We all know about Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES. It was a fantastic game worthy of all the praise that it received, and that remains true to this day. So, this review won't discuss all the merits of the original game. Instead, it will focus on the unique features of Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, released on the Wii U virtual console. Confused by the title? We'll do our best to make everything clear.
SMA 4 is, at its core, a port of the version of Super Mario Bros. 3 that was included with Super Mario All-Stars, a collection of NES Mario games on the SNES. It features updated graphics, colours and audio, including classic Mario voice acting. The camera is slightly zoomed in on occasion in this updated version - due to the resolution of the Game Boy Advance - and the game controls seem to be a little less floaty than the original, conditions that may upset purists but never significantly impact gameplay. You can also now save at any point, a feature sorely missing from the original game. There are a number of other additions, the most notable of which are e-Reader levels; you can find a list of all differences here; the game also features an updated version of the original Mario Bros., which is a nice bonus.
As mentioned above, this Wii U Virtual Console version includes all 38 e-Reader levels from the original game without the need for the e-reader peripheral. A number of these levels were never available in North America, and none of them were released in Europe (at the time of writing we await this Virtual Console release in the EU). This is a big deal, and the main reason to consider purchasing this version of the game.
What was the e-Reader, you ask? It was a peripheral that you could attach to your GBA in order to add content to games you had purchased. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, logistically it was a mess.
In order to use the e-Reader, you needed to purchase the optional device and hook it up to your GBA. Then, you had to use a special cable to connect it to a second GBA in order to be able to use the device. That's right, you had to own (or have access to) a second handheld. Then, you could purchase cards linked to certain content for specific games and use those to expand your gaming experience with a particular title. While this early version of DLC / NFC sounds innovative in theory, in practice it was highly impractical and the device died a quick death.
On top of that, likely partly because the device was such a failure, North America only received 13 of the 38 extra levels that were created for SMA 4, and Europe didn't receive any of them.
This recent VC release on Wii U is an excellent opportunity to play a range of unreleased Super Mario Bros. 3 levels in one tidy package. But are the levels any good? Is it worth $8 to pick up yet another copy of this classic game? In a word, yes, but with some caveats. Buying the Wii U VC title gains you immediate access to all 38 e-Reader levels, and that alone is worth the price of admission for serious fans of the Mario series. However, your enthusiasm for these levels may be tempered if you also own Super Mario Maker.
There are a number of different types of levels in this package. The first five levels are remakes of levels from the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES, and though that makes them not especially novel, it's still neat to see these levels somewhat modernized. Plus, it fixes some annoying quirks with the original, including allowing you to backtrack when desired.
Many of the other levels feature surprising crossovers from other Mario games, and this is where it gets interesting. You can pluck turnips like in Super Mario Bros. 2, or you can fly with a cape from Super Mario World. Seeing a host of enemies from other entries animated in a 16-bit Mario 3 template is fascinating.
The levels themselves vary from short and simple to deep and surprisingly difficult. Unfortunately, some of the difficult ones feel rather like trolling - for example, "Para Beetle Challenge" has you jumping from flying beetle to flying beetle with no safety net, and sometimes throws obstacles at you that you couldn't possibly know to avoid before a few trial and error deaths.
Some of these levels feel gimmicky; the best Mario levels have a theme, but many of the e-Reader levels feel like that theme is the sole reason for that level's existence, and as a result they just don't feel as fleshed out as the main game. The "Para Beetle Challenge" level is good for putting Mario 3's tight controls to the test as you jump from flying beetle to flying beetle, but there isn't much to the level besides that challenge.
The original Mario 3 had just the right amount of content and expertly designed worlds to operate as an impressive cohesive unit, worthy of consideration as the best 2D Mario game in the franchise. These extra levels, while novel, just aren't as strong overall as the stages from the rest of the game.
All minor complaints aside, they still make for a fun experience. Interestingly, these new levels may not be as exciting as they would have otherwise been if they were released on the VC prior to Super Mario Maker. Before SMM, this would be your only chance to see and play new Mario 3 levels. Now, Wii U owners have a bounty of such levels at their fingertips – indeed, some Super Mario Maker levels seem reminiscent of these e-reader levels, such as quick running levels where your only task is to run and jump a few times to beat a level – and the only remaining draw to purchase SMA 4 is to experience stages designed by Nintendo. The value of even that is somewhat diminished if you own SMM, as someone has remade most of these e-reader levels in Super Mario Maker.
