While not a difficult course in terms of level design (outside of a few tough jumps), World 8-1 does its best to unnerve you into playing sloppily by giving you entirely too little time in which to complete the stage at a reasonable pace.
Compared to some of the more recent World x-1s, 8-1 plays it pretty tame. The predominant enemies here are Koopa Troopas and Goombas, with a liberal sprinkling of Piranha Plants in the pipes and a handful of Buzzy Beetles and Koopa Paratroopas to deal with. If World 8-1 gave you, say, 400 ticks on the clock, it would be a breeze: You could play cautiously and ease your way through the whole thing without breaking a sweat.
But World 8-1 isn’t about going easy on you. It’s about breaking you over its knee. It’s about giving you a fraction of the ideal completion time to work with and forcing you to rush through the level. It’s about filling the stage with all kinds of nasty little setups that wouldn’t be much threat to someone navigating with caution, but which will definitely catch you off-guard as you sprint to beat the clock.
This level’s favorite trick is to break open the ground, dotting the landscape ahead of you with narrow pits. For the most part, these are single-block pits, which means you can run right over them. But these pits are often patrolled by inconveniently placed Koopas — either bounding Paratroopas that bounce into you as you run over the gaps, or else wandering Koopa Troopas that patrol the ground on the far side of the pits. These have a tendency to show up just as you relax slightly at having made it over the holes safely, creating an obstacle right where you least expect it and forcing you to be ready to follow up a sprint over broken ground with an immediate leap.
The presence of so many single-block gaps mixed with occasional larger ones requires deft mastery of Mario’s running abilities. Not just running, but knowing when to alternate modes — when to switch from a dash to a mere saunter, how to control the arc of Mario’s jump and his inertia, and more. Throughout the early stages of the game, Super Mario Bros. taught you how to make use of these techniques, and now you’re expected to synthesize and apply what you’ve learned.
If World 8-1 is the advanced class in level mechanics, 8-2 is the graduate course. Nearly every nasty trick the game knows shows up here.
The stage begins with a staircase and the appearance of Lakitu, similar to World 6-1, but with a twist: A Koopa Paratrooper bounces down the stairs toward you. Also, the stairs are broken up with by gaps. You’re forced to dodge Spiny eggs and a leaping turtle on uneven ground filled with holes into the void. This single-screen tableau alone is one of the deadliest situations in the entire game to date — and the stage is just beginning.
Beyond here, everything about this level remains maddeningly difficult, though it does offer a few saving graces. If you take out Lakitu at the beginning — which isn’t hard, since he does appear hovering above a tall staircase, after all — he never really reappears. And secondly, with caution and forethought, you can stay above much of the level’s danger by sticking to the raised platforms. World 8-2 is more generous with its clock than World 8-1 was, so you can afford to take your time.
The Bullet Bill pincer setups from World 7-2 fill much of this stage, though they manage to be even more devious than before. In addition to their crossfire layout, they’re often accompanied by launchers situated above them on low platforms, leaving you even less room to maneuver.
However, the centerpiece of this level is a single crushingly difficult jump. There are no hazards in that segment, no need to rush. An extremely wide gap — far too wide for Mario to jump without running — demands to be cleared. But it’s preceded by two smaller gaps, and you have only a single block to make the jump from. You can’t really dash over the gaps, because a pipe sprouts from the ground immediately before the gap, which means you have to make a small running leap onto a tiny foothold, then jump again immediately. If you can clear this hole, the rest of the level doesn’t seem so difficult by comparison. More easily said than done, though: Until writing the Anatomy of Mario series, this leap is as far as I’d ever made it in Super Mario Bros. It’s a jump that had thwarted me for 25 years.
Also, you’ll encounter a random assortment of Buzzy Beetles hanging out in the spaces between pipes. They’re a footnote, though, and are more or less just there to annoy you.
12 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Super Mario: XXXII. Home to roost”
I’m no speed runner, but rushing through 8-1 before time runs out is a big reason why I’ve gotten into the habit of running through Super Mario Bros. as fast as I can. Blast processing schmast schmocessing, Mario did speed better than Sonic over half a decade before he existed.
8-2 is cruel, but fair. It’s home to one of the nastiest jumps outside of Lost Levels, but before it there’s a spring. If you bounce on this spring and hit the block right above it, you’ll reveal a 1UP. Unlike the invisible 1UPs this one respawns after you die, so if you can get past Lakitu and the initial Paratroopas without too much trouble you have nigh infinite opportunities to get the jump right.
If you can time your jump right, you should be able to run across the two blocks behind the pipe and use that momentum to make the jump.
If I recall correctly, it’s possible to jump 8-2’s biggest gap from the green pipe itself if you jump near its edge and at full speed. I don’t even think the jump is pixel precise, but it’s close.
The Lakitu at the start of 8-2 ONLY appears near the stairs. If you don’t defeat him, he’ll just leave on his own shortly after you pass the stairs and never return. Why? Because if he stayed with you, he’d be giving you opportunities for infinite 1UPs later in the level, with all the places you can bounce a shell between walls. So this “saving grace” actually makes the game a little bit harder!
Haha, nice find. Miyamoto is a real bastard sometimes.
@J. Parish He probably felt the respawning 1UP past the initial Lakitu + Koopa Troopas hurdle at the start was enough mercy for the stage. And you have to work for that, since any number of things can kill you before you can even grab it.
So Jeremy, how many attempts did it take you to get past the jump this time?
Personally, I think this is the hardest level in the entire game. I had to restart world 8 because of this level so many times I actually got very familiar with the level. Once I would get past this one, I knew I was going to beat the game.
As far as 8-1 goes, I always thought it was a great dick move that the starman runs out right in the middle of some goombas. That’s the one place you should slow down!
As for 8-2, there’s a safe spot we all knew about as kids where the paratrooper at the beginning won’t get you, right before the pit in the middle of the staircase.
Because of the 1up this was always kind of a breather for me in world 8. Yeah, I died a lot, but I could try again. Except that if you die at all you can’t have a fireball for world 8-3……..
That jump is really the hard part, but as was mentioned above, you can dash through those two blocks if you start at the very left edge.
I think I know 8-1 and 8-2 better than any other level in this game, besides 1-1 and 1-2. Raise a glass to the warp zones.
@vaterite That thing about 8-3 isn’t entirely true. If you’re careful, there’s enough power-ups hidden in the first half of 8-3 that you can get a Fire Flower to blaze through the more difficult second half, even if you came to the stage as Small Mario.
@MetManMas You’re right! (just checked some internet maps) See you guys later, I have to go tell my ten year old self.
That jump in 8-2 was really hard for me the first time I came to it. I figured out an easy way to get through it fairly quickly though. If you stand on the pipe and start running without jumping Mario will drop down and continue running over those two blocks. Then you simply jump off the second block.
@Vega: you are correct. This is the only way I have cleared it. I have never tried even using the small blocks.
That… leap. That leap was the bane of my 9-year-old existence way back.
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