(NES)

Game Review

Super Mario Bros. 3 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Robert Hughes

Pixel-perfect platforming

Many old-school Nintendo titles are remembered fondly and adored by nostalgic fans; The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kirby’s Adventure and more still receive heaps of praise and see frequent re-releases to this day. Few games, however, received the unanimous commendations lavished upon Super Mario Bros. 3 on its release, an unprecedented success story for Nintendo both critically and commercially.

This praise was not unwarranted.

Super Mario Bros. 3 codifies exactly what the Mario experience is, serving as a template for both future instalments of the series and platform games as a genre. The tight controls, flawless level design, charming presentation and awe-inspiring scope set Super Mario Bros. 3 as the pantheon of platform game design of the time, arguably yet to be eclipsed — in some respects — by modern efforts.

Closer akin to its original precursor Super Mario Bros. than its immediate (Western) predecessor Super Mario Bros. 2 (for obvious reasons that most Nintendo aficionados are already well aware of), Super Mario Bros. 3 once again prioritises run and jump gameplay over carrying and throwing objects, but it’s the refinement and natural expansion of these concepts that make it a perfect example of a sequel done right.

Each stage introduces a concept in a safe environment before requesting that the player perform said function correctly once risk is introduced, a design philosophy Mr. Miyamoto and his teams still utilise today; no small testament to its effectiveness. Whether it’s sliding down hills, taking flight with the raccoon tail or hopping over dangerous plants in an oversized clockwork boot, each stage feels distinct and as such even the most difficult levels are a joy to play. Levels are packed with hidden secrets and opportunities to explore, each stage an alluring invitation to dive deeper into the richly crafted world.

Levels are selected from a larger map, detailing the 8 distinct worlds, and these are also packed with hidden areas and prizes for the most observant and explorative player. Difficulty increases at a fair and steady clip, with very few levels feeling inordinately challenging in comparison with their neighbours. Later worlds may prove a little taxing for younger players, but utilising the 3DS’ save state functions should make the game fairly simple to beat for all challengers. There are a number of hours of fun to be had with this game, and the inexperienced player can expect to spend somewhere around four hours of unbridled joy sampling everything the game has to offer.

Graphically, Super Mario Bros. 3 is detailed, colourful, and fluid. The large, detailed sprites are a far cry from the blocky renditions of the original Mario outing, each unique enemy animating with an impressive level of detail. New gamers may find themselves questioning why there are so few colours on the screen or why Mario & co look fairly flat, but technical limitations aside its presentation is exceptional. The music steals the show here, though, showcasing a slew of catchy and upbeat tunes that Nintendo is still remixing and reusing even in their latest Mario adventures. The insurmountable talents of composer Koji Kondo are on full display here, each track a credit to his ability to both craft memorable tunes and fit them flawlessly to an environment; playing this game with the volume lowered would be a massive disservice to its phenomenal soundtrack, and as such the package as a whole.

Conclusion

There’s very little to be said about Super Mario Bros. 3 that cannot be readily surmised from its legendary reputation. Its an absolute blast to play, from the first calm stage of Grass Land to the final confrontation with Bowser (or King Koopa, as we were calling him then). Players who have already experienced this classic know exactly why this game is worth the asking price and then some, whilst those playing the game for the first time have the enviable opportunity of enjoying it from scratch. There are few games that can be recommended without hesitation to a gamer of practically any tastes, but Super Mario Bros. 3 easily earns that accolade. Purchase without delay.

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User Comments (54)

lbs

#5

lbs said:

@gsmaciel
Strange, glitchy graphic deal on left hand side of the screen.
Was present on Wii also, IIRC :/

LastLife

#6

LastLife said:

Really hoping this comes to NA soon. I can play it in Wii mode on my Wii U, but would love it on my 3DS to play on the go.

DestinyMan

#8

DestinyMan said:

I'll be getting the 3DS version of my favorite Mario game at some point. I don't have a portable version of the original version.

lbs

#9

lbs said:

@gsmaciel
Back on the nes? Hmm... yea, I kinda remember the left border being there, but the glitchy-ness on the right seems worse.... (Sorry, I said the glitches were on the left before.) You're most likely correct tho.

gsmaciel

#10

gsmaciel said:

@lbs I think the glitch is more pronounced now because old CRT TVs used to hide the borders from the image, while the 3DS certainly shows everything that's being output by the emulated system

chiptoon

#12

chiptoon said:

@lbs The thing about this glitch is that old CRT monitors largely cut it off. the Frames of the TVs covered the edge of the monitor, meaning that there were always lost pixels.

