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27 November 2016 @ 04:35 pm
Game Review: Super Mario Bros. 3 (All-Stars Version)  
I still remember the day that I first played Super Mario Bros. 3. My grandparents were visiting, one of the few times they came out to visit rather than having us come to them, and my grandmother had brought a copy of the game just released that year. I had already read all about it in Nintendo Power, and I think to this day it might be the present I have anticipated the most in my entire life. When she gave it to me I literally danced all around the room, yelling "Thank you!" over and over again. Then I sat down with the Nintendo, then plugged in at the TV in the living room, and booted the game up.

It was just as great as I was led to believe. I've never seen The Wizard, but I understand why Nintendo used it as an opportunity to market the game. People call that movie a feature-length commercial, but honestly, SMB3 deserves a commercial of that length. It is, to this day, my favorite Mario game.

 photo emot-iiam.gif

The main reason I prefer SMB3 over the other Marios I have played, even Super Mario World--the eternal rival in the question of best Mario game--is the variety. There's one example in the screenshot there, since the raccoon suit and tanuki"tanooki" suit are pretty much the mascots of the game, but after Super Mario Bros. featured only the fire flower and the super mushroom, and Super Mario Bros 2 didn't have any powerups at all, the variety here was dazzling. I content that the hammer brothers suit is still the greatest powerup that has ever appeared in a Mario game, and even the frog suit has its place. Like all-frog-suit runs. The ability of power-ups to affect the world as well as the levels, like using a cloud to bypass a level or the hammer to open up new areas, was also amazing and definitely something missing from Super Mario World. The cape is good, and I appreciate the skill it takes to use well, but if we're talking infinite flight I'd rather have a P-wing.

And variety doesn't just extend to power-ups. I like the themed worlds of SMB3 better than I like the more complex levels of Super Mario World. I admit that Vanilla Dome blew my mind when I first really sat down to play through SMW, how there was an entire second set of levels only available to people who found the secret exit, but the worlds of SMW were more similar than they were different. There was nothing like World 2 with its desert zones and its angry sun, or World 6 with its ice levels and physics changed, or World 3 with its aquatic levels where the frog suit actually made them interesting and fun to play. That kind of theming makes SMB3 much more memorable to me. SMW is an excellent game, but with many of its levels I couldn't tell you from looking where they are. That's absolutely not true here.


One of the best parts of SMB3 is the inventory. It greatly increases the available tactical options, allowing a careful player to always have the proper tools necessary to attempt any level--or not attempt them, as the case may be. When I was younger, I'd always skip levels like World 5-9 and King Koopa's air force using a P-wing just because I couldn't be bothered, even though every time I played through I'd get 99 lives in World 3-9 using the bouncing-shell-and-bullet-bills trick. If I was in a hurry, I'd save up the clouds I'd gotten from the hammer brothers and use them to skip nearly all the levels World 8, then use a P-wing on one of the auto-scrolling tank levels to make sure that I didn't have to go back if I died.

Add in the warp whistles, the music boxes that I never found a good use for, the ability to start a level invincible to get past a tricky opening section... While I appreciate that only have in-level power-ups enables more interesting and constrained level design without having to worry the player will just use a P-wing to ignore the level, I like the choice afforded by the inventory. It's the player's option if they want to try the "standard" way, or try something weird like beating King Koopa with the frog suit.

I have the megalixir problem and sat in front of final castle with multiple hammer brothers and tanooki suits, but that's my fault, not the game's fault. I should have been more adventurous and not worried so much losing my powerups.  photo emot-shroom.gif

The best power-up in the game.

And it's not like SMB3 is wanting for interesting level design, either! In addition to the interestingly-themed worlds, there are a lot of levels with fun gimmicks. Kuribo's Shoe is probably the most well-known of those next to the angry sun, and I think it alone could justify SMB3's design approach. But there's also the Tower in World 5 that connects the land with the sky, which Mario has to ascend up and down to chase after the airship if he fails to kill Roy Koopa the first time; the giant piranha plant in World 7, filled with all varieties of pipes and carnivorous flora; the rising and sinking of World 3-3 and the relentless pursuit of Boss Bass; or the doors in World 4-6 that transforms the level from giant to normal-sized.

It took me a couple minutes to look all that up, and that was just to make sure I had the right level numbers in the worlds and to find the links. SMB3 sticks in your mind.

Good thing Mario doesn't sweat.

I was a bit worried that playing the All-Stars update would be even more jarring than it was when I played Super Mario Bros. I mean, I played the first game some, but the vast majority of my play time has been in SMB3. I would recognize if something was off.

But mostly, it wasn't. SMB's update looked much different, but SMB3 already looked great. The All-Stars version just made the graphics a bit sharper, changed a few things slightly due to no longer being bound by the NES's sprite limitations, like the colors of fire flower Mario, and added some backgrounds to the levels. Even the music, by far the most jarring part of the SMB All-Stars update, was mostly unchanged from the original NES version. Some tones were changed, and I recognized a few sounds that had obviously been backported from Super Mario World, but for the most part any changes were minor and didn't change the nature of the music to me. For example, here's the original Overworld theme, and here's the All-Stars version. They're different, but not enough that I noticed. It wasn't like SMB All-Stars where the music constantly took me out of the game.

And the graphics just look amazing, honestly. It looks like I remember SMB3 looking in my memory rather than how it actually looks like in reality.

Look at that leak! Finally, a chance for Mario to use his plumbing skills!  photo emot-golfclap.gif

This is still the best Mario game and is just as worthy of dancing around the room as it was when I first played it back in 1990. I'm not sure it'll ever be beaten, based on the way the Mario games are going nowadays. I really don't like the pseudo-3D look of the New Super Mario Bros. games, and I accept that is personal preference on my part, but it's true. Give me flat pixels any day.

I checked the wiki when I was writing this review and it said that this is the only game that has the hammer brothers suit, which right away should enshrine it as the greatest game. I think cat Mario comes close, but hammer brothers Mario is the greatest Mario power-up. At least, the greatest power-up that sees broad use. Kuribo's Shoe is the greatest power-up of all.

This was well worth the last day of my Thanksgiving vacation.
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: DDRKirby(ISQ) - Underground Pipe Society (Super Mario Bros. 3)
q99q99 on November 27th, 2016 11:06 pm (UTC)
-The main reason I prefer SMB3 over the other Marios I have played, even Super Mario World--the eternal rival in the question of best Mario game--is the variety.-

I'm similar, plus SMB3 has a bit more challenge (SMW's challenge comes either late-game or finding the secrets).

-Kuribo's Shoe is probably the most well-known of those next to the angry sun, and I think it alone could justify SMB3's design approach. -

It needed to be in more levels!

Ditto more giant levels.
dorchadasdorchadas on November 27th, 2016 11:18 pm (UTC)
At least the giant levels got a whole world (even if not all of the levels were giant)! The poor shoe, stuck only in 5-3.  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif
q99q99 on November 28th, 2016 01:56 am (UTC)
Such a cool gimmick, and it's not even a *long* level!