The 34-year wait is over.
Nintendo first released Mario Bros. in arcades back in 1983. Since then there have been several home ports that never fully lived up to the arcade original, the most notable being the NES release. Now, 34 years later, Nintendo’s arcade classic has finally been made available in its truest form, but does it hold up?
Upon booting up Arcade Archives Mario Bros. the player is met with three options; Original Mode, Hi Score Mode, and Caravan Mode. Choosing Original Mode lets the player experience Mario Bros. just like in the arcade.
Mario Bros. is a relatively easy to grasp high score attack classic arcade title. The goal is to hit the ground beneath enemies, in order to flip them over, before then kicking them while they are on their back before they pop back up. This continues, wave after wave, until the player runs out of lives. The game starts out with simple enemies, but slowly adds more types and other threats to the mix. Brilliantly, brief cut-scenes of new elements are shown in order to teach players how to handle them.
In Original Mode it’s possible to play with up to two players either cooperatively or against each other. However, there aren’t different modes to choose how two people would like to play. Players are actively encouraged to verbally agree how they want to interact together, which could result in your ally suddenly deciding to turn on you at any given point just for kicks. It’s an interesting concept and a perfect fit for the Switch’s ability to allow for two-player action anywhere.
The controls are simple as they are restricted to running and jumping. That said, the physics do feel a bit dated and will surely take modern gamers some time to get used to how slippery the controls can feel.
Within Original Mode it’s possible to change a variety of display settings such as adding different types of scan and scrolling lines, as well as changing the orientation or size of the display. You’re given a lot of freedom here and it’s possible to make the game look great, or ridiculously stretch it all out in any way you please. Sure, you can change enough settings to make the game visually unplayable, but there is unrestricted freedom here to set it how you like. There are also several audio settings and various other options.
One particularly nice option is the ability to change what would have been some of the dip switches on the arcade board. These changes only apply to Original Mode but let players change the number of lives and the amount of points gained for successfully completing the bonus coin collecting stages. There are some dip switch settings missing (Plays per credit and a setting for changing the game for Cabinet or Cocktail Table), but they really don’t matter in this case.
New to the Arcade Archives version of Mario Bros. is the ability to upload your score to an online leaderboard. Doing so requires an Internet connection and a menu will prompt you at the end of a round. You can check out the top 100 scores or see just where your own score lands. Sadly, there is no way to compare scores to friends who may have the game. (Tip: If going for a High Score in Original Mode be sure to set the dip switch options to your favor!)
As previously mentioned there is also a High Score Mode and a Caravan Mode. Both let one player go for a high score with preset settings. High Score Mode lets a player attack the game solo. Caravan Mode lets a person try to set a high score with only five minutes of play. Caravan Mode is really nice since it allows people to consume Arcade Archives Mario Bros. in a short burst which is perfect for a portable console like the Switch.
Original Mode, Hi Score Mode, and Caravan Mode all have their own leaderboads. One annoying aspect of Hi Score Mode and Caravan Mode is that you can’t stop once you begin. If you press the pause button you open a menu that ends your run. This kind of sucks seeing as how easy it is to hit since gamers are conditioned to use it in other games. (I’m not sure if going to the Switch Home Screen will penalize the player.) Additionally, when starting Hi Score Mode or Caravan Mode the game makes it sound like players are able to change display/sound settings in these modes which isn’t possible. Whatever display settings you chose in Original Mode will carry over here. Even with their setbacks the two new modes are nice additions.
While it’s not going to set the world on fire, Arcade Archives Mario Bros. is the best home version of the classic arcade game ever released. Players have been waiting 34 years for a faithful version of Mario Bros. and it’s finally here. You probably already know if you want this game or not, but I’d recommend it to gamers that enjoy classic arcade games and to people who are generally curious about Nintendo history. It’s a dated title, but it still can be fun and addicting to go for a new high score.