In the game you are playing the role of the Mario. You are going through the Mushroom Kingdom, surviving the forces of the antagonist Bowser, and saving Princess Toadstool. Mario should reach the flag pole at the end of each level to win the game.
There is a lot of coins scattered around for Mario to collect and special bricks marked with a question mark, which may reveal more coins or a special item when Mario hits them. Other bricks may also contain some coins or rare items so if you have enough time, try to hit them as well. If Mario eats a Super Mushroom , he becomes a Super Mario — he grows to double his size and gains the ability to break bricks above him. If he gets hit in this mode he will turn back to regular Mario instead of dying. If Mario eats a Fire Flower , he becomes a Fire Mario — in this form, Mario gains the ability to throw bouncing fireballs from his hands. If Mario touches a bouncing Super Star (a rare power-up), he turns into Star Mario. In this form Mario is invulnerable to nearly everything and he can kill enemies with a simple touch. This is a temporary form so use your newly obtained powers quickly! You start with a certain number of lives and lose them if you take damage, fall in a bottomless pit, or runs out of time.
Mario is attacking enemies jumping on top of them, though many enemies have differing responses to this. For example, a Goomba will flatten and be defeated, while a Koopa Troopa will temporarily retract into its shell, allowing Mario to push it to destroy other enemies, though they can also bounce back against Mario, which will hurt or kill him. Mario can also defeat enemies above him by jumping to hit the brick when the enemy is standing on it.
The game consists of eight worlds with four sub-levels called "stages" in each world. The final stage of each world takes place in a castle where Bowser is fought above a suspension bridge; [SPOILER ALERT] the first seven of these Bowsers are "false Bowsers" whom are actually minions disguised as him, whilst the real Bowser is found in the 8th world. Bowser and his decoys are defeated by jumping over them and reaching the axe on the end of the bridge.
The game also includes some stages taking place underwater, which contain different enemies. In addition, there are bonuses and secret areas in the game. Most secret areas contain more coins for Mario to collect, but some contain "warp pipes" that allow Mario to advance directly to later worlds in the game without completing the intervening stages.