Game Review

Super Mario Bros. 3 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

A truly super Mario game

Super Mario Bros. 3’s recent arrival on the Wii U eShop seemed like a conspicuously low-key affair compared to the considerable hype that surrounded its hugely anticipated original release back the early nineties. However, that doesn't mean that the lack of booming fanfare should be interpreted as a cause for concern; over twenty years later this title still serves up one of the greatest 2D platforming experiences to be had.

Super Mario Bros. 3’s impressive legacy cannot be understated; this is the game that set up many of the conventions we've come to love and expect from a Super Mario game. Elements such as the world map may seem trivial by today’s highly technical standards, but it’s all too easy to forget just what a difference this has made to the ever-evolving experience. Nevertheless, to think that Super Mario Bros. 3’s lasting appeal is due to the fact that it permeates pretty much every Super Mario game that followed it would be nothing short of preposterous. The reason why this game is still so fun to play today is simple: it’s an incredibly well-made piece of software.

Putting the understandably dated visuals aside, Super Mario Bros. 3 is intricately designed to the point of near perfection. Every single enemy, platform and chasm is expertly placed and goes hand in hand with a remarkably tight control setup to create a variety of challenging and entertaining environments for you to navigate. This is further complemented by the inclusion of a staggering amount of power-ups, most notably the Super Leaf which allows Mario to transform into Raccoon Mario and temporarily fly. The benefit here, of course, is that doing so allows you to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, making exploration in Super Mario Bros. 3 far more prominent and entertaining than it was in its predecessors. Themed worlds — now a staple of the series — provide a great deal of variety in terms of level design, and are in many ways representative of the game’s well-nuanced difficulty curve. In other words: the more fire and lava there is, the more likely it is that you will die.

The overall difficulty is what makes Super Mario Bros. 3 such an enticing and addictive game. Initially, you’re eased into the experience and given the space to familiarise yourself with the game’s mechanics. However, by the time you reach the eighth world you’re faced with an endgame of brutal proportions, and one which bestows on you a great deal of pride and satisfaction should you manage to conquer it. Auto-scrolling levels — such as the notorious Airship stages at the end of each world — remove the luxury of taking your time, not to mention that the moving camera can also prove deliberately disorienting at times. Precise jumping and timing is the key to success in many stages, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if you don’t manage to beat every level on your first try. In fact, it might take a lot longer than you think.

While at times it may feel like you’re headed towards your inevitable doom, it is nevertheless a fair game, and one which provides you with plenty of chances to accrue extra lives and handy power-ups. Bonus stages crop up throughout offering these highly sought-after goodies, although in most cases you’ll need to depend on skill — or a lot of luck — if you want to get them. The fact that the game doesn’t just give you bonuses on a plate (as has increasingly become the case in modern Super Mario titles) results in an undoubtedly rewarding experience. Moreover, the ability to create restore points on the Wii U means that it’s actually possible for you to circumvent an untimely demise should you wish. This feature alone will instantly make Super Mario Bros. 3 far more appealing to you if you’re more accustomed to the safety nets typically employed by modern games.

Unsurprisingly, this looks dated from a technical point of view, although the charming art style and vibrant colour palette do make it one of the better NES games to look at — like a number of Virtual Console releases, it also looks rather attractive on the GamePad screen. Not only that, but the infectious melodies that accompany each of the game’s levels are seemingly composed with the purpose of getting you to hum along; in this regard, it’s a Super Mario game through and through. If there’s one issue that brings down the experience a little bit, it’s a weird visual glitch — also present in the original version — that occurs when the screen is moving. It’s very minor, but the sides of the screen flicker a bit when this is happening, and if you’re not used to it then it might prove distracting.

With its numerous worlds, challenging sense of progression, and a handy two-player mode should you wish for a friend to help you out, Super Mario Bros. 3 provides a lot of bang for your buck, especially when compared alongside many first-generation NES titles being offered for the same price on the eShop.


