#395 – Mario Bros.

Still just Mario and Luigi from the block.
Little did Mario know he was actually stomping on Bowser’s brother, Jimbo.
When sewers strike back.

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous



GENRE: Arcade


They’re the Mario Brothers, and plumbing’s their game. Certainly in 1983, before there was any mention of Princess Toadstool or the Mushroom Kingdom or Koopa, the Mario Bros. were two regular joes just trying to earn a living, and Mario Bros. reflects just how low-income said living was. Both brothers run around in an underground, pipe-ridden world, stopping turtles, crabs, flies, and ice from gumming up the sewers. The creatures can only be hit from the bottom up. Once hit, they turn over on their back and can be done away with (crabs take two hits – one hit only makes them crazy and demon-possessed). Coins can be collected for points. Fireballs will pop up if you’ve been on a platform for too long. Once you complete eleven stages of pest control, the stages start to repeat ad infinitum. Eventually, Mario and Luigi realize that their lives are meaningless. They could try to keep the sewers pest-free until they die, but it wouldn’t matter because the sewers, by definition, can never be clean. They discuss amongst themselves what actions they could take. Should they enroll at the community college, take some business courses, and try to seek out a better life for themselves? Surely if they could open their own plumbing business after the whole Donkey Kong debacle (thank God the courts didn’t officially recognize him as “Mario”), they could make headway into more lucrative ventures. Real estate, capital investment, international banking – careers where the money would flow as quickly as the five o’clock sewer tide. After twelve grueling hours of head-busting, neck-cracking, blue-collar madness, the Mario Bros. come to a decision. They pick up sewer mushrooms and eat them together. The rest is hallucinatory history.



  • This is the introduction of Luigi into the Mario canon. Sure, in Mario Bros. Luigi’s just a green palette swap of Mario, but it wouldn’t take long before Luigi was typecast as the lanky, wussy younger brother.
  • Many elements of Mario Bros. made their way into Super Mario Bros. and beyond. The fireballs that pop up out of nowhere became the fireballs Mario can shoot, with the help of the fire flower. Coins that you can collect from the pipes have been featured in almost every Mario game. The turtles in Mario Bros would eventually become the Koopa Troopas.
  • There are three pseudo-followups to the original Mario Bros.: Mario Bros. Special, which involved getting to the top of the level instead of killing every enemy; Punch Ball Mario Bros., which was the original Mario Bros., but with a weapon called a Punch Ball that you could throw at enemies; and Mario Clash, a “sequel” for the Virtual Boy that contained similar gameplay, while making use of the Virtual Boy’s ability to have a foreground and background. Mario Bros. Special and Punch Ball Mario Bros. were licensed to Hudson Soft and only released in Japan for the NEC PC-8801, FM-7, and Sharp X1.
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5 replies on “#395 – Mario Bros.”

I remember running an errand with my dad in downtown Burbank as a kid. We went to this hotel to get a drink of water, use the restroom, whatever. There was an old Mario Bros. arcade in the lobby and we both had a blast. It was surreal though, because all I had known up till then was the NES sequel.

There was also the Mario Bros Classic Serie remake which was a NES PAL exclusive. It had better graphics and controls which were closer to the arcade version.

I first played a version of this on Atari 2600. I laughed out loud at the famicon cover! In the picture, Mario looks like he would often use the terms “honky cat” or “jive turkey” in conversations.

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