Welcome to Warped Pipes, everyone’s favorite series about the overarching story of the Super Mario franchise. Today, I finally get to justify the project’s name as we explore the dangerous sewers of 1983's...

Mario Bros.

Original arcade art.
Image: Super Mario Wiki

In this game we finally get to meet Mario’s brother Luigi and see the two take on the role of plumbers. Before I discuss much more about the game, we need to look into the...

Differences Between Versions

There are a number of differences between the many versions of Mario Bros. released. The alterations between the arcade, NES, SNES, Atari, and various home computer versions are minor enough that they can all be considered a single entry and be discussed here. The Game & Watch and GBA versions on the other hand have significant enough differences that they will be discussed as separate entries in this series.

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The Set Up

As usual, it’s easiest to start by looking at what the manual has to say about the game. According to the NES version:

You can play alone, or team up with a friend as Mario and Luigi tackle this underground adventure together. There are plenty of cagey critters to conquer — turtles, crabs and fireflies, to mention a few. You’ll progress through endless levels of challenge collecting gold coins and building your score as you go.

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Once again, we don’t have a lot to go off so we are going to have to infer most of the information from:

The Events of the Game

The sewers.
Image: Super Mario Wiki

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The entire game takes place in a single section of the sewers that loops back in on itself. Creatures emerge from the pipes and the brothers must knock them off balance by hitting the floor beneath them and then kick them in order to defeat them. By doing so, the brothers earn coins. A “POW” block also allows the brothers to quickly flip many enemies at once.

The exact makeup of enemies varies by version but consists of some combination of:

  • Shellcreepers - Turtle-like creatures very similar to Koopas
  • Koopa Troopas - One of the series’ most iconic enemies
  • Spinies - Spiky-shelled turtle creatures
  • Sidesteppers - Crab-like creatures
  • Fighter Flies - About what they sound like
  • Slipice - Sentient ice creatures that explode and cover the ground in icy residue
  • Fireballs - Possibly related to the fireballs seen in Donkey Kong
  • Boos - Another iconic, and ghostly, enemy of the series

World Building

The events of Mario Bros. build on what we’ve already learned about this world from the Donkey Kong games. Namely:

  • It is heavily industrialized - Large underground sewer complexes further solidifies this
  • Elemental creatures are common - Slipices add to the growing list of sentient elemental creatures we have seen in this world.

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Additional, this adds some new elements:

  • The POW block is an extremely powerful tool that functions without a clear mechanism and may be magical in nature
  • Spirits of some kind exist in this world and at least some are malevolent

Overall, I’m left with an impression of a world that feels familiar but at the same time magical and surreal.

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My Interpretation

Mario appears to have left the construction business and gone into plumbing with his brother, Luigi.

While there has been a lot of confusion regarding the game’s title, leading to the live-action film declaring that the characters are named Mario Mario and Luigi Mario, the reason for the title Mario Bros. seems more obvious in this context. Mario Bros. is simply the name of their startup plumbing business and is essentially a different way of saying Mario & Brother Plumbing. Still not exactly flattering to Luigi but I do believe that this was the original intent.

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In terms of what actually happens in the game, I believe that the event we are seeing unfold is the beginning of the invasion of the Mushroom Kingdom by Bowser’s forces based on the emergence of koopas and other turtle-like creatures. As we see in later games in the series, this pipe system connects the world, sometimes even crossing continents, so it’s an obvious route for an invasion.

If this is correct, then Mario and Luigi accidentally became first-responders to an act of war.

The Timeline So Far

Mario Bros. pretty clearly takes place after Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. It’s unclear how it relates to Greenhouse, so we will just follow release order for now and place it at the end of our timeline, as seen below:

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Next Up

In the next article I’ll cover the completely different Game & Watch version of Mario Bros.

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Click here to view all entries in the Warped Pipes series.