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SUPER MARIO ALLSTARS, an anthology of the first four NES Mario games for the SNES, was one of the most popular titles Nintendo released during the early 1990s. Since these titles were such staples of the NES, it was only logical to port them to SNES with a graphical overhaul, options to save, and (for America anyway) the release of a long lost game called LOST LEVELS. Also, depending on what version of this you get, in later releases they also packaged SUPER MARIO WORLD as well, making this a one stop shop for those looking for a Mario fix. These are the games.
SUPER MARIO BROTHERS: The single most popular game ever released, and also the most widely circulated. Largely responsible for saving the video game industry after the historic crash of 1984, it is now easy to forget (especially for younger gamers) how revolutionary this title was when it first came out. 8 expansive worlds, bright colourful graphics, and much more complex than the usual one-screen games that dominated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A real technological breakthrough and a historic landmark in gaming, even all these years later it holds up with pixel-perfect graphics and rock-solid game play. Don’t miss this one.
THE LOST LEVELS: The original followup to SMB; released only in Japan. Deemed to hard for the American markets, another game was given Mario sprites and released in America as SMB2. This title, however, is notoriously difficult. I always think of it as the second quest, like in the original Zelda. If you go through all 8 levels without warping, you get to a secret world, 9, before going on to worlds A-D. When ALLSTARS first came out, Nintendo Power had a promotion that if you got to world 9 they would send you a Mario badge. Ah, the memories! Still, if you really want to test your metal against incredibly difficult old-school Mario levels, this game isn’t to be missed. Lots of fun all around. Some levels, however, make you think Nintendo have a sadistic streak in them. Noteably, Shigeru Miyamoto had no involvement in this title. Closest America ever got to the original 8-bit release was Super Mario Deluxe for the Game Boy Colour, though that was lacking the last five bonus levels and did not have all the same graphics as the original SMB2 did. 21 years after Japan got the game, Nintendo finally released the 8-bit version on the Virtual Console for the Wii in October 1, 2007.
SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2: Also known as SUPER MARIO BROTHERS USA in Japan (released in 1992 there and 1988 stateside), this is the odd man out in the series. The game play couldn’t be more different than the original SMB if they tried. The story is Nintendo didn’t think they’d be able to sell SMB2 to the American markets, so they took a pre-existing game, DOKI DOKI PANIC, changed a few sprites around, and put the Nintendo seal of approval on it. (For those of you who have access to the original game booklet that was released with SMB2, the picture of Phanto, the guardian of the keys, is the original sprite from DOKI DOKI, and looks different than what appeared in the Mario version. When I was little I always wondered why the sprite looked different from the game). DOKI DOKI’s story is a family’s pet monkey watches as the two children disppeare into a book when a giant green hand drug them into it and had to be rescued. The monkey grabs the family and they go into the book to fight Wart (or Mamu). To see the ending, you had to complete the game four times, once with each major character. The Internet has a wealth of info on the differences between the Mario version and the original version. What I always remember about this game is how fast it sold when it came out in 1988. As far as game play goes, there are four selectable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Mario, naturally, is the most well-rounded, though my brother and I always used Luigi for his jumping skills. The levels are very odd, contributing to the overall dream-like, bizarre quality that is so inhertant in this game. A huge smash when it was released, but easily the strangest Mario game in the canon. Little surprise when you find out it’s rather dubious origins (I was in shock when I found out about in the late 1990s). Ironically enough, Miyamoto purportedly had much more to deal with the development of this game than the Japanese SMB2.
SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 3: The best selling game ever released independently*, SMB3 greatly expanded the Mario universe with the introduction of several new enemies, Bowser’s children (who was the mother, I wonder? Godzilla’s ex?), and introduced cool new suites for Mario to wear. The game play was more expansive than ever, with cool new secrets to discover and eight tremendously large worlds. This game laid the foundation for so many other plat-formers, especially SUPER MARIO WORLD. While SMB2 felt like a weird detour, SMB3 took Mario back to the atmosphere or the original game, taking it a thousand different directions, and coming up with one of the best games ever developed. Although there were a few tweaks for the ALL STARS release (some levels got a few more coins to make it easy to access game secrets), like the other games this is tremendously faithful to the original NES release. That alone makes this essential playing.
SUPER MARIO WORLD: The later versions of this compilation included SUPER MARIO WORLD as well. Taking the foundation laid down in SMB3, Nintendo created this flagship title for their pristine new 16 bit console. Very much of a piece with SMB3, although eliminating all the cool suits of its predecessor, Nintendo turned in a stellar, expertly designed platformer that once again set the standards for video games everywhere. Just like SMB3, and the other titles less so, the game eases you into its mechanics with such ease and precision that, just like the Amazon editorial says, you’ll be flying and tossing fireballs and riding around in no time. Essential gaming. Plus you get to ride the dinosaur Yoshi and make him eat enemies! How cool is that?
Overall, one of the best carts you can have for the SNES. The only real drawback is the original versions of the NES games weren’t included. What would have been great is after you finished each game you unlocked the original 8-bit version. But that (minor) complaint aside, if you want to know what made early gaming so great, or want to relive a bit of nostalgia from your childhood, you can’t go wrong with this title.