So, in honor of Super Mario 3’s anniversary (or at least, the anniversary of it’s American release), I figured I would do a small article on the game, which is widely considered to be one of the best 2D platformers ever made – being the 32nd best-selling game of all time, and the 6th best-selling platformer of all time (with the the remaining 5 being other games from the Mario series).
While the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was a relative departure from the formula established in the original Super Mario game (due to it’s status as a conversion of the Japanese game Doki Doki Panic), and the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was nothing but a glorified expansion pack of the original game (being released as “The Lost Levels” in America and Europe, as part of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES), Super Mario Bros. 3 acted as definitive proof of the series – and genres – potential, improving the gameplay in every aspect, and adding a wide range of additional features.
Super Mario Bros. 3 added numerous elements which would become mainstays to the Mario series – such as it’s first heavy use of Mario’s costume power-ups (adding the Tanooki Suit, Frog Suit and Hammer Suit to the mix), and a world map, which would return in it’s sequel, 1990’s Super Mario World, and then again much later in 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. Another notable thing the game established was the now-iconic appearance of Bowser – with his tail and fiery red mane appearing for the first time here. Bowser’s “children”, the Koopalings, would also go on to make many more appearances, albeit with a 19-year gap (from the main series, at least), after their appearance in the game’s sequel.
The game was not without it’s flaws, however, and it’s lack of a save feature proved almost unanimously unpopular – requiring the game’s 90 levels to be beaten in one seating if you wanted to complete the game. Also, by the time of it’s American release the Super Nintendo – with it’s superior sound and graphics – was just around the corner, meaning that the game was quickly outshone by the release of Super Mario World. Luckily, it’s appearance in Super Mario All-Stars gave it the lick of paint it needed to once again stand on equal footing with it’s peers.
Personally, I think that SMB3 stands as a perfect example of Shigeru Miyamoto’s ability to put together ideas which don’t seem like an obvious match (I mean, who would have thought of putting a top-down map in a side-scrolling game?), and make them work. And the wide array of creative enemies and obstacles shows that the development team really put their heart and soul into the game, with a variety of foes that could put the original title to shame, and the different styles of level (action, fortresses, airships, etc) helped keep each world fresh in a way that the simple aesthetic changes of the previous games simply couldn’t.
All in all, I have a lot of love for Super Mario Bros. 3, although I will admit my first experience of it came as part of the All-Stars compilation, and I didn’t play the original for a long time after that. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite 2D platformers as a child (with Sonic 3 & Knuckles being it’s only unwavering superior), and I still play it occasionally to this day. If you haven’t played this masterpiece yet, then I highly recommend you rectify that at your nearest convenience. Super Mario Bros. 3 is, in my humble opinion, truly the best game released for the NES. It’s the perfect blend of simple, yet challenging. Easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, but difficult for anyone to beat without practice.