I remember being pretty excited for Super Mario All-Stars … back in 1993. Compiling the first three Mario games released in North America along with a game that previously couldn’t be found on this side of the Pacific into one package for the Super Nintendo was a great idea. Now, 25 years after the first Super Mario Bros. game first enchanted owners of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo has come out with a commemorative edition of the compilation, which seems like a no-brainer. The problem is that the code was copied wholesale from the Super Nintendo cartridge and pressed onto a DVD with almost no changes.

Putting the disc into the Wii allows you to choose to play Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 or 3, or the Lost Levels. The Super Nintendo cartridge improved the graphics of the games, bringing them up to the 16-bit look of Super Mario World, and the interface on the Wii looks exactly like it did in 1993 on a Super Nintendo, with no graphic embellishments, bells or whistles to bring it into the 21st century. The only difference I could discover is that you can play the games with any controller that currently works with the Wii, including the Wii Remote (turned on its side to resemble an old 8-bit Nintendo controller), Wii Remote Motion Plus, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro, Gamecube controller or even the good old Wavebird. I found that the best way to play was using either the Classic Controller or the Wii Remote without the Wii Motion Plus add-on plugged in. The extra inch or so that it adds throws off the balance requires a different grip to pull off extended sequences of sprint jumping.

The games are all quintessential examples of the platforming genre and are still fun. The first Super Mario Bros. is just as tough as I remember, and the Lost Levels is even more so. Super Mario Bros. 2 is just as surreal, with the weird dream sequences and all those vegetables to pull up from the ground. That old callous on my left thumb started developing again as I played my favorite of the bunch, Super Mario Bros. 3. Thanks to Fred Savage’s brother in The Wizard, I was able to grab a magic flute to warp to World 8 – Bowser’s Castle. It’s funny how many secrets are locked in the neurons of my brain even though I haven’t played the game in 10 or more years. I remembered where every hidden 1up mushroom was and how to get 99 lives without looking it up (World 3-4, bounce the turtle shell between the two wooden blocks as cloud guy rains down green spiky things, nootch.)

Perhaps the biggest difference from the older versions of these games that I was certainly thankful for is that you can save your progress between each level. Battery saving for platforming games was a feature of Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo. The first All-Stars compilation added it to the older games, and that has been preserved in this update. It was certainly nice to get my 99 lives one night and pick it up the next without having to keep my console on all day. (Remember how pissed you’d be if your mom or little brother hit the switch and lost your progress? That’s part of old-school gaming that I don’t miss.)

The package for Super Mario All-Stars, other than reaffirming Nintendo’s belief that red is the new white, also contains a CD soundtrack with music and sound effects from the entire Mario series up to Super Mario Galaxy 2. The soundtrack also has the first official release of the Super Mario Bros. Ground Theme composed by Koji Kondo. The song plays under the first level of the first game, and is arguably the most recognizable piece of videogame music ever created. You can learn all about how that song was written and how Super Mario Bros. was conceived by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka in a handy booklet bundled in the 25th Anniversary Edition of Super Mario All-Stars. This is where you’ll find out why the Japanese sequel to Super Mario wasn’t released in North America due to its difficulty and only slight changes to the gameplay, even though that game is now playable as the Lost Levels.

But it’s hard to say that the soundtrack and the 32-page booklet (it’s not even a real book!) are worth the money. Consider that all 4 games available in this compilation are purchasable from the Wii’s Virtual Console right now for a grand total of 2100 Wii points or $21 and it gets even harder to justify the $30 suggested price for Super Mario All-Stars. The only possible justification for picking up this disc would be if you live in an area without internet access and can’t grab these games online, but that’s about it. It’s a collector’s edition, sure, but the goodies it offers are quite thin, especially since hardcore fans of Mario will likely own all of the games, music, and historical information already.

Bottom Line: Each of the games in this 25th anniversary edition is still fun and worth owning, but, as a gamer, I don’t think it’s worth paying $8 more for the slightly updated graphics over the versions you can find on the Virtual Console.

Recommendation: If you need to have every piece of merchandise that bears the name Super Mario Bros. on your shelf or don’t have your Wii connected to the Internet then, by all means, pick up this compilation. Otherwise, it makes more sense to buy the games online.

Because this is a compilation of four classic games, it did not make sense for The Escapist to give it a score.

Game: 25th Anniversary Edition of Super Mario All-Stars
Genre: Platforming
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: December 12, 2010
Platform: Wii
Available from: Amazon

Greg Tito would love to play Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Wii with a Power Glove. It’s so bad.

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