Culture Re-View: The birth of 'Mario Bros.'

Mario Bros. title screen
Mario Bros. title screen Copyright Nintendo
By Jonny Walfisz
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14 July 1983: The release (probably) of Mario Bros.


While for many people in France, the 14th of July is indelibly linked to the storming of the Bastille, kicking off the French Revolution, today’s Re-View will be focused on a different kind of revolution.

A revolution in video gaming.

14 July 1983 was the day that the Nintendo video game ‘Mario Bros.’ was first released in Japan. At least, it probably is.

Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has said that it was on this day 40 years ago they released ‘Mario Bros.’ Game Machine magazine records it as 21 June the same year. Well… it was definitely 1983.

The 2D arcade game wasn’t the first to feature the iconic video game characters of Mario. He had already debuted in the immensely popular 1981 arcade game ‘Donkey Kong’ which featured Mario as the protagonist trying to avoid barrels thrown by the titular gorilla.

It’s also not the first game to feature Mario’s brother Luigi. The pair featured in a game released earlier in 1983 on the pioneering Nintendo handheld console the Game & Watch. That game ‘Mario Bros.’, had none of the same gameplay dynamics of the arcade game released the same year with the same title.

In the Game & Watch ‘Mario Bros.’, the Italian brothers work at a bottling plant to work a bottling machine. By comparison, the genesis of what would make the Mario franchise so recognisable was born in the 1983 arcade game.

A screenshot from Mario Bros.Nintendo

Set on a group of platforms in an area, players control either Mario or Luigi and try to defeat all the enemies spawning from pipes at the side of the screen. Instead of jumping on enemies though, in this game you can only defeat enemies by jumping under the platform they’re walking on to bump them off the screen.

Before the 1983 games, Mario was known just as Jumpman. Designed by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi (designer of the Game & Watch and the Gameboy), ‘Mario Bros.’ was the first game to openly frame Mario and Luigi as plumbers with the New York sewer setting.

The game was popular and led to the creation of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ in 1985 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). On the NES, players got their first taste of the iconic platforming game where they played as Mario jumping on Goombahs to reach a flag at the end of the level.

Ever since, a version of the original ‘Mario Bros.’ game has been included on many ‘Super Mario Bros.’ editions as a mini-game.

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