Console: NES Company: Nintendo of America Release Date: March 1990 Genre: Action/Adventure Number of Players: 1 or 2 Save Feature? Unfortunately...No
The ultimate classic. Words like wonderful, awesome, earth-shattering and legendary come to mind when discussing the third Mario installment. Just when you thought that Mario had done it all, the chubby plumber decided to shock the world once more. Super Mario Bros. 3 had everything that a 1990 gamer could possibly want and then some! A whole slew of levels, tons of secrets and mini-games, and superb play control and gameplay. In the eyes of many, Super Mario Bros. 3 was the greatest NES game ever released.
Overview: After playing the groundbreaking original Super Mario Bros. game along with its worthy sequel to no end, all of us wondered what a new decade would bring for the most popular video game hero in existence. After all, Mario had singlehandedly saved the video game industry with the release of his original adventure back in 1985. The horrors of the great video game crash of 1984 seemed a distant memory. Not only was Mario the hottest ticket in town but the NES as a console was simply on fire! Although the NES lasted for nearly ten years, it really seemed to hit its peak around 1989-90.
With that being said, it should not surprise you to learn that Super Mario Bros. 3 was released right smackdab in the middle of this firestorm. Right when the NES hit its peak, the greatest Mario game of them all came to town. And boy was it ever a hot item! I will never forget how excited I was when I finally got this game during the summer of 1990. It was like Christmas in July!
And the game did not disappoint either. Like the first two Mario games, the gameplay was simply incredible! Not only that but the MMC3 graphics, classic music, and depth (this game was enormous for an NES game) gave this hit virtually unlimited replay value. It was one of those games that you could fire up and play for hours on end without tiring. And you had to play for hours too because this game was loooonnnngggg. So long that a battery/save option was almost necessary. How huge was the world of Super Mario Bros. 3? It was right up there with Blaster Master if that means anything.
Since there are literally thousands of SMB3 reviews out in cyberspace and virtually every diehard video game fan on the planet has played this game, I will be very brief and to the point regarding the actual gameplay. Simply put, Super Mario Bros. 3 plays a lot more like the original SMB game than its sequel. After all, Super Mario Bros. 2 over here in America was actually known as Doki Doki Panic in Japan (just email me if you want more info about this little quirk). However, what makes SMB3 so good is that it is a much more polished and in-depth game than SMB and it has so much more variety in terms of secret items and mini-games as well. Not to say that SMB was lacking...for 1985, this game was the ultimate. However, SMB3 did exactly what a sequel is supposed to do. It took the best from the original game, added spice, a little salt, and PRESTO!! Super Mario Bros. 3 was born!
Graphics: What a difference a few years and an MMC3 chip makes! Compared to the original SMB game, the graphics in SMB3 are outstanding! They are just so crisp and clear compared to the original hit. Objects in the foreground are nice and colorful, the backgrounds, while still blahsay, are at least appropriate, and the animation is very smooth and fluid. Also, there is a ton of variety in the game's graphics! You've got grasslands, deserts, wintery wonderlands, fortresses in the sky, and even an entire world full of giant enemies, bricks, and question blocks! Talk about original! I always wanted to see a goomba five times as large as Mario...thankfully, they can still be squished with ease.
Although the graphics certainly lack the detail of a Blaster Master or Mega Man 3, everything just seemed to feel very appropriate. After all, hasn't the Mario series always thrived on being rather playful and whimsical? The visuals in Mario 3 certainly convey that and they do exactly what you would expect for a Mario game. They add a nice visual effect without overshadowing the amazing gameplay (hear that next generation video games?) This game has a wonderful atmosphere from start to finish and I just can't get over the amazing variety. The number of different enemies is astonishing as well. This game must have set some kind of an NES record in terms of variety of enemies.
Music: Like the first two Mario games, Super Mario Bros. 3 didn't have a soundtrack that blew you away with emotional tunes and/or rich melodies. Everything just seemed to be sort of...catchy. Kind of like the main tune in Bubble Bobble or Peter Gunn's theme in Spy Hunter, the tunes in Super Mario Bros. 3 just really stuck in your head! They may not have been the greatest ever but man were they catchy! Although the main theme was on the average side and probably my least favorite in the series as far as main themes go, it was still decent. Aside from the wonderful ending theme, my favorite tune has to be the remixed version of the underworld theme from the original Super Mario Bros. game. Man, was this tune ever awesome!! I was so excited when I heard it for the first time because it brought back all of those rich memories of playing SMB. Talk about a catchy song too; seriously, this track has to rank among the all-time "catchiest" video game tunes out there! It has a great beat!
Most of the other tunes in SMB3 were on the average side although I really liked all of the map screen tracks. They were all very short diddies that would play and then overlap after a few seconds but some of them like the Winter Wonderland and Pipe Maze themes were really good (and of course, catchy!)
Play Control: Although the first two Mario games were known for their excellent play control, SMB3 really hit the nail on the head. I'm telling you; the controls in SMB3 were so easy to learn and so responsive and just so fun that I would rank this game right up with anybody! I would even place SMB3 right next to the legendary Mega Man 3 (which pretty much has perfect play control) in this category. Yes, it's that good folks!
Not only is moving, jumping, and ducking (well, you could duck in the Hammer Bros. suit anyway) easy as pie but some of the new controls like flying with Raccoon Mario and swimming with Frog Mario were a lot of fun as well! I always liked how you would have to run to build up your strength before you could fly. It added a certain element of strategy when you would have a short corridor to fly into. Very neat stuff. I always liked how you could turn into a statue with the Tanooki Suit as well. You could even pick up Switch Blocks and Turtle Shells and let 'em rip in this game! It's hard to find any faults in this area although having to play the A button continuously to fly was a little annoying after a while. Still, pretty solid stuff.
