Blast from the Past: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
It’s considered by many to be the perfect game. Could it be that Super Mario Bros. 3 is still as remarkable today as it was considered 25 years ago? You bet! Miyamoto might have come close with some other Super Mario games, but there’s still nothing that touches this.
Super Mario Bros. 3 launched back in 1991 exclusively on the NES. Since then it’s been ported to numerous Nintendo consoles and handhelds, and there’s a distinct reason for that – it’s a perfect game that’s somehow remained fresh since launch. Unlike so many other Super Mario titles Princess Toadstool (that’s Peach) is not kidnapped and instead needs Mario’s help. The Mushroom Kingdom has been invaded by Bowser’s Koopalings. They stole the magic wand from each king and turned these kings into animals. You must retrieve each wand and turn them back to normal. That’s easier said than done.
Luigi of course joins Mario on this adventure that’ll have the second player playing as him, while player one plays as Mario. Having a second player join you this time changes things up quite a bit. Unlike the original outing you’ll have a map to contend with. Finish a stage with Mario and it’ll be marked with a big M. Complete it with Luigi and the symbol changes to the letter L. All good and well, but should either of the two bros. run out of lives those completed stages will have to be replayed. If both players are great you’ll end up breezing through the stages, but you’ll have an immense amount of fun doing so.
Super Mario Bros. 3 brought with it a bunch of new outfits for Mario that changes his abilities. For example, jump into a water level, dressed in a frog uniform, and you’ll quite literally swim circles around Bloopers (those sneaky white squids), but it’s the Tanooki costume that still remains the highlight in the game. By getting the Tanooki costume Mario or Luigi will transform into a raccoon-like creature by adding ears and a tail to their characters. This tail isn’t just for looks. You can break bricks that are in front or behind of you (not only by smashing those above him by jumping), glide down gracefully from heights and, the best of all, fly! Flying takes some doing as you can’t fly whenever you please. You have to build up your power meter by pressing and holding the B button when running. As soon as you hit max level jump and keep pressing the jump button to fly up into the sky. Why? To find all the hidden goodies.
Throughout the beautiful level design of each stage, and they truly are glorious and unmatched to this day, you’ll find hidden 1-Up mushrooms, level warps and hidden beanstalks. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a game that rewards you for exploring. Considering that the level design was very linear in 1991 you can’t help but notice just how much freedom you were offered 25 years ago. It’s a complete joy to behold. What makes the exploring so effortless is that it’s perfect for newcomers and veterans alike.
Secrets, secrets and more hidden secrets
No stage looks and feels alike, no matter the limited technology. Some levels have more vertical space than others, some move to the right that requires you to make the best of a tough situation and others will have you moving back and forth as you adventure to find hidden secrets. On the map you’ll also get to play games where you have to match cards or line up symbols to unlock free lives or items to use in the game. There’s a boulder in your path that could lead to a shortcut for the stage? Just use your hammer item to bash it open. Don’t have the hammer? Well, tough luck for you. You’ll be doing it the hard way. Super Mario Bros. 3 requires that you make good decisions, make the right decision and you’ll feel like a genius.
Finishing all eight worlds is a tough task, but the pace feels just about perfect. You don’t at any point feel a sudden spike in difficulty, unless of course you cheated and warped to another kingdom. Boss battles aren’t too tough either, but the levels reaching to the said boss battle is indeed a challenge. At least you’ll be enjoying the music throughout as it’s absolutely fabulous.
Super Mario Bros. 3 feels like perfection all these years later. You, as the player, always feel in control. The speed and height that you reach when jumping comes down to your own skills, and you can’t ever blame the game for being unfair. It even looks impressive from a graphical point of view for a NES title. Will Miyamoto ever match this classic? Probably not, but it’s a great reason to play it just one more time.