Retro Metro #5: Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

Happy New Year – sort of!

All right, enough with the pleasantries. Today’s game is a first for me in two ways: not only does the number of the game not correspond with the number of this column, but it’s the first game I’ve reviewed that I’ve actually beaten. This is also a game that’s not fun in the traditional sense; in fact, it is very frustrating and can easily lead to rage-quits.

The game is a pretty standard Super Mario game: a platformer in which you play an Italian plumber who runs, jumps, consumes mushrooms, and stomps on enemies in order to rescue a princess. Even the controls are normal: you press one button to jump, and you hold the other to run (or, if you have the ability, you press it to shoot fireballs). There are, however, some notable differences.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of this article, I’d like to point out that I did not play this on an actual cartridge. Instead, I used a SNES game called Super Mario All-Stars, which includes this game alongside the original three Super Mario games. Importantly, this means that the graphics were much better, the bugs were fixed, and I could save. In fact, I was basically immortal, since I could save and restart at the beginning of the level I was on. On the original game, which is only available for the Famicon Disk System, i.e., the Japanese NES, you cannot save.

The first thing you notice when you start up the game is that there is no two-player mode. Instead, you can choose to play either as Mario or his brother Luigi, who can jump higher but has worse traction, meaning that, when you land on the (usually-small) platforms, you have a better chance of slipping, falling off, and dying. This is a problem, since you only have three lives (or, in my case, five), after which you must restart the whole game over again – unless you can save.

Image credit: Wikipedia.
Image credit: Wikipedia.

Beyond this, the most obvious difference between this game and the others in the series are the items. There’s the usual mushroom, which makes you larger and allows you to get touched by an enemy once before dying, and the Fire Flower, which lets you shoot fireballs, but notably, there aren’t too many of these throughout the game. Instead, most visible ? blocks (and the invisible ones) yield poisonous mushrooms, which shrink you if you’re large and kill you if you’re small. Some less obvious differences are that the piranha plants that come out of pipes are red, not green, and stay up longer. (Touching one has the same effect as eating a poisonous mushroom.) This game also added springs, which you can jump on to go higher, and in some cases, will fling you above the screen for a while until you come back down, and wind, which will push you forward and possibly cause you to fall off a platform, but which also lets you jump farther.

Now all of this might seem confusing, especially if you have never played a Super Mario game before, but hopefully the picture above will help clear this up.

Having hopefully clarified all this for you, I shall now turn to an essential question: where can I buy this game? In America, I’d recommend trying to get Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES, which is what I have, or buying it on the Virtual Console (Nintendo eShop) on either the Wii, the 3DS, or the Wii U. If for some reason you have a Famicon Disk System (or can afford to buy one) and know Japanese, you could also just get the cartridge for this system and play it. I, however, wouldn’t recommend that due to the expense involved (unless you already have both the system and the cartridge). Fortunately, with all these options available, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the game.

I would like to leave you all with one note before you rush to buy Lost Levels. As I mentioned in the beginning, this game is extremely challenging and frustrating. There are few helpful items, and many damaging ones, the platforms are really small, and most of the game is you making almost unavoidable and seemingly stupid mistakes. Despite all of this, if you are up for a challenge, I would certainly recommend Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.

About Ben Buyer 13 Articles
Howdy-ho! My name is Ben Buyer, and my interests are pretty eclectic, ranging from Latin, to old video games, to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (which some consider old), to South Park (and to a lesser extent, Futurama and The Simpsons), to Magic: the Gathering™. So, yeah, th-th-th-that's all, folks!


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