Thankfully, there is some added depth here, as levels will be more interesting for a completionist since most stages feature collectible coins (Advance coins and E-coins) that add a serious challenge. It's fairly simple to run through most of these stages, but it's another matter entirely to collect all the coins, and this will provide some extended value for those who enjoy that activity. Those that don't enjoy collecting might look at the majority of these levels like stages from the recent Yoshi's Woolly World – they are enjoyable enough to play through, but the real stimulation occurs from the challenge of trying to collect everything.
Even though many of these levels aren't especially challenging, they are enjoyable to play in part due to novel concepts that are not often revisited in subsequent entries. For example, "Slip Slidin' Away" has a section where the screen rocks back and forth in gradually widening increments, which is a unique way to play through a stage. The level "Vexing Doors" features a fun boss battle with a Big Boo (from Super Mario World) and his two little boo minions, which was a welcome break from the standard castle bosses and Koopalings. Apart from pulling turnips up from the ground, the game also contains a level built around digging sand like that which was found in Super Mario Bros. 2.
Adding to the replayability of all of these e-Reader levels is the option to play as Luigi, who, unlike the Luigi in the core game is based off of Super Mario Bros. 2's physics, complete with his floaty high jump and crazy flailing legs. This adds a unique component to the game as it is a considerably different experience using Luigi to complete these levels.
This game is essentially the definitive Mario 3 experience. On top of updated design, character models, music, and voice acting, it features 38 levels from the Mario 3 universe that you most likely have not played before, complete with added collectible challenges and character selection options. These bonus levels are chock full of extra content, from Super Mario World enemies like Wiggler to Super Mario 2's turnip chucking, and it's these little nods to other games in the series that really make this something special. The e-Reader was notoriously difficult to use, and many of the bonus levels were never made available in NA and Europe. SMA 4 provides a convenient way for you to play all of these bonus levels in one small package, effectively making one of the greatest platformers of all time even better.
How are the e-Reader levels accessed in the game? Is there a dedicated menu which lets you access all of them from the get-go?
Is it similar to the Mega Man Battle Network titles on Virtual Console, where accessing the Network menu will immediately grant you any special event or version exclusive items (in lieu of being unable to connect for real multi-player.)
...and they're still not available in Europe
Gonna be honest: the voice acting gets on my nerves a little bit. LUCKY! LUCKY! YAH! HOO! Just feels out of place in a classic side-scrolling Mario game.
It looks fantastic but I just can't justify buying this on Wii U. This really belongs on a handheld device... why is GBA VC on New 3DS not a thing yet?
@manu0 Oh, hush up with the complaining. You guys get plenty of games in advance that NA has to wait for. We can't help it that NA and Europe have different release schedules.
This game beats Super Mario Maker in one very simple way.
It has slopes.
Heh, I remember when I added this title to the archive when I was messing with the "game collection" section of the site.
I still have the GBA cart but I'll definitely get this on the eShop if it comes to the EU.
@sillygostly yes it should
GBA for NEW 3DS vc
If this, SMA and SMA 2 don't release in Europe I'll be so pissed. I still have my boxed carts but I'll gladly throw money at NoE for them on Wii U.
Speaking of the sorry state of the e-Reader, Australia saw two of the cards (both included with the game) — level 1: Wild Ride in the Sky, and the Super Leaf. What a tease.
(At least people were inventive and came across a way around that. )
Eh, still prefer the NES original by a long shot. Plus I can play it on 3DS. The e reader levels are interesting though.
A small typo:
Only 12 were released in the US as Classic W2-2 was exclusive to Japan.
Nearly all of the regular SMB3 levels have minor tweaks ranging from enemy changes to additional blocks to reduce difficulty.
Some of the speedrun related zips have been fixed by freezing the camera which kills Mario/Luigi if they go too far off to the right.
If only Nintendo/M2 did a bit more work by implementing e-switches to tweak gameplay mechanics by going to the in-game menu and turn on/off features including:
Shorter P-dash meter,
Fireball kill = a coin
Otherwise, this is one of the better GBA ports when it comes to new content.
I never knew you had to own a second GBA to operate the e-reader. Why? I thought you just plugged it into the one you had and scanned the cards. What was the need for a second unit to connect it to?
@ericwithcheese2 Because this...
The slot for the game is taken by the e-Reader, so another system with Super Mario Bros 3 and a link cable was required to send the scanned data to the other system. Having a GameCube with the Game Boy Player made things easier as these were compatible with the e-Reader. But yeah, needing a second GBA (one for the e-Reader and one for the game) otherwise made the endeavor expensive (unless you had a friend who would lend theirs out to you) and laborious.
