Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
"YOU'RE WINNER !" —Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing
"It looks like Mario, plays like Mario, but the level design is not Mario, nothing like it. It's a f*cking fan hack that costs money to play, and that's just wrong."— SomecallmeJohnny
The first time this game was released outside of Japan was its remake in Super Mario All-Stars for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, where it gained its title Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels in 1993. Then, as part of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, it was redone and renamed as Super Mario Bros. for Super Players. The original unaltered release was not available worldwide until the debut of the Virtual Console, over two decades later.
The story of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is identical to the first game and is said to be set in a "parallel world" to it.
One day, the peaceful kingdom where the mushroom people live was invaded by the clan of the huge turtle Bowser, who possesses powerful magic. Said magic turned the harmless mushroom people into rocks, bricks, and plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.The only one who can break the magic spell and revive the mushroom people is the Princess Peach, but she's now a prisoner of the great sorcerer King Bowser.But Mario has stood up and raised his hand, ready to defeat the members of the turtle clan, rescue Princess Peach, and once again restore peace to the Mushroom Kingdom.
The game is similar to the first game in style and gameplay, apart from a steep increase in difficulty. Like the original, Mario or Luigi venture to rescue the Princess from Bowser. Unlike the original, the game has no two-player option and Luigi is differentiated from his twin plumber brother with reduced ground friction and increased jump height. The Lost Levels also introduces setbacks such as poison mushroom power-ups, counterproductive level warps, and mid-air wind gusts. The game has 32 levels across eight worlds as well as 20 bonus levels.
- Addressing the elephant in the room, this sequel sucks out the charm of the original game, because the difficulty and the level design is not well adjusted with physics and controls, which makes most deaths unfair because the physics in the game feels strange, which is worse knowing there are too many sections with precise jumps that feel uncomfortable, several sections where you have to have a lot of momentum to get to another platform and sections where you have to jump on trampolines precisely or you're going to fall into a bottomless pit.
- It has gameplay and controls similar to the first game; at first it may sound good, but the game lacks the charm that made the first game good and memorable as stated above, the hard difficulty and other elements like the controls that don't fit in the challenging level design clash with the simple gameplay of the first game and makes it feel quite forced, unpleasant and unnatural, especially for players used to the first game.
- It does not feel like a sequel as such, it feels more like an official troll romhack by Nintendo or a compilation of levels created by someone in Super Mario Maker, which also makes it feel like an expansion pack for the original game.
- The Poison Mushrooms are a stupid move. They even had the nerve to put one in the FIRST BLOCK that you hit. The demo player outright drives into one of them to show the poison mushroom's effect. In order to get the actual super mushroom, you have to hit a certain block to spawn it and then hit a certain Brick Block at the correct time. Also, poisonous mushrooms are a nuisance, sometimes you can't tell them apart from normal mushrooms because you go too fast to notice, or in castle stages where their appearances are even harder to tell apart due to the color palette.
- The new enemies are just tweaked variants that are much more annoying to deal with, like Red Piranha Plants that come out of pipes even when standing on them. The Hammer Bros. are now more aggressive and can chase Mario / Luigi if they are close to them. Also, enemies from the overworld appear underwater and vice versa, and yes, this means Lakitu can easily annoy you in underwater stages.
- While some may appreciate the painful difficulty, many others have felt that it was too difficult and unforgiving. Its insane difficulty makes it very easy to get a Game Over. Besides that, it's too unbalanced, since it goes between difficult to almost impossible, due to the large amount of artificial difficulty. There are also many unfair punishments that make the game more difficult in a dirty and bad way.
- The lives are very hidden, they are also rare, due to the hard difficulty it is very difficult to get lives by getting 100 coins, also the coins are sometimes difficult to obtain.
- The continues, while useful, only takes you to the first level of a world, so it can be frustrating to pass the levels again due to the difficult gameplay, especially if you've made a lot of progress.
- The following levels are especially bad, boring and difficult with atrocious level design:
- Any level related to looping castles
- Any underwater stages
- World 8-2
- Any level of Worlds AD
- World C-3 (The most infamous level of the game)
- In the original Famicom Disk System release, when reaching World 9 and beyond this, if you lose your final life, instead of giving an option to continue, you're instead given a final message saying: YOU'RE A SUPER PLAYER! WE HOPE WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN. MARIO AND STAFF.This is averted in the All-Stars version, as you're still given continues when you lose your final life.
- Passing this game without dying requires a lot of memorization and getting used to the bad layout, you have continues, yes, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Lost Levels is super frustrating and arbitrary.
