Retro Scope: Super Mario Bros. 3

We take a look at one of the most influential platformers of all time!

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 02/13/2014 09:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

Super Mario Bros. 3 is an incredible game.

A long time ago, my family brought me to a campground that had an awesome arcade. When my brother and I went inside, we found a machine that played Super Mario Bros. 3 and jumped on it immediately. We horded all of the quarters we could muster from our pockets and put them all inside the machine. We had never beaten the game before, and we wanted to finally complete it together through its co-op mode.

After hours of gameplay, we were still glued to the screen. We made so much progress, yet the only thing that was threatening our mission was the closing hours of the arcade. A female employee walked up to us and told us that we had to leave immediately, but we’ve come so far and spent way too many quarters! So, I attempted to persuade her to let us stay for a little longer. Naturally, she was a little peeved that she had to stay and baby-sit us.

“Die!” she exclaimed as I navigated Mario over a bottomless pit. This unexpected turn of events threw me off, costing me my final life. As the employee laughed at my own misfortune, I retorted by explaining that every quarter I used actually gave me more minutes of gameplay instead of more lives, so I could keep playing for as long as I wanted. Shortly after I tried using my next continue, my brother and I were thrown out of the arcade. Distraught by our lack of success, we headed back to our camper. When I was changing my clothes and getting ready for bed, I noticed I had a giant spider bite on my foot for the first time!

I’ll reiterate: Super Mario Bros. 3 is an incredible game. To me, it is worth getting thrown out of an arcade, and it’s so good that all of the spiders in the world could attack me at once and I’d be too engrossed to notice.

The first Super Mario Bros. was a landmark in gaming, which I still thoroughly enjoy to this day, but Super Mario Bros. 3 refined everything that made the original so amazing. I still think that it holds up as the best side-scrolling platformer that Mario has ever been in!

A big part of why I love this game comes from how great the controls are. Mario could now slide down hills and knock out enemies along the way. The jumping physics were perfected. The intuitive P-meter, which measured how close a player was to reaching full speed, changed the fundamentals of running in a fantastic way. The levels were short and sweet too, which made them perfect to speed through.

Oh, and did I mention Mario could fly? That’s right! With the help of a Super Leaf, players could turn into either Raccoon Mario or Luigi and fly in the sky after achieving full running speed. However, unless you grabbed a P-Wing, flight is only temporary. So, if you want to continue flying, you’ll have to start from the ground once more. This was the first time Mario could fly, and I still think it’s the best implementation of flying mechanics in the whole series.

There’s also a few other notable power-ups that Super Mario Bros 3. brought to the table. For example, the Tanooki Suit gave players the same abilities as the Super Leaf, with the addition of being able to turn into a stone statue and become invulnerable. There’s also the incredibly odd, yet equally awesome Frog Suit that impairs movement on land but enhances it in water. A personal favorite of mine is the Hammer Suit, which allows you to throw hammers and resist fireballs when you crouch. The Hammer Bros. always pissed me off as an enemy, so I went on an insane power trip when I found out I could harness their power!

While all of these things attribute to my love of Super Mario Bros. 3, nothing comes close to my appreciation for the world map. World maps might be something that Mario players today take for granted, but before the intoduction of the New Super Mario Bros. series, Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first side-scrolling Mario title with this feature. The branching pathways, wandering enemies that initiated battles upon contact, minigame segments, and its little secret areas made this feature all so intriguing to me. Mario was no longer a strictly linear game, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I own the original NES cartridge, the GBA remake, and the Virtual Console release of Super Mario Bros. 3, and I’ve played each version to death. Yet, each time I turn on the game, I feel the same childlike wonder that I did when I was playing it in the campground all those years ago. Do you have any fond memories of Super Mario Bros. 3? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “Retro Scope: Super Mario Bros. 3

  • 276 points
    Nicolas Vestre says...

    I don’t think any other game holds more nostalgia for me than Super Mario Bros. 3. does. I was around four years of age when we rented the game from Mega Movies, and I instantly fell in love with it. Whenever I got sick, I could convince my mom to rent the game for me, because it would make me feel better (unshakable logic, right?). Heck, if I could have figured out a way to get sick every week, I would have done it, just to have some more time with this awesome game.

    One thing that always stuck out in my mind: in the intro scene, where Mario grabs a Super Leaf and turns into Raccoon Mario, one hit from a Koopa Troopa shell brings him back to Regular (small) Mario. For years, I couldn’t figure out why that was the case. But now I’m almost certain it’s because taking a hit from anything in the Japanese version always reverts Mario back to Regular (small) status, and this wasn’t changed in the intro to the game for North American audiences.

    Man, do I need to replay this game! I’d gladly do so on 3DS, if Nintendo would release the game in the North American eShop…

  • 1294 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    Great piece, Anthony! SMB3 is a VERY close tie with Super Mario World for me. I remember so vividly how much I loved finding secrets in this game. The Hammer Bros. suit was a particular favorite of mine. It hardly ever appeared, and every time I got it, I’d die almost immediately after activating it. SIGH.

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