Despite its advanced age, Super Mario Bros. 3 still serves as a prime example of the sort of high-quality game design that Nintendo can achieve. Flawless level design, precise controls and a challenging, yet rewarding gameplay experience all combine to create what remains a timeless 2D platforming classic. Sure, it isn't as easy on the eye as it used to be, but as can be said for virtually any Super Mario game, the visuals really don’t matter; this is pure, unadulterated fun in which the gameplay has in no way suffered as a result of its other mechanics. If you’re eager to take a trip down memory lane — or even experience a retro Super Mario title for the first time — there really is no reason why you shouldn't opt for Super Mario Bros. 3 on Wii U. After all, it's a rock-hard experience at times, and you're quite possibly going to need that save state system.

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User Comments (73)



Nintenjoe64 said:

I think my Wii U NES collection is complete now. Unless they figure out a way to do Duck Hunt.



unrandomsam said:

As much as I like Super Mario Bros 3 until playing the 3DS version recently I didn't realise that either the emulation is broken or there is completely unacceptable artifacts that you get nearly all the time at full speed.

(And it could be better - All Stars Version proves that - so it should have 9/10).

Or it could have been fixed like Kirby's Adventure (3D Classic).

Or have the option to turn off the visual artifacts like M2 might have done.



Melkaticox said:

I never really liked this game all that much, but I certainly like it more than Super Mario World.
I can't stand the NES version, though. All-Stars version is where it's at.



Bass_X0 said:

@unrandomsam How is the emulation broken? And what unacceptable artifacts? That flickering you get on the side of the screen was present in the original NES cartridge game if you are referring to that.



Goginho said:

@unrandomsam I agree. There is a bar on the side that seems like an emulation mistake or something. It generally doesn't do any damage to the overall experience, yet it is a bit distracting and shouldn't be there at all.

@Nintenjoe64 Yea definitely. Now they need to start adding SNES title to the 3DS, so we can expand on our classics collections, as well as GBA VC.
I hope they consider putting the All-Stars version on the 3DS sometime in the future. That would definitely make it possible for us to complete our collection and have it on the go, all on one device.



SquirrelNuts said:


The original game had the side bar. It's not an emulation mistake, just true to the original. Some of you seem to be missing the point. This game is a 10/10 gem in spite of it's faults. I can see not appreciating this game if you didn't grow up with it. You whipper snappers have been ruined by graphics being the benchmark of a quality game.



grumblegrumble said:

Great game, wonderful review. Spent a good year of my childhood playing it on the console. So when's it coming to the e-shop in my neck o' the woods?



bouncer0304 said:

If this had been awarded less, i would have been shocked As for the screen flicker, yes it is slightly distracting but was there in the original. At least this time around i won't have to get angry if the game freezes or blow on the cartridge- now that makes me feel old
As much as i enjoyed the allstars version on the wii, i love the NES version too much and am glad i can finally play it again as it was originally intended. The only thing i wish they'd done was allow a full screen on the 3ds version- i'm aware there was a border in the original but it seems a little too small on the xl. Then again if that's the only thing i can complain about it just goes to show what a great game it is, 20 years later (how many of our current games will be remembered 20 years from now?) The first game i ever fell in love with and the one which began my video gaming journey- i owe so much to you. Infact, i think i'll go and play it now....



XFsWorld said:

I use to enjoy playing this on my grandma's SNES. If this was a "3D Classic" I would get it.



WiiLovePeace said:

I bought it on a whim because it was on discount, very awesome game. Took me a while to get used to the controls but I got there eventually. I have a copy on my Super Mario All-stars game for Wii & I wasn't gonna get this copy because it's not the SNES upgrade graphically but I thought why not? & I bought it on a discount, very glad I did. Got used to the graphics quickly too. Great game, I knew it was going to get 10/10 well deserved.



Mauhiho said:

I got this a few days ago. Loved the game back then and still love the game today! World 6 (Ice) has a VERY annoying level though.. The one where you absolutely NEED the Tanooki Suit to actually finish the level. I believe it was stage 5.



