Super Mario Bros 1993 Vs Super Mario Bros 2023 - Which Is Better?

Imagine you're a New Yorker — a proud Brooklynite, excited to grab a slice from the shiny new pizzeria down the block. The restaurant boasts a friendly staff, a beautiful dining room, and an absurd roster of celebrity chefs. "Is that Chris Pratt working the woodfire oven," you marvel. "He's so cool!" And yet, the oven is just for show. There's no heat. There is nothing cooking. When Seth Rogen finally serves you your dinner, all he can muster is a lukewarm frozen pizza and a knowing smile.

Disappointed, you pay your check and head next door to an older establishment that's been out of business for 30-odd years. You cry out into the dark, cavernous husk of a building, only to be met with the echo of your own desperate voice — or is that Dennis Hopper screaming at the restaurant manager? John Leguizamo emerges from the shadows to hurl a bottle of whisky and a half-eaten Papa John's Papa Bowl at you, and tells you to scram.

You walk down the street alone and hungry, forced to choose between store-bought freezer-fare and something barely recognizable as pizza to begin with. It's an impossible choice ... yet less daunting, in truth, than choosing between watching 1993's "Super Mario Bros." and 2023's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." Don't assume the decision is easy. Yes, the 1993 film was plagued by a hellish production and a miserable box office return, but the movie has its defenders, who hold it as a unique and artistically daring project that they believe the Chris Pratt version could never aspire to jump to the heights of

Well, now, it's time to choose. Which Mario film did it better? Let's bite into both pizzas.

Visuals: 2023's Super Mario delivers unparalleled spectacle

Credit where credit is due — 1993's "Super Mario Bros." did pioneer VFX techniques and technologies that arguably had a hand in changing the way filmmakers used both digital and practical effects thereafter. That's about as complimentary as we can get in regard to the film's bizarrely drab and dystopian design.

In its attempts to marry the inherently whimsical concepts of the "Super Mario Bros." video games and a gritty neo-noir aesthetic, the film causes both New York and "Dinohattan" to come across a hodgepodges of awkward camp and absurd self-serious cyberpunk. It's not fun enough to be endearing, and far too silly to be impactful.

With the benefit of animation, the 2023 "Super Mario Bros. Movie" is able to create a one-to-one representation of the most iconic "Super Mario" locations, characters, and objects, executed with enough care to dazzle even new fans of the franchise. Set pieces like Bowser's first assault, the race down Rainbow Road, and the final battle are mostly memorable for their stunning visuals alone.

With that said, the first point definitely goes to the 2023 movie. 

Music: 2023's Super Mario has the better score... despite many annoying needle drops

At this point, it surely goes without saying that 2023's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" represents Illumination's most egregious use of licensed music yet. The tracklist was comprised of songs so boldly predictable and cliched, it included Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" (seriously, folks, "Shrek 2" came out two decades ago).

Even so, there's just no denying that Brian Tyler's score is one of the strongest aspects of the film. Aside from the vibrant visual style, nothing else so perfectly captures the energy of the original games and repackages it in a cinematic way. Yes, it relies heavily on the original orchestrations of game composer Koji Kondo, but Tyler takes those recognizable motifs and gives them a grander purpose in the context of the story.

The score of the 1993 film is as far from offensive as it is memorable or inspiring. The melodies lie flatly in the background of the story like wallpaper. Tyler's score, however, elevates the story in meaningful ways throughout the 2023 film. If only it wasn't constantly undermined by a compilation of songs so unfocused and pandering they'd make TikTok blush.

That's another point for the 2023 film. 

Acting: 1993's Super Mario cast is far more committed to their product

The performances in the 2023 film aren't so much "bad" as they are painfully unspecial. Much has already been made of Chris Pratt's Mario accent, but it'd be splitting hairs to call it worse than anything anyone else is doing in the film. Charlie Day sounds like Charlie Day. Anya Taylor-Joy sounds like Anya Taylor-Joy. Seth Rogen sounds like Seth Rogen. Even Fred Armisen is merely resurrecting a tried and true voice from his repertoire, while any choices Jack Black and Keegan-Michael Key might be making are obfuscated by aggressive pitch alterations.

