The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXXIV. All good things

World 8-4 Bowser’s castle is different than the other castles. Oh, it looks the same, and it uses a lot of the same tricks you’ve seen in previous x-4 stages. But this is a challenge on a whole different level from what’s come before. World 8-4 is a huge, complex maze. It makes World 7-4’s […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXXII. Home to roost

World 8-1 While not a difficult course in terms of level design (outside of a few tough jumps), World 8-1 does its best to unnerve you into playing sloppily by giving you entirely too little time in which to complete the stage at a reasonable pace. Compared to some of the more recent World x-1s, […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXXI. The in-fish-ity gauntlet

World 7-3 Case in point for my previous claim: World 7-3 sends you into a reprise of World 2-3, but one that’s far, far more difficult than what you dealt with the first time around. Once again, you have a bridge stage following an underwater level, but the gauntlet of flying Cheap-Cheaps is several orders […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXX. Sweating bullets

World 7-1 Well, here you go. There can be no doubt at this point that Super Mario Bros. wants you dead. World 7-1 consists of a pure gauntlet of devastatingly placed foes, specifically Bullet Bills and Hammer Bros. There are a few other enemies that appear here and there, most notably a hilariously ineffective Buzzy […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXIV. Shroomin’

In keeping with the overall “back to World 1” theme of World 4, World 4-3 reprises many of the elements of World 1-3: Tall mushrooms poke into the sky, patrolled by turtles and connected by dropping lift platforms. And as always, the brevity and overall design of the stage precludes the presence of traditional secrets […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXIII. Double blind

I made a terrible factual error in the previous entry. It has been amended. World 4-2 takes Mario back into the underground in a level that calls back to World 1-2 in obvious ways, but does so primarily to throw you off-guard and hoodwink you. In fact, the general layout of World 4-2 strongly resembles […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario Gaiden II: Check yourself

Before Mario leapt into the page of legend with Super Mario Bros., he took one last side excursion. Wrecking Crew doesn’t really count in the lineage of the core Mario games; not only does it not involve a single bit of platforming (Mario can’t jump!), it’s not even by the usual Mario folks. Instead, it’s […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario IX: Family business

After featuring Mario as a villain in Donkey Kong Jr., Nintendo’s next title in the Donkey Kong series… had nothing whatsoever to do with Kong. Instead, it focused solely on Mario, once again in the role of protagonist, in a game that in many ways seemed like a step backward in terms of design yet […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario V: Junior league

After Donkey Kong exploded into what was the single biggest of success to that day for Nintendo, a company more than 80 years old at that point, a sequel became inevitable. Nintendo didn’t really know how video game sequels are supposed to work in those days, though, so they went about making a follow-up in […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario III: Ape, escaping

Yes, I know Donkey Kong is a gorilla. Whatever. ¬† If the cement factory stage represents Donkey Kong at its worst — and remember, “worst” in a game this well-designed simply means “OK but not amazing” — the lift level that follows it offers Donkey Kong at its best. While this screen may not offer […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario II: Concrete design

Donkey Kong‘s second level has become something of a legend thanks to its omission in nearly every home port of the game ever released. See, Nintendo (and ghost-writer development house Ikegami Tsushinki) went a little crazy with the game’s design, cramming four different stage layouts into the arcade board. While these mostly shared assets amongst […]