We just passed the thirtieth anniversary of Super Mario Bros. 3 being released in North America. The first thought I have is how amazing it is that it has been thirty years. I was a sophomore in high school at the time. This means I am really close to the thirty year anniversary of me graduating high school. Now will you please get off my lawn!
On to memories of the game itself. This is a game that could have really benefited from a save feature. It was a long game, with eight large worlds. The Super Nintendo re-release did have a save-game feature, which allowed you to play through every world without spending hours and hours in front of the TV to beat the game in one sitting. I never did do that on the NES, but did eventually do it when I got Super Mario All-Stars. I used the warp whistle to go to World 5, got some P Wings for the airship levels, and then went to World 8 to take down Bowser. There was a significant variation in the worlds, which was neat.
One thing I liked was that you could play a little mini-game that re-enacted the original Mario Bros. from the early 1980’s. (I still remember the theme song for that game in the TV commercial.) SMB 3 abandoned the old style of each player working through the game independently, and made it more fun when you had a second player who was having difficulty with a specific level or was generally less skilled. This innovation would continue in later games, but the significance of SMB 3 was that it started here.
The other thing that was nice is the large amount of power-ups. My favorite was the Hammer Brothers Suit, but having a wider variety of power ups gave the game more variety. I was somewhat disappointed that there were only two power-ups in Super Mario World, which to me seemed like a step down. You could also store a bunch of different power-ups to use later on in the game, which made things much easier later on – especially the aforementioned P Wings. The airship fleets on World 8 were almost unplayable without them.
This game was probably the pinnacle of the Super Mario Brothers series. Other games would be very good, but none captured the magic that the third game had, even with the very limited technology of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Of the arguments Nintendo had against upgrading to Sega Genesis, this was the best one they had.