Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first full follow-up to Super Mario Bros. after the wildly different Super Mario Bros. 2, and is quite often considered the pinnacle of 2D Mario games. It has had a lot of influence over many Mario games even up to last year with New Super Luigi U and Super Mario 3D World, but the question is, how well does it hold up after 26 years?
The answer is that it does, surprisingly well. Graphically, the game has a nice simple style, largely due to NES graphics, but each level has got a certain style of aesthetic which sometimes shifts. For example, in the first world, it quickly switches from being outside to a cool grey cave setting. In World 8, as you progress, the levels start to lose graphical detail to show that you are approaching the end. These touches are pretty awesome and were lost somewhat in the game’s graphical transition in the SNES game, Super Mario All-Stars.
The game runs at a solid 60hz on both the Wii U and 3DS, which means that players in Europe can finally experience the original game how it was intended, rather than it being slowed down to 50hz. This makes the game feel smoother than ever. However, there is a slight graphical issue that comes with being a direct NES port and being in a widescreen format. On the sides, there is often a small bit of blank space coloured the same as the background, and on the right, you can see the upcoming area become slightly distorted as you run. This would have been covered by the overscan on classic televisions but is a bit noticeable here. After a few minutes of play, however, it disappears from your mind.
The levels can still all be considered classics, but if you have never played this and are coming off of New Super Mario Bros. U, or even New Super Luigi U, they may seem somewhat short and at first, a bit bland, but as with those games, the creativity of the levels increases as you progress through the game. Each world has a specific theme, even beyond the standard field, desert and ice themes. For example, one world has every enemy and block as being giant and another which is just dedicated to, and built around pipes. The levels are still fun to play even today, and can still get tricky if you’re not prepared.
Super Mario Bros. 3 also includes many power-ups that can be used across all the levels after you have obtained them, which changes the way you can tackle them. The Frog Suit is perfect for underwater levels but struggles in moving out of the water, whilst the Tanooki suit allows you to fly and can also turn into a statue that cannot be harmed. Finally, in World 5, you can find the Hammer Bros. suit, allowing you to throw projectile hammers that can take out enemies.
Unfortunately, unlike the remakes, you cannot go back and replay levels without restarting the game which can cause some annoyance if you wish to return to play your favourite level. This does have an impact on the replayability of the game, but may give you pause on subsequent playthroughs.
The game also has a multiplayer mode. This is a battle mode done in a similar manner to the game Mario Bros., where two players try to complete various challenges before each other. On the Wii U, this is done as standard with multiple controllers, but the 3DS does it using the 3DS console’s Download Play feature, using a second 3DS with no need of a second copy of the game. This is a fun mini-game but does lack a lot of depth.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered a classic for a reason. The levels are memorable, the graphics are sharp and the gameplay is smooth. It’s a game that all people who played it on the NES should re-experience and that all new gamers should most certainly give a go.