It’s confession time. I’m feeling kind of lazy today. As such, I have chosen to review this compilation over doing separate reviews of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario Bros. 3. This even though I was willing to do all six Mega Man games two years ago. What can I tell you? I have my off days.
These Mario games have of course been widely credited for reviving the video game industry that was believed to have been destroyed after the arcade and Atari crashes of the early 1980s. Despite the low sales of the Wii U, the series created by the games contained in Super Mario All-Stars is still going strong to this very day. You’d think that these games must be great to have this kind of legacy. You’d be right.
One last thing to note before we get into the scores is that the second game in this compilation, The Lost Levels, is not so lost at all. It was actually the second NES game in Japan but because Nintendo’s American division deemed it too tough and too much like the original for us, a different game became our Super Mario Bros. 2. It would be released in Japan as Super Mario USA. Which basically means that The Lost Levels is a lie because it was kept from us, not lost. Ever think about it that way?
Plot: 7 out of 10
This is not a series that is known for great stories. But I have to cut the first couple games in this compilation some slack. We were just out of the Atari era, after all. Also, I have to admit that the last game does shed some new light on the Mushroom Kingdom, for we learn that it is divided into regions, each ruled by a “B”-king who answers to Princess Peach.
Graphics: 10 out of 10
Unlike other compilations, Super Mario All-Stars enhances the graphics of its games. The graphics of these NES classics are upgraded to SNES levels. They’re almost up to the level of Super Mario World, except that the framerate flaws of that game aren’t here.
It is Luigi who experiences the biggest graphical changes, except in SMB2 in which he was already thin. The original versions of the other games had him as basically a copy of Mario in Green, his only reason for existing being to make the two-player mode compatible with the plot. But he is changed to the taller, skinnier, Luigi we now know today in these versions.
I noted before that we and the Japanese got different SMB2s. But ours requires a huge asterisk. Because what Nintendo did was take an admittedly quite good Japan-only platformer called Yume Koujo: Doki Doki Panic, replace the designs of the four playable characters with those of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad, and call it a Mario game. It’s still fun to play, but can you imagine Nintendo getting away with this with today’s video game news sites, blogs, and social networks that critically gauge video games? Good lord!
Sound: 10 out of 10
Those familiar songs are also improved. And they were always very good and memorable. Why else do you think there’s a bunch of people doing Youtube and Dailymotion videos of themselves playing the songs on a guitar?
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
Nintendo claims that Shigeru Miyamoto single-handedly invented the platforming genre with Super Mario Bros. That is a gross exaggeration. If you play, say Pitfall! or Jungle Hunt for the Atari 2600, you come to realize that the platforming genre just took a big evolutionary leap.
Still, there is much credit for Nintendo to take. There is a much wider world than there ever was on the 2600. Power-ups and improved mobility are also huge leaps up.
On to the second game. It’s basically a redesigned version of the original with two exceptions. First of all, instead of a two-player mode you can choose to be either Mario, or Luigi, who has a much higher jump but is a bit more slippery on the ground. The other is about difficulty, so I’ve no business talking about that here, do I? Suffice it say this game is largely a rehashing of the first. But that first was such an accomplishment that Nintendo earned it.
Next is the least good NES Mario, our Mario 2. I enjoy it more than I really should. No, it doesn’t have a very Mario feel to it. Nevertheless, fun factor is there, if a little less there than the others.
Finally, there’s one of greatest games of all time: Super Mario Bros. 3. The controls are smooth, level design is crafty, boss battles are fun, and the amount of power-ups create a lot of replay value. Plus, this version allows you to save your progress.
Challenge: 10 out of 10
The difficulty of these games ranges from below average in SMB2 to very hard in The Lost Levels. That means that there’s a game for nearly everyone’s skills here. And as everyone knows, the fun factor of the Mario games is extremely high.
The most surprising difficulty of these games is that of The Lost Levels. Its difficulty was rare, at least for the 1990s. When it was originally released in Japan in the mid-’80s, there were quite a few arcade games, designed to make you keep putting in quarters, that were harder.
Overall: 10 out of 10
I think that Super Mario All-Stars is deserving of my first perfect score. The games are great and technically beefed up. You really can’t go wrong with this package.