Let’s cut to the chase. If you had an NES as a kid, you would surely agree that Super Mario Bros. 3 was the greatest platformer the console ever had. And if you don’t, let’s be honest: you are insane and your beloved NES deserved a better owner. (Harsh but true.) But what exactly made Super Mario Bros. 3 one of Nintendo’s finest moments? There are far too many reasons to count, but in this Nintendo Nostalgic, we’ll do our best to Warp Whistle through the best of ‘em.
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As Nintendo’s big release of 1990, Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t really have a choice but to deliver a hit that looked as great as it played. But it didn’t just achieve that -- it revamped everything we took for granted about the series.
With its cartoonier, colorful sprites and levels, it set the bar for 8-bit aesthetic when it released Stateside. But what we didn’t know was that it had been out in Japan since ‘88, a mere three years after Super Mario Bros. came out. How both these games could exist on the same system -- and with such little time between their releases -- continues to blow our minds to this day. Photo: MobyGames
With the Super Mushroom and the Invincibility Star, the first Super Mario Bros. had power-ups that became revered symbols in gaming’s folklore. Then Super Mario Bros. 3 came along and expanded on it, with even crazier items to help kick Bowser’s ass.
The Frog and Tanooki Suits, and the hilarious Goomba Shoe, were just some of the ridiculous items to power up with. But there was one that transformed you into something even more awesome than all of those… Photo: MobyGames
The moment you got your hands on the Super Leaf on Super Mario Bros. 3’s first level was a moment of true gaming magic. Hitting top speed while running and taking off to the skies for the first time as Raccoon Mario was mind-blowing. And it wasn’t for shits and giggles, either. Some of the levels insisted you had to take flight if you truly wanted every single coin -- and secret -- the Mushroom Kingdom had to offer. Photo: MobyGames
When old-school gamers talk about fantastic level design, Super Mario Bros. 3 is often mentioned as one game that had it in abundance. They’re not kidding either; Nintendo knew it was their last big Mario game for NES, and threw everything plus the kitchen sink at it.
Everything is ramped up. The same ol’ Goomba-stomping, block-bashing fun is there. But this time it’s with longer, deadlier castle levels and worlds full of so many ideas -- things like the huge Koopas in Giant Land, and the plumber’s nightmare that was Pipe Land.
And we haven’t even mentioned those damn airship levels -- those Bullet Bill hells that were both amazing and nerve-wracking in equal measure. They easily had the best music in the entire game, too. Freaking epic. Photo: MobyGames
Finally, no tribute to Super Mario Bros. 3 would be complete without giving kudos to the hordes of bad guys Mario had to get past to rescue Princess Toadstool. And there were tons of them.
Returning were those damned Hammer Bros. and the wand-wielding Koopalings that lay at the end of every airship level. The game was as much of a bastard to beat as it was fun to play.
Many of Mario’s current-day enemies made their debuts here, but thankfully that giant fish from World 3-3 hasn’t been seen much since. Good thing, too; so many lives were lost to that monstrous, fin-flapping asshole. Photo: MobyGames