Review: Super Mario Bros. 3 (3DS eShop / NES)

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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