The entire cast is, at best, giving an enjoyable vocal performance as themselves, or at worst, pulling you right out of the movie with their distractingly recognizable voices. To be fair to the actors, it seems as though the production wanted them to be recognizable. Pratt and Day both attempted to make stronger choices with their New York accents but were pulled back early in production, while Rogen was cast despite warning the creative team he wouldn't do any other voice but his own. It almost seems as though the studio cared more about having a flashy A-list cast than they did the actual performances.

Meanwhile, the cast of the 1993 film is really going for something — whether that "something" is good or bad will likely change viewer to viewer. Charitably, Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo are surprisingly accessible as Mario and Luigi (despite clearly taking shots of whisky between takes) while Dennis Hopper is doing some delightful scenery-chewing as King Koopa (despite wanting to tear apart the creative team). They may not have been giving Oscar-worthy performances, but at least they were performing at all.

Point goes to the 1993 version.

Characters: Neither Super Mario movie has good characters, but the 2023 at least respects the source material

There's almost something admirable about how the 2023 film was able to perfectly translate the sterile, two-dimensional characters of the "Super Mario" games without having the film fall apart entirely. Sure, such story components as character arcs, motivations, and relationships have been reduced to something lesser than the bare necessities, but it's not like the games were ever going for psychological complexity anyways. It's a faithful adaptation of iconic figures.

On the other hand, the 1993 film introduces characterizations that are slightly more fulfilled than their future animated counterparts, but not nearly enough to justify the gross departures from the tone of the games. Alterations and additions are absolutely necessary for any video game adaption, but the liberties taken in the 1993 film are, to put it politely, ugly on purpose. And yet, even just by satisfying the most basic elements of character building, the 1993 film just barely manages to conjure up some satisfying feeling of growth by the end of its runtime, so that's something.

That said, the characters in the 1993 movie just aren't the characters people bought tickets for, and that's a big problem. At the end of the day, most fans would probably take the familiar tone brought by the inhabitants of 2023's world, rather than the discomforting strangers from 1993. 

So, that's a third point in favor of the 2023 version.

Story: The plot of the 1993 Super Mario is unhinged in the best way

Strangely enough, both films essentially have the same plot skeleton. Both start with the titular Mario brothers getting somewhat randomly dragged into an alternate dimension during a supernatural plumbing incident, and both end with them bringing the dangers of the new world back home with them. While the 2023 film gets from Point A to Point B through a series of procedural video game references, the 1993 version creates a path so strange it's hard to believe Nintendo agreed to the script in the first place.

We won't spoil everything in case you want to experience the 1993 film for yourself, but the plot includes humans being born from dinosaur eggs, a version of Toad reimagined as an antifascist rock musician, and a mafia boss who gets "de-evolved" into Donkey Kong by way of the Nintendo Super Scope. Sure, it arguably makes less sense than the plot of the 2023 film, but at least it has more to offer in terms of genuine twists and surprises.

That's one more point for the 1993 film, but it's not enough to turn the tide. We have a clear victor here.

Overall: 2023's Super Mario is unquestionably the better video game adaptation

For two films with the same basic plot and source material, it's truly astounding how different they are — so different it's almost impossible to state outright which one is superior. One is a bright, colorful family film that delivers on all the nostalgia you could ever hope for in a "Super Mario" film. The other is a project so daringly garish and unwittingly nightmarish that it stands the test of time as a certified cult classic.

However, if you're a "Super Mario" fan looking for a film that respectfully brings the characters and world you love to life through cinema, 2023's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is, without a doubt, the superior option. It's probably as close as one could get to experiencing the original Nintendo games without ever picking up a controller.

Hopefully, Illumination will heed the criticism received for their first outing as they use its record-breaking box-office debut to justify an inevitable sequel. Until that day, when fans can finally dine on a genuinely triumphant "Mario" story in theaters, they can still attempt to enjoy two wildly different takes on the universe they love. Together, they almost make one decent meal.

Now, shut up and eat your pizza.