- Ugly level design which is between difficult to extremely cruel, saturated with a lot of dirty ways to lose yourself a life like pixel-perfect leaps, blind jumps, and sadistic castle mazes, plus the scenarios look more boring, ugly, and weirder compared to the first game, for example:
- A notable design problem in this game is how they overexploit player traps that are impossible to deduce at first glance, such as the invisible blocks that make you bounce off enemies, or enemies positioned off-camera, on the subject enemies, their placement is a nuisance as there are times when the enemies are placed in narrow places or in sections of a platform, there are parts of the level design that require extremely precise jumps, where you jump over Koopas, and segments of levels that are not self-deducing, such as the parts with impossible jumps where you must seek and active near unreachable invisible blocks to progress.
- Many levels have sections containing pipes (with Piranha Plants) that provide the only solid ground between one bottomless pit to another. In the treetop levels, you'll have to contend with flying bloopers that not only look out of place but also always seem to be patrolling the spots where you need to initiate a jump or stick a landing.
- Some mushrooms or fire flowers are located in blocks that are almost or completely impossible to obtain, which does not help if you have Small Mario, also this only makes the game more punishing than difficult in a dirty way.
- World 2 brings back janky trampoline jumping, only now you’re required to execute jumps with airtight precision in life and death situations. If you don't get enough momentum or if you accidentally fall into bottomless pits you will die. Poisonous Mushrooms are also introduced in this game as a fake power-up. While the red mushroom transforms Mario into Super Mario, the poisonous one returns him to his original form; and if you take another mushroom, you lose a life. Another new obstacle, are the wind storms in some surface levels, which push Mario / Luigi towards a specific direction, either right or left. The direction of the wind is determined by the direction the leaves are going.
- Sometimes when you jump on a spring you cannot see how high Mario/Luigi go because they are flung very high, because of this it is very unpredictable where you are going to fall, because you cannot see how high are you and you can easily fall into bottomless holes and therefore lose a life, and these sections are a little bit less than common.
- Many of the castles in the game, are looping castles, meaning that if you don't know the path, you can run out of time and die as usual.
- The game is willing to exploit scrolling against the player. In some levels, you realize you have to long jump, but because you can't scroll backwards in the game, you can't build up enough momentum to make the jump and you end up falling to your death. In a single level, a warp pipe leads into a partially enclosed section backwards into the stage, if you don't have Super/Fire Mario you can't break the ceiling blocks, and the only way to escape is by committing suicide, as the screen scroll doesn't let you exit this section.
- There are also tedious parts of the levels that make you go through narrow paths, leaving open the possibility of dying due to poor design. This is worse considering the tons of things in the levels that try to kill you like the Hammer Bros and their super aggressive AI.
- The enemy placement can be very inconsistent at times. For example, in the castle levels, there's a possibility that the fire bar will not appear in one of the sections, but after dying and going to the same section again, the fire bar will appear where it's supposed to be.
- There are some sections of trial-and-error where the only way to make progress is to die over and over until you figure out how to beat a certain obstacle reliably, only to then die again on the next obstacle.
- There are sections where you must time your jumps well or have a lot of momentum in your jumps or jump accurately or both, some are difficult to pass due to a considerable amount of enemies or you really need a lot of precision.
- An important springboard in World D-2 can sometimes fail to spawn, making it impossible to jump across the wide gap to the flagpole.World C-3, where the fifth green spring (after the first three Piranha Plants) won't appear at times, and you need it to cross a very long jump.
- On several occasions, it's pretty boring to wait platforms that are needed to progress the level, it can also be frustrating and repetitive to die over and over again in areas where you have to take perfect jumps or in areas where there are too many enemies that are hard to pass and defeat.
- It largely reuses things from the first game, yes, there are new things, but there are not so many, making the game feel like a reskin of the first game. For example:
- The game updates very few graphics.
- It reuses the original game's soundtrack without any new themes at all (if you don't count the enhanced ending music),which can become very repetitive (depending on your point of view), especially the castle song.
- Almost no new enemies have been included, almost all come from the first game and they do not have any graphical differences either (other than being palette swaps), although they are more aggressive.
- The following problems present in the first game are also present in this game.
- You still can't go backwards and checkpoints are still invisible.
- The plot hasn't changed at all; Princess Toadstool is captured by Bowser and Mario and Luigi must save her.
- Touching a Fire Flower as Small Mario/Luigi will just change him into Super Mario/Luigi respectively.
- If you're Fire Mario/Luigi, getting hit will still change you back into just Small Mario/Luigi respectively.
- The time still doesn't match up with real-time.
