#191 Super Mario Bros. 3

Posted: 16th May 2014 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

332nd played so far

Super_Mario_Bros._3_coverartGenre: Platform
Platform: NES
Year of Release: 1990
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

So we’re back now to what is unambiguously the third (platform) Mario game. Released nearer to the end of the lifetime of the NES, it became one of the best-selling games ever – the highest grossing non-bundled game in fact – in part due to its inclusion in a rather crappy movie (the Wizard), but also due to its quality.

And yes, I’ve finished it in the past.

Our Thoughts

As with previous Mario games, the third has formed my early gaming life, and possibly to a larger extent than the previous one. The colourful environments, large, different worlds and variety of mechanisms was daunting, and while it clearly derived from the earlier games, it was such a big step up. I remember, partially inspired by this game, sitting at home with sheets of paper on which I was designing Mario worlds and levels.

This really is a testament to the variety in the game. While the original mostly changed the background colours and used design elements to create some variety, the levels gain their own variety and different styles here. Sure, a lot of blocks remain the same or similar, but switching the grassy background for a pyramid and putting in yellow blocks makes a bigger difference. The levels in each world also feel more unified, with the visuals being similar in each, with a curve in learning new mechanics and each with their own theme. Rather than just including more challenges, it’s as much about the experiences of the different levels.

This also extends to powerups. While the original fireballs were useful, still an awesome classic, it was just a pallette change. Although the game smooths it out here, the other powerups added look more impressive. The frog suit is such a funny thing when you first get it that you have to try it, even if it doesn’t do much in most levels. Hammer throwing is awesome, even with the aiming actions. But the biggest thing added is flying.

As much as pipes and different directions add some versatility and remove some linearity from the levels, being able to take off with a run and fly through the level adds far more. Your bursts are short enough that you can’t avoid all challenge by it, but it makes levels easier, as well as leading to more secrets. The first level already encourages this – just after your first change to get a feather, the powerup that gives you a raccoon’s tail and allows you to fly, there’s a long open stretch that invites you to run and fly, leading to a miniature coin heaven.

Last, there’s the wonderful cast. The cast of enemies, of course, in this game. All the enemies from the first game returns, improved to fit in with the rest of the game. But then it adds variations on them – goombas gain wings, buzzy beetles fall down from ceilings and more. More interesting is the cast of new monsters, with the new bosses – Bowser’s seven kids – being the most interesting. The seven colourful bosses attack with different patterns, creating interesting new threats that go a step beyond the hammer-grabbing of the first game.

The game seems a bit easier than earlier installments – although that might be experience – but even so the later levels become enough of a challenge anyway that they require many goes to finish. It’s, again, pitched just right, inviting repeated tries if you fail. You need to avoid the warp whistles though – as inviting as they are, the sudden jump in difficulty is surprising, even as you just want to give the later levels a try.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s hard to compare now, Super Mario Bros. 3 feels like a pinnacle of NES gaming, one of the best platformers of the time and even now the example people seem to look to imitate in more modern remakes. The New Super Mario Bros series seems especially inspired by it, taking as much from Super Mario World – but arguably that is just as much a sequel thing.

  1. […] sequel to Super Mario Bros. 3 – I understand it was subtitled Super Mario Bros. 4 in Japan – expands on some of that […]

  2. […] general, we like Mario games – they are done well, whether it’s an RPG, a platformer or a racing game. A branch that we haven’t really covered are his (semi-)sports games. […]

  3. […] out for NES era graphics – they really fall more into the later era of the console. Not quite Super Mario Bros 3 style, but it stands out how much it has developed. The areas go through a similar development as […]