Super Mario Bros. 3: Nostalgia Review

Suit Up!

Super Mario Bros. 3
Nintendo Entertainment System | Nintendo | February 1990

Nostalgia Reviews highlight the greatest games of previous generations. The review is rooted in fond memories and appreciation of that era. There are times when memories differ from reality or modern techniques are superior to earlier design.

Mario is synonymous with videogames. The original Super Mario Bros. was bundled with the NES and was 80’s kids’ first foray with platformers. Super Mario Bros. 2 is….different depending on which country you hail from. But Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first must-have game that everyone owned, cherished and replayed without hesitation. SM3 took the formula established and ate a bucket of super size mushrooms. The introduction of the overworld map created branching paths, the enemies were more varied, the levels contained multiple routes and secrets, minigames were available to discover and the power up suits became a staple of the Mario franchises.

The overworld map empowers players with choice. Gamers can select to go through each available level or take the least populated path to the castle. The map is an interactive world in itself. Toad item huts dot the landscape, which sometimes require going out of the way, hammer head brothers move around to block your path and if Mario doesn’t complete a castle on the first go, you will chase the airship throughout the world. These varied options ensure each playthrough is different than the last. The world map differentiates itself between Mario and Luigi in some instances. This allows the lesser known brother to take a different path or gain access to a hut that Mario can’t.

Enemies bulked-up in size, ability and variety for SM3. In Bowser’s army, there are more than goombas, troopers and piranha plants. Foes include various forms on old adversaries and world specific foes. The water world contains unique jellyfish, electrical fish and enemies who swallow Mario whole, not found anywhere else. The desert includes the most infuriating enemy possible, the sun is near invincible and doggedly chases you throughout the level. The giant world enables even the lowly goomba to be a towering foe who can crush the plumbers. Each world ends with a showdown against a Koopaling, one of Bowser’s children, who implement their own attack strategy.

In SM3 tactics are required to complete each level and then discover all the secrets within. A player could go through the level, rush straight into the box to collect a star but they would miss a cloud city filled with coins, a hidden path with a powerful item or grab enough coins to have a special item appear on the map. These extra options and miss-able content would be talked about on the school playground and make the newest issue of Nintendo Power a necessity in any kid’s library. Today, you can just Google it.

The power suits available in SM3 are the gold standards in Mario’s arsenal. The raccoon leaf is the catalyst for all flying capes, hats or aerial devices. A skilled player, or cheap depending on your point of view, can generate the necessary P-meter to allow Mario to fly throughout the entire level, skipping any would-be killers. The Frog suit creates a tradeoff, it is hands down the best way to traverse any water level but it limits Mario’s ability on land. Let’s not forget about the shoe. It only appears in one level and serves almost no purpose but players will still take the time to unseat a goomba and jump around in it. The fan-favorite Tanooki suit was a variant version of the leaf and is one of the few power-ups to make a second appearance.

Making its debut onto home consoles within SM3 was a minigame that played out like Mario Bros (no super). If one of the players challenged the other, they would battle on a 2d screen. The prize, the other player’s cards and the chance to go next in the rotation. Depending on the other person in the room, you might need to take a different path or they would steal your end-level cards. Another fought over card game is the matching sequence. Players activate it by mysterious means (coin count) and would earn power-ups to use in the level.

There is a strategy required on when to use these power-ups. Players earn power ups by defeating the castle, activating Toad’s huts or knocking out the hammer bros. Items are either offensive such as a fire flower or star or ease the pain in traversing the land. A cloud allows players to skip a difficult level or the hammer would open up new paths. There is the added strategy of using an item as soon as you receive it or waiting until later in the game; there were more rocks to bash than hammers available. Even the offensive items would be hoarded. The P wing, which meant an entire level could be flown over, is usually saved for World-8 to skip the firing airship level.

SM3 set the world on fire. It was the first megaton hit that Nintendo released, they even had an hour and half commercial to announce it’s arrival (The Wizard). Through capable platforming controls, unique and varied level design, selectable paths, minigames and a plethora of secrets to uncover, Nintendo made Mario a household name for generations. Do yourself a favor, and suit up with Mario again to relive one of his greatest adventures ever.


Score: 9.5 /10

+ Power-ups Impact Gameplay
+ Secret Areas
+ Varied Level Choices
+ Unique Worlds
+ Multitude of Minigames


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