Mario Brothers is the oldest video game featuring Mario and Luigi as the Mario Brothers (Donkey Kong featured Mario in the old days... thanks KillerPenguin for the heads-up). (As near as I can tell) This game was originally released as an arcade, then for the Atari 2600. It was ported to the Apple architechture at some point (my parents still have a working copy for the Apple //c). Another appearance was for the 8-bit Nintendo system, where it debuted under its normal title, then reappeared as a sub-game in Super Mario Brothers 3. It has also surfaced in Super Mario Advance 1, 2 and 3 in a four-player version (thanks to Servo5678 for this info). In all of these versions, the gameplay is fairly basic and the scenes repetitive, i.e., the textart below shows the screen that you see while playing this game for every level (the screen is 'wrap-around', so the hero can walk to the right edge by walking left past the left edge):

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The whole point of each level is to eliminate all the enemies that proceed from the upper set of 'pipes' (the funky-looking things at the top sides of the art above). To do this, Mario (or Luigi) must 'bump' each enemy from underneath (turning the enemy over), then run into the enemy to knock it into the sewerwater below. The game starts with a POW button (shown in its general location above). If either hero hits this button, all enemies onscreen will be 'bumped'. The POW button has three hits before it disappears; it first refreshes on the 3rd level (collect the coins), then every 5th level after.


Enemies include turtles, crabs (require two bumps), 'bugs' (they hop, so you can't always hit them), green fireballs (fly horizontally, killed with a well-placed bump), red fireballs (fly diagonally, killed with a bump) and icers (killed with a bump; will 'ice' a surface if given the chance). (Those are all the enemies I've encountered.) Enemies appear at the top and walk in the same direction that they come out of the pipe until they run into something, except for fireballs which appear in midair and disappear randomly. The other enemies 'fall' off ledges to the ledges below until they reach the bottom and go into the pipes on either side there. Then they reappear at the top to go through the whole process again.

If an enemy is bumped, then bumped again (for crabs, three bumps), it will 'wake up' and continue moving at its previous pace. If an enemy is bumped, then left for too long (approximately 10-20 seconds), it will wake up angry and move faster. The fastest moving enemies are the crabs, and a pink crab (they even change color as they get angrier!) will cross the entire screen in about one second.


As near as I can tell, this game will run ad infinitum if you manage to last that long. The first two levels are turtles-only. Next is a 'collect the coins' race against the clock. A bonus is awarded if all the coins are collected, otherwise only 500 points per coin (ten coins total). The next four levels are crabs and bugs. Level eight is another collect the coins race, then come the icers. After this point, the game is highly repetitive. Fireballs, icers, turtles, crabs and bugs show up in varying quantities for four levels, then the fifth level is a collect the coins race. In the Apple version, the level 18 coin race was hard because all the ground would disappear completely.

Living and Points

Mario and Luigi are granted 3 lives apiece at the start of the game. At 20000 points, the heroes earn one more life (points and lives are individual for each hero). After that, I've never earned another extra life.

The point system is quite interesting. 10 points for a bump (unless it's a kill: 500 for an icer; 200 for green, 1000 for red fireballs), 200 points for a kill (turtle, crab, bug). If the heroes manage to kill a lot of enemies (turtles, crabs and bugs only) at once, the points double each time. So one turtle is worth 200, two are worth 200+400, three are worth 200+400+800, etc. I've even managed to get 3200 one time. You have about one second to make 'connected' kills in this manner.

This game is the predecessor to the many Super Mario Brothers versions released by Nintendo. There was even a series of The Super Mario Bros. Super Shows released (1/2 hour videos with cartoons and live actors). The Mario Brothers are very likely among the most recognizable of video game heroes to date.

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