Gamachronicles: Super Mario (part 9)

Today we are going to highlight some of the best Nintendo handheld games in the Super Mario Bros series, from the Game and Watch to the very first GameBoy to the 3DS: Mario Bros, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Bros Deluxe & Advance series, New Super Mario Bros, Super Mario 3D Land, and New Super Mario Bros 2.

Gamachronicles are multi-part features on a famous or noteworthy game series, diving into some of its most memorable moments and providing additional perspective on its history.

Game & Watch Mario Bros

Game & Watch multiscreen was the DS before the DS

Legend has it, Nintendo’s Game & Watch handheld was conceived in 1979 when Gunpei Yokoi saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator and Yokoi thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time.

Different Game & Watch models were manufactured, with some having two screens and a clam-shell design (the Multi Screen Series).

Did You Know The Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS later reused the Game & Watch clam-shell design.

Mario Bros Game & Watch released as a part of the Multi-Screen series on March 14, 1983. It was a dual-screen single-player Game & Watch with a maroon body. It opened like a Japanese book (to the right), with a left and right screen.

In the game, Mario and Luigi are working in a bottling plant, on either side of several stacked conveyor belts. The object of the game is to move boxes of bottles through the machine without dropping any.

Each brother can climb a ladder to one of three positions. Mario receives a box at the bottom right, and must be in his lowest position to move it into the bottling machine. The box moves left through the machine, to Luigi, who must be in his lowest position to move it to the next level, which moves it to the right, to Mario’s middle position, who raises it to the next level. The box moves to Luigi’s middle position, then to Mario’s highest position, and finally to Luigi’s highest position, where Luigi throws the box onto a truck. When the truck is full, the Brothers have a short break, before getting back to work.

Successfully moving a box up one level earns the player 1 point, and loading the truck with eight boxes earns 10 points, for a total of 58 points for all the boxes in the truck.

However, if a Brother isn’t there to catch a box, it falls to the floor and breaks, angering the Brothers’ supervisor, resulting in a miss.

The third miss ends the game.

Super Mario Land

Box art

Super Mario Land was a 1989 side-scrolling game developed by Nintendo as a launch title for the GameBoy handheld console. It was the first Mario platform game ever to be released exclusively for a handheld console, and the first to be made without Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto.

GameBoy Cartridge

Unlike other Mario games, Super Mario Land was set in Sarasaland, a new environment, and Mario pursued Princess Daisy (who made her debut in this game) instead of Princess Peach/Toadstool. The game also included two Gradius-style shooter levels.

Super Mario Land for GameBoy

The game was lauded by critics, but its short length was noted. The GameBoy was an immediate success and Super Mario Land ultimately sold over 18 million copies, even more than that of Super Mario Bros 3 for the NES.

Super Mario Bros Deluxe

Super Mario Bros Deluxe box art

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe was released on the Game Boy Color on May 10, 1999 in North America and Europe, and in 2000 in Japan.

Back of the box

Based on the original Super Mario Bros for the NES, it featured an overworld level map, simultaneous multiplayer, a Challenge mode in which the player finds hidden objects and achieves a certain score in addition to normally completing the level, and eight additional worlds based on the main worlds of the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros 2.

Super Mario Bros Deluxe for the GameBoy Color

Super Mario Advance series

The Super Mario Advance series is a series of Super Mario Bros game remakes for the GameBoy Advance.

  • Super Mario Advance (remake of Super Mario Bros 2 for the NES)
  • Super Mario Advance 2 (remake of Super Mario World for the SNES)
  • Super Mario Advance 3 (remake of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island for the SNES)
  • Super Mario Advance 4 (remake of Super Mario Bros 3 for the NES)

Each of the four games also included an enhanced port of Mario Bros. The multiplayer mode in each game supported up to four players using the Game Link Cable, and it ran in Single-Pak mode so only one cartridge is required.

Super Mario Advance

Super Mario Advance was a launch title for the Game Boy Advance. The Super Mario Advance version of Super Mario Bros 2 included several new features including the addition of the enemy Robirdo, a robotic Birdo, replacing Mouser as the boss of World 3. It also included the addition of the Yoshi Challenge, in which players may revisit stages to search for Yoshi Eggs. It also added a new point-scoring system, similar to that used in the BS Super Mario USA Power Challenge.