XCWarrior said:

Still one of my all-time favorites. I usualy loathe buying games a 2nd time (I own the NES version and that's it), but I may make an exception for this masterpiece.



ikki5 said:


yep and I have been told that we are not getting it today either.... we are getting Gradius instead... I hope it is not true as it will be another week of nothing if it is.


and well... January 9th is the date on the Nintendo page.... damn it Nintendo.



blackknight77 said:

I'm ashamed to admit I never beat World 8. Maybe I need to play this again with some save states to help out



NintyMan said:

This is my favorite Mario game. Even though I have four versions of it (All-Stars, GBA, Wii VC, and Mario's 20th Anniversary) I'll get it again for 3DS at some point. SMB3 has awesome platforming gameplay, good difficulty curve, catchy music, and lots of interesting enemies and power-ups.



Pj1 said:

@unrandomsam You're right the All stars version is much better!
I'm holding out for them to release SMAS for the Wii-U VC service they might do....



Goginho said:

@Spoony lol was that really always there? My friend and I constantly played this game back in the day on his SNES (European), but I don't seem to recall the bar on the side. I checked a video of, what is said to be, original gameplay on youtube, and the bar wasn't there. It doesn't bother me really, I was just curious and thought it was some faulty emulation, but since it always was like that on the original, then I guess 10/10 for this 3DS port, considering I can't really find any other faults, plus the fact that the game takes me back to innocent, simple times :,)



Kirk said:

I think this game is an undeniable classic that's as good to play today as it's ever been but there's some annoying visual bugs in the original NES version, you can see it at the edge of the screen when the game is scrolling, and a lack of colors overall at times that does make it look a bit dated and detract from the quality of the overall experience every so slightly in modern times.

The version in Super Mario All-Stars however is pretty much perfect because the visuals just reach that level where they are basically timeless for the most part and everything else about the game is spot on and near perfection as per usual and as it always has been.

Also, that box art is so much cooler, impacting and iconic than the recent Mario games.




unrandomsam said:

@Bass_X0 If that is accurate then just more fuel for how much of a junk console the NES was. (That sort of thing is the one thing that has never been acceptable to me and never will be another is slowdown). The All Stars version (I got a Super Famicom cart of it pretty recently) doesn't play any different in any way I have noticed. (Unlike the first and lost levels which I play the NES versions of).



Kirk said:


What's annoying is that there is a version of the game you can play online that runs perfectly and doesn't have most of those artifacts. Or it seems to do a better job of not making them so obvious at least. The colors also look much better than they tend to look on the VC too, or at least how they did on the Wii VC for sure.


It amazes me, well more like it disappoints and frustrates me, that some guys in their room can clearly do a better job of offering these NES games to play in modern times than Nintendo is doing with it's own Virtual Console games.

At the very least Nintendo should be able to do as good as those bedroom coders with it's own first party games on the VC.

Note: I hope the link is allowed because it's not illegal emulation as such and as far as I'm aware the site it totally legit in how it lets you play these old NES games within the confines of the law (which you can read about further on their actual site). If the link isn't allowed I'd hope the MOD can at least leave the mention of the site, which is called VirtualNES.com, and simply remove the direct link to the game.



SquirrelNuts said:

@Goginho Oh yeah, that was there. Depending on the TV you had, it was either really noticeable, or barely noticeable. On a flat screen TV it stands out. I think the convex glass screens of tube TV's made a difference. I never really cared about it until I fired up my original NES on a flat screen TV a few years back and was all "WTF?!". I kind of like it now. It reminds me that when I was a kid we had all of these amazing experiences with games in spite of graphical flaws. Sometimes it was part of the fun to find those flaws/exploits. I have never really been one for harshing on a game because of a glitch though. When SMB3 came out it was crazy. On the playground we were poring over our copies of Nintendo Power just in awe of how amazing it looked. When The Wizard came out we all rushed to see it, and the game footage at the end had us all creaming our jeans. Just think of whatever graphically amazing game in the past two years that has blown your mind, and equate that to SMB3 for its day.

