonus in the form of The Lost Levels, there are also a ton of different modes added to the game. First off, there’s the challenge mode. Once you’ve completed a level, you can replay it in a slightly remixed fashion. The layout of the levels themselves have not changed, but enemy placement and behaviour has. There are also new collectables to find in the form of red coins and Yoshi Eggs. With the Vs. Mode, not available on the virtual console version I might add, you can race against any other player in a set of levels specifically created for this mode. In ‘You VS. Boo’, unlocked after scoring 100.000 points, you can do the same but against a computer-controlled Boo instead. Lastly, you got the toy box and fortune teller which can give you a boost in the form of free power-ups should you be lucky enough.

Conclusion

All in all, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is quite the package. It not only includes the original Super Mario Bros., which is still as good as ever alongside a plethora of new content. From the new save feature to the Lost Levels to a challenge mode, there’s enough here to keep you busy for a while. The screen crunch is a bit of a shame and the age of Super Mario Bros. is definitely starting to show but that’s not enough to keep this game down.

There are a lot of ways to play Super Mario Bros. these days, like through the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, but the extra amount of content Super Mario Bros. Deluxe offers makes it worth picking up over those other versions.

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