The ultimate Mario collection...so far!
This will probably go down in history as the ultimate Mario collection, unless Nintendo has something special planned for Mario's 25th anniversary. What you get in this amazing package is Super Mario Bros, Super Mario 2, Super Mario 3, and The Lost Worlds, the original Mario 2 that was not released in the US. There is even a special copy of this cartridge available that has Super Mario World in it.
Looking at these games individually, you can clearly see the evolution of both Mario games and the platformer genre. Mario 1 is easily the most simplistic and old school of the games. Mario 2 is a clear example of what happens when a company meddles with a game to draw in a different crowd (Starfox Adventures comes to mind...). The series really hit it big with Mario, which is probably the most recognizable Mario game apart from Mario 64. And The Lost Levels is a slap in the face to the U.S. gaming community because Nintendo believed it was "too hard" for most American gamers.
As platform games, these are perfect and the granddaddy of the genre. Everything in this release has been improved from the original: graphics, sound, colors...level design was thankfully left alone. These games still offer probably the most diverse gaming experience out there, and will immediately be recognizable to anyone who ever owned a NES.
It would have been nice to have a perfectly emulated copy of The Lost Worlds, just for comparison, but I imagine that wouldn't fit on the cartridge.
The Bottom Line
This is the perfect example of a compilation game. It not only includes all the classics, but improves them in subtle ways that do not ruin them in the least. If Nintendo wasn't so focused on the business side of things, they would have released this on GBA and gamers everywhere would have been very happy.