Now that its emulated on LCD screens we see all the mess. Nintendo should really look to what M2 did recently with the Sega classics and emulate them instead :)

EDIT: I see @gsmaciel got there first!

gurtifus

#13

gurtifus said:

@lbs : I've played it a few hours recently and haven't noticed that on my 3DS.
Or maybe it's not big enough to disturb me.

shigulicious

#16

shigulicious said:

This game is a GOAT for sure but "when" we get a NA release, I would only purchase the SNES version. The All-Stars package as a whole preferably but you know, beggars can't be choosers blah blah.

WaveBoy

#20

WaveBoy said:

@lbs
I'm pretty sure this is still present on the original cart, could be wrong though. Mega Man 3 has the same issue.

Gioku

#24

Gioku said:

Well s***. I am now officially upset that NA does not have this...! I want to complete my SMB collection on my 3DS, damnit! :(

UnseatingKDawg

#25

UnseatingKDawg said:

I can't wait to download this! Oh right - NOA's a buncha slackers! So maybe I'll get to play this on my shiny gold 3DS XL by summer. If I'm lucky.

GN004Nadleeh

#26

GN004Nadleeh said:

@chiptoon how true! sega made a brand new 'virtual' genesis with modern features. but that weird border thing is also on kirby's adventure

Knux

#27

Knux said:

It's kind of hard to believe that Nintendo still hasn't made a 2D Mario platformer that surpasses SMB3 (SMW and NSMBU comes close though). I'll gladly download this when NOA has enough time to rerelease a game that's nearly twenty-four years old. ;)

Tasuki

#28

Tasuki said:

@Goginho: I doubt it the closest we ever got to getting Super Mario All Star released was a special Wii disc version a few years ago. Maybe they might release a 3DS card of it but who knows.

twadezelda3dsxl

#29

twadezelda3dsxl said:

I am surprised that the review doesn't mention that the game is multiplayer and the game info at the top as you can use download play to do multiplayer or just swap the 3ds between the 2 players and do the "L", "R" & "Y" controller trick.

hcfwesker

#30

hcfwesker said:

@Goginho dont get your hopes up. No way is nintendo going to release an $8 superior game with all 4 nes mario games when they can milk them for $5 a piece with the nes versions.

Goginho

#32

Goginho said:

@hcfwesker :(

@Tasuki Well, as long as they release it again in one form or another. I need some sort of version of it (without resorting to buying older consoles).

twadezelda3dsxl

#33

twadezelda3dsxl said:

@kitroplious It is also for the main story mode it just alternates between each player every time someone dies or completes a level so I could beat world 1-1 then my sister could go on to World 1-2 and die and I could go and do World1-2.

unrandomsam

#34

unrandomsam said:

It isn't pixel perfect it has visual artifacts that although perhaps you get them if you connect a real NES to an HDTV you don't get them at least anywhere near as badly on e.g a Wii connected to a CRT.

StarDust4Ever

#36

StarDust4Ever said:

Are we ever gonna see this in North America? I've got it wishlisted in the eShop but it still says "To be determined"... :|

Obito_Tennyson

#37

Obito_Tennyson said:

Didn't we already get a review of this game just a few weeks ago? Deja vou. Are you guys mocking us with the 3DS VC that you guys have Mario Bros, Castlevania II, and SMB3 we have don't have splat.

Sosa

#39

Sosa said:

Anybody having problems playing Super Mario Bros. on 3DS? The button configuration doesn't work for me. It's uncomfortable to play.

sleepinglion

#40

sleepinglion said:

@lbs That glitch has ALWAYS been there. Not a thing wrong with the emulation. Anything you see glitching in a VC title did the same on the original hardware. The only reason to think it a new problem is if you've grown up playing the games as ROMs on emulators that have corrected issues of the past.

sleepinglion

#41

sleepinglion said:

@Sosa Good call, I find that true of all Super Mario titles on the 3DS VC. They should implement the awesome button configuration setting that Wii U VC titles have so the B and A buttons can be mapped to a more comfy position.

sleepinglion

#42

sleepinglion said:

@shigulicious I prefer the SNES release as well but don't expect to ever see it on VC. You may recall it was lazily thrown onto a Wii disc for Mario's 25th birthday. What a rip. Nintendo tried to offset the high price by adding a CD but they barely put enough content on it to boot. All-Stars is the best way to play SMB3, though. It's just so pretty!

MasterWario

#43

MasterWario said:

@Goginho This is why I don't want to buy SMB3. I can't justify myself buying a game when there's an exact same game but prettier. I'm a visual person after all.