Graphical and audio enhancements included enlarged sprites, multiple hit combos, digital voice acting, and minor stylistic and aesthetic changes as an altered default health-meter level, boss-order, backgrounds, the size of hearts, Princess Toadstool being renamed to the now-standard “Princess Peach”, and the inclusion of a chime to announce Stars.

Super Mario Advance 2

Super Mario Advance 2 was a remake of Super Mario World for the GameBoy Advance. Super Mario Advance 2 was mostly a straight port but it did throw in a handful of tweaks. Perhaps the most prominent tras tweak was providing Luigi with his own set of characteristics; no longer just a palette swap, the green bro performs his familiar fluttery jump at the cost of moving a little slower than Mario.

Luigi has a couple other quirks as well. Hit a multi-coin ? box with Luigi and you won’t have to repeat your strikes – the coins all vomit out at once for you to collect. Yoshi’s behaviour also changes when Luigi’s the rider: instead of instantly swallowing an enemy, he’ll hold onto it and chuck it up as a mangled clump of pixels that can hit other baddies. Both are fun extras that make Luigi a joy to switch to, even if you’re not keen on how he jumps.

Super Mario Advance 3

Super Mario Advance 3 was a remake of Super Mario World2: Yoshi’s Island for the GameBoy Advance. Yoshi’s Island was originally designed for play on the Super NES, and took advantage of the power of the additional FX2 chip embedded inside its cartridges. The FX2 chip allowed the game to squash, stretch, shrink, grow, rotate, bend or otherwise manipulate sprites to give the game’s design and gameplay a ton of variety.

Since the GBA can do all of the features of the FX2 chip in its hardware, almost every effect that was used in the original SNES game is reproduced exactly or better in the GBA version.

Super Mario Advance 4

Super Mario Advance 4 is a remake of Super Mario Bros 3 based upon the SNES port released in Super Mario All-Stars. The Game Boy Advance version looks, sounds, and plays almost exactly like the 16-bit conversion released more than a decade ago, and it’s just as brilliant and fun a design as it was back on the NES.

Thanks to some clever implementation of technology, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3 is most definitely the biggest and best game in the Super Mario Advance series, and just like the games that preceded it, it’s an absolute must-have for the GBA.

New Super Mario Bros

New Super Mario Bros DS box art

New Super Mario Bros was the first 2D platform game to star Mario since Super Mario Advance 4 in 2003. The game’s designers were given much more freedom with designs in New Super Mario Bros compared to previous 2D Mario games. Characters, enemies, and objects were created with much more detailed animations, and the developers made the game’s camera more dynamic; it zooms in and out of action depending on the situation to provide focus where necessary.

Giant Mario crashes through everything

Physics played an important role in New Super Mario Bros for the first time, introducing improved game mechanics. Without the restrictions of tile-based sprites and backgrounds, the designers were free to design new gameplay mechanics; when Mario lands on top of a tree, it teeters over and eventually falls if he is stationary for too long. Mario can also swing on ropes and walk on wires that bend and stretch under his weight.

Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land was the first Mario game to be released for the 3DS and was released worldwide in November 2011.

Super Mario 3D Land was unique from other games in the Mario series, as it combined elements from both traditional 2D Mario side-scrolling games and modern free-roaming 3D Mario games.

The game was released to critical acclaim, with gaming critics praising the amount of creativity and technical design presented within the game, though the utilization of 3D in the gameplay was met with a more mixed reception.

The game was a commercial success, and has sold 12.67 million copies worldwide as of December 2019, making it the sixth best-selling game for the 3DS.

Interestingly some ideas that were ultimately not incorporated into 3D Land included a pro skater suit for Mario, the ability to change Mario’s size to the extreme, and a feature that replaces Princess Peach’s face with a photographed face.

New Super Mario Bros 2

New Super Mario Bros 2

New Super Mario Bros 2 had a heavier emphasis on coin-collecting than other Super Mario games, with multiple unique items dedicated to producing large numbers of coins.

Limited Edition 2DS

The game features a specialized mode called “Coin Rush” that focuses exclusively on quickly completing a series of stages while collecting as many coins as possible. Additional Coin Rush stages were made available for purchase as downloadable content shortly after the game’s release.

Gold Mario

New Super Mario Bros 2 received generally positive reviews; critics generally praised the game’s level design, but criticized the game for being too similar to earlier New Super Mario Bros games. New Super Mario Bros 2 is the fifth best-selling game for the Nintendo 3DS, selling 13.32 million copies worldwide as of December 31, 2019.

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