It's a perfect game because it has perfect game-play. The balance of levels, the curve in difficulty, all the new mechanics were all just so amazing. I have played the Advance version and still prefer the original.



Mrclaycoat said:

@unrandomsam I had the same problem with the Mega Man games for the 3DS, it was crazy distracting and depressing to pay money for a sub-par port.



Tsurii said:

@Nintenjoe64 well we've got the Wii Remote, right? There has to be a way to implement it as NES gun-thingy (I don't know the official name :/ )

I've got it three times here on SNES cartridges (along with every other Mario game up until World as part of a collection) and I actually do not think, that it's too difficult, but that's maybe just me



Bass_X0 said:

@audiobrainiac Not anytime soon. Kawaii_Neko e-mailed Nintendo and recieved this reply.

Thank you for your email. I'm glad you wrote in with your questions. I see you wrote about the release of Super Mario Bros. 3 for Wii U recently. I wanted to let you know, this title still hasn't been given a release date yet. When it has, our website's Game Guide (http://www.nintendo.com/games/guide) will be the best place to find it. Remember, any posted release dates are estimates and subject to change.

I also wanted to let you know, at this time, we have not announced Super Mario Bros. 3 on Nintendo 3DS. More importantly, we do not have any information that tells us this game will or won't be announced on Nintendo 3DS, but I will pass along your comments to the departments which make those decisions.



QBertFarnsworth said:

@Spoony You're right about the side bar. They used a few cheats to get the game to work on the NES without slowing down and minimizing the flicker of too many things on the screen at one time. One cheat was the more invasive scoreboard on the bottom, and the other was the flickering bar on the side. The flickering bar was mostly covered by the TV screens at the time which had a rounded edge and often cut off corners. It became easier to see once we had flat screen, TVs with 90 degree angles in the corners.



allav866 said:

Ah! A review of the European release of Super Mario Bros. 3! Just the right salt I needed to rub in my American wound!



QBertFarnsworth said:

Overall, this is still the gold standard Mario game. When I play a new Mario game, I'm always asking if it makes me feel like Super Mario 3 did. Super Mario Galaxy did. I think 3D World is getting there. The New Super Mario Bros series, not so much.



Doma said:

I can't believe how desperate some people get over games more than 20 yrs old.



UnseatingKDawg said:

Well, glad you guys across the ocean get to enjoy this gem.

Maybe someday when NOA gets off their lazy behinds, we can too.



unrandomsam said:

@Doma First time there has been a 60hz version available for a none handheld console ever in the PAL region.

(GBA version has reduced resolution. All version of All Stars have been 50hz but a bit optimised. Don't think the NES one was optimised at all. Not that it matters in this instance)



Ralizah said:

Easily the greatest platformer on the NES, and among the 3 greatest Mario games of all time. Come to 3DS!



sdelfin said:

@Spoony I have heard that TVs were quite variable back then when it came to the overscan you and others have described. That's why a lot of people, myself included, don't recall any flickering on the side. I played the NES Super Mario 3 on my friend's Wii and I don't recall noticing it, but then I was engrossed in a great game. When I hook one of my Genesis systems up to an LCD, there is a border around the picture that will take on one of the background colors. Obviously, it was expected that most TVs wouldn't display those areas. I certainly didn't see any of that 20 years ago. The visible overscan area doesn't bother me at all.



Obito_Sigma said:

Yeah, I expected a 10/10 from a Virtual Console that has been revealed longer than LoZ Wind Waker without being released. The only difference that NA doesn't even know when the game will even be released. Japan got this game OVER a year ago... but NA doesn't care, they're too busy with those movie-based games that all the children play.



Gridatttack said:

Best mario game ever. NES version is infinitely superior than the lame SNES version.
Cant wait to give it another go



unrandomsam said:

@Gridatttack How can something with very obvious glaring visual problems that have been fixed in a second version ever be considered worse ? (NES - Super Mario Bros / Super Mario Bros 2 are better because the SNES changes the physics but that isn't the case for Super Mario Bros 3).



flyguy6060 said:

@Melkaticox - You must be really young. When this game came out, it was the ONLY game that everyone had to play. The movie "The Wizard", came out before the game was released which caused much hype. SMB3 was the pinnacle of gaming in it's time. Graphics were amazing at the time, and no game could match it.



