Super Mario Bros. 3, the third entry in the Super Mario Bros. series and Super Mario franchise, sees Mario or Luigi navigate a nonlinear world map containing platforming levels and optional minigames and challenges. The game features more diverse movement options and new items alongside more complex level designs and boss battles.
Reviews View More
If you want to see a prime example of what experience with developing on a specific piece of hardware can have on a final product, just compare everything about this game to the original Super Mario Bros, it's actually insane. More than that, there's just a lot about this game that feels as if it transcends its limitations as a whole and feels genuinely ahead of its time in a variety of ways, along with obviously feeling like quite the leap forward in certain respects from its predecessors. You've got so many improvements to the formula that helped establish the Mario franchise conventions as a whole, an ambitious scope, boasting a whole 90 levels, and an overall polished aesthetic combined with some pretty forward thinking and forgiving mechanics to top it all off to make for an extremely well-rounded game with a lot to love, overall making it feel pretty clear why this is regularly considered one of the peaks of the console as a whole.
To add to that comment about the high level count that this game, it's also remarkable just how much time went into making each stage feel entirely distinct, not only from an aesthetic perspective, but mechanically as well. The virtues of Super Mario Land introducing completely new concepts even moments before the final boss feel turned up to 11 here. Almost every stage has its own unique idea, whether it's something as simple as having a heavily sloped level terrain, to more involved ideas like having to guide moving blocks through a labyrinth of pipes or staying on top of rail platforms in order to avoid falling into the fish infested waters below. Once again, even the final stages offer new challenges, and ones that radically change things up as well. This lends itself to a strong feeling of variety and freshness that never truly leaves at any point, every stage has something new to offer, and while they're not always great ideas, it doesn't even matter too much because you won't have to deal with them for very long until you've made it through. With this said however, SMB3's relentless creativity in certain respects makes the total lack of inspiration in areas feel that much more noticeable, particularly in terms of boss battles. While each world ends with its own unique boss, it feels like all but the final one boil down to a very similar solution, usually dodging a projectile attack and then jumping on its head, moving back a bit, jumping on their heads the moment their invincibility wears off, and then repeating this pattern one more time to defeat them. This essentially means that despite the fact that you're technically fighting different enemies, they all mechanically feel so indistinct from one another that it might as well not matter at all. With that said, it's still nowhere near as egregious as with Boom Boom, the miniboss of every stage, who feels as if he changes in such negligible ways that you're essentially just fighting him over 15 times in the game with the exact same strategy. This lack of variety unfortunately kills some of the drive that the usually exciting stages attempt to establish, as you end up knowing that the culmination of your efforts will often just lead to yet another underwhelming fight that feels no different from any other.
I'd also argue that the game loses a lot of steam in its final 2 worlds, with world 7's labyrinthine design detracting from the strong sense of momentum that feel consistently reinforced throughout the runtime of the game, especially with some of the more cryptic ideas near the end. The fact that the game expects you to find a a hidden switch on top of a bunch of bricks in one of the castle stages here feels particularly ridiculous to me, as adding this sort of obscurity into a game focusing largely around its tight, responsive and creative platforming ends up going entirely against the core loop of everything else. While this would have already been problematic in a slower, more methodical game, the stark juxtaposition this section (along with a few others) has ends up making this solution a more difficult thing to understand, and ultimately undermines so much of the experience when such things become possibilities. The game also relies a bit too heavily on autoscrollers, especially in the final world where the vast majority of the stages are these ones. While I admire world 8 and the atmosphere it conjures, with pieces of scrolling level geometry along with enemies being cleverly constructed to resemble tanks and airships being thrown your way, I feel like there are too many of them and they all take too long to get through for how mundane the levels themselves feel to play beyond this admittedly incredible atmosphere. Having the last quarter of the game fall so flat ultimately contributes to a game that felt amazing to play but very hard to actually finish.
With this said however, there are still some other very positive things I have to say about this game and the way it approaches difficulty and rewards for the most part. Rather than focusing exclusively on rewarding the player with extra lives for all their accomplishments, Super Mario Bros 3 seems to understand how functionally useless these are as a means beyond extending the gameplay time. That's not to say that they removed them from the game or anything, but instead, this also gives you other rewards for some of the more substantial challenges that you'll undertake. The game rewards you by allowing you to store a bunch of powerups for later stages if something feels too difficult to overcome in your weakest form when you enter a stage, a mechanic that feels uncharacteristically forgiving for an NES title, but an incredibly welcome addition nonetheless. Some of these special items even allow you to fly through or outright skip a stage entirely, at the cost of still not being able to walk through it on the world map, essentially making you commit to a path once you've used this. This helps alleviate some of the aforementioned issues with some of these levels being obnoxious to play through, as you can just decide to skip them with little to no consequence and continue on your way, though this ends up falling a bit flat if you die too much and use up all of these additional resources, leaving you in a state where every level more or less becomes mandatory. This idea also made having to replay certain sections upon a game over feel far less tedious, as the option to entirely skip a level if you really hated it and didn't want to play through again was an option, and allows the player to tailor their experience towards gameplay elements that they enjoy, while being able to avoid the more undesirable traits to them.
I've also got to give props to the way Mario controls in this game, as while it's not perfect, feeling a tad heavy and carrying momentum a bit too far for my tastes, he still controls leaps and bounds above the previous games, really being the first time where he feels truly fun and satisfying to control rather than just being serviceable at best. It's also admirable how so many stages in this are full of cleverly hidden secrets that add that much more depth to each stage, knowing that you're likely to find something of interest if you look around enough, even if it sometimes is nothing but a hidden stockpile of coins, it still adds a lot. I can't quite say I outright love this game due to some egregious examples of recycled content in a game that clearly proved that it had ideas to spare in other areas, along with falling flat in its final stretch, but still, I like this a lot more than I did a couple of years ago. This is the game that really began to solidify the Mario identity that would stick for decades, and is really the true point in which the series started rapidly expanding and iterating off an incredibly strong base point as a direct result of this. Whether or not I actually always like playing this game, I also cannot deny that this is an incredible achievement that I believe could further grow on me when I inevitably come back to play through this one yet again.
33 years. It's taken me 33 years to play all the way through this!
Dunno what it is but I've always bounced off it after about the 2nd world but I stuck with it this time all the way to the end like a big boy.
Does Mario feel weird to control in this compared to the other games ?- heavy maybe but probably fitting seeing as he's a chunky boy in this.
The diagonal pinstripe background on some of the levels was especially pleasing to the eyes and I hope to see it again when I next play through this in 2054.....