We originally published this article back in 2020 as part of Super Mario Bros.' 35th anniversary year. With the release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, we thought it was about time to revisit all the ways you can play the very first Super Mario game in 2023, taking into account the method we lost back in 2021. Ah, Mario 35, how we miss you...
Check out the poll at the very end to have your say. Enjoy!
The next major milestone on the horizon for Super Mario Bros. will be its 40th anniversary in 2025. Yes, in just a couple of years, Shigeru Miyamoto's classic will have been with us for a whopping four decades. Since 1985, it has seen more than its fair share of re-releases, remasters, and re-jigs, and these days we're really spoiled for choice when it comes to playing the quintessential 2D platformer.
Seeing a whole bunch of World 1-1s playing across multiple systems really brought home the sheer number of ways available to play the game, and also made us question just how many times we've bought it over the years. Nintendo knows what it's doing with all these re-releases, that's for sure!
With Super Mario Bros. 35 and the gorgeous Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. being the most recent opportunities to replay it, we delved into our libraries and memories to find all the versions of Super Mario Bros. we've played. What's the best way to play the game these days? Does the authenticity of the 8-bit original played on a chunky CRT trump the convenience of the Nintendo Switch Online version? Do you prefer the 16-bit sheen of the All-Stars version? Do you have a soft spot for a lesser-loved handheld port?
That's what we're here to find out. Below you'll find every official release of the game available to play. We've only included releases on Nintendo consoles where you can play through every level (or a variant thereof) from start to finish, so you won't find Super Mario Maker, nor the demos in Smash Bros. or the bite-sized chunks in the original NES Remix or that amiibo Tap compilation (remember that?). We've also omitted the super rare Nintendo World Championships cart which imposes a time limit and moves you on to Rad Racer once you've collected 50 coins.
So, grab your pad and console of choice, and let's jump into 1-1. And then another 1-1. And another 1-1...
The original game with the original controller on the original system it was designed for. Say what you like about resolution improvements and mod cons, but it's hard to beat the real McCoy.
Whether it's the original Famicom release or the NES version in the West, the world is filled with copies of this game, dog-eared and pristine alike. You'll find it on compilation carts, too (with Duck Hunt, for instance), and it was one of the NES games on the PlayChoice-10 arcade cabinet (which we haven't included here as it's hardly widely available).
Come on. It's Super Mario Bros., and we believe you're required to own a copy in order to get your gamer licence.
This arcade version, which remixes various elements of the game for a fresh, more challenging spin on the classic, was tough to track down until relatively recently when it came to Switch as part of Hamster's Arcade Archives line in 2017. For the seasoned veteran, VS. Super Mario Bros. offers a spicy little alternative to the vanilla experience, with elements the West would later see in The Lost Levels and various other tweaks for hardened arcade players.
Super Mario Bros. (Famicom Disk System versions)
The Japan-only Famicom Disk System was the system that hosted the proper sequel to Super Mario Bros., but it also got a version of the original game — a couple of versions, actually.
The main one is largely identical to the original, although it boasts a totally different Minus World. Perhaps the more interesting curio is All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros., an altered version of the original game which remixes some levels and replaces various enemy sprites with Japanese DJs from the titular radio show. It's a fun little variant that's worth watching a video of, at least.
A special port for the Game Boy Color, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe offered not only a great version of the original game, but also a port of The Lost Levels, plus some bespoke coin-collecting challenges and minigames to enjoy which makes it a fine portable way to play.
One thing that inexplicably sticks in our memories is the Calendar — the ability to look into the dim and distant future and magically find out that, for example, 4th April 2023 would be a Tuesday felt like witchcraft back in those pre-millennium days.
Or it did to us. Perhaps we'd melted our brain a bit by playing too much Super Mario Bros. in the back of the car.
Super Mario Bros. via Animal Crossing (GameCube)
Probably the most obscure and convoluted way to play on this list, Super Mario Bros. is tucked away inside every copy of Animal Crossing for GameCube. Problem is that although other NES games are accessible, you'll need an Action Replay to unlock it — it's not obtainable by any legitimate means otherwise. It may have been a planned addition to the Nintendo e-Reader range unlocked via the Game Boy Advance peripheral.
Still, Super Mario Bros. is locked away (along with The Legend of Zelda) on every one of those cute little discs and is totally playable if you've got the tools to unlock it. It also represents the only way to play the game (semi-officially) on GameCube, unless you're hooking up your Game Boy Player, of course...
NES Classics: Super Mario Bros. (GBA)
This serviceable port for the Game Boy Advance stretches and squashes the image to fit on the console's wider screen and, as such — however well the base gameplay holds up — it feels suboptimal. Overall, it's a fair version on a spectacular little console, but this would be low on our personal list of ways to play.
Super NES owners got a bumper treat of NES classics in one package in the original Super Mario All-Stars. Each one was given a 16-bit lick of paint, too, plus some gameplay tweaks.
If you grew up playing the originals, the minor differences here will feel much more significant, and while we can admire the collection, this remaster doesn't quite feel 'right'. On the other hand, this is the way many players first experienced those games. Different strokes.
Super Mario Bros. (Wii Virtual Console)
The arrival of the Virtual Console on Wii sparked renewed interest in Nintendo's back catalogue and offered a convenient way to buy and play the classics once again, spearheaded by Super Mario Bros. of course.
According to VGSales, only Super Mario Bros. 3 sold more digital copies than this on Wii, and approximately 660,000 of you have this sitting on a dusty little Wii somewhere. Unfortunately for the rest of you, the Wii Shop has long since closed its doors, so you can't buy it anymore.
Chin up, though. Super Mario Bros. is available on one or two other platforms, we hear.