• Super Mario Bros. 3


  • Platformer


  • Nintendo


  • Nintendo

Release Date:

  • October 23 1988 (JP), February 12 1990 (US)

On Wikipedia:


  • NES


  • 8 (not including World-e)

The long-standing debate between whether Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3 is better rages on. Due to the weaknesses of the NES, I'll give the nod to Super Mario World; nevertheless, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the top games of the NES, and I played through its completion in Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, arguably the definitive version of the game...which I got for Christmas when I was a lad of 12. (The best time for such things, really).

I know I saw Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES but I first actually played through it on Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World, but the original 1990 NES game, while less graphically featured than the later updates, was the first Mario game to really play with new power-ups and introduce standard world designs, with the ability of a mini-map, skipping levels, and keeping and storing items. Nintendo even published a fantastic strategy guide (released as a special issue of Nintendo Power) for the game (you can see it on Archive.org here). It doesn't describe the final Bowser fight but it's not hard to figure out. (Just avoid his attacks and let him fall through the floor).

The 2003 Game Boy Advance port of the title, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 (which like all Super Mario Advance titles had a port of the arcade Mario Bros.) is somewhat of a mixed bag. It made Mario 3 relevant again (and still continues to be relevant, hence its debate over being a better game than Super Mario World or not...though the theory that "Super Mario Bros. 3 is a play" based on some graphical choices in the first world and title screen is hogwash as they don't keep in mind the other 7 worlds).

World 1 is iconic. (NES version)

The Game Boy Advance version is based after the Super Mario All-Stars version, and has all the usual trademarks of the "Advance" series, downgraded music, voice samples ("Hoohoo! That's what I needed!" when you get a powerup). Even though I couldn't play the extra "e-Levels" (scanning levels on cards into the game via the Nintendo e-Reader) when I got this for Christmas (because of a lack of the peripheral), it was fantastic. As both SMAS and SMA4 had save features and generous continue functions, the original game, not so much. There are no saves in the NES game, and you get kicked back to the beginning of the world (though you keep collected items). I tried this until around World 5 on a 3DS (using no quicksaves except to mark my place) until I got frustrated.

World-e, the new feature introduced in Super Mario Advance 4 wasn't really used much when the game was released. The idea was you could scan in extra levels and even a few new items into the game but like all of the e-Reader enabled games, you had to have TWO Game Boy Advances and a link cable to make it work, one to plug in the e-Reader and scan stuff in, and one to receive the data for the game. Plus, the e-Reader wasn't used for many games anyway. There was Animal Crossing, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, some exclusive cards that functioned with the device, and....that was pretty much it.

The Virtual Console release lets you play with the e-Reader levels (including the ones never released in the West). The e-Reader levels have all sorts of items and enemies from other games, like vegetables and POW blocks from Super Mario Bros. 2, the Cape and Charging Chuck from Super Mario World, even some Yoshi's Island items like the one-way gates. But you also don't get the power-up items and some of the levels just are more frustrating than good. It makes for a weird game. One thing that everyone talks about Super Mario Maker is how everything is thematically consistent...so no SMB3-style enemies in a Super Mario World-like level...but SMB3 physics means that Super Mario World enemies don't work as well, and you get to see the dark side of that in World-e: Chargin' Chuck can't just be bopped on continually, Mario will tend to bounce off after the first hit right into his path.

Still, the Virtual Console release won't let you scan in cards that add new items (that's disappointing)...and this thread seems to be correct that even when playing with the emulator, Super Mario Advance 4's e-cards don't seem to work for some reason (and I played with the non-VC release, too).

What this really all amounts to is despite being a good game on its own, there's no definitive version of the game, and that's sad. Still, it's definitely worth a play-through and one of the best games of the NES era.