The Lost Levels: Ultimate Test of 2D Super Mario Bros Skill

My wife grew up with the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES and still enjoys playing the classics to this day. I also recently bought her New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS to give her some fresh 2D Mario action. However, she routinely plays through these platforming masterpieces in a relatively short amount of time with what I consider a small amount of effort.

Super Mario Bros The Lost Levels

As I was setting up emulation support on my Windows Media Center PC in the living room, I thought of a good challenge to give my wife while giving her a solid 2D Mario fix. I knew of the story behind Super Mario Bros. 2 and how we got a Mario-ized version of Doki-Doki Panic because the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was too challenging. Of course, the game was eventually released in the US as part of the Super Mario All-Stars compilation on the SNES.

I mentioned this background information to my wife and she was more than interested in giving it a try. Once she was barely into the first level, we knew the higher difficulty level that the game touted was not an exaggeration.

Note: Just as a fair warning, if you want to go into the game not knowing what to expect, you may want to skip reading this. I won’t go into too much detail since I don’t want to spoil the game for you, but I will touch on some aspects that make the game especially challenging.

Level Design Optimized For Difficulty

Super Mario Bros The Lost LevelsOn the surface The Lost Levels looks very much like the original Super Mario Bros. It includes very similar level designs, enemies, and powerups, but everything is arranged in such a way to drive you insane with frustration.

On almost every inch of every level it as if the level designers tried to think of every single way to make getting through past a screen as difficult as possible.

It isn’t enough to just have long jumps where you have to land on a single block or having multiple enemies flying at you from all directions. Instead you have all of these challenges and more taunting you at at the same time.

In comparison, to the original Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels, also included number of more complex elements that didn’t make their make American debut until Super Mario Bros 3, such as more advanced moving platforms and more detailed levels.

All The Enemies You Hate, Made Even Worse

As if the level layouts weren’t enough to pull your hair out over, Nintendo also gave the enemies a bit more bite.

  • Standard enemies such as Goombas and Koopa Troopas come in larger groups
  • Red Piranha Plants come out of their pipes even if the player is standing next to them.
  • There are also upside-down Piranha Plants that can be quite annoying.
  • There are Piranha plants that now come out of pipes that are flush with the ground, making it easier to overlook.
  • Blooper Fish float through the air very quickly and in large quantities.
  • And finally, multiple enemies groups seem to team up on you all at once: picture dodging attacks from Hammer Bros. while having Beetles raining down from the sky and Bullet Bills are shooting at you.

Power-Ups Come At A Premium

Gone are the days of finding a convenient block to give you a boost every now and then. Instead, your Mushrooms and Fire Flowers are guarded in tight spaces by the most obnoxious enemies or placed right by a pit so that the mushroom quickly falls into lava immediately after you hit its block.

If you do happen to find a convenient question-mark block that isn’t a coin, it usually contains a Poison Mushroom. These evil-looking mushrooms have the same effect as being touched by an enemy and are usually released in tight areas where you are surrounded by flying enemies and unable to escape quickly. How convenient.

Practice Your Jumping Skills

Large pits are plentiful in The Lost Levels and will give your jumping skills quite a workout. In fact, precision jumping is probably the most important skill needed to successfully play The Lost Levels. I was surprised to see that there are almost no jumps in the game that can be pulled off without a running start. Not only are some jumps very long, but many times you must also land on a very narrow spot, an area filled with enemies, a moving platform, or even a rapid succession of long jumps that you can’t take a stop between. At times you will also find that you need to time your jump just right so you can use a flying enemy as a stepping stone to your destination.

It is also worth mentioning that there are a number of places where you will experience some strong gusts of wind which blow intermittently. These winds can both be a help and an hindrance to Mario. They often must be used in order to make long jumps, but they also make controlling movement and staying on platforms more difficult.

Keep Looking For Hidden Blocks

Super Mario Bros The Lost LevelsI realize it is rather hard to “look” for hidden blocks, but many times throughout the game you will come to an area that seems even more impossible to cross than usual. In these cases, you probably need to hunt around for a hidden block. Once you’ve uncovered one, you can use them as a an intermediate jumping point before the main platform. This tactic is found in other Mario games, but the level designers exploited it much more in Lost Levels.

Sometimes, You Just Can’t Be Super

There are few spots, primarily in Koopa’s castles, that you will have to shrink yourself by being hit by an enemy in order to squeeze through an area. Of course, after this, you are especially vulnerable to later attacks and another mushroom isn’t usually available afterwards.

The Castles Are Repeat-ariffic!

One of the most annoying tricks in Mario games, in my opinion, is when the level starts looping until you go through the level a very specific way. The Lost Levels decides to make every other of Bowser’s castles play like this. Of course, the path you need to take to progress successfully is the most challenging.

Deceitful Warp Zones

In several different levels, Mario Brothers 2 doesn’t play fair. In the original Super Mario Brothers, finding a warp or a hidden secret was good. Yet leaping over the flagpole in Mario 2 might as easily warp you backwards to earlier levels instead of farther along to more advanced ones.