- Although the graphics are still good, some new sprites look bad, the ground sprite is overly rocky and grainy looking, and lacks a distinguishable edge, which doesn't go good at all with the other more simplistic sprites. When you rescue Peach, Bowser's castle lights up into a light blue color. Due to the "black" pixels in the sprites of Peach, the Toads, and the bricks actually being non-existent (giving the illusion that those sprites have black pixels due to the black background), this causes those sprites to look odd when the castle light up. Peach and the Toad's eyes glow a light blue, while the bricks look like they're floating. This can be seen here.
- The original Super Mario Bros. was generous with the secrets hidden in the levels, giving you access to hidden parts of a level like pipes that led to hidden rewards, or warp pipes that you could access if you were good at the game? Well... In Lost Levels, the game unfairly penalizes you for wanting to look for secrets. There are parts of the level design that you would believe at first instance that lead you to some secret that is worthwhile in the level, but no, they only lead you to traps that reflect cruel level design, with false rewards of that type, with segments in which you get stuck and there is no choice but to commit suicide as previously mentioned or warp pipes that return you to world 1-1 just for being curious.
- There are two Warp Zones that take you backwards. The first one is in World 3-1, which takes you back to World 1, and the second one is in World 8-1, which takes you back to World 5.
- Speaking of which, in order to unlock World 9, you have to beat the entire game without using Warp Zones. Similarly, to unlock Worlds A-D, you have to beat the game eight times without using Warp Zones (That is sixty-four worlds. That is two hundred and fifty-six levels, it can take more than seven hours just to unlock world A), this artificially extends the game's length through forced repetition,it's too frustrating and repetitive to play the game eight times due to artificial difficulty and because you have to play everything again several times and it gets boring very fast, plus you're forced to unlock these worlds if you want to complete the game.Thankfully, the SNES version makes it so that you only have to complete World 9 (or World 8 if you have used Warp Zones) to unlock Worlds A-D.
- Worlds A-D are very hard and yet they're supposed to be rewards, it also not worth spending your time experimenting with how the game is artificially stretched just to unlock Worlds 9 and A-D. For example, the insipid level C-3 literally consists of jumping off cliffs with a spring and praying that the wind doesn't kill you so that you land on ridiculously small platforms. Being a long game doesn't make it "good".
- Also, you don't get any special rewards or even dialogue changes for rescuing Peach in these worlds. Also, didn't Mario and Luigi rescue Peach already?
- Very few checkpoints, requiring the repetition of large sections of gameplay on death. This doesn't make the game more difficult, only more punishing because a single mistake could cause the player to lose a large amount of progress. Repeating long periods of gameplay multiple times tends to be frustrating rather than tense. Also, it's particularly frustrating because checkpoints are placed at random and are invisible, luckily this was fixed in Super Mario All-Stars where there are much more checkpoints.
- The controls, while still good and functional like the first game, have a few problems related to the level design.
- Mario's jump is very stiff and running momentum is very high so it can be an issue on single-block platforms, in some narrow sections, or sections with strange designs.
- In this game, Luigi's handling differs from Mario's. He can jump higher, and while you may think this is helpful, unfortunately, the drawback of this is that Luigi has reduced friction, making it feel as if you're walking on ice, and the increased jump height is mostly redundant as Mario can reach the same places normally, so playing as Luigi is nothing more than a handicap to the game as it makes levels more difficult. Luigi is only recommended to use if you are a masochist.
- In the Super Mario Bros: Deluxe version the screen is cropped and some features are omitted, such as the wind and the five bonus worlds, due to the limited memory of the Game Boy Color, also the game screen is so cropped that it makes playing even more difficult. Blind jumps are common, hammers will fly out of nowhere and you better hope a Goomba doesn't fall out of the sky.
- The gameplay, while too difficult and infuriating, is decently fun at times, particularly in the normal sections, there are also some levels that are still worth playing, it can also be fun and challenging for experienced players looking out for a challenge.
- Also the gameplay and the controls of the first game are decently functional on some occasions, although they are not enough.
- The demanding player precision required in The Lost Levels made speedruns remarkably fun to spectate and play, plus it can be considerably difficult to get through the game in little time, more considering the Worlds AD.
- Really good colorful graphics like the first game, plus this was the first time that mushrooms had eyes, although some of the new sprites are bad and the game largely reuses the graphics from the first game.
- Castles finally count your remaining time by adding it to your score.
- The music is still good, catchy, and accurate for each level theme just like the first game, although, as previously said, no new songs were included and the music can become very repetitive.
