Super Mario Bros 3 review
Super Mario Bros 3 is a well known platformer developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. It was re-released later (remastered) in the Super Mario All Stars compilation and as Super Mario Advance 4. The game greatly influenced other Mario games and platformers. Also, new content can be played on Super Mario Maker 2.
SMB3 is among the best games you can play and I think it’s actually the best platformer ever done. Of course, this is no easy statement to do, so I’m going to explain why.
First, we can’t talk about SMB3 without talking about SMB1. Yes, the first game was also totally great and it’s worth playing. But Nintendo expanded SMB1 world and mechanics in SMB3, keeping the same gameplay feeling and quality but with a much bigger game. It’s SMB1 but just better, so I’m pointing the strong points of both games.
- Best platformer game level design. Every level is carefully designed, as it was on SMB1, where we had side scrolling, jumps and water levels. But in SMB3 it’s more varied because of new level flow mechanics: free backward scrolling, autoscrolling levels, vertical levels, semi-aquatic levels, …
- Good platformer mechanics: read more.
- SMB3 was the first Mario to actually add an interactive world map and, as it’s a long game, it’s good to be able to relax between levels.
- In SMB1, you can skip levels by using secret warp zones. In SMB3 the mechanic changed and you only need to find and use a special item.
- SMB3 added the 7 koopalings as world bosses, being Bowser relegated to the last world and last level.
- Amazing enemy type variety, it’s a huge improvement over previous Mario games. Some are very memorable but rare, like Angry Sun, Stretch, Fiery Walking Piranha, Para Beetle or the Boss Bass. Other SMB3 new enemies are amusing and now common in other Mario games: Lakitu, Boo Diddly, Bullet Bill, Paragoomba, Chain Chomp, Bob-omb and Thwomp, just to name a few.
- SMB1 levels were grouped on worlds that had minor differences. But in SMB3 every world has its theme.
- Suits, powerups and other items: as mentioned, items (suits in particular) are the core mechanism that affect gameplay but there are more items. Read more here.
- The graphics were ok for the NES, it looked good. But it were nice on the SNES remaster Super Mario All Stars and in the GBA remaster Super Mario Advance 4.
- The end game credits were good. It felt nice to see them after passing the 8 worlds on a row.
SMB3 is a perfect platformer and it’s really awesome considering the date it was developed. I consider it a flawless gem. Still, everything is relative and there is room for small improvements when seem from a modern perspective:
- Once you get used to the game mechanics, it’s just too easy to get extra lives. This is probably the only true flaw but it seems a design choice, maybe to make it beatable for more casual players.
- P Wing item. Even if it’s a rare item, it’s too powerful as it guarantees passing most levels and it’s used to cheese the few hard levels on World 8.
- Magic Wistle. Skip worlds at any time made the game easier that it should be.
- Bosses: they were improved over SMB1 and the Koopalings have its charm but still they could have more skill variety, or be harder to cheese, like in newer platformers.
- The bonus puzzle minigames were nothing awesome.
- The Cloud and the Anchor items are not so-useful. The cloud is wasted unless the player passes the next level. In the other hand, the anchor and the flying ship moving mechanic is meh.
Also, as a side note. In the original NES cartridge SMB3 there were no middle game state saves. It had to be played from start to end, on one session. Doing the 8 worlds was quite a task. But that was improved on Super Mario All Stars and later releases, where you can save the game.
Why to play?
SMB3 is a polished retro platformer. It’s not a difficult game, when compared with other 90’ games, but it could look hard for today children. The art style was simple but nice and there is no childish “Mario!” “woohoo” voices like in the newest Mario games.
SMB3 sky theme:
How to acquire
The game can be acquired in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch and Wii U. Of course, you could also play it with an emulator if you bought a copy of the game and it’s totally legal.
You can also replay the game, in some way, by playing Super Mario Maker 2. Of course, it’s not the same experience. The level design will be not the same and there won’t be the continuity of a fully fledge game.
Version / Platform
I’m reviewing the version released for SNES in the Super Mario All Stars game compilation. But the GBA game (Super Mario Advance 4) and any digital release are equally fine (any emulation, even in console, allows to save). Only the original NES game got slightly dated.
SMB3 is an timeless classic that had a notable impact in other Nintendo games like SMW, SML2, NSMB, … The game influence can also be seen in newer 3D games like Super Mario 3D Land.
Finally, the future for SMB3 and other classic Mario platformer games is already here with the new Super Mario Maker games.
Games like Super Mario Bros 3
There are many interesting platformers that are worth looking into:
- Kid Chamaleon (Sega MD). This game relies on suits as a mechanic to advance levels and it’s pretty cool.
- Sonic 2 (Sega MD). Fast paced and very popular. Who doesn’t know Sonic?
- The NewZealand Story (NES). There are no suits there but I totally have a liking for that game. You can read the review if you want to know more.
- Megaman 5 (NES). Not my favorite game but, well, it got it’s fans.
And, of course, other 2D Super Mario games:
- Super Mario World 1. Amazing game. The suits lose importance as they added Yoshi. Classic (lineal) level progression lose importance too: secret exits are now a core mechanic and they added collectables (Dragon Coins). This also will be seen in later Mario games. Very loved and influential game.
- Super Mario World 2. Yoshi is the star in this game. The game art and gameplay are innovating and interesting, but it seems a spin-off more than a true Super Mario sequel. This game improved the bosses fights over previous SMB3 and SMW1.
- Super Mario Land 2. One of the best Gameboy games. It’s too easy but it’s nice and it’s similar in concept to SMB3.
- New Super Mario Bros 1 - 2 (DS), NSMB Wii, NSMB U. Those 4 games are updated SMB games with some new mechanics and few improvements but nothing revolutionary. Nintendo was conservative here and they just relied on the good old formula of SMB3 and SMW1. The most interesting feature is their realtime multi player, which be both messy and fun.
If there is something to thank Nintendo is for making SMB3. Well… and SMW too. I think that should be enough to conclude this review.
- Inherited from SMB1: enter intro pipes from upside, jump on (most) enemies to kill or weaken them, punching enemies through brick blocks from below, breaking blocks as super mario, question mark blocks, kicking koopa shells, gaining lives by chain enemy deaths on a row (using a shell or jumping), swimming inside or out of water and moving platforms.
- New from SMB3: pick up shells (to kick them later), enter into pipes from bottom, slope sliding, flying, tail wag, turn into statue, jump blocks, switch blocks (P block), rail platforms, spin platforms, donut lifts and directional lifts.
- Both SMB1 and SMB3 had two regular collectable items: coins and extra live mushroom (1 UP), both used to get extra lives.
- Both had also two regular powerups: Super Mushroon and Starman.
- SMB1 incorporated the fire flower suit but was only meant to attack enemies. SMB3 added the Racoon suit (Super Leaf item), Frog suit, Tanooki suit, Hammer Bros suit and the Kuribo Shoe, adding new ways of both attacking and moving, making the suits a core element on the gameplay. The flower and leaf are common but the rest of suits are pretty rare. Kuribo Shoe, like starman, is not kept between levels.
- SMB3 added few world map items:
- Magic Whistle, Jugem’s Cloud and Magic Wing (P Wing): they were mostly meant to skipping levels.
- Anchor: to stop airships. Funnily, without anchor, the player could be forced to pass a level previously skipped by using cloud.
- Hammer: was meant to open paths on world map.
- Music box: makes map enemies (like hammer brothers) to stop asleep.
- You can also use Starman and most suits on world map.
- In SMB1 the items are instantly used when found from regular question mark blocks. In SMB3 that happens too, but also you can collect items from chests to use them later from world map.