Bowsers Are Surprisingly Easy

I’ve never found most of the early Mario bosses to be very difficult, but I was expecting more from The Lost Levels. The first few iterations of Bowser are very straightforward if you a familiar with how to beat him in the original Mario Bros. Later levels have him flooding the screen with Hammer Bros-style projectiles, but with a little patience, they aren’t too much of an issue either. Getting to Bowser is much harder than actually defeating him.

A Frustratingly Fun Adventure

Sure Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels is downright difficult, but it’s also a load of fun if you have enough determination. Truth be told, my wife and I played all the way through it for the first time by using numerous emulator save states (just so we could see what it was like), but we hope to play though it again soon without cheating.

Unless you are Super Mario Bros. genius, you will die many, many times your first try, but if you play through it enough, you actually start to get a feel for it and pull off some amazing stunts.

Once you are seasoned in the game, you will master any 2D Mario game Nintendo throws at you. Think of it as Super Mario Boot Camp.


M-ko says:

For 4-1… you need a running start, start your jump just after the last [?] block.

Kronz says:

Hey guys having trouble with jumping, you might have overlooked the easiest way to clear some stages…

Save and reload your game as Luigi Game

He is a much better jumper. Surely he is slower and totally got greasy feet, but he can clear like two or three blocks higher than Mario while running full tilt. I was trying to be all macho and clear the game using only our man Mario but it was starting to take thirty tries to clear some stages, so I reloaded as Luigi and probably cut my deaths by 3/4 once I readjusted to his squirrelly play control.

For me I think the hardest level in the game remains 8-4. Some of the Lettered Levels are rough, but 8-4 is positively downright mean. Two Bowsers?! GTFO!

Anyway thanks for the article, I am glad others are as into this game as I am. It’s probably my second favorite Mario game ever, after Mario World, third if we count Yoshi’s Island.

Also to the guy who beat LL before SMB, you’re not alone, I did the same. SMB isn’t that hard but 8-3 is not a very fun level under any circumstance. I mean, is there anyone who can actually gather both power ups and become Fire Mario before the final four Hammer Bros? I’ve yet to see it in person.


Guys,i will give you the link to download hard mario,but trust me you will die,

and scroll down to the bottom

PoorRichDude says:

Those were the days, weren’t they? The devs seemed to use every curve ball in the book, such as placing many of the powerups in invisible blocks, having single and double firebars running simultaneously, having to let an enemy scroll with you so you could kick it into an invisible stepping stone, and who doesn’t remember World 8-2’s gimmick, where you had to springboard off a Paratroopa to hit a block to release a vine, then off a second one to catch it? That’s right, the flagpole was in the FLIPPING BONUS AREA!

But hey, at least the 1-UP trick was right at the beginning of the first world. Kinda prophetic, eh?

Hassan says:

Mario lost levels is one of the best mario games in history matter afact SUPER MARIO BROS 1 THROUGH WORLD IS GOOD

Hassan says:

Mario lost levels is one of the best mario

Mizg says:

7-4 is a real pain. Only can beat it with a lot of care and dumb luck.

beezlebub says:

To get past the springboard in 4-1, get a running start, then hit jump once the springboard extends, all while holding the fireball button.

For 8-3, there’s a hidden Starman right after the green pipe.

4-4 and 7-4 are not repeating in LL – both have hidden super mushrooms along the way. In 7-4, don’t get on the ceiling after the elevators, or you won’t be able to get back down.

naz says:

can someone pls email me a site where i can download
Super Mario Bros The Lost Levels
get back to me asap
thanks 🙂

Nick says:


goomba says:

man, i love how it doesnt tell you anywhere were to get it either….. and evryone who asks doesnt even get replied to

racketboy says:

just buy Super Mario All-Stars or dl the rom

waluigi44 says:

Hey, i have Super Mario Bros Lost Levels on the Famicom Mini Vol. on the GBA. there is a problem though, how could i save my progress??
I win many levels but after its game over i have to restart from level 1-1, what could i do!?

caboose says:

hey i have an emulator for snes that has super mario world and allstars in one game you can pick any mario game from the past. also for rpg lovers i have super mario rpg. if you want these just hit me up at and you can get a copy for free.(no viruses cause im not a jerk)

caboose says:

it also comes with tons of other snes games but i dont feel like typing them all.

LensOfTruth1977 says:

It’s even harder on the original famicom (or Virtual console) than on All-stars. They modified it for All-stars to make it more acessible.

On the famicom version you start with only 3 lives, the poison mushrooms look more like the power up ones (no poison logo and they are both a variation on yellow and orange)… there are even less power ups and 1ups, no save game, modified jumps and the player has to complete the game 8!!!! consecutive times (at least once without warps) in order to unlock the ABCD worlds…..

I’ve done the allstars version many times but the famicom original destroys me!!

David says:

Yeah man this was a hard one. Took me a long time to beat the game.

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