Neko_Chan

#44

Neko_Chan said:

NoA will never release this game. Not this week, nor next week, and not even this month. It's Wario Land 3 all over again. I'm just going to play Super Mario Advance 4 now.

lbs

#45

lbs said:

@sleepinglion
Well, this maybe true also. Being a 70s kid, I grew up with the Sinclair Spectrum... So it's not a "rom" thing for me :) it's most likely the crt thing, like everyone else said. The last time I played it, before Wii VC, was on a nes so....

StarDust4Ever

#46

StarDust4Ever said:

@Kawaii_Neko And we eventually recieved Wario Land 3, didn't we? Never mind it was later than late. They also finally went deep into their archives and gave us Earthbound and Shantea last summer. Can't recall for how many years gamers were whining about Earthbound not being available on Virtual Console. Good things come to those who wait, but I want Super Mario 3 now, dang it! It'll only be a buck for me when it releases on Wii-U virtual console. Save states will benefit me greatly since extra lives are very hard to come by in this game, unlike New Super Mario Bros and 3D World...

While I am on my soap box, it would do Nintendo some good to re-release their back catalog of Genesis/MD, TG-16, and N64 titles on Wii-U.

bronZfonZ

#47

bronZfonZ said:

The "glitch" on the left side of the screen was the result of a feature of the NES' "Picture Processing Unit" that allowed smooth real-time side scrolling for games without the use of programming tricks.

Because the video buffer of the NES allowed for the drawing of the resolution of exactly one screen (resolution 256x240), scrolling the background just one row of pixels would have required the entire background to be redrawn, which obviously would have slowed games down considerably. However, the NES' advanced-at-the-time PPU allowed the smooth scrolling of games in one direction.

Notice how I said one direction; most NES games that scrolled in real time scrolled either horizontally or vertically but never both at the same time. SMB3 was an exception at the time, because that title actually had the background scroll diagonally, like when Mario is flying in World 1-1 with the racoon tail.

The "glitch" you see is a result of the programmers having to resort to some trickery in order to allow both a row and column of pixels to be introduced to the TV screen when scrolling. The graphical glitch is the erasing of background tiles from the PPU's memory buffer to allow for the new tiles to become visible as Mario moves to the right (and down or up).

John Carmack actually discovered this trick when he ported SMB to the PC (back when even the best IBM-compatible PCs were vastly inferior to the NES and Master System). The trick, I believe, is called "Adaptive Tile Refresh".

Goginho

#48

Goginho said:

@bronZfonZ Wow interesting. I never knew that, thanks for posting this info :)
Goes to show how clever the devs actually are, and sadly most don't realize that, and see this as an actual "error" from the developers' side. I, for one, thought it was an error in emulation for the 3DS, since I can only recall playing the All Stars version back in the day, so I never knew about it until now.

sleepinglion

#49

sleepinglion said:

@bronZfonZ Wowzers! I had no idea! Suffice it to say, we love this game =) While All-Stars is my preferred way to play 2 and 3, something about the original sprites is so darned charming. Hoping to see it hit NA VC soon for all those fans who missed it the first time around. And then the SNES comp. And the GBA release.

bizcuthammer

#50

bizcuthammer said:

This is one of the few NES games that has stood the test of time for me, and the only one that i love playing just as much today as i did when i was a kid. Fantastic game, definitely an all time great. Anyone making a top 10 or 25 or 50 games of all time list or whatever shouldnt be taken seriously if this game isnt on their list somewhere.

sleepinglion

#51

sleepinglion said:

@bizcuthammer Agreed. It's hard to believe when Nintendo sat down to decide which retro classics would be getting a 3D Classics upgrade for the 3DS that someone actually said, "Urban Champion! Nope, not SMB3, Not The Legend of Zelda, Urban Champion! And maybe Excitebike."

earthboundlink

#52

earthboundlink said:

@sleepinglion I think they were going with what would be easiest, and games that don't have a lot of value on their own that they could only sell with the 3D idea, with the possible exceptions of Kirby and Kid Icarus. I know that 3D conversion can present some problems for more complex games like Mario 3, where the environments have different layers that you interact with. For example, the pyramid structures you climb on in World 2 might be difficult to translate into 3D, and the ability to run behind the black backgrounds at the end of some levels might be difficult to do in 3D. Not that these issues are insurmountable, but they might have been more trouble than they were worth given the price point.

Legend of Zelda, on the other hand, should definitely be a 3D classic, especially coming on the heels of the amazing Link Between Worlds.

smg3

#54

smg3 said:

When will Super Mario Bros. 3 be available on 3DS Virtual Console?

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