Gridatttack said:

@unrandomsam very 'obvious' glaring visuals? What? I would agree on the flickering bottom bar, and to be honest the 16 bit graphics are great.

Mostly im hating on some of the aesthetically changes the SNES version got (underground music in a cheerfully bonus room ) and some removed details like unique palettes for some levels (best example, world 8-1. It had this cool dark palette. What did the SNES one did? Lets use the normal palette so it looks like a typical level) It just doesn't have the same charm as the NES one did.
The GBA version is way better than the SNES one though.



Jstar269 said:

I have played Super Mario Bros. 3 on my Wii for over 2 years now. It is in my opinion the best NES game I have ever played. It offers so much in just one NES game. It makes some SNES games look bad.

Anyone know when this will release in US for Wii U and 3DS? Would LOVE to play this on the go.



AdanVC said:

This game is like the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album was for The Beatles. A truly majestic and perfectly crafted videogame without a doubt... But I just hope we can see it on the NA eShop soon tough



unrandomsam said:

@QBertFarnsworth Interestingly even then Nintendo was making compromises when it comes to quality. (Think they could have used a MMC5 and got rid of all the problems). It was extremely expensive to buy so don't think it is unreasonable.



Shugo said:

@unrandomsam Did you really just call the NES a 'junk console' because of how SMB3 looks compared to its SNES remake? Of course the SNES version looks better; the SNES is a more powerful, less limited console. This is basic logic.

But saying that the NES itself is junk just because some of its games have upgraded remakes on more powerful consoles is extremely short-sighted and suggests that you're a very young person who's too used to the modern state of games to ever go back to the earlier consoles and appreciate them for what they were. You will never understand what made the NES and its games amazing if all you do is compare them to modern versions.

At the time SMB3 was made, Nintendo had to take shortcuts to get a game that huge and amazing working on the aging NES/Famicom. The end product is actually a testament to both Nintendo's own developer wizardry and the NES's power. The fact that, despite artifacts like the discolored sidebars (which, as has been said, were intended to be mostly unseen due to overscan), the gameplay holds up even today as one of the greatest games of all time should stand as a testament to what the NES could achieve.

And, as has also already been said, not everybody prefers the All-Stars version. I personally prefer the NES version; the original music is amazing, and makes beautiful use of the NES's sound capabilities. The renditions in the SNES version sounded much more generic, and the GBA versions even worse (due to the very limited sound capabilities that the GBA was cursed with). I'm glad Nintendo hasn't forgotten about the charming original version and chooses to keep it alive, because I'm going to keep coming back to this version again and again, even if the All-Stars version is on-hand.



CapeSmash said:

I find this game very overrated. I can see why people like it, but it's just not that fun to me.



Morph said:

I just never really liked nes games i cant really explain why, i just preferred master sytem, so these nes games dont really do anything for me



unrandomsam said:

@Shugo I am not that young (Old enough to have played the NES at the time anyway). The fact is there is hardly anything on the NES that isn't better in either its PC Engine version or the original Arcade version. It also has issues that no other console has. (I am too young for stuff like Atari 2600 / Vectrex). I can tolerate Master System much better. (Or even Gameboy). Castlevania III is a strange one though because it seems that mapper that it uses allows the NES to work in a way that I can tolerate. (Or maybe Konami were just better the first Castlevania is not too bad either). Super Mario Bros / Super Mario Bros 2 (Lost Levels) are fine. Sprite flicker and poor artifacts is not something I can put up with. (Or anything other than the best version (Or failing that a PC Engine version) in this day and age). In 1983 I suppose the Famicom would have been something special. (There is also the fact that basically all the NES stuff had zero effort put in with regards to 50hz. Many more Master System games actually were optimised to some extent). I see things as they should be seen now not 20 years ago. (If there is a better version that is the version we should be playing.)

