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Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) artwork

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) review


"There are big fish to fry in the waters of world three and even bigger brothers walk the landscape of four. In five, a spiral palace ominously leads high up into the clouds, but you won’t want to rush to get there; you’re a shoe in anyway. Six is where obstacles get downright frigid, but a sharp mind and some nifty tricks will keep Mario hammering away. It’ll take more than a pipe dream to sink the brain twisting, precision demanding puzzles of world seven. And as for eight, the final stomping grounds and home of the nefarious King of the Koopas, this author is going to have to leave you in the dark."



Like traditional American folk stories, the hero starts out small in the grasslands. Appreciate the quaintness; the world will never seem this small again. Wistfully jump high in the skies upon floating blocks magically sailing from right to left; slide down an icy slope taking out four hard-headed beetles along the way; take a running start and flutter your raccoon tail high up into the clouds to reveal a one-up surprise. Roam free. Explore. Reveal a p-block and hop upon it, turning a nearby pile of brick to gold coin. In the next level, discover its alternate use, where hovering coins shortly become platforms that climb to an underground-leading pipe.

Delve further. Duck upon a strange white platform and keep covered even after it seems like nothing will happen; something will! Wait patiently as steel spikes descend from the ceiling; as they make their return trip, sprint over two chasms and to a wooden door. Kick a seemingly innocent turtle into just the right mishmash of stone in just the right manner and watch as he designedly demolishes – it was meant to be. Hop down and discover the various goodies for yourself. Bounce upon music blocks. Flatten goombas in succession. Discover the tricks that reveal the N-card, the money ship, the white mushroom house. Jump upon the head of a raging, arm flailing fortress boss three times to crumble his castle.

Imagine, seeing it all again, for the first time. It would be glorious.

The beauty of Super Mario Bros. 3 is in the segues; everything is streamlined, perfectly leading into the next phase of the adventure. It’s planning that shows true attention to detail: before having to make a treacherous leap upon two midair music blocks in 1-6, you’ll see them first in the safer settings of 1-2 and 1-3. Note how the two uses of the p-block – coins to brick and vice versa – are demonstrated in the first two levels. Look at the pacing with which enemies are introduced; before having to outman a slew in the desert, you’ll have a chance encounter with some boomerang brothers in 1-3. Before you swim for survival in world 3, you’ll backstroke in small oases in the deserts of world 2. It markedly flaunts its ingenuities, then hides them away for later. It shows you just enough, and inspires you to search for more.

A tornado whips through the desert sands; you’ll have to pounce at just the right time to not get caught in its whirlwind. Once past, the glare of an angry sun still threatens. Chain-chomps erratically spasm to break free, requiring the hero leap high and dance with lady luck. Alternate paths are introduced: after beginning stage 2-4, take a casual glance at the upper left and see if anything catches your eye. Holes in the wall slowly become labyrinths; if the pyramid seems tricky, just wait for what later levels hold. Spit fire. Fight fire. And if you figure out where to use that new hammer item, fight fire with fire!

And when all within a world has been laid to rest, storm the airship. Dodge the bullets, the cannon balls, the wrench throwers in the woodworking. Negotiate treacherous passes with suave creativity and sophisticated flair. Bound upon the head of one of Bowser’s children a storybook three times to return peace and prosperity to a particular land, falling from the heavens with wand in hand.

There are big fish to fry in the waters of world three and even bigger brothers walk the landscape of four. In five, a spiral palace ominously leads high up into the clouds, but you won’t want to rush to get there; you’re a shoe in anyway. Six is where obstacles get downright frigid, but a sharp mind and some nifty tricks will keep Mario hammering away. It’ll take more than a pipe dream to sink the brain twisting, precision demanding puzzles of world seven. And as for eight, the final stomping grounds and home of the nefarious King of the Koopas, this author is going to have to leave you in the dark.

Still to this day I keep on learning – over fifteen years' worth of secrets have been tucked away. Still to this day I keep on trying – there’s undoubted beauty in watching the refined play. Super Mario Bros. 3 is the back of my hand; the hours spent here since my childhood easily eclipse four digits. But in my most honest moment, I would admit, if I could go back and do it all over again, well, I know I wouldn’t.

I’d stay forever young.

Rating: 10/10

drella's avatar
Staff review by Jackie Curtis (June 02, 2008)

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Felix_Arabia posted June 02, 2008:

I liked this review. It makes me want to write my own rendition and play more SMB3.
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honestgamer posted June 04, 2008:

This was a fantastic review, drella, and my favorite paragraph was this one:

Imagine, seeing it all again, for the first time. It would be glorious,

I think that nicely captured everything. Super Mario Bros. 3 is that utterly fantastic game where the experience is out of this world. I've often played games and wished that they could be as much fun as that first experience I had with Super Mario Bros. 3 when I played it for the first time.
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overdrive posted June 04, 2008:

Damn! That was one hell of a review! Great use of wordplay, especially at the end where you were able to cleverly give little tidbits about many of the worlds. And I loved the angle you took, where you focused on the subtle build of the gameplay.
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drella posted June 05, 2008:

Thanks for the kind words, folks.
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Masters posted June 10, 2008:

That's a pretty sweet review, Leroux. What's up with that one hanging sentence though?
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drella posted June 11, 2008:

Bad eyesight. Thought the comma was a period.

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