Super Mario Bros. 3: A Gaming Masterpiece


Image courtesy of Humble Bundle.

Nicholas Paragano, Co-editor, Arts & Entertainment

There are very few games that I have played that I consider to be masterpieces in any sense of the word. There is one game, however, that I have doubts when giving it that title, and that would be 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 3. An absolute gem from start to finish, Super Mario Bros. 3 takes everything that made the first game so great, and expanded on it, while introducing new staples to the series such as a world map, the Koopalings, and the tanooki suit, to name a few. It sold over 17 million copies on the NES, and received widespread acclaim from critics and gamers. Does it still hold up today, and is it worth playing over the newer installments in the franchise? Let’s find out.

World 1’s map. Image courtesy of StrategyWiki.

The story of Super Mario Bros. 3, like most games in the series, is relatively simple. The Koopalings, Bowser’s seven children, have conquered the various kingdoms and transformed their kings into animals using magical wands. Princess Peach sends Mario to stop them, save the kingdoms, and transform the kings back to normal. It isn’t until much later that Bowser actually kidnaps Peach, so this game subverts that trope while having an original story to boot. The story, however, is not what the vast majority of gamers play Mario games for. They come for the gameplay. Everything that the first Super Mario Bros. established for the platforming genre, Super Mario Bros. 3 perfected. With world maps, several new and returning items, an inventory, and more, this game takes things to the next level. Mario must traverse through eight worlds, tackling the various levels, towers, and the airship, where he will fight one of the Koopalings. The levels are a blast to play. They can get challenging, but never to the point where you want to rage-quit. Each world has a different theme, many of which we’ve seen before, like grassland, snow, and desert themed worlds. However, Mario 3 introduces wacky levels concepts, like in World 4,  where all the enemies and elements of the level are huge, and Mario is small. This is probably my favorite world in the game, for the craziness of the concept alone. 

The first level of World 4. Image courtesy of Nintendojo.

Super Mario Bros. 3 was released at a time before a lot of games had the ability to save your progress. To compensate with this, the game has secret collectable items called warp whistles. If you collect two in World 1, you can warp all the way to World 8 and beat the game in mere minutes. I wouldn’t recommend this, however, as enticing as it sounds. There are many benefits to playing the game all the way through, the main one being your item inventory. As you progress through the game, you come across bonus rooms where you can get items for your journey. Having a good selection of items in your inventory is crucial for making your way through the later worlds. The P-Wing, for example, allows Mario to fly over an entire level. The cloud power up allows you to skip a level that’s troubling you, but you can’t die in the next level, or you’ll have to beat the one you were stuck on. You’ll likely collect a plethora of invincibility stars, which are helpful for when there are a lot of enemies on the screen. The variety of power ups in Super Mario Bros. 3 is among the best of the series. 

The many power-ups of the game. Image courtesy of iPIXEL on YouTube.

Super Mario Bros. 3 is, in my opinion, the best game on the NES. The complexity (for its time, of course), variety, and stellar gameplay leaves the competition in the dust. Although I feel like I change my mind all the time, at the moment, Super Mario Bros. 3 is my favorite game in the series and is a strong contender for the best game of all-time.  If there’s one Super Mario game you have to play: it’s this one. If reading this review has made you interested in playing this game, there are many ways to do so. Of course, you could play it on the NES, but that can be very expensive and not so practical these days (if you don’t already own one). The easiest way to play Super Mario Bros. 3 at the moment is on the Nintendo Switch with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. With it, you get access to the NES and SNES apps, allowing you to play many of the classics on both consoles. You can play the original version on the NES app, and you can play the remake on the SNES app in the Super Mario All Stars game. While I personally prefer the NES version,  the SNES version has improved graphics, sound, and has the ability to save. If you don’t already have a Nintendo Switch Online membership, you can get a 7-day free trial from the eShop. Super Mario Bros. 3 is also available to download via the Virtual Console service on the 3DS and Wii U. 

The NES and SNES versions of the game compared. Image courtesy of ElAnalistaDeBits on YouTube.

At the end of the day, Super Mario Bros. 3 is a must-play game well worthy of being deemed a masterpiece by its many fans.  Out of a scale from one to ten, I’d rate this game a solid 9.5/10.