Super Mario Bros. 3 Retrospective

Super Mario Bros. 3 Retrospective

Ask 10 people what their favourite Mario game is and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Each person both wrong and right at the same time. There are some people who don’t like any Mario games though, and these people (I mean you Josh) are just wrong. A favourite Mario is a personal thing, a game that will be timeless to the player and will bring forth plenty of memories. It’s also something that people will champion and defend to the death. My favourite has, and always will be Super Mario Bros. 3, on the NES.

Super Mario Bros. 1 and 2 were both great. 1 was the little plumber’s first true platform game and whilst 2 was great it wasn’t even a Mario game to begin with and ended up feeling a bit like a spin off.  3, to me at least, perfects the formula and just can’t be beaten. Not by world, 64, sunshine, galaxy or the new sex in the city Mario.  Right now I know many of you are cursing me and calling me an idiot.  You love those other games and can’t believe I’m not championing your favourite Mario. I won’t argue, as I said, everyone has their favourite Mario game and yes they are great.

Whatever happens and wherever Nintendo take Mario in the future I can confidently say that 3 will always be my most loved choice of the series. There are many reasons for this. A major part could well be the fact my younger self was desperate to own this game. I was a complete SEGA kid right from the Master System days and had only played the NES at my friend’s houses. I managed to play the first 2 and thoroughly enjoyed them and I can still remember the hype that surrounded number 3. It was probably the first time I had ever experienced such hype for a video game. There was no escape, it was everywhere I turned. People were playing it on TV shows, magazines, talking about it in playgrounds and just generally waving it in my face. I wanted it. I needed it.

So what did I do, hop on my little bike, get a paper round and earn the money to buy it for myself? Well, no. This isn’t that kind of story. I made my friend buy it and I became a new feature at his house as we battled as Mario and Luigi on a daily basis. They were brothers on the screen and we may as well have been off it, the amount of time I spent there. The day we finally beat the games 8 worlds was great, even if it was a little bitter sweet. The game was over, would we ever play it again, we thought. Of course we would and I still find myself replaying it now.

Playing in 2017 for what seems like the millionth time is still great, it has been a few years since the last time and I found myself pretty excited to have another run through, even if it’s a shame I am playing it alone this time around. The most pleasing thing being that my copy of the game and NES are still in working order.  Before starting there’s another trip down memory lane required. I finally bought my copy of Mario 3 in the mid 90’s, around 96ish I believe, from an independent game shop where I lived. I bought the entire NES trilogy all boxed for £1 apiece. One whole English pound. Oh how the pre owned market has changed. Anyway, I’m rambling.

Beginning to play the game and like most games from my childhood I still find myself loving the music. Half the time I can’t tell if the music is genuinely great or if it’s just great to me due to memories. I have no problems here though as music in Mario games is consistently excellent. Not only the sound holds up, the looks do too, which isn’t too much of a surprise as 2D games will mostly always hold up fairly well and everything here puts a smile on my face.

So far, so good. Two of the 3 senses needed are very well catered for. Sight and sound, check, but how does it feel? In a word. Great.

As the first true Mario sequel things start off just as is to be expected as you run, jump and smash your way through platforming perfection. The levels themselves are divided into 8 worlds, each one having a different theme, from the expected, like the desert and ice worlds to the surprising and delightful Giant world. Each one is presented as a world map for Mario and Luigi to be moved around almost as you would move a piece on a board game. Landing your character on a level allows you to play it; completing said level will change that square to either an M or L depending on who completes it. A nice touch when playing 2 player is the original Mario game is playable if you move to the last square completed by your partner, enabling you to take frustrations out on each other.

Playing in 2 player definitely helps but is not the only help you get. Some squares on the map have various bonus stages that will give you the chance to get extra lives or power ups that you can store up for use later on. Speaking of power ups there are quite a few to grab. The usual candidates of mushrooms and fire flowers are present along with a frog suit that helps you swim or a tanooki costume that lets you float down using a tail or even fly for a short while if you run fast enough. There are others but my favourite is the leaf. Like the tanooki suit it lets Mario float down and fly, you can’t turn to stone like you can in the tanooki, but Mario looks brilliant in his usual gear with just a tail and little ears poking out. Plus it’s on the box art so must be good right?

The levels themselves have plenty of variety as you would expect from any Mario game, each world itself has end world bosses and midway castles that are fiendish little trap filled levels you must traverse in order to take on one of the Bowser children. Occasionally other enemies like the hammer bros will pop up on the map offering a mini boss fight and the chance of some goodies.

One thing I still love is the secrets that can be found in any Mario game. Some are still easy to find and some I never would have found without blind luck or being told, especially the one that requires standing in a certain point of a level to fall behind the scenery. It’s things like this though that really warrants repeat play.

I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t objectively look at games and point out their flaws as well. There are issues in Super Mario Bros. 3 and to make matters easier I’ll compile these issues in list form:

  1. It finishes.

Problems aside though, one thing that did give me trouble this time around was the difficulty. This isn’t listed above as it isn’t an issue with the game, it is a triumph. The early worlds, as expected, start off pretty easy only for the game to become incredibly punishing later on. A difficulty curve such as this really is a master stroke by Nintendo as even people who aren’t great at games can enjoy the early levels, leaving the end stages for people who want a challenge. That being said world 8 still gives me nightmares with how hard it is and don’t forget, these are the days before games would hand hold and save after every level. Although, there are hidden warp whistles that will allow access to later worlds.

Calling this a retrospective was a bit of a lie. Memories of a madman, in love with a game, would be a more apt title. In my defence I wouldn’t think there is a need to intricately discuss every aspect of this game as most gamers would have played it or at the very least know about it. For those of you that have no idea about it at all then first of all, shame on you. Secondly go play it, I don’t care if that’s the NES version, the Game Boy Advance version or on the virtual console. Just go play it, experience it and see for yourself why my will states I must be buried with my copy.

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