I lost half of my ereader stuff shortly after I got it anyway.
I'm actually surprised that they have been doing pretty qell here in the US with rhe VC so far this year. We got Zero Mission and this now. Sadly, i am running lower on eshop credit though
The e reader levels give me hope for either a new Mario Maker patch or for a future Mario maker sequel, which in addition to the solo Mario gsme templates, may offer a "mix and match" template to have baddies and items from the various other games all in one level.
Yes, all ereader levels are available at the start. They are accessible on the game load menu at the bottom below the 3 save slots for Mario 3. $8 for just the ereader levels is fantasic. And while it's fun to see the creations in Mario Maker I don't think that is a replacement for the real thing.
Er, I could've sworn that Luigi DID have his differences in the core game. They did it for SMA2.
I wonder why they didn't include a cartridge slot in the e-Reader itself, like many cheat devices? It would've eliminated the need to use two GBAs to get extra content in games.
@DarthNocturnal I just had a look at my own copy with the yellow switch scanned compared to a file without, and although Luigi does have his trademark kicky-jump in both, he stays in the air longer with the yellow switch involved. Nothing major, but the option for all the switch changes and feather/boomerang items would have been the cherry on top.
@manu0 Nintendo of America signed an exclusivity deal with Japan so Europe wouldn't get it.
@sillygostly Because Nintendo is lazy, that's why
Sold! Mostly because I hate SMB 3 physics, they just don't feel right after years of playing SMW. The e-Reader levels are a nice bonus too
Yeah and nobody in the States ever complains about missing out....
Played some of those e-reader levels last night. They are awesome! They feature lots of things that Super Mario Maker can't do. I really hope all of this, including the graphics, are coming to Super Mario Maker.
The definitive version of SMB3. This was my first ever GBA game and I played it like crazy. And this version comes with all of the e-reader levels?? I'm sold.
I like this version of SMB3, which I don't mind playing (Unlike that meh All star version) The e-reader levels are the icing of the cake.
Still, the NES version is much better in atmosphere, which this version is lacking, due to being taken from SMAS.
I prefer the original graphics of SMB3.
i do laugh at the example of "Para Beetle Challenge" being trollish or overly difficult considering i beat it in my first try. These levels are generally excellent and are largely designed in a way that they really can't be recreated in Mario Maker. Never mind the difference in physics. I think it's a great buy if you're into Mario, really encourages Nintendo to go the extra mile with releases like this.
A word or warning to the wise, be sure not to shut the game off in middle of gameplay. I lost all of my save progress on the e-reader levels by shutting off the system in middle of a level (who would have guessed?) as opposed to quitting the level and backing out to the title screen. It was annoying to say the least.
Really want this version, but I'm getting more and more nervous about Virtual Console releases being worth purchasing as they are device locked not account locked. Silly thing for many, but as my library has grown its a looming issue.
@Gridatttack I grew up with both and have beaten both and i think hands down the All Stars port is better. It looks much better while still retaining the same art style, i also always hated the edge of the screen doing that weird flashing/clipping thing in the NES. What's wrong with the atmosphere? It's got better backgrounds and that's nearly it, i don't think i've ever heard this complaint before tbh.
Either way i think we can all/should agree that SM3 is a perfect game and arguably the GOAT in gaming, amazing that it came out on the NES. Only A Link to the Past is in the running for me.
@Kevlar44 While it indeed looks better, my problem is on how the unique aspect of levels was stripped down due to nintendo being lazy.
Here is my example:
World 8-1 from NES version:
And here is 8-1 from the SNES and GBA:
The level in the NES had an unique palette, which alluded to the name of the world (Darkland), while the remakes feature just the same graphics with the same palette you have seen before numbers of time (with a leaf BG that doesn't make sense in world 8)
I can cite other examples, like the world 3 levels had an orange sky (since its a beach), some castle levels had different colored blocks, and more cases like this.
It might be a pet peeve, but I like how the different palettes add a different feel that makes the level feel more unique, whereas in the SNES/GBA version they tend to look all the same.
Also, the SNES version has the underground music in the bonus sections, which feature a vibrant tileset, which feels off IMO.
But yeah, I agree, SMB3 will always be a great game nonetheless.
I'm a sucker for the 16-bit version of SMB3 cause of childhood memories so just booting this up brings a tear to my eye. I'm going through the e-reader levels now and they're so much fun!
