So a few weeks ago I wrote about one of the best selling games of all time and one of the most iconic games of the NES library – in fact of the 8-bit era, Super Mario Bros. This week I going to talk about the final main series Mario game released on the NES, Super Mario Bros 3. Released in Japan a mere three years after the original Super Mario Bros this game this game in almost every way is far superior. Much like the original, SMB3 was created by a small team of around eleven people. An incredible feat when you consider how large the teams that work on modern games are and, sure, the development process has changed a huge amount in that time but for such a small selection of minds to create a game that is 30 years old this year and is still loved that’s still pretty impressive.
Let’s dive right into the gameplay then. SMB3 plays very much like a lot of the modern Mario side-scrollers that we’re used to. It takes the idea from SMB2 of being able to move left and right at will, something the original didn’t allow. It’s fluid and feels very responsive and controlled. This is important to note as if you make a mistake and lose a life by mistiming jumping making an error when dispatching Bowser’s goons then it’s almost entirely your own fault. There are some new aspects included within the gameplay though and these do make a huge difference to the gameplay. You can now slide down hills and take out enemies in the process, there are occasionally special blocks that Mario is able to grab and throw and Mario can climb vines however he likes now. These are useful but they are nothing compared to the Super Leaf power up which turns mario into Racoon Mario which gives Mario the ability to fly in levels when running at full speed for a limited time. This powerup an open up lots of hidden areas and can give the player a huge advantage at certain points throughout the game and paved the way for the many suited variations of Mario that we can see in the games of recent years. While Bowser is the main antagonist in SMB3 you don’t actually get face off against him until the final level, with his Koopalings being your main bosses throughout the bulk of the game. This gives the boss fights a nice bit of variation, but does not create too much of a challenge.
Graphically the game is a huge step-up with a word menu screen, a first for Mario games, which is now a staple of the franchise. This whole screen is bursting with life and little bits of details throughout as well as chances to gain power ups to use for those particularly challenging levels. The game consists of eight world that are all vastly different from each other and the visuals on each of the worlds were clearly crafted meticulously and the most was made out of what was on offer. Again this game is only three years older than the first SMB and when you place them next to each other the difference is incredible. Each of the world’s themes feel fleshed out and have a lot of character to them, as does the game in general. My favourite graphical overhaul of the whole game, though, is Bowser. He looks menacing and the fact you don’t face him until the end of the game makes coming up against him and defeating all the more enjoyable. As for the music in the game, we get some fantastic accompanying songs and the soundtrack as a whole is exactly what is expected from a Mario game. It’s fun, catchy and best of all even when you find yourself dying multiple times on the same section of a level, you can’t even get mad at hearing it over and over again.
So do I think you should play this game? Yes is the short answer. But for all it’s technical merits and all of the advances and game changing ideas it has brought, I still wouldn’t choose SMB3 over the original. There is still massive sense of excitement and magic but it doesn’t quite encapsulate the first. I will still revisit this game time and time again though, and I’d suggest any fans of Mario who hasn’t inexplicably had a chance to play this title to give it a go. If you can’t pick it up on the NES it’s had multiple ports so there’s no shortage of opportunities to pick this classic up.