Back in 1990 when this was released in the USA, Mario fever was at an all time high. A few months earlier, there had even been a movie released called ‘The Wizard’ with that kid from the Wonder Years, which was essentially a commercial for this game.
If you never played Super Mario Bros. 3 when it was first released, this will all be new to you (you lucky, lucky person!). What you’ll find is a particularly engrossing game, packed with power-ups, a few mini-games, and some truly devious levels; the variety is impressive. Levels move left, right, up, and down – and on occasion you’ll go behind the scenery to discover hidden secrets. Some levels are straightforward affairs – avoid the koopas, collect some coins, etc. – but others are so complex you can’t fully explore them unless you have the right power-up for the level.
Mario can be equipped with a variety of power-ups. The standard growth mushroom and fire flower are present but you also have access to a raccoon suit, a frog suit and maybe the coolest one, a hammer brothers suit, which allows you to fling hammers and cover yourself in a hard shell. You can also commandeer a big wind-up boot to leap around in. The raccoon suit has a neat feature that can only be exploited if you can build up some speed - acquire take-off speed and you can take to the air in a burst of flight to reach new areas.
For the most part, levels are approached in a linear fashion although you do have some leeway in choosing which stages of each level you want to tackle thanks to the overhead map. Not every stage has to be completed to progress, but sometimes it’s the only way to get the coolest stuff.
Scattered around each overhead map are mushroom houses that contain power-ups that can be stored until you need them. There are also hammer brothers to take out, extra lives bonus games, and a memory game that pops up on occasion.
The usual Mario environments are present and accounted for: ice, fire, water, desert and dungeon. SMB3 also throws a few tricky obstacles in your way in the form of floating battleships, which can have you tearing out your hair if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Some of the castles can be mind-boggling too, as it takes a lot of trial and error to work out what to do.
SMB3 cannot come any more highly recommended; it is widely regarded, by many, as the best game on the NES. Some would even say it rivals the magnificent Super Mario World on the SNES, though the jury is out on that one. You owe it to yourself to try both out and decide for yourself. You won’t be sorry!