Famicom World


So everybody knows how Super Mario Bros. works. Run to the right, jump on things, rescue the princess, etc. And everybody knows that there are eight worlds in the game with four levels each. After 8-4 there are no more levels.

“But wait!” you say, smugly. “There’s actually nine worlds, if you include the minus world.” Okay, yes, that’s true, you can get to the minus world if you know how to get there. We’ve all seen the Famicom Dojo video.

But what if I were to tell you (even more smugly) that there are actually two hundred and fifty six worlds. Yeah, that’s right. And the way that you access these worlds is even more bizarre than getting Mario’s head stuck in a brick.

The 256 Worlds Technique

So here’s what you’re going to need:

  • A Famicom (any model should do)
  • A Super Mario Bros. cartridge
  • A Tennis cartridge

The technique involves swapping the Super Mario Bros. cart and the Tennis cart back and forth without turning off the Famicom. I told you it was a bizarre technique, right? Here’s a diagram for those who are impatient; more detailed instructions follow:

So you want to start by putting in Super Mario Bros. and turning on the Famicom. This step is important: you have to start with Super Mario Bros. or it won’t work.

Next you eject Super Mario Bros., insert Tennis, and press the reset button. Leave the Famicom powered on the entire time — turning off the Famicom will prevent this trick from working. This should leave you at the title screen for Tennis. Press start twice: once to start and again to choose the default difficulty.

Now that you’re on the tennis court, the technical part begins. You need to serve the ball first, so keep tapping the A button until ball starts moving toward your opponent.

Next is the important part: walking around the court. Each step that you take will make the World number go up by one. It does not matter which direction you move in or which combination of directions you use or even if you’re up against the edge of the court running in place — the World number will keep going up as long as you keep moving. Don’t worry about returning the ball, either. If you have to serve again then tap A until the ball is served and start moving again (moving left and right while preparing to serve does not make the World number go up). The World number does not reset due to serving. If you take more than 255 steps then the World counter will loop back around to zero and start over again.

An alternate technique is to start a two-player game instead of a single player game. Pick up the player 2 controller and run around the court while player 1 tosses the ball up and down forever. You have to swap controllers, but you don’t have to worry about serving the ball.

You can get a decent approximation of which World you’ll get if you quickly tap the d-pad rather than holding it down. Each tap will move the World number up by one. Keep in mind that it starts at World 1, so one tap would be World 2, two taps would be World 3, etc.

When you’re done moving around, eject the Tennis cart. Like last time, be sure to leave the power on while you do this — this will not work if you turn off the Famicom.

Now insert the Super Mario Bros. cart and press the reset button. You should be at the Super Mario Bros. title screen. Hold down the A button and press Start. (You might recognize this as the continue code!). If everything worked, you’ll be taken to some crazy world rather than starting at World 1. Enjoy!

When you’re ready to try another World, you can start the process over again by ejecting the cart and putting Tennis back in. The World number will remember where you left off, so when you’re taking your steps in Tennis remember that you’re not starting at zero anymore.

What’s So Crazy About These Worlds?

So, like the well-known Minus World, which is actually a looping version of level 7-2, these 256 Worlds are not really planned-out, intentional worlds for Super Mario Bros. These are glitchy side-effect Worlds composed of parts from the main eight Worlds. While some of the Worlds are instant death-traps for Mario and others will make the game freeze up, most of them are quite playable. What makes them so crazy is that the enemies, palettes, and physics get mixed up. You’ll see things like fire-bars spinning in front of blue skies, Bloopers swimming out of water, and cloud blocks underground. Sometimes Mario will even be able to swim above ground!

Here are a few examples:

World 9

This level has Mario above ground at night. But he can swim!? It’s a glitchy stage, but still a fun World to start at.

World 65

Area 1 is the same as level 8-2, but Area 2 features overworld graphics, castle features, and underwater enemies!

World 68

World 68 is a set of normal stages (1-1, 8-2, and 4-3), except that Mario can swim through the air. Also, in Area 3 Bowser appears in the middle of the stage!

World 122

When you defeat Bowser in Area 3, you’ll rescue the princess. But it looks like she’s passing on Mario since she tells him she’s not really there!

World 62

Mario is stuck! But the first screen looks pretty cool!

World 137

Mario walks slowly to the right all by himself. Just sit back and enjoy the walk. (Until he walks into a block and gets stuck!)

World 29

So many clouds…so fluffy…

World 127

Orange pipes and underground clouds. Pretty glitchy, though.

A note about the World numbers: You might have noticed in the screenshots that the World numbers start out as numbers, then turn into letters, then turn into random graphics. When the World number goes up, the game simply uses the next tile in its tile set to represent it. So those graphics aren’t random — they are graphics used elsewhere in the game! If you’ve ever used “turtle-tipping” to get more than nine lives, you might have seen this same phenomenon.

Other Ways to Access the 256 Worlds

So while swapping carts is a fun and pretty unique experience, maybe you want to access these levels with a little less effort (or maybe you just don’t have these two carts). Here are two other ways to access them.

Family Basic

If you have a Family Basic cart and keyboard, you can write a small program that lets you pick a World. You still have to swap carts, but this lets you choose the exact World that you want rather than approximating it with pixelated tennis shoes.

Enter and run the following program:

20 POKE &H7FF,&HA5
40 POKE &H7FD,A+255AND255

This will prompt you to enter a World. Simply type in the World that you want to access and press the Return key. Then eject the Family Basic cart, insert Super Mario Bros., reset the Famicom, then hold A while pressing Start. If you want to choose another World you’ll have to start the process over again.

Game Genie

You can access these Worlds using a cheat device as well. These are for Game Genie specifically, so if you’re lucky enough to own a Game Genie for the Famicom, you’re all set! (They’ll also work with flash carts, emulators, and Super Mario Bros. on the NES.)


Start up Super Mario Bros. using these codes and you’ll be able to select the World you want by tapping the B button on the title screen. You’ll see the World number at the top of the screen go up with each tap. Unlike the normal level select that gets unlocked after finishing the game, these codes will let you select Worlds past World 8. When you’re at the World you want, just press Start to begin.

A Little Bit of History

So who discovered this trick? When was it discovered? We here at Famicom World…don’t know who discovered it…or when the trick was first discovered. But we can date it back pretty far!

There is an old cheat/strategy guide book series called Famicom Winning Book (ファミコン必勝本). One of its Friday Special editions covers the 256 World trick pretty extensively (and was the inspiration for this article). That book was published in September of 1986 — just one year after Super Mario Bros. was released! So while we don’t know exactly when it was discovered, we do know that it’s been around for a pretty long time.

So there you have it: 256 Worlds. Let us know in the forums if you try it out and find any really crazy Worlds!