If you’re reading this, it’s a safe bet to assume you’ve hung out with Mario and his pals at least once in your life. Whether you were revving up karts, hitting the tennis courts for a few sets, or attending those cruelparties where every coin and star you had was stolen (no, I’m not mad), Mario’s non-platforming multiplayer shenanigans need little introduction. The Mushroom Kingdom crew has seen more adventures than most across a variety of disciplines, and we’ve often been able to bring our friends along for the ride. Yet, despite Mario’s rich multiplayer history, the main Super Mario games have historically been a mixed bag in this department.
Mario’s 2D adventures gained co-op consistency in the last decade, but it wasn’t until Super Mario 3D World that 3D entries truly brought multiplayer to life. Offering four-player local co-op back on the Wii U, it’s arguably Super Mario’s multiplayer platforming peak, and with online being added to the Bowser’s Fury Switch port, we’ll potentially soon have our hands on the definitive package. We’re less than a month away now from launch, and with that in mind — spin-offs aside — we’ve decided to take a look back the history of Super Mario’s multiplayer…
Discounting the formative single-screen two-player action of the non-Super Mario Bros., few will need reminding of how it all began with Super Mario Bros.. Considering the technology of the times, two-player functionality was understandably limited. With Luigi acting as a palette swap for Mario, players would simply switch turns upon losing a life across the game’s eight worlds, and that’s as far as it went.
Despite featuring almost identical mechanics (difficulty aside), this ‘multiplayer’ element didn’t carry over into The Lost Levels, although Luigi was available separately, offering an increased jump but reduced friction over the ground. Its western replacement, Super Mario Bros. 2, let you choose between a whopping four characters, although it was also a solo affair.