Retro Coin Op Synopsis
After two years of playing second banana to a giant ape, mustachioed plumber Mario finally got a chance at the big time in 1983’s Mario Bros. Nintendo’s follow-up to the hugely successful Donkey Kong series gave Mario a new job as a plumber (he was a carpenter in the original Donkey Kong), along with a new role for his green-suited brother, Luigi.
Designed by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto (who had also designed Donkey Kong), the game took place in a slippery underground sewer, as plumbers Mario and Luigi tried to clear the pipes of angry animal enemies. At the top of three platform levels were two large pipes (one on each side of the screen), from which sprang turtles (Shellcreepers), crabs (Sidesteppers) and fireflies (Fighterflies).
Mario and Luigi’s only defense was a well-timed jump. By leaping up from the platform beneath their enemies, Mario and Luigi knocked the floor out from under the animals’ feet, throwing them helplessly onto their backs. Another option was the “POW” block near the bottom of the screen, which would flip every on-screen enemy over (but only a limited number of times per stage). The plumbers then had to jump up a level and kick the stunned critters off the screen.
But if Mario and Luigi didn’t reach their fallen foes in time, the animals would upright themselves and pursue their revenge, now even meaner than they were before. And as an added danger, red and green fireballs bounced around the screen, threatening to scorch our two heroes.
For each enemy kicked away, a bonus coin would emerge from the pipes at the top level, rolling down to the waiting plumbers below. But do the math: one coin, two plumbers. And that’s where Mario Bros. went from pleasant diversion to arcade legend. Like Joust before it, Mario Bros. was a completely different game when two players competed on the same screen. Players could work together if they so desired, but they could just as easily sabotage one another, flipping enemies back upright just as the other player was running into their path.
Mario Bros. was a moderate success at the time of its release, suffering like every other game from the effects of the 1983 video game market crash. With its cartoony graphics and easy-to-understand gameplay, the game was converted to nearly every home system of its time, and Mario’s mug became one of the more recognizable faces in the video game world. This was nothing, however, compared to the fame that would come once the Mario Bros. went “Super” in 1986…
Arcade Machine Release History1981 - Donkey Kong
1982 - Donkey Kong Jr.
1983 - Mario Bros.
1986 - Super Mario Bros.