- The controls are quite solid and functional on their own merits, also the skid and the momentum is precise like the first game, although as indicated above, Luigi is very slippery to control.
- Luigi, for the first time, handles differently from Mario, as his jumps are much higher than Mario's but he is more slippery to control. This would be seen in almost all his playable appearances in future games.
- The version included in Super Mario All-Stars is a bit fairer and more playable, although it is still quite difficult and infuriating to play.
- The Super Nintendo version as stated above makes it so that you only have to complete World 9 (or World 8 if you have used Warp Zones) to unlock Worlds A-D.
- Looping castles give an audible indication if the player is going through the wrong or right paths.
- Also the game has been redesigned with better graphics, (including completely new graphics for the poison mushroom) and includes more frequent checkpoints to save player progress.
- Notably, every updated version of the game has done something to make it slightly easier. Even the All-Stars and Deluxe ports save the game on a per level basis, rather than a per world basis as is the case with every other game it includes. It also removed a number of Invisible Blocks specifically designed to cause unintended player deaths (although many were still left in), particularly in later stages, then added invisible blocks containing power-ups elsewhere. It also makes Worlds 9 and A-D much easier to get as stated above.
- The Power-Ups from the first game are back, and minus a single instance with a star and a flying Koopa Troopa, they are still very useful.
- There is a method to get lives easily, what you have to do is that the last digit of the coins numerator matches the last digit of the timer when ending the stage, this method is easy, however, you can also get infinite lives by using the very first Koopa Troopa in 1-1 due to its placement, considering the game's difficulty, the latter is probably intentional.
- Due to the hard difficulty, it is recommended to use Warp Zones. Warp Zones are shortcuts to more advanced worlds. There are three in phase 1-2, one in 3-1, another in 5-1, two in 5-2, one in 8-1, another in A-2, and one more in B- Four. But remember that if you use them, you will not be able to access World 9.
- If you are going to play it, either choose the Super Mario All-Stars version for the best experience.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels got positive reviews from critics. Nintendo Life's reviewer felt that while the original was designed for recklessness, its sequel taught patience, and despite its difficulty, remained both "fiendishly clever" and fun. On the other hand, GamesRadar felt that the game was an unoriginal, boring retread, and apart from its "pointlessly cruel" difficulty, not worthy of the player's time. Many years after the release of The Lost Levels, fans of the series would modify Mario games to challenge each other with nearly impossible levels. The challenges of The Lost Levels presaged this community, and according to IGN, The Lost Levels shares more in common with this subculture than with the Mario series itself.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels got mixed-to-negative reception from fans of the series, with many pointing out the frustrating difficulty and the bad level design. Despite the Famicom Disk System version never being released in the west until Super Mario All-Stars, it developed a cult following over the years. This sequel is remembered as a black sheep in the franchise and a reminder of imbalanced gameplay in Nintendo's history.
- The ending theme in the Famicom Disk System version was first composed as the ending theme of Super Mario Bros., before being shortened due to storage limitations.
- Contrary to popular belief, Nintendo of America did not reject The Lost Levels because it was "too hard for Americans" (Japanese gamers and critics also had a grudge on it, too). The reason why Nintendo of America never released The Lost Levels is because they wanted a different Mario game, and they felt The Lost Levels was basically a tweaked version of an existing game sold as a sequel, which NoA refused to sell and complained that no one would want to play it. President Minoru Arakawa, felt that the game was unfairly difficult, even beyond the unofficial moniker of "Nintendo Hard" that the company's other games sometimes garnered. His opinion was that The Lost Levels would not sell well in the American market. "Few games were more stymieing", he later recalled of the game. "Not having fun is bad when you're a company selling fun." and the game was replaced with a reskinned version of the video game Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic! (English: Dream Factory: Heart Pounding Panic) also made by Nintendo. However, it was included outside of Japan in the Super Mario All-Stars game for the Super Nintendo and as an unlockable extra in Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for the Game Boy Color.
- World 9 was inspired by a glitch in the Famicom version of the first game. The glitch involved removing the cartridge during the middle of gameplay, replacing it with a copy of Tennis and then resetting the console. After playing a few rounds of Tennis, the player must switch cartridges once again during gameplay, switching back to Super Mario Bros., and then reset the game once again. After doing all of this without turning off the console, the player must start the game by pressing A+Start (the continue code) in order to start in World 9, which is an underwater version of World 6-2 and World 1-4 with random enemies and crashes. This glitch is impossible to reproduce on the NES, since the console automatically resets when a cartridge is forcefully removed.
- This game is referenced by Huey in the video game Paper Mario: Color Splash.