Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 3 Box Art

Super Mario Bros. 3

System: NES

Release Date: February 12, 1990

Developer: Nintendo Research & Development 4

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Platformer

A masterpiece of video game design is our subject today with Super Mario Bros. 3. The Mushroom World is under assault by Bowser and his seven Koopalings. The children have attacked the seven worlds within Mushroom World, stealing the magic wands of each country, and turning their rulers into animals. It’s up to Mario and Luigi to traverse each country, clearing levels and making their way to the castle to challenge Bowser’s children.

The world map for each country is a welcome addition to the Super Mario Bros. formula. There are many cases where you can choose to skip a particularly troublesome level. There are mushroom houses, which offer you a free powerup; spade panels, which give you a match three game to earn some free guys. After meeting certain requirements, a match game will appear, this is a fun way to earn some powerups. Free guys can be earned many ways in the game, my favorite being early in World 1-2, when you can kill all the goombas you can, as long as you have a raccoon suit.

On the world map, you may press the B Button to open your powerup menu and apply one before a difficult level. These can also be earned by fighting traveling Hammer Bros. and other special squares. Powers include the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, Starman, P-Wing, Frog Suit, Tanooki Suit, and Hammer Bros. suit. There are also a bunch of other special use items, such as the cloud that allows you to skip a level, music box, which freezes Hammer Bros. on the map, and hammer, which breaks blocks on the world map and allows you to reach one of the warp whistles. These special items allow you to enter the warp zone, where you can skip the worlds you don’t want to play.

Levels are usually your typical run left to right avoiding enemies and obstacles fare. At the end of most levels is a mushroom, flower, or star card you can collect. After three, you earn free guys based on whether they match or not. There are many different variations on the typical level theme. There are constantly scrolling levels, where you need to be quick and accurate with your jumps. Levels with verticality can trick you into not knowing what to do. There are fortress levels, which are much like the fourth level of each world in the original with a boss named Boom Boom at the end. It’s best to kill this guy by the book. A few of these are maze-like and require some lateral thinking or exploration to get through. Water levels are always seen as a bit difficult, but become a breeze when you are equipped with the Frog Suit. The castle at the end of each world puts you on an airship level, which is full of cannons that constantly blast projectiles at you. The end of them puts you one on one with one of the Koopa Kids. You need to stomp them three times while evading their special attacks.

Each of the eight worlds has a theme, from desert to sky to ice. My favorite growing up was the Giant Land. I always wanted to like Pipe Land, but it turns out it’s my least favorite. Secret areas exist for those who want to seek them out. The first new powerup you run into is the leaf, which grants you the Raccoon Suit. This allows you to swing your tail with the B Button to attack enemies and break blocks. If you run, by holding the B Button, you can gain speed and fly when your P Meter is filled by tapping the A Button. Outside of the Raccoon Suit and Fire Flower, which works the same as the original Super Mario Bros., the other powerups are found few and far between. This is incredibly disappointing, because the Tanooki Suit allows you to turn into a statue for a moment to become invulnerable. The Hammer Bros. Suit may be completely missed other than one guaranteed mushroom house. Kuribo’s Shoe appears in only one level, because it’s so incredibly overpowered, being able to walk on any surface.

You can play as Mario, or in 2 player mode with a friend as Luigi. Gert joined me on my playthrough, leading to some good times. This was her game as a kid, one she had mastered. Her thought was that the nostalgia evaporates quickly when you die six times in a row at the same spot on a level. Being greedy will often lead to an untimely death. I challenged her a few times in the Mario Bros. minigame on the overworld. When Mario and Luigi occupy the same square, either can press the A Button to go into a one on one battle straight out of Mario Bros. The winner is the first to collect the best of five coins. The cards collected at the end of each level can be won or lost, as well. After finishing World 7 and saving all the kingdoms, Bowser reveals he has kidnapped Princess Toadstool in the Dark World. The levels here are all very busy and difficult, requiring your timing to be on point. The final battle with Bowser, however, is totally easy, just requiring you to trick him into falling down a pit.

Graphics: 4.0

Everything looks great. There are a lot of colors, animations look strong, I don’t recall any flickering or slowdown.

Sound: 4.0

Koji Kondo provides a score worthy of praise once again with plenty of iconic tunes.

Gameplay: 4.0

Mario and Luigi are very responsive. There are a ton of different powerups and ways to get through each level. The two player mode is welcome.

Difficulty: 4.0

You will die, a lot, but you can earn a ton of free guys as you play and once you learn the layouts of the levels, you can run through them.

Fun Factor: 4.0

You’ll be captured for the better part of the day in your quest to defeat Bowser and his kids.

Overall Grade: 4.0

Super Mario Bros. 3 earns an A! It took 420 games to reach the first perfect score and Super Mario Bros. 3 deserves it. If you’ve never played this game, you’re missing out and you need to stop what you’re doing now to enjoy it.

Super Mario Bros. 3 Video Review on YouTube