Think it would be hard to find a list of ten NES games that there isn't a better version (Or a version that is better in some ways and worse in others like the Megadrive Wily Wars that should have been a basis for a 3D Classic). That are not broken or have sprite flicker / slowdown or visual artefacts that are unacceptable.

(Super Ghouls and Ghosts isn't acceptable either there was a fixed version on PS1/Saturn/PS2.)

RECCA / Gun-Nac / Crisis Force / Super Mario Bros / Super Mario Bros 2 (Lost Levels) / Castlevania / Castlevania III

(Thats all I can think of - I have played the Megaman games but the hardware limitations I don't like whereas with something like Megaman 9 I can turn off the sprite flicker (Which the removed from 10 which means I haven't played it even though I have bought it). River City Ransom the PC Engine version seems to have most of the issues I have with it gone. Life Force - PC Engine Salamander is loads better same with Gradius. Crystalis - Gameboy Color version is better. Dragon Warrior - GBC versions are significantly better. I quite like the Adventure of Link not bothered about the first Zelda because the later stuff is the same sort of thing but better).

Same reason that there is no reason to play the Gamegear version of Gunstar Heroes. If there is a better version that is the version I want to be playing.

I treat NES stuff most of the time the same way I treat audio cassettes of stuff I have on vinyl (Arcade version) or CD (Any better later version).

No reason they couldn't have at least given this the effort 3D Classics Kirby's Adventure got. (Something like that I would have been completely fine with).



ToxieDogg said:

@Goginho The bar was always there on the NES version, sounds like you're talking about the SNES Super Mario All-Stars version which had a graphical upgrade and was on more powerful hardware so it wasn't there, obviously.

And people whining that other guys emulate the NES better than Nintendo because they've 'corrected' these mistakes? Really? What you get from Nintendo is the absolute authentic experience of what playing the game was like on the original hardware. Either you weren't there at the time to witness it, or you've got short memories.

For the record, I prefer the NES version to the SNES version....the music just sounds a lot nicer to me in certain places, especially the boss stages, and I prefer the original sound effect for grabbing a Super Mushroom



unrandomsam said:

@ToxieDogg So you would rather play the broken original version of Kirby's Adventure than the fixed 3D Classics version ?

Cannot really say that a NES did that when connected to a TV that didn't exist just because it does that now.

Far less noticable on a CRT (50hz Wii VC version no other comparison and I am not buying again).

Nintendo's SNES (Wii 60hz emulations - Colours are wrong. They are what you get if you connect a SNES with a N64 or Gamecube RGB cable. The actual SNES one had resistors that made it look correct. US SNES (On a US Wii) stuff looks better).

M2 is praised for giving options. Nintendo should be hammered for not doing the same. (Or putting in any effort whatsoever).



ToxieDogg said:

@unrandomsam The original version of Kirby's Adventure isn't 'broken', that would imply it's unplayable, or that you couldn't complete it due to some kind of glitch.

I've not played the 3D Classics version but have no real desire to. I can't see 3D (eye problems) so that's a moot point, and the visual look and sound of the game is pretty much the same. I'm assuming it runs a little smoother? I think you're judging original versions of games too harshly though.



Kirbic said:

@Nintenjoe64 I have no clue why Duck Hunt's not been done yet, personally. The Wii-mote can simulate the gun nicely enough for Wii U or even the Wii's one. If it ended up on 3DS, the touchscreen works too. They gave Pokemon Snap an extra feature using the Wii's hardware, so why not Duck Hunt when it makes too much sense?



pukka-pie said:

To suggest that there is some sort of generous learning curve is... a lie. World 1 is very easy. World 2 is easy. World 3 is bat **** insane. World 4 is rock hard. This is by far the hardest Mario game, it makes Mario Bros 1 look like a stroll in the park. It's all waaaaay too frustrating for me.



Mok said:

I still remember how I was absolutely aching for this game on NES and how much I played it once it was released. Now to finally have it on the 3DS and play it anywhere is an absolute treat.

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