Arcade Archives Mario Bros Review

At their recent direct, Nintendo surprised everyone when they announced HAMSTER were handling their classic Arcade titles and they wouldn’t be part of a Virtual Console programme. At least, right away.

Perhaps more surprising is that Mario Bros Arcade was the first title released for the collection. No, not the one where you punch question mark boxes and climb vines to secret worlds, the one before that.

See, this Mario Bros doesn’t just let you jump on an enemies head to get rid of them. Back then, you actually had to hit the ground underneath them first. Sometimes twice. The aim is to clear each stage, jumping between platforms and dodging rogue projectiles along the way.

History, it’s importance cannot be understated as this was the game which led to Jumpman evolving into Mario. Set in the sewers, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to create a plumber who was unafraid to battle spiny shelled turtles and leap through warp pipes, wave after wave, to get the highest score possible.

That may seem a simple, basic premise, but people have waited 34 years to get a true arcade port of this classic. And that’s exactly what this is.

HAMSTER Corporation have made this as authentic as possible, immediately letting you dive into Original Mode, but also giving you the option for a Hi Score and Caravan Mode. The original is playable with two Joy-Cons, co-operatively or competitively, though both modes would naturally bleed into one other.

It’s a game that really suits Switch. Not so much on a  4K 48″ flat screen when docked, but tabletop mode or in handheld form with the Joy-Cons feels like a real celebration of what this arcade classic truly is.

That said, this has an incredibly dated design and really looks, acts, and feels its age. The controls don’t feel responsive and you’re constricted to just jumping and unwantedly slipping around like you’re on an ice rink.

HAMSTER have also added in some great touches to give authenticity to the port. In the options menu you can add scan lines, change the amount of lives and points gained. If you want, you can adjust the size of the screen and even tweak graphic and audio options. The customisation possibilities are genuinely impressive and surprisingly in-depth.

Perhaps one of the big draws of this port though is the ability to submit your score online. A thought unfathomable back in 1983, though for some unknown reason you can’t compare your score with friends. That’s quite a big oversight, though perhaps more to do with the Switch infrastructure than anything else.

Original Mode already considered, the game’s High Score Mode is pretty self-explanatory in that one player plays the game solo with the aim of getting the highest score. Meanwhile, Caravan mode only gives you a five-minute window to get as many points as possible. And the best bit? Any tweaks you make to the settings in Original mode will carry across to the other modes.

This is a retro port that’s been treated with full respect and clearly been placed in the right hands. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t aged as well as one would hope, and it’s not going to hold the interest of a solo player for long, but there’s definitely some fun to be had with a friend. Also, the price is likely to be off-putting for some.

But if this is the standard we can expect from these ports going forward, I am very excited to get my hands on both Super Mario Bros Vs. and Punchout. For now, though, Nintendo have clearly trusted the right company in HAMSTER Corp.

+ A perfect fit for Switch Portable.
+ The definitive version of this classic arcade

+ Customisation and settings are in-depth and impressive
+ Online leaderboards
+ Very Polished Port

– Controls and mechanics haven’t aged well
– Steep price point
– Can’t compare scores with friends

Arcade Archives Mario Bros

7 out of 10

Tested on Nintendo Switch 

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer,, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,
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