Challenge: Like previous Mario hits, the challenge level in Super Mario Bros. 3 was set just about right. Although there are plenty of ways to get extra lives and stock up on goodies like Tanooki & Hammer Bros. suits along with the valuable P-Wings, this game could be downright scary at times. Some of those sky areas where you had to jump on flying beetles and pipe mazes where blocks would change direction with a jump could challenge just about anybody! And the last world with all of those tank/fortress levels...brrrrr...it gives me the chills just thinking about it. Still, if you were able to get a couple of warp whistles and a few P-Wings, you could actually beat this game in less than an hour. Still though, it was anything but a cakewalk getting to Bowser's Castle unscathed.
The only real problem I have is related to time. As I said earlier, this game is simply gargantuan in size and unfortunately, it suffers from "Blaster Master syndrome." It's a phenomenal game with a huge world to explore but there's just one problem. There's NO save feature!!! If any game desparately needed a battery or some kind of a password system, it was this one. Granted, you could snag two warp whistles and be at World 8 within ten minutes (2 or 3 if you're that brainiac who beat the game in 11 minutes) but that takes all of the fun out of it! If you decide to play every single level and mini-game in SMB3 from start to finish, you're probably looking at 3 to 4 hours and that's on a good day! Just make sure that you've got some pizza and Wild Cherry Pepsi nearby alright? ;)
Storyline: Epic plots and surprising twists have never been a strength of the Mario Bros. series have they? Oh well...at least SMB3 and its siblings came out during the NES era or these games would have been in real trouble in this department (games like Blaster Master can relate so by no means am I bashing the Mario series here). Basically, SMB3 begins with Bowser (who else?) and his seven children (don't ask me where they all came from...it makes the game more interesting okay?) taking over eight worlds in the Mushroom Kingdom. Since Bowser is the loving father that he is, he allows each of his children to rule over one world. Of course, this is problematic since Mario and Co. want nothing to do with Bowser let alone his bratty kids! Not surprisingly, the plot "thickens" when late in the game, a certain princess in pink is kidnapped by the big lug. Instead of simply ridding the vermin from the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario now has a personal score to settle with Bowser.
Truthfully, this wasn't all that bad of a story; at least back in 1990. Granted, it's that tried and true "save the princess" story but at least Nintendo added a little bit more in this one. It's a heck of a lot better than fighting Bowser at the end of every level like in the original SMB game. I kind of liked how each koopaling would have his or her own attacking style as well. It definitely made the game more interesting and gave you a feeling of accomplishment after conquering each world.
Funfactor: Like its predecessors, what really made Super Mario Bros. 3 the great game that it was had to be the incredible gameplay and just its overall playability. SMB3 was just one of those games that you could pick up and play for hours by yourself or with a friend. And it wasn't a very complex game at all! Even video game novices could do well at this game after a few minutes. Due to the incredible depth of SMB3 along with the intriguing 2-player option (you could play the original Mario Bros. game against each other...this could have been a game in itself!), you just never grew tired of playing this game.
Which brings us to that all-important question. Was Super Mario Bros. 3 the greatest NES game (or simply video game) of all-time? Well, in all honesty, that is such a tough question to answer because it's like comparing apples to oranges. After all, how do you compare Super Mario Bros. 3 to a later release like a Donkey Kong Country or a Final Fantasy IX?
Simply put, I would say that, while I do not feel that Super Mario Bros. 3 is that great, it certainly remains one of the top video games ever made. When it was first released, it was pretty much impossible to argue that this game was not the best one ever. Like one of my good friend Wesley Messer's cousins said, "After Super Mario Bros. 3 came out, what else could Nintendo do? They have used the full potential of the NES!" It is certainly hard to disagree with that statement. The early 90s were filled with great NES games like Battletoads, Kirby's Adventure, and Zoda's Revenge. However, none seemed to have the staying power of Super Mario Bros. 3. I mean, this game was cleaning up the charts (Nintendo Power magazine) years after its initial release!
Even with all of those praises being said, however, I just don't feel that SMB3 had quite enough punch to take the NES Crown Jewel. It is a solid game on all accounts but just didn't have quite enough to overtake Mega Man 3. However, in the eyes of many video game vets, SMB3 probably is the Crown Jewel. After all, it did win the Best Overall Game of 1990 over an outstanding class that included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, Super C, and Mega Man 3 (which actually finished in third place). Wherever it places in terms of the all-time greats, Super Mario Bros. 3 is a very special game pak that remains this gamer's favorite Mario game of all-time (and that's saying something!)
Negatives: The only real problem that I have with SMB3 is that there is no password/save feature. As a result, if you really want to get the most out of this game (i.e. play the game all the way through without using the warp whistles), you have to play the game in one long marathon session. Oh well...at least the game is so much fun! Imagine having to play a game like 10-Yard Fight for 4 hours!
Also, while the graphics are indeed very crisp and colorful, the background graphics are still very average. Multiple colors, clouds, rain; something besides one shade of color would have been nice! And while the soundtrack is memorable and catchy, it just isn't nearly as good as a Blaster Master or Mega Man 2 score. Catchy tunes are wonderful and all but they don't get the higher scores!
Ratings: Graphics: 4.4 Music: 4.5 Play Control: 4.8 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.0 Funfactor: 4.9 Overall Score: 27.1 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: May 21, 2006