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: XXVIII. Reeducation camp

World 6-1 World 6-1 sees the return of Lakitu. This is Super Mario Bros.‘s way of congratulating you for surviving a brutal gauntlet: By following it up with something even worse. Actually, this stage isn’t too difficult if you have fireballs, since Lakitu’s Spinies go down like suckers when you flash-fry them. Of course, that’s […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXVII. Pleading the fifth

World 5-3 Bullet Bill puts in yet another appearance to create the most interesting twist on the World x-3 “mushroom platform” (though, in this case, it looks like we’re back to trees) stages to date. The fundamental design aesthetic dials things back a bit to resemble earlier x-3 levels, largely dropping the moving platforms and […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXVI. Bullet the blue sky

World 5-1            The second half of Super Mario Bros. kicks off with a devastating tease: A level where three different enemy groups appear to almost, but not quite, allow you to earn a 1UP by kicking Koopa shells. The last group even demands a touch of finesse to not-quite-acquire the precious prize of a […]

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: XX. Immortal, beloved

Super Mario Bros. tells a story. It’s not a very complicated story — Mario saves the princess from an overgrown turtle — but it’s a story nonetheless. And the game embellishes that story through small details. For instance, after liberating the castle of the second world and the illusory Bowser within, Mario resumes his quest […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario: XIX. Twisted parallels

World 2-3 continues the trend established by the previous two stages: Paralleling the design of Worlds 1-1 through 1-4, but in a sideways manner that goes beyond mere cyclical repetition. And in a way that makes sense, too. Just as World 2-2’s journey underwater echoed World 1-2’s descent underground but played out in a completely […]