Welcome to Level 1. Every Thursday we are going to look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for, we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode, starting today with one of the most influential games of all time. I'm talking about the original Super Mario Bros., the perfect way to kick start a brand new year and show!
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo)
[ Release: 1985 - Console: Nintendo Entertainment System ]
Jumping head first into a brick wall. Yup, that pretty much sums up Super Mario Bros.!
It's hard to believe that it has been a quarter-century since Nintendo revolutionized the platformer genre forever. Super Mario Bros. not only marked a new beginning for console games, but is one of the most celebrated games of all time. Mario has since gone on to master time, space, the 3D world, golf, baseball, dancing and even martial arts. The original Super Mario Bros. has been ported to a number of handhelds and is currently available for download via the Wii's Virtual Console.
In Super Mario Bros. each level is split up into four worlds. This means that you will be asked to do four different things all before battling a boss creature at the end. Perhaps we should take a closer look at the first four worlds that make up Level 1 ...
As we enter the beautiful Mushroom Kingdom we're met by the warm sun, green shrubs and weird creatures that are looking to kill you. The
Super Mario Bros. Level 1-1
good news is, within the first few seconds we are introduced to the game's two main items, a coin worth 200 points and, more importantly, an orange and red mushroom that makes you taller. With the mushroom you discover that you are now able to break through some floating platforms, an ability that will no doubt come back into play in future levels.
Further down the linear path we discover two more secrets, a hidden 1-up and a pipe that leads you down into the sewers of the
Super Mario Bros. Level 1-1 (Hidden Area)
Mushroom Kingdom. Once you are done with that, you are spit out and introduced to a glowing yellow star, a power-up that gives our hero a few seconds of invincibility. As we near the end of the level we are asked to climb a tall staircase. Unfortunately this staircase only goes up, you are forced to jump towards a pole in order to complete the level and watch an insanely short cinema.
Is this the same world? After getting used to the bright sun of level 1-1, my eyes are forced to adjust to the darkness of the underground. Here we find more floating platforms and enemies. As we progress through the level we discover a flower that allows Mario to throw fireballs, unfortunately it does not make him any taller. There's a sad feeling when we realize that Mario has just found the last power-up type, so you better make do with the flower/mushroom combination. We keep
Super Mario Bros. Level 1-2
One thing we discover quickly is that this level has a check point, which suggests that if we die we won't need to warp all the way back at the beginning. I hate it when games do that. Instead we jump on the floating elevators and notice that we can literally jump on the ceiling of this underground level. If you do that you'll find a warp area, but we're not interested in such cheating. Instead we continue through a pipe wondering where it will lead.
Out of the darkness and back outside, where it's sunny. This level looks a lot like the first part of the world, only now you're being asked to make huge jumps without any safety net. We are being told to jump on tree-like platforms
Super Mario Bros. Level 1-3
and trust riding on a floating orange platform. Not sure why that's weird. At least it's sunny out and we don't have to worry too much about the enemies. This level is almost entirely an exercise in jumping on platforms, something Mario is good at. This level ends with another group of stairs and a flag pole, we see fireworks and a gigantic castle. It looks like that's going to be our next stop.
We enter the castle to discover that it's flooded with fire or molten lava, it's hard to say. Regardless of what it is, it's clear you don't want to fall into one of these pits (not that I wanted to fall into any other pit). The ceiling and floors are made of unbreakable blocks and there are fire traps waiting for me at every turn. Needless to say, there is danger at every corner. And just when you think it can't get any worse, fireballs start flying at you. It's here that you discover the first (and only) boss of Super Mario Bros., a dragon-like
Super Mario Bros. Level 1-2
character named Bowser. He jumps up and down, spits fire and blocks his only vulnerable spot, a level that will drop him into the fire below. We decide to but tradition and shoot fireballs at him, fighting fire with fire. It works and down goes Bowser. We're off to save the Princess. What's this? You say the Princess is in another castle? BASTARDS!
What Have We Learned Today?
The first level lays down the basic Super Mario Bros. formula, teaching us about the different power-ups, getting us ready for an every-changing group of worlds inside of each level and, most importantly, showing us how to defeat the game's one boss. It's also worth pointing out that the first level gently ramps up the difficulty. The first part of level 1 is slow and easy to navigate, giving you easily avoidable enemies and more power-ups than anybody could possibly
The Future: Level 2-2
need. The second part of the level allows you to do more exploration, adding in some narrow passages that up slightly ups the difficulty. The third part is full of hard jumps that will test your platforming abilities. All this teaches you everything you need to know to beat Bowser in the fourth (and final) part of the level.
What Did We Miss?
Had we stuck around for level 2 we would have gotten submerged in the game's first underwater section. It's here that we learn that plumbers are exceptionally good at holding their breath. We also didn't see how the warp zone
"Thank you Mr. Bush! But the WMD is in another castle!"
works, but I'm sure somebody will go back there and discover its secrets. It's also worth mentioning that before you beat the real Bowser, you are forced to go through a lengthy maze that will test your memory and resolve. Of course, we're not here to look at any of that. This is Level 1, now Level 2 or 8.
Conspiracy Theory with Dr. Rotwang:
"Having only played the first level, I feel like I can fill in the whole story so that I won't have to bother with the rest of this game. You play Super Mario, an everyday who is being oppressed by the man. In this case the man is played by Bowser, a lizard character that does nothing but stomp around. Does he remind you of anybody? Y'know, like your boss ... am I right? Anyway, the game is really just a lesson that you can never have what you want. You always get to the prize, but that damn Princess is in another castle. It's the story of my life, the grass is always greener on the other side of the railroad tracks. No it's not! Trust me, you end up doing the same things you hated before, only now it's in a new location. You're better off just committing suicide. And that's what Super Mario Bros. is saying, that this world is hopeless and you might as well just end it. Yeah, that's about right."