I know it would be too hackish but they could have added amiibo support to this to replace the switches in the main game. Like... tap Mario and the Fireball/Coin switch , tap Luigi for Luigi physics switch, tap Bowser for the Hard mode switch, etc... It might have been a little difficult to explain how it's going to work to the general public so I understand why they haven't messed around with it.
Yes. This is indeed the best GOAT. There can be no question! Baaaah!
Ahem But yeah, the Advance version voice effects always annoyed me. I especially can't stand the constant "new Yoshi" sound effects for Yoshi's Island in GBA, and the other characters in the other Advance ports aren't much less annoying... I prefer relative silence, the distinctive jumping sounds, and the "old Yoshi" sounds.
The e-Reader reminds me a lot of Amiibo. I don't like the concept anymore now than 13 years ago. I'm impressed they got around what used to be a technical limitation, and I'm glad they didn't subsequently implement an arbitrary barrier to the e-Reader levels using Amiibo.
I used to have the e-Reader cards, but I lost them before I could scan all of them. Good on Nintendo for this rerelease.
@Freeon-Leon Yes. The GBA version has much better controls for SMB3. I am loving it.
Also, this game looks great blown up on my 57" TV.
..played original and all stars, never this one..I like this version best..fun extra levels too..although hearing Mario for the first time did surprise me..
Great review! As a lifelong fan of this title (I have an embarrassing clip on YouTube™ of me opening the original as a birthday present) I'm fine buying it again, especially with the addition of the e_reader levels. My only wish with these otherwise stellar GBA ports is that there'd be an audio option to compensate for the rather compressed sound on those titles, but it's a small annoyance. I bought the original cart, the All-Stars cart, the GBA classics series, the GBA Advance series, the Virtual Console releases of the originals on Wii, Wii U and 3DS, I might as well complete the set
@electrolite77 lol well said
@abbyhitter its not that we're complaining about the release schedule, its wether or not it actually gets released in europe thats causing alot of anxiety amongst us fellow gamers.
any news on the european release guys ?
@RupeeClock Yes, they are available from the start.
Even though I already own the all stars version and the nes version I still am considering picking this one because this simply looks like the absolute definitive version of this game.
@mikegamer The source is hook, line and sinker
I have to admit I don't know where my eReader or most of the cards are for it these days, but I do still have the cart for this and the GameCube Game Boy Player, as well as my GBA... Still, probably best to just buy this on the eShop!
I want this in Europe - asap ^^
Waiting for European release to be able to play those e-reader stages. I have the device but not an american version of SMA4 or any of those cards.
I really, really wish this was on the 3DS.
Wow, I remember using the e-reader. Remember, GBA had that flip-screen remodel, so having two of them wasn't a big issue if you don't sell back you old ones.
It was awkward as hell, but will forever have a place in the good wing of my memories for having a card that added a hammer bros suit to your inventory.
This must come to the UK next week? 😃 This would make Monday a good start to a bad week for me!
@JJtheTexan I dunno, I always liked the voice acting. Sure a bit repetitive, but they sound great
So this didn't come to the UK the this week. We got SMG and I have this on disc so no deal Nintendo!
I must get this
Does this game have the rumble feature from Gameboy Player?
Wow! A 10 out of 10! I dont see that on nintendo life too often.
The e-reader levels are a nice addition. But my main reason for getting this is to play Super Mario 3 in its SNES graphics vs the NES version. I grew up with the SNES version of SMB 3 so that's why. When I played the airships levels with nighttime setting and thunder in the background.... in this version I died of the awesomeness! ^__^ SO GOOD!!! THE FEELS!!! ^__^
I got this game yesterday. So far, it's perfect since the E-reader levels are unlocked.
Does anyone know if there are any other Wii U Virtual Console games or 3DS Virtual Console games that include bonus content on the Virtual Console that were not in the original release like the way Super Mario Advance 4 got 38 extra E-Reader Levels?
I actually already own Super Mario Advance 4 in cartridge form, but am electrified to learn there is even more content I never played and am wondering if there are other games like that on either Wii U Virtual Console or 3DS Virtual Console?
Also, does anyone know if it is possible to download all Virtual Console games for Wii U and 3DS and fit that within the small memory on each system? For reference, I have the Deluxe Wii U and original 3DS.
If I need expanded memory, does anyone know the largest memory card i can buy for Wii U and for 3DS that Nintendo (or at least NintendoLife.com) ensures will be compatible with each respective system?
Thanks so much for your info!
1st Career Post on NintendoLife.com at 2-22-22 at